Monday, May 10, 2010
Human beings are really amazing. We have the capability to adapt to just about anything. We live in crazy climates, we support any number of stresses on our bodies physically and mentally, we have children, we hold multiple jobs, we deal with the car when it breaks down, we grieve death among family and friends, we strive, we achieve, and just when we think we couldn't possibly handle any more - we do. We adapt. We make it work. And that is truly why we are at the top of the food chain.
Personally, I am coming off the back of one of those weekends - one of those weekends where I couldn't possibly have squeezed in one more little thing - and yet, looking back on it, I am amazed at what I managed to accomplish.
I am a professional stage manager for live theatre in Chicago. I am also the general manager for a theatre building that rents facilities to theatre companies without performance spaces. We have 4 spaces in total - 2 mainstages and 2 studio theatres that switch up every 6 weeks or so with a new show. We rent for rehearsals, meetings and any number of other events all year long and at any and all hours of the day. Needless to say, I have a very full work life that I wouldn't give up for anything, but when I am working on a show myself (as I am currently) it leaves me basically NO personal time. My show schedule on the weekends requires me to be in the theatre immediately following work on Friday night for an evening show, for both a matinee and evening performance on Saturdays, and a Sunday matinee. Besides commuting home and back for brief periods of sleep and to feed the cats, I usually don't see the light of day for an entire three days in a row. Monday morning comes bright and early and I start the whole week over. It's exhausting.
So imagine my "joy" when my director came to me this past week and requested that I be present for the technical rehearsals of a high school show that is partnering with my company on our current production. It's a fun concept - the high school (an arts academy) is presenting the same show as the professional company, and as a bonus to the young generation, they get to bring their show to our set to perform on the professional stage for 3 dates. I would have killed for an opportunity like that in high school. However, since doing this required that they work around the pro schedule, it meant teching their show at 9am on Saturday morning before my already double show day, and at 7pm on Sunday following our afternoon performance. Add to that my brothers' (they're twins) birthday on Saturday and Mother's Day on Sunday, plus my monthly meeting with my nutritionist that was also scheduled for Saturday morning at 9am and I thought my head was going to explode.
I was not looking forward to the weekend. On Thursday I started mourning my upcoming lack of sleep. I rescheduled my nutritionist to Sunday at 9am, called my boyfriend and joked that I would "see him next year", and as I pulled a dirty pair of jeans from Mount Washmore to wear yet again, accepted the fact that laundry just wasn't going to get done this weekend.
We had a good show Friday night, but I declined the offer to go out with the cast afterward which upset me. I was resenting everything that had to do with this dumb schedule. I sent my brothers a "Happy Birthday" email with gift certificates attached and wished them a better day than I knew I was going to have.
Saturday went as expected - 9am-1pm with the highschoolers, then immediately into pre-show checklist for our 2:30pm curtain, wolfing down a Subway sandwich backstage in 5 minutes while the audience was coming in to the house, show until 5:30pm, followed by show breakdown and set-up again for the 8pm show. While the rest of the cast went to our director's house for dinner between shows, I stayed at the theatre to make sure everything was ready for the kids. The actors were nice and brought me back a couple slices of pizza - not exactly diet friendly, but at this point, it was welcome. Good Saturday night show, but by the time the curtain came down at 11pm, I was socked. I limped around to do my post-show checklist and fought back the tears of exhaustion as I waited for the bus to take me home - resentful again that I didn't/don't have a car. After finishing show reports and logging my food intake for the day, I fell into bed at 12:30am. Did I really have to do all of this again tomorrow? Ugh.
But Sunday morning arrived, and I was awake. My place was a MESS, so I ran around to tidy up before my nutritionist arrived (it's really awesome that she does home visits!). I finished a general sweep of my apartment and decided that while I was at it, I may as well unload the dishwasher since it had been full of clean dishes since Wednesday and the counters were starting to pile up with dirty dishes again. Managed to get that done before the knock on the door.
It was a really great meeting. I got lots of encouragement from a doctor's perspective about my Spark nutrition program, and then we started to talk about my schedule - Wasn't it amazing how much I was accomplishing? How much energy I now have? How I am more apt to take on things now when my plate is already seemingly full? How I was managing to fit exercise into a jam-packed weekly schedule and making it work for me? And it got me to thinking - I really do perform at my best under stress. When I get ramped up - there isn't anything I can't do. Doors open, opportunities seem to fall in my path, and I am primed to go get 'em.
