Category Archives: fitness

Darth Vader’s Right: Anger’s Good For You

I had that “lightbulb” moment a couple of weeks ago that has served as a real catalyst for a change in thinking and being.

A moment of my own stupidity just reminded me how many things happen to us due to a lack of care or attention in life. Big, small, whatever. Often, that lack of attention tends to not be neglect or ignorance, but just that we’re so damned thinly stretched.

I don’t really want to share my “moment” with you, except that it was my getting mad. Really mad. At myself, at the cosmos, at the passing of time.

Whom/what I was pissed off is irrelevant, beyond the simple “thinly stretched” mode of living. Some of it financial, most of it physical related to my complicated 8-month Yo-Yo of back injury struggles, and a lot of it due to the vacuum of time that is modern life.

Much of the sustaining of my back injury came from the reality of my love for cycling keeping me injured, but not in an immediate cycle-and-hurt way, rather in a cumulative way that wouldn’t become obvious for a few weeks. So, every time I was improving, I would suddenly have a dramatic backslide with extensive flare-ups.

We figured that out in August, then I ignored that until the end of September. Then I paid the price.

Now, though, I know. I know why, how, and when it all happened. I get it.

More importantly, at the end of that whole stupid, definitive journey, I got pissed. I had my Peter Finch Moment, from the movie Network, of wanting to open the windows and bellow I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE at the skies, at the world below, raging into the wind.

MAD AS HELL! NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE! RAWR! RAWR! RAWR!

That was two weeks ago, when I was still having my ass kicked by a flu. On the 1st of November, I slipped into a new gear. I’ve worked out 7 of the last 9 days, began a new physiotherapy routine, have started to rethink food (though haven’t excelled there yet), and put a new focus on resting and sleeping, so my body can bounce back from the workouts and physical grind I’m throwing at it.

At least now I’m not literally an active part of the problem via bicycling and exacerbating that which I’m trying to heal. At least now I seem to be getting things right and having more good days than bad.

I suspect a few weeks will make a world of difference. I think I’ve found the magic bullet physio that will undo the punishment I dish to my body, IMS, and I know the roles sleep, nutrition, and exercise play.

But it means I won’t see people, I won’t have money to spend, and I won’t have a whole lot of fun… for a little while. The thing is, I’ve been here before. I’ve been this MAD AS HELL. I’ve been this focused. I’ve demanded this of myself in the past — 6 to 10 hours working out a week — and I succeeded like few people do, and for the better part of a year.

Somewhere along the line, I stopped doing things that had made me successful in 2008-2009. The year 2010 was my undoing and I’ve spent much of 2011 paying for it.

I’m not mad at myself for that. It is what it is. Somewhere in this stupid era of back troubles are life lessons I couldn’t buy. My anger is slowly turning from something I’ve been exacting on others into something that I’m using as a catalyst for changing myself, fuel for the fire, as it were.

Anger isn’t a bad thing. It’s what you let it do to/for you that matters. I have a hard time of harnessing it. I’m a pretty passionate person and there have been a lot of times of late my anger has gotten the better of me and turned into a self-pity-sorrow show, when frustration rules me, and much of the last year has had pockets of my Being That.

I had a hard time processing, for a really long time, that I could be the person who was pushing 300 pounds, lost 25% of her body weight, and became UNHEALTHIER, despite doing it all through better eating and exercise. Something about realizing that sort of crushed me. Still does, sometimes.

We get so caught up in the moment sometimes and forget life’s a long, long road, and this time of struggle might wind up representing less than 5% of our entire life, but TODAY it feels like it’s forever. When they talk about “big picture,” that’s what they mean.

If I live to 70, finally get past the worst of this back injury in the next couple months and never revisit Herniated Disc Land again, then these past three years of up-and-down injuries will represent a grand total of 4.2% of my life.

That’s a different perspective, isn’t it? That’s not even a nickel compared to a dollar, you know what I’m saying?

I think the hardest part of injuries, weight loss, all of that, is the mental game. I willingly admit that I was losing that game for the better part of a year. My unemployment last year showed me pretty much every wrong direction I was headed in. It honestly wasn’t until I was working again that I realized what I should’ve been doing when unemployed.

And that’s life for you. We figure out what we should’ve said, should’ve done, long after the ideal moment passes. Rearviewmirror Syndrome. We’ve all been there.

Have I figured everything out? Fuck, no. Am I close to the finish line? Fuck, no. Am I sure I’ve got the solution this time? Fuck, no.

But this time I have my anger to keep me warm and running. In a good way.

Feel the Dark Side, Luke. Then kick its fucking ass.

And Then There Was Change

So, I love cycling.

