Thursday, October 17, 2013
My last post was in March. That seems like a lifetime ago. So much has changed since then. Most of it bad, but some of it good. Stress has been the overwhelming theme of my summer, and that certainly isn't slowing down right now. I've been fighting re-gain guilt for months now, and that's prevented me from coming on to Spark as much as I should. I know that other Sparkers won't judge me for my slip-ups and sometimes complete failures, but it's hard to read through everyone else's success sometimes when you're feeling so low yourself.
Not long after leaving my job at Dollywood (which is still a difficult subject for me - in many ways I'm glad I left as the things I hated about it have gotten worse, but I miss working on a coaster so much) I got another job, as a ride supervisor at a new entertainment complex in Pigeon Forge. I spent 6 weeks training on how to run a 200-ft tall giant observation wheel (different from a Ferris wheel in that the gondolas are fully-enclosed and climate controlled) and generally learning how to build a small park from scratch. I adore my coworkers, especially my counterpart and co-supervisor Brent. He is one of my best friends now, and everyone assumes we must be related because of how well we get along. Most would never guess that we had never met in person before April, but we just really clicked.
In April, my husband and I bought our first house. The potential at the Island seemed unlimited, and we planned to be here for the long haul. We bought a small starter home, put down 10% and are paying an exorbitant interest rate thanks to our awful credit. But it's a cute house, and the important part is that it's ours and no one can complain about our growing herd of kitties (we're up to 6 now!)
I spent the spring working with Brent to build our team, designing operating procedures and figuring out how our daily operation would function, training our new attendants and dealing with all the unexpected issues that arise when you're trying something for the first time. The hours were long, often 60+ hours a week. The week that the Island opened to the public, I worked a 16 hour shift on my birthday, missed my 10-year high school reunion and put in a total of 83 hours in 6 days. After we opened in June, Brent and I spent the next two months working 6 (sometimes 7) days and 70 or more hours a week. In August, I reached my breaking point and told my boss "no more." I loved the money from the overtime but I mentally and physically could not pull off those weeks any longer.
On top of the stress of the long hours, I learned just how emotionally damaging a bad boss can be. Before we opened, he wasn't that bad. Demanding, distant, but mostly respectful. He gave Brent and I a list of tasks to complete and free reign to do them as needed. I remember many pre-opening days of being handed a credit card and a shopping list for Staples or Walmart. He gave us guidelines of how he wanted things done but basically allowed us to develop our own operation plan and tweak it as needed once we saw how customer flow would actually work out.
But then, in late June something began to change. He began showing anger issues, lashing out at whoever was nearby when he was unhappy with a piece of news or a situation. I had to step in between him and an employee several times to keep him from firing the employee on the spot over a misunderstanding. He no longer trusted Brent and I (or any other supervisor on the property) at running things on our own, and began taking responsibilities away from us and belittling us when we made decisions on our own. Employee morale started taking a nose-dive and fell into an irreparable pit when he cussed out one of my employees on the loading platform in full view of guests. The day he cussed me out while I was operating the wheel was the day I told him I'd had enough and either things changed or I was leaving. That was in in mid-August.
It's now two months later. Very little has changed. The cussings have stopped but the anger issues, mis-trust, belittling, and verbal abuse have gotten worse if anything. A month ago, 6 supervisors and managers went to the vice president of the company to reveal the problems to upper management. That was when the cussings stopped, but I have seen very little additional change. Now he also makes baseless accusations. Getting accused of stealing when nothing has actually gone missing does wonders for a girl's self esteem, let me tell you.
It took me a long time to recognize how the toxic work environment was affecting my life in every way. I felt like a wimp for being the one to complain about it all the time, but my stress levels have been through the roof. I've gained back every pound I worked so hard to lose and then some. The pain in my knee and foot have gotten infinitely worse because I do absolutely no physical activity anymore. I spend my days hiding in a variety of offices throughout the property from my boss, because if he's not face-to-face with me he can't yell at me. I avoid being in my own office because then I'm in front of a work computer where I have to see his demeaning emails, constantly telling me I'm wrong. My avoidance of my boss has led me to avoid doing my work - after all, since I'm constantly being told anything I do is wrong, I have no desire to try to do anything. I spend my days as a glorified bathroom breaker, waiting for someone to call me to a ride to ask a silly question or take their lunch break. I'm not being a good leader or supporter for my crew. Because my shifts vary between mornings (9-5) and nights (5-midnight), my sleep schedule is impossible to figure out. Most nights I sleep 4 to 5 hours. I've gotten so used to it that on nights that I have time to sleep (like tonight) I wake up far too early and can't get back to sleep. I have very little motivation to go to the gym; in fact I've only been twice since April. I have very little motivation to do anything.