On Thursday, I had planned that I would go back to bed when she left and get another hour and a half of shut-eye before I had to go to my show call. But once I became aware of the level at which I was and have been performing, something in me clicked. I wasn't tired anymore. I loaded the dishwasher, finished cleaning up the rest of the dishes, made myself a great breakfast, called my mom, and got my laundry sorted all before leaving my house. We had a great show Sunday, after which I joined some of the members of our orchestra for a nice dinner, and then returned to the theatre for the kids' show with fresh eyes. I had a great time watching them play in our space, and was so proud of them for how far they had come even since Saturday morning. When my boyfriend arrived to pick me up at 10pm, I was tired, but still happy that I really had managed to get it all done! When I got home, I threw on a load of laundry - just because I could.
I have learned that tiredness begets more tiredness, and that the more we sit on the couch, the more likely we are to want to continue to sit on the couch. But it works in the opposite direction too. The more we get out there and "just do it", the more active we become all round AND the more we are able to accomplish. That's a good incentive in my book! It takes a big push to get started, but once the snowball gains momentum, well - we all know what happens then, right? Snow cones for all! :) Bottom line - It gets easier.
Am I still exhausted today? Yep. But look at everything I have to show for it. I adapted, I made room for life to happen, and because of that - I continue to grow and expand (but in places other than my waistline!)
Thursday, May 06, 2010
When we would take family trips as kids to Florida, my mother would always plan our route around all the Cracker Barrels on the way. I can remember getting the Cracker Barrel map of the US and following our route based on where we were stopping. I found out not long ago that my mom doesn't even like Cracker Barrel, but she would have my dad drive out of the way sometimes so that we could stop there cause we kids loved it.
In university, when I was eating on a prepaid meal plan, I can remember walking all the way across campus to get this particular bagel and cream cheese that I loved to eat for breakfast, or to the pub that was in another dorm because their burgers were the juiciest and the fries came with extra mayo.
I've had food binges that have driven me to walk to CVS in my pajamas for another pint of ice cream or whatever candy of the month is on sale, I've spent the last dollar in my bank account on Dairy Queen or Starbucks, and I have been that person who stands in a line 20 people long at the street fair to get a funnel cake.
I have canceled plans with my friends to watch my favorite television show, and I routinely re-arrange my schedule and go out of my way (most of the time to the detriment of my own sleep schedule) to be everything to everyone whenever they need it.
But exercise? Why would I do anything extraneous for exercise? Exercise is work enough on its own. Heck, I have so many excuses and reasons not to exercise, thinking of going above and beyond anything over just getting off the couch is crazy-talk to me.
But yesterday I proved myself wrong and performed the unthinkable! I went to some pretty extraordinary measures to go swimming.
My previous blog post "Closed for Maintenance" details my adoration of the pool and my renewed love of exercise in water. So I knew that this week was going to be challenging because my convenient pool was closed. So I set about yesterday researching new pools, still within the Park District (thus free), with a Wednesday night Adult Open Swim, that I could get to fairly easily by public transit as I am "wheel-less" for the time being aside from the extra tires I carry around my mid-section.
You wouldn't believe the number of pools that are "Closed for the Season"! Closed for the season? Isn't it Spring going into Summer right now? I would have figured more would have been opening, not closing. My two top choice alternative pools were now out of the question. Strike One for exercise. But I'm still determined...
I finally find a pool that looks doable. It's in another neighbourhood of town, literally 1 block north of my old apartment where I lived for 2 years. How did I not know this existed? But that is still a LONG way from where I live/work now AND swim time is not until 8:30pm when I get off work at 6pm AND it only goes until 9:15pm - 45 minutes when I usually have an hour. Strike Two for exercise. But this is my only option, so I'm not giving up yet...
The gears have been set in motion at this point. I determine that I am going to this pool, but that I'll go home first and pick up a return that I have to make at a store that is really close to the pool and that I would have had to travel to anyway. Awesome. Score One for exercise.
The bus ride home takes forever! By the time I get home I'm hungry, but I don't have time to prep a meal and eat and still get the return done and to the pool on time (plus I don't like eating a big meal before I swim anyway), so I grab a banana, change my clothes, grab my swim bag and head out the door. Bus #1 arrives within 2 minutes and I am on my way. Score Two for exercise!
Bus #2 is delayed, but arrives just when I'm thinking seriously about starting to walk to my destination (but I have come this far so going home doesn't cross my mind). I get to the store, make my return, and walk down the block towards the pool. Subway is on the corner, so I make a quick trip in to pick up a post-swim sandwich and a pre-swim milk because I'm still hungry. The milk does the trick as I reach the pool. 3-2 for exercise.
At this point I am REALLY happy with myself. I went out of my way, I arrived at my destination, I did a little multi-tasking - I am a superstar, and now it is time for my reward. And what a reward it was!