In 2008, I blew out my back after losing about 60 pounds on my bike. I’ve always thought it was that I was stretching wrong and destabilizing my back. That’s what I thought caused the injury.

Despite all the things I’ve tried to do to improve my back, all the rehab and everything else, it’s never really been right again. I live with kind of a constant fear that something will compromise me, or I’ll fall and get hurt. Just a constant awareness something’s not right.

For some reason, I never thought about my bike seat being the problem. I mean, how could that be? It was an expensive supposedly-ergonomic bike saddle intended for intermediate cyclists — I splurged $60 on that motherfucker, you know. It was recommended to me! It had rave reviews online.

Last weekend, I took my bike into my chiropractor’s office*, and he examined the set-up, looked at me, and then said he thought I should switch to a wider seat.

So, that was a lightbulb moment. I already had been shown what just changing my seat’s angle by 3-5 degrees could do to take strain off my back. “I’ve changed everything else in my life,” I thought. “Why the hell not give it a try?”

I cycled again that afternoon on my old saddle, and it was a wonderful sunny ride, but the next day the pain set in, and it progressed for a few days while I stayed off my bike and really, really, really paid attention to how the pain developed and changed.

I realized how tender my tailbone was, how strained my sides were, and started thinking, “You know what? It DOES seem like it could be the seat.” It seemed like maybe my hips were sagging down and excess pressure was pushing my tailbone up, which made sense if the saddle was a little too narrow for my ample hips.

Then I considered the nature of repetitive strain injuries, how we see things slowly deteriorate but because it’s nothing clear-cut we often don’t specifically know the cause, and then it just compounds until we’re fucked. I think that’s what my back injury has been. A repetitive strain injury. A bit of suckage adding up every time I did the thing I love to do — cycling.

Thursday, I got the seat.

Yesterday, I installed it. I checked out all the “how should a bike seat be installed” docs I could find online, busted out my level, made sure I got my seat horizontal.

Sick, I rode to a nearby walk-in clinic to get seen by a doc, since it’d be less time and effort for getting groceries and prescriptions filled after the appointment than fucking around with bus routes.

During my ride, I realized I had broken my nice wide seat a few months before I began cycling to lose weight in 2008, and that the seat I “splurged” on as a replacement has been the only thing that’s remained constant in my life, in all that time. This had never occurred to me. It’s the missing piece in the puzzle. The possible implications were adding up pretty quickly.

This morning, after only a 7km, 30-minute leisurely ride, my lower back feels more stable, less pained, and stronger than it has in months.

It would be absolutely incredible if, after the thousands of dollars, endless hours, countless tears, and never-ending frustrations of a 3-year ongoing back problem is ultimately resolved by the purchase of a $20 bike seat and a free iPhone “level” app.

And it will be the biggest lesson I’ve ever learned in my life.

I’m just not yet sure what the lesson is. But today I have more hope about my back injury than I’ve had in three years. It’s overwhelmingly awesome to think I may have finally found the cause.

I’m excited. I’m looking forward to beating this cold this week and seeing what develops with cycling. I love riding my bike and it’s been absolutely heart-breaking to endure so much frustration for so long.

But if it’s resolved? Oh, lord, the gratitude I’ll have. Without a doubt, living with a chronic injury has been one of the greatest character-defining, life-teaching experiences I’ve had. I won’t be bitter for a minute that I could have resolved it cheaper, sooner. That’s the way life fucking goes, man. Sometimes the lessons that should’ve been the easiest but became the hardest are the ones that define us the most.

I have literally spent thousands and thousands of dollars on this injury. I’ve lost so much income — I can’t even count that high.

If it’s all going to end and be fixed by a $20 seat, I’ll have no choice but to laugh my goddamned (now well-supported) ass off. It’s so hysterically ironic that I can’t even express it.

I’m laughing as I type, actually. What can you do, man? Life’s really a funny joke on us sometimes.

If we learn from it, then it’s not for nothin’. So, we’ll see how this goes.

Thank god I have a great sense of humour. I needed a good laugh, even if an ironic one.

*My chiropractor is a guy who’s just getting his practice off the ground on Vancouver’s West Side. Dr. Bryson Chow practices Active Release Technique, a method that is preferred by many athletes. It posits the belief that healthy muscles lead to strong skeletons, so instead of forcing bones into place like most traditional chiros do, ART practitioners like Bryson instead work on breaking the muscle memory and helping retrain your muscles so they don’t keep pulling the bones out of alignment. I wasn’t healing at all until I made the switch to ART, but Bryson is the first doc to suggest my seat might be a problem. If you have any kind of repetitive strain or injuries that traditional folks aren’t helping you get past (like Frozen Shoulder Syndrome), consider an ART chiro. A few friends have found it similarly life-changing.