Two weeks ago, I hit rock bottom. My first wedding anniversary was 10 days ago, and I was miserable. I didn't want to be around my husband or friends. I have a long and colorful past with depression and anxiety, and I haven't experienced it this strongly since high school. It is affecting my marriage, my social life, my health, everything. I came home from work in tears every night, unable to cope with the constant antagonizing. My husband, my wonderful, amazing, perfect husband, saw the truth. He saw that it was the depression talking. He's seen me down but never this far, and he knows exactly how to pull me back up.
We started talking. We started planning. We are finding a way to get me out. Yes, I've only been there 7 months, but in many ways it's been 7 months too long. As poorly as things ended at Dollywood, I began considering trying to fight to go back there, because anywhere is better than here. He talked me out of that, because I wouldn't be any happier. The economy in this area is hurting, as we're heading into the off-season and few places are hiring. I know in the Sevier county area I will not be able to find anything comparable to what I have now in pay and hours. Most jobs are minimum wage and seasonal. My husband hasn't even been able to find a teaching job. They simply don't exist here.
There has been a couple positive over the past year, besides the house. We bought a new car in early August, before I hit the bottom. My husband's car died back in May, and we couldn't keep up the one-car-family lifestyle anymore. With all the overtime I'd worked, we were able to put a nice down payment on a low-end 2013 Chevy Equinox. I love it, and it makes me happy. Sometimes it's the little things in life - driving a new car is one of the few shining points in my life right now. It's my reward for this past summer. My husband sometimes grumps good-naturedly that I'm a new car hog, but he also understands that I feel like it's the thing I can point to as the result of how much I gave of myself this summer. It's what I got back.
Another shining point in my life, a recent one, is that I'm getting out. 5 days ago, last Friday, I put in my notice at my job. I don't have a back-up plan right now, but then, I didn't when I left Dollywood either. I'm honestly a bit terrified. We have a house and a new car to pay for. My husband works two part-time jobs with irregular pay and hours. That's why we made the decision we did.
In two weeks, I will be in Florida. Orlando, to be exact, home of sunshine and theme parks. I've got applications in at 2 of the 4 major parks in the area and a tentative offer from one. The growth opportunities in the industry are practically unlimited in Orlando, and since it's in this industry I want to stay, it makes sense. My husband, who has spent 2 years seeking a full-time teaching job in Tennessee (he's licensed in high school science) has had more success in 2 weeks of searching in Florida than he has since he got his teaching license in Indiana 5 years ago.
It's a scary move. I feel like I just jumped off a cliff with no safety net. We don't have the credit or down payment to buy another house, and don't have enough equity in ours to sell it without losing everything we've put into it so far. We have 6 cats, and no one rents to that many animals. We've made the tough decision to try and part with some of them and find 3 of them new homes, solely because it will make finding a rental easier. It's a heartbreaking decision, but even giving up some of my furbabies is less emotionally damaging than staying at my current job.
My husband is on contract at one of his jobs until the end of the year. Then he will be joining me down there, hopefully with a full-time teaching position already secured. The fact that mid-year positions are plentiful gives us a ton of hope - mid-year positions do not exist in most places, but Florida is notoriously hurting for teachers and he's a well-qualified one. He's waiting on some paperwork to go through and his license will be officially transferred there. In the mean time, I will be down there securing us housing, settling in and hopefully starting to work my way up at Universal (where I've got tentative offer, pending relocation).
When I put in my notice at my job, I learned how much my coworkers and crew love me. It brought back a little of my sparkle to know that it's just the one person making life so miserable. I honestly had been feeling like I was just a terrible employee and would never succeed anywhere, but the true outpouring of love since everyone found out I'm moving has been overwhelming. Two of my managers have offered to write me letters of recommendation. One of my coworkers asked me to help him find a job down there because he trusts me and has been wanting to relocate, and figured if I could do it so could he. Many of my crew members have begged me not to go. Two of them resigned as soon as they found out I was leaving, as they recognized that I was frequently the buffer between them and the hellfire raining down from the upper rank. My cohort and close friend may be going with me, especially as he knows he'd have a convenient roommate to help him share expenses and he is just as unhappy and beat down as I am. Tonight, the marketing director took me out to dinner as a celebration of getting out.