The pool was EMPTY! 3 lifeguards sitting there just waiting for me to walk in. How awesome. My other pool is so crowded normally that I can barely find room to fit in a lap length and we bump into each other constantly. Not here. One other person showed up, did his 20 laps and then left - but the rest of the time was ALL MINE. I was in swimmer's heaven. Huge locker room - all to myself. My pick of the showers. Not having to worry about keeping my towel from slipping off while I get dressed (not that I actually care about that anyway, but sometimes other people do). Exercise wins by a landslide!
I banged out an awesome swim for 50 minutes (since there was no one there they let me dive in a little early), had a nice long shower, and prepped for the long trip home with a good book. Although I arrived home later than I normally do on a swim night, I still felt accomplished. I enjoyed my Subway sandwich and filled in my Cardio tracker for the day. And get this - I also discovered that I had been calculating wrong and that "Swimming - General" burns far fewer calories than what I have actually been doing. SP breaks various swimming strokes down in the Cardio tracker, so knowing that I spend most of my time doing breast stroke actually DOUBLED the number of calories that I burned. Once I figured that out, I also discovered that maybe the reason I didn't lose anything last week is because I'm not eating enough for all the calories I'm burning! Now doesn't THAT feel good?
Today I feel great. Now, instead of going to great lengths for junk food or unhealthy behaviours, I have proven to myself that I can be one of those people that goes out of my way to get in an evening of exercise instead of being anxious on the bus at 7:56pm because my favorite tv show comes on at 8. Television is recordable, in Chicago, food is available 24/7, but I'M here right now and doing what is right for myself is the thing that can't wait. I deserve to be gone out of the way for. I perform extraordinary feats for other people every day. This time it's my turn. And that is NOT crazy-talk!
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
So even with the new weigh-in Wednesdays, I'm still up. It's cool though. I'm blaming TOM. And the fact that 12.6 pounds in 2 weeks really is A LOT to lose, so my body is just getting used to this whole 'healthy lifestyle' thing anyway. I'm still under 300 - so I'm still in Two Town and making progress.
But where I am down is ever so much cooler than the number on the scale! I have lost some serious inches baby, and I'm not even to my official monthly measure date yet, so I couldn't be happier. In the past 2 weeks I have dropped 3 inches off my waist, another 3 off my hips, 1 off my thighs and calves and a whole inch off my neck. Hallelujah! (So even though I'm still wearing them, albeit loosely, I'm marking today as my "DONE with size 26 jeans" day).
And you know - when you really think about it, it's INCHES not pounds that people notice. Besides those creepy guys at carnival midways who can guess your weight within 2 pounds (how do they do that??), my boyfriend still has no idea that I weight almost DOUBLE what he does. He knows I weigh more than him (duh), but if anyone should garner a guess to look at me, my assumption is that they would shoot way low. I'm built like a linebacker - what can I say? At 5'2" I'm a wee bit of a thing, with a lot of power in my punch and a few extra lumps on my rump!
Sometimes it's the small things that make the biggest difference, and already I know that THIS time around feels different than it ever has before. I'm still sad that the scale went in the opposite direction of what I wanted this week, but I'm not getting all defeatist about it. There are still so many things to be happy about this week: inches gone, new pool tonight, record time on my walk home on Monday, and the beginning of BBQ season for me since I finally dusted off my grill. It's a beautiful day, and I'm on my way to a smaller me - inch by fabulous inch!
Monday, May 03, 2010
I'm changing my weigh-in day to Wednesday...cause I don't like what the scale said this morning.
WHAT??? How is that even possible? I ate in my calorie range EVERY day this week, when last week I was above a few days. I exercised my butt off this week and increased my laps at the pool. I blogged, I supported, I measured, I read what I was supposed to. I OWNED being done with the 300s!
So then what the heck is 300.2 all about?
Well...when I think about it, and settle myself down a bit, here's what I'm coming up with -
First and foremost, I had a HUGE dinner last night. I was still within my calorie range because I only ate twice yesterday, but likely a 10oz steak and 2 mojitos is not what I should have consumed the night before a weigh-in. I woke up tasting the salt in my mouth, so I KNOW it was high in sodium and it's highly likely that I'm hanging on to just a WEE bit of water this morning because of it.
And, to add to what I did yesterday, I did the same thing on Saturday - a big "brunch" meal in the mid-morning followed by a big dinner. I realize now that there's a reason that the nutrition tracker doesn't have a "Brunch" meal option. And that on both days it asked me "Are you really done tracking?" because I had only filled in food for 2 meals out of the day. Maybe my body is trying to tell me that I need 3 solids at least. Spread out the intake and then maybe I won't carry the food weight over to the next day. There's something to be said about doing everything in balance.
But I LOVE Brunch. I look forward to weekend brunching like I look forward to Christmas.