Things have been better for the past 5 days. Part of it is because everyone except the boss from hell has shown me that I really was good at my job, even though I never felt that I was. Part of it is that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. When I get a snarky email, or am antagonized over something he thinks my crew did, it just rolls off now. "Not my problem" has been my motto this week, because it isn't anymore, and that's a relief I never could have imagined.
This has been overwhelmingly lengthy, but I feel like I need to get it out. I've bottled everything up this summer, because I spent all of it feeling like a failure. The weight gain and embarrassment of gaining back everything I'd lost, falling back to old habits, and sliding back into poor health has kept me off of SparkPeople because I didn't want to admit to it. I didn't want to be "that person" that had done so well and then failed so miserably.
Orlando will be a fresh start, and not just in a new job. It's a fresh start on my adult life. I feel like after 10 years of searching, I finally know what I want out of my life and how to get it, and I'm actually on the correct path. I've never felt as happy at my job as I am when I'm working a ride, and I think that's a big sign of where I need to be. It'll be a fresh start for my health. I'm fighting hard to keep from gaining anymore, and so far have succeeded. I fluctuate over about 5 pounds, with no dramatic gain or loss, and for me, that's good enough for now, until I get my head back on straight.
Some time over the summer, I developed what I believe is a bone spur in my heel, likely as a result of the fact I now slightly limp on the foot I broke over a year ago. I'm afraid it's sunk my hopes for being able to run as it hurts too bad when I attempt anything high impact. It hurts when I'm just walking. The weight gain has also made my foot and knee pain return full-force. I'm hoping to be able to finally seek medical advice in the next few months (I haven't had insurance in several years) on the best path for recovery, especially for my poorly-healed foot. In the mean time, the elliptical will be my friend, just as it was on my first journey. Once I'm no longer working this insanely variable hours, I will make the time and find the motivation to go to the gym. By the way, the two visits since April? They've been in the past week. See, it's starting already.
If you've made it this far, thank you. Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts, my concerns, my hopes, my fears and my dreams. I've never met any of you in person, yet I feel like everyone here is a friend. Even though we may really have no contact, every single comment, every "way to go" or "you're doing great" has a huge effect. I love seeing comments, I love knowing that people have cared, and it helps me feel like maybe I'm not such a failure after all.
I leave my job October 25th. I move to Florida November 1st. That gives me 6 days to live it up here in east Tennessee. With the National Park reopened as of yesterday, that gives me 6 days to choose from to finally tackle Mt. LeConte. We were supposed to hike to the summit (we've been halfway) for our anniversary last Monday, but the shutdown meant all trails were closed so we had to postpone. I want to do it. I want to say I've been there, I've done it, I conquered it. And I will!
Thanks for reading everyone. And I love love love love comments! :)
Friday, March 15, 2013
Hey there Sparkers.
This is kind of a hard post for me. One of my main goals this year was to be able to climb the lift of Wild Eagle without being so worn out I was useless for the rest of the day. Last Friday, I got the chance to test it out and see how far I'd come, and I'm happy to say that my workouts have been a success. I made it up and down all 235 steps to the top without any trouble at all. In fact, I managed them far better than some of my coworkers, whom I thought were in better shape than me, did!
However, it is bittersweet because as of Tuesday, I no longer work for Dollywood. I don't want to go in to details here, partially because it's too involved, but mainly because it's in the past and I've moved on. I'll just say that on Monday, an incident occurred which made me realize that my passions were in the wrong place, and that the company really wasn't the right fit for me and so Tuesday morning I turned in my resignation with a heavy heart.
I do have some great memories, and in many ways I will really miss my job, especially my amazing coworkers. I wish things hadn't ended the way they did, but sometimes you just have to pay attention to what the world is trying to tell you, and it was telling me that it was time to move on.
I also have some great pictures from the summit of Wild Eagle's lift and I thought you guys would like to see them.
I sure felt right at home up there!
The highest point in the park makes for a spectacular view of the Smoky Mountains.
205 feet up and looking straight down.
That's 235 stairs to the top. I counted them myself!
I'm glad I took my camera up there, because I didn't know at the time that it would be my last trip up those stairs. From now on, I'll just enjoy the view from a seat on the train. That doesn't mean I'm going to stop all this hard work though! I'm very proud of myself for my accomplishments with my fitness, and now I'm going to realign my focus away from just trying to be able to do stairs efficiently. I want to run a 5k, and by golly, if I can climb 235 stairs without stopping, I can work up to a 5k too!
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Something that I've always wanted to do is a lot of hiking. I learned yesterday that I'm not quite in the shape I need to be to do as much hiking as I'd like! Even though we got home after dark, soaked, exhausted and sore, it was worth it for a day I will never forget. I got some amazing photos and some amazing memories!!
My husband and I started the day off early, when we were both awake before sunrise. I wanted to go shoot the sunrise, and the best place I could think of was the Gatlinburg overlook. This is a scenic outlook on the bypass around downtown Gatlinburg, which overlooks both the city and the sprawling mountains, up to the height of Mt. LeConte. The vertical contrast is the largest in the Smokies at a difference of over 1600 feet. I got some great shots of the sun peeking up behind the mountains, casting beautiful colors and sun rays across the clouds.
After the sun was up, we stopped for gas in downtown Gatlinburg, had a fun chat with the nicest gas station cashier ever, and headed into the park. I've been wanting to visit Cades Cove for awhile now, and I'd always heard it was beautiful in the early morning, with lots of wildlife activity and Nick was completely game for it since he's been wanting to explore as well. Since it's February, I was hoping that it wouldn't be too crowded. I got my wishes on all three accounts - we saw tons of deer happily roaming the fields, few cars, and some absolutely beautiful scenery.
We hiked the 1.1 mile round-trip mostly flat trail to the Elijah Oliver homestead, exploring the barn, farmhouse, spring house and other out-buildings that have been preserved for visitors to see what life in Cades Cove in the 1800s was like.
We also stopped in the visitor's center and explored the restored Cable homestead, which includes a cantilever barn, sawmill and former boardinghouse turned farm house.
After leaving Cades Cove and returning to Gatlinburg, where we intended to eat lunch, my phone started blowing up! I hadn't had signal on it in several hours, and my friend John, who I take a lot of photography classes with, was trying to meet up with us to go hiking. We finally met him for lunch, which was completely not in my diet (pizza and cheese sticks from a local eatery in Sevierville) but I figured with as much activity as we were planning for the day, they'd balance each other out. Once we finished lunch, we loaded up into John's Cadillac and drove about 20 miles to Cosby, TN (near I-40 and the North Carolina state line) to start on the Gabes Mountain Trail. Our intended destination was Hen Wallow Falls, a 90 foot waterfall 2.2 miles from Cosby.
This seems a promising start to our trail!!
The trail we were planning is rated as "moderate" by both the National Park Service and HikeMySmokies.com. The hardest trail I'd attempted before was Laurel Falls trail, which is an easy trail rated at a 2.93 difficulty by HMS. Gabes Mountain Trail is rated as a 6.20, with a vertical climb of 900 feet at a rate of 400 feet per mile.
The trail started off rocky and uphill, but nothing too treacherous. This was the average steepness for most of the trail, though we went through intermittent areas of rocks and tree roots so thick you could use them as stair steps. About a half mile into the trail, we started hearing the sounds of a waterfall. John explored a side trail and discovered he could easily get to a nice vantage point for photos, so Nick and I followed down the steep and rocky terrain. The view was worth it. This unnamed waterfall on Crying Creek is not listed anywhere on any maps, so it was a very nice bonus.
After returning to Gabes Mountain Trail, we continued on our journey, passing many returning hikers coming back from the falls, all of whom said the trail was a bit strenuous but certainly worth it. A little over a mile into the trek, it started raining. As we continued climbing in elevation, the raindrops turned to sleet, quickly soaking through our clothes. I got out my windbreaker I'd packed in my camera bag to try and keep moderately dry and warm, but it was pretty much a hopeless cause.
The trail took us across many incredible sights, which I didn't take any photos of because it was raining and I was trying to keep my camera dry until we reached our destination. We crossed three log bridges across creeks, passed several small waterfalls, even walked across rocks at the base of one of them, went under and around many very neat rock formations and kept going up and up and up!