So here's the plan. Next weekend I can still do Brunch on EITHER Saturday OR Sunday - not both. Try to eat a little bit less at Brunch so that I can still fit in a mid-day meal of some sort and not go hog wild at dinner. And then we'll see if that works a little better on the scale.
So I'm feeling a little sheepish today...all my grandiose "I'm DONE with the 300s" shouted from the mountain-tops. But I'm coming away from this with lessons learned - and isn't that what we're all here for anyway?
The scale is just a tool. Today it didn't say what I wanted it to, BUT this weekend was also the first time since I started a few weeks ago that I felt smaller. My pants are looser, I'm not wheezing when I walk a couple of blocks, my boobs are definitely shrinking (always the first thing to go darn it), and I feel GOOD.
But I'm still changing my official weigh-in day to Wednesday...so stay tuned
Friday, April 30, 2010
I have had a love for water since I was in the womb. One of my favorite pictures of me as a baby was taken when I was about 3 months old with my mom and dad in my grandparent's hot tub (never mind the "you aren't supposed to take your baby in the hot tub" rule - I was loving it!) I'm wearing just a diaper and a plastic diaper cover with the words "Tax Exemption" written across my cute baby bottom. I was born in December - so naturally my parents were thankful that they got the 'Baby Bonus' for the entire year.
I started swimming lessons early and advanced quickly. Being in the water just felt so second nature to me. I grew up close to a lake and we boated and went waterskiing almost every weekend in the summer. Even though I am a self-confessed city girl now, I still can't be far from water and so venture down to the lake shore whenever I get a chance. Something about Mother Nature's bathtub just makes me feel...right. And there is NOTHING like the smell of lake water to arouse my senses and happy memories.
When my nutritionist started pushing the "exercise" concept, a few months before I joined SparkPeople, I was stuck. I HATE exercise. But I knew that I was going to have to cave on my exercise strike eventually if I was ever going to make any movement in the weight department. So we started talking about some of these precious memories from my childhood. She pointed out that my stories about water and water sports but a smile on my face and pushed me to investigate that a little further. OF COURSE! Why hadn't I thought of it on my own? If I was going to be comfortable exercising, then I had to find something that I was comfortable doing and that made me feel good even before I did it.
So I started researching pools in my area. I wasn't coming up with much until I rediscovered the beauty of city parks and rec programs - you can do a TON of things for really cheap or even free in a lot of cases and it doesn't pack the punch to the gut of joining a gym. Double bonus! I found a pool really close to a neighbourhood I used to live in and loved, AND discovered that I could hop on a bus from work and it would drop me at the door of the rec center and then hop another bus which would take me directly home when I was done. The plan was in motion. I dragged my old, ratty swim suit and beach towel out of the closet and made plans to swim that week!
Fast-forward a few months and I swim on a weekly basis now. I have upped my laps consistently so I am swimming with almost no breaks for 45 minutes at a time. I bought myself a sweet new suit, cap and goggles so I look, and feel, like a pro. Rockstar! This weekly ritual has grown on me so much that I start getting excited about Wednesday nights on Tuesday. My doc says that this happens a lot with runners and other ritualistic exercisers. The endorphins that you get from the exercise start to kick in earlier and earlier as you continue to do it. The high you feel AFTER exercising creeps forward to when your toes hit the water, then to when you suit up, then to when you walk in the door and smell the chlorine, etc. etc. so by this point I'm really looking forward to that day every week. Not to mention the other benefits of swimming - it really helps for people who have low mobility (I can swim like a fish, but walking can still be painful for me), the chlorine content and the warm water temps help reduce swelling and joint pain, and for the lovely time of the month aches, the chlorine actually draws water away from the body through reverse osmosis (ah, highschool science class) and takes down that dreaded water-weight gain.
So TOTAL BUMMER when I walked in this past Wednesday and there's a big sign on the door "POOL WILL BE CLOSED FOR MAINTENANCE MAY 3-7." Boo Hiss. Now what? My immediate thought was - I'm going to have to skip swimming for the week. Maybe I can use the off-night to see a show or something. But then when I thought about how crappy that made me feel and how disappointed I was at the thought of missing a week, I thought WWSPD (What Would SparkPeople Do?) and it became clear. I can't let myself down like that. If swimming is what I like - swimming is what I have to do! So, I'll just have to find another pool for next week and, as Tim Gunn says - make it work. Scheduling be damned - swimming will happen.
Eventually I hope to find other exercises that "work" like this for me. Though I walk, walking is still a chore and I don't look forward to it every week like swimming. Since running seems to have a high-endorphin kick back, maybe I'll try that some day soon. It would be nice to try the C25K group that everyone raves about. But for now, I've got my thing - and my thing involves a really cute swim cap!
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