Finally, when I thought I could make it no further, we got to the split off Gabes Mountain Trail that would take us to Hen Wallow Falls. The last tenth of a mile was the most treacherous, with a steep downhill grade that was now muddy from rain and very little in the way of tree roots or rocks to balance on. Finally, we arrived at Hen Wallow Falls, and it was beautiful!
The rain was coming down very hard now, and unfortunately it didn't take long before my camera lens, even with a hood covering it, was covered in raindrops which started obscuring my photos. I took a handful more and then called to Nick and John and asked if they were ready to go. They both were, as we were hoping to get most, if not all the way, back to the car before darkness fell. At this point we had about an hour and a half before sunset, the rain was getting harder and the temperature was dropping.
We made the return trek in hard rain and sleet, stopping whenever the canopy was thick enough to create a dry spot for a water break. Most of the trip back was downhill, but it was more challenging as puddles formed and the mud and rocks got slick. I relied heavily on my hiking stick to find safe stepping places on some of the downhill sections, and we all went much more carefully across the bridges.
At about a mile from the end of the trail, twilight was quickly approaching. I was worn out but ready to get back into the dry car. By this time, all three of us were completely soaked through and the rain was starting to get snow mixed in. We stopped for one last water break at a trail split with a mile marker, and increased our pace for the final stretch.
About a half mile before the end, full darkness fell. Since it had crept into the woods slowly, all of us decided to forgo flashlights and depend on our night vision, which had plenty of time to adjust and be pretty clear. The last third of a mile was very rocky, and took the longest to get through, as I used my walking stick much in the way a blind person would use a cane, checking for rocks that would stick up and trip me or twist my ankle, or large steps down that I might miss and come down to hard on.
Finally, when I thought I was about to collapse, we made it to the end of the trail!! We all clambered into the dry interior of the Cadillac, blasted the heat and turned the heated seats on high, stripping off our wet jackets and sweatshirts. On the ride back to Sevierville, we laughed about our crazy adventure, deciding that the next time when the Weather Channel said 30% chance of rain we'd plan on it being a downpour!
As soon as John dropped us off at home, we both changed into warm comfy PJs and curled up in bed, exhausted from our amazing day. As insane as it was, and as crappy as I felt afterwards, and as sore as I am today, it's not something I'd ever trade the experience of. I'm proud of myself for completing a hike that I thought beyond my ability, I'm proud of the amazing photos I was able to capture, and I'm proud of making it through the dark, wet and cold, keeping pace with the rest of the trio that is in much better shape, pushing through til the end.
Now I'm planning for our next adventure. Let's see where it will take us!
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
I decided it was time to see what all the yoga hype was about. You'd have to be living under a rock to have not heard by now all the benefits yoga can provide, including decreased stress, increased flexibility, less joint pain and a calmer mindset. Considering I could really use all of these things in my life I decided it was finally time to give it a try.
I'd actually done yoga one time before, almost ten years ago now. My freshman year of college, I took a Tai Chi class as a "filler" credit and it was pretty awesome. I'd love to learn Tai Chi again. But one day our instructor was out sick and he had the yoga instructor fill in for him. Instead of doing Tai Chi, we did yoga. Except ... she didn't seem to 'get' that most of us had never done yoga, and didn't have the strength or flexibility for advanced poses. After an hour of leg lifts and shoulder stands, I decided yoga was not for me, ever! It was simply too intense.
Luckily, I've grown a lot since then and also done enough reading on the internet to realize that there are plenty of yoga poses that don't involve standing on your shoulders. I've also come to realize that if you don't have the flexibility or strength to do a pose just as the instructor shows, that's ok! The point of yoga is to gently increase your strength and range of motion to be able to get there eventually.
After wandering around on Pinterest (seriously, Pinterest is one of the best motivators I've ever found), I discovered a series of basic yoga poses that can help relax you to help you fall asleep. I've got pretty bad insomnia and it usually takes me around an hour or more to fall asleep once I go to bed. After following these yoga poses, and then focuses on meditating once I closed my eyes, I was able to fall asleep within 20 minutes of laying down. Unheard of for me!
Finding yoga classes in my area is surprisingly difficult - only one of the area gyms offers them, and of course it's the most expensive one with the longest contract terms, a.k.a. the one I'm not joining. My little $30 a month, no frills 24-hour gym only offer Zumba, but they've got the equipment I need and finding time in my schedule for a set class time is rather difficult anyway. That's why I joined a 24-hour gym in the first place.
So, I did the second best thing and bought an instructional DVD and a yoga mat so I could do it at home. I didn't do a bunch of googling looking for "the best." I went to Walmart, looked at their options and went with the one that seemed to be about my speed. It's led by a Hawaiian yogi with a soothing voice that explains each pose and movement in a way a complete newbie like myself can understand. I may not be able to bend as deeply as he can or reach as far out to the side as he can, but even he says that's ok, and throughout each instruction gives suggestions on what you can change, such as resting your hands on your shins instead of the floor. These work for me. This whole video and idea works for me.
I went to bed last night feeling more relaxed and sated than I have in years. I could feel the intensity in my muscles as I used muscle groups that haven't seen work in a while and stretched areas that are constantly tense during the poses. But afterwards, I was simply relaxed. My back didn't hurt, my knee didn't hurt, I wasn't tense, I was just calm and relaxed. My husband was so impressed by how much it relaxed me that he now wants to give it a try.
Today, something didn't agree with my stomach, so I opted to not go to class and instead stay home and relax. Yoga sounded relaxing and I hoped it would soothe my upset stomach. And so, I popped my DVD back in and followed the calm instructions, stretching and toning, and finally, relaxing. After the savasana, I felt great. My stomach wasn't upset, and again nothing in my body hurt. I felt as though I'd had a great workout, but didn't hurt and wasn't worn out in anyway.
After the 30-minute yoga session, I decided to follow an idea I found on pinterest and take a nice long relaxing detox bath. After filling the tub with the hottest water I could manage to get (our water heater is kind of wimpy), adding epsom salt, eucalyptus oil and baking soda, I sat my laptop on the closed toilet seat, turned on Pandora's "relaxation" station and full-screened a YouTube video of a fireplace. 30 minutes later, the water was starting to get cold and I felt amazing, cleansed and relaxed.
Why haven't I ever tried these things before? My goal is to do yoga as close to daily as possible, especially once the season starts back at work. In addition to gym visits, I'm hoping it will help with the endurance and strength I will need at my new position, but more importantly, help me keep a calm and level head throughout the work day and help me sleep at night. I have slept better the past two nights than I have any night in my memory. I've woken up refreshed rather than groggy (though I've also slept later and longer than I normally do) and more energetic the next day.
Now if only I can convince the husband to go for a long walk with me!
Monday, February 11, 2013
I joined SparkPeople on January 17, 2012 with the goal of dropping almost 50 lbs for my wedding in October. While I didn't make it that far, I did make it to 30 lbs, weighing in at 200 lbs even. Massive life changes over the summer and an injury that kept me off my feet for six weeks got in my way quite a bit, but I'm still very proud of the progress I was able to accomplish. Now I want to make that magic happen again.
If you didn't get to read my post from September, I'll sum it up - my husband and I moved to Tennessee over the summer. He moved from east-central Indiana in May, and I followed, going from Columbus Ohio in July. In May, I fell at my job as a ride operator at the Columbus Zoo and tore up my foot fairly well. Stress fracture in the fifth metatarsal, sprained in two places, and a sprained ankle, which kept me on crutches for six weeks and a cane for another week. It was eight weeks after my fall that I was cleared to return to full duty. By then, I'd left my job and moved, as well as gained a bit of weight from the inactivity. I started my new job July 10th, as a ride operator at Dollywood working on the roller coaster Mystery Mine.
Since September, a lot more has happened! My husband and I were married in a beautiful outdoor ceremony in Connersville, Indiana. I worked hard in the last few weeks before the wedding to shed the weight I'd regained and dropped to a new record-low of 198 lbs. We honeymooned in California, sharing our love of amusement parks together by visiting 6 different parks in Los Angeles and San Diego. I felt confident and beautiful on my wedding day and the week following, but I quickly fell back into my old eating habits.
Working at a park with amazing food (we won the highly-acclaimed Golden Ticket award for Best Park Food this year), two unexpected promotions and a return to school, even though just half-time, were a sort of deadly combination for my habits. I gained quite a bit of weight in the last two and a half months of our season. The last few weeks of the season, my work uniforms were rather tight. Training at a coaster includes climbing the lift hill for evacuation training, and when I was trained at Wild Eagle in December, I barely made it up the huge amount of stairs to the top of the 205-foot lift hill.
I finished out the 2012 season as the team lead of Mystery Mine, a promotion I did not expect to earn so quickly. I'd been promoted to trainer just a month prior to the lead promotion. I was also offered the position of team lead at Wild Eagle for the following season, a very prestigious honor considering the Eagle is the park's "star" attraction, the newest roller coaster, and the largest crew of any of the coasters in the park. I was honored to accept it, and am looking forward to starting the 2013 season on February 26th as Wild Eagle's team lead.
By the end of January, I was back up to 219 lbs. I've dropped to 216 in the past two weeks without really trying much. It was hard to get back on the "diet" considering that I'm in the off-season layoff period and really don't do much but sit around at home. The weather's been crappy, and I haven't wanted to go outside. Now the weather is warming up and has actually been quite beautiful lately, leading to evening walks with my husband.
My goals are a bit different than they were last year. We live just a 20-minute drive from the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park (I can see it out my dining room window - our apartment's view is amazing). I want to be able to hike the Chimney Tops trail, climb to the overlook at Clingman's Dome and see Ramsey Cascades, all while carrying my 35-lbs camera bag. We hiked the 5-mile, partially paved Laurel Falls trail in November, and I was absolutely worn out. My knees were screaming, my back was aching and I was out of breath continuously. One of my very fit coworkers said that the Laurel Falls trail is "a warm-up jog" for he and his wife before they hit the trails. I don't necessarily expect to get that far, but I'd certainly like to go hiking without being completely worn out after a short, relatively easy trail.
As I said earlier, part of training on a coaster is to climb the lift hill. New hires actually have to climb it twice - once before they even begin training, to make sure they aren't going to freak out at that height, and once during evacuation training. Guess who gets to take them up there? That's right, the team lead! Well, either me or the trainer. Considering I barely made it up there on my training day, having to stop multiple times to catch my breath, I don't want to be embarrassed each time I train someone by how hard it is for me to make it to the top.
This time around, I'm not concerned about weight, or about my pants size. Those will come naturally and I don't have a wedding dress to fit into now. I'm concerned about my physical fitness and stamina. I lead too active of a lifestyle to be this out of shape. I want to be able to enjoy the beautiful area around us. I've made great progress so far, but I'm not finished yet.
In my very first blog post, I talked about how my knee pain was so bad that I was often having to get disability passes at amusement parks because I had a hard time with the stairs, especially in hilly parks. I'm proud to report that after I was back on my feet from the foot injury (I went to 5 different parks in a wheelchair, needing a disability pass due to my inability to walk unassisted!), I have only gotten a disability pass once out of the many parks we've visited, and that was on our second day at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California. It's called "Magic Mountain" for a reason - the entire park is built on a mountain!! Climbing up and down it all day wore my knee out completely, so for day two, I got a stairs pass so at least I didn't have to hike a thousand stairs on top of the steep inclines. This was also the last day of our week-long honeymoon which consisted of 5 other parks in that span of time! So, for one day, I'd say I was doing pretty good! Other parks I've done without a pass include two days at Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure, SeaWorld San Diego, Knott's Berry Farm, SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Studios Florida and Island of Adventure, Busch Gardens Tampa, Cedar Point, Kings Island and, of course, Dollywood.
I have a doctor's appointment next month to check out what's going on with my knee and hopefully get some advice on how I can continue to improve it. Gentle cardio (like the elliptical), increased walking and use, and the weight loss has done wonders for it. I'm wanting to start running now, using the couch-to-5k program, and I know it will be stressful on my knee, so I'm doing a lot of research on ways to reduce problems and keep my knee healthy while running.
In typical "me" fashion, this post has gotten absurdly long. I don't know how to keep things short and sweet! So, thanks for sticking with me of you've read the whole thing, and now, here's some photos!
Before and After photos:
Before: The day I found "the" dress, in May 2011. Weight: 233 lbs, Dress: Size 20
After: My wedding day, October 7, 2012. Weight: 198 lbs, Dress: Size 16
My husband and I, four days before the wedding, about halfway up Wild Eagle's lift.
Dancing with my husband. I ROCKED that dress!!
On our honeymoon at Disneyland in California.
After a slight regain. Taken in mid-January 2013 at Busch Gardens Tampa. Weight: 218 lbs.
Get An Email Alert Each Time COASTERKAT Posts