Getting it Wrong Means Knowing How to Get it Right

The older I get, the more I see the adage of “darkest before dawn” being a truism.

A certain Zen-master sensibility takes over as I age whenever the fit really hits the shan.

“Oh, wow. A gnarly wave of suckage cresting on the right. Head down, hang on, and pray, woman.”

When I had that almost-a-major-setback with my back the other day, I went to some pretty fucking dark places. It’s been one hell of a rollercoaster week for me, and I’m done, man.

Done on a few levels, that is. I think I’ve hit a major turning point with my back. The almost-major-setback, it turns out, was that I had been doing a very important stretch wrong. Ever so slightly wrong, too.

There was a miscommunication in having the stretch explained/digested, and as a result I was extending backwards instead of forwards, causing a minor  compressing of the spine — but after a week or so of the compression, kaboom. Yowch. Something slipped as I started to pedal my bike and I went to That Dark Place.

And this stretch, the difference in placement of my tailbone is all of, say, 1 horizontal inch. It’s really not a lot, but that angle changes shoulder-level by about 30-degrees, just enough to fuck a girl up.

For me, this incident is a reminder on a number of levels.

  • Close often isn’t good enough. Which is, you know, not good enough.
  • When you’re doing yourself harm, it’s not always apparent until it’s too late.
  • Know the result you want, and how to recognise it.
  • Attention to detail is time well spent.
  • Attempt to undo damage all you like, but if you ain’t gettin’ it right, then you’re makin’ it wronger.*
  • Solutions tend to reverse tides in a hurry. Step 1. Act. Step 2. Worry only if it motivates you to do Step 1.
  • I am a tough bitch.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t working for wellness. I was. Daily rehab and stretching.

I was just doing it wrong. One small part of it. No good deed goes unpunished, as the cynical old bastards always say.

And this too shall pass, say others. With stretching apparently down, it seems like the mix is right and it will settle.

Life comes with interruptions and setbacks. If we can’t take them for what they are, an opportunity to adjust our thinking and try another tack, then we’re destined for a pretty bumpy journey.

What solves other lives ain’t gonna solve mine. It’s not a one-size-fits-all dealio, so there’s a lot of bump-in-the-night that we each need to do to get there.

I’m coming up on three years with this back injury, and it’s the first time I’ve ever nailed this particular stretch that releases this particular combination of muscles. That other old truism, never too late to change, appears to be indicative of my rehabilitation, too.

Believe? Why not. Sure, I believe.**

It’s fitting there’s sunshine today. I could use a little basking in the light.

*If you’re a grammar dork who wants to point out that “wronger” isn’t a word, well, duh. Go back to satire school.
**By the way, not for nothin’, hockey fans, but I hope Vancouver’s Canucks can learn a little of what I’ve learned this week, that a lack of success doesn’t mean failure, it means it’s time to adjust strategy. Getting outcoached is a shitty way to lose a series.

A Different Day: Forty Floors is a Different View

And this is why I’ve been telling myself fitness would be the key to changing mindsets, etc.

Hello, there.

Yesterday’s post is h-e-a-v-y, because “depression” always is. Asshats leaving comments about “crying a river” don’t help others admit they’re depressed.

There’s a big difference between the depression I’ve been in lately and ones that cripple other people so much that suicide seems like a solution. I’m not even close to that.

So I can say, yeah, I’m depressed, but at least I’m able to motivate myself to try to effect change in my life.

Luckily, I sort of agreed with the inconsiderately-worded-but-kinda-well-meaning comments that said stuff like “stop whining”, “shut up,” and “just do it.”

And I have been doing that. When I work out, my attitude is always that I can totally do what I’ve set out to do. I don’t stop early or unperform. I totally commit.

I also know it takes 5 days a week, and now I’m meeting that, too. My attitude has been, “One of these days, this shit’s gonna click.”

But there comes a point when you just get frustrated. I’d been trying to work out a back problem before I got sick, then there’s the long break-in period, so I guess I just hit the “FUCK, CAN WE MOVE ON NOW?” breaking point this week.

Writing that post yesterday kinda felt like my darkest-before-dawn, hit-bottom-so-the-bounce-is-better moments.

Going there can be invaluable, man. And this time, it was.

I published that heavy shit, took a deep breath, got my workout gear on, went to a highrise in the area, and, doing sets of up-down-up-down in its 15 floors, did the 40-floor stairclimbing exercise I’ve been wanting to be strong enough to do for a long time, and I did it faster than I used to do 25 (total: 19 minutes!).

Today? I’m stiff and stuff, but I don’t “hurt.”

Big difference between stiff, tense, inflamed, and actual pain. I LIKE the day-after “ooh, I feel that one!” feeling. I don’t like pain. The day-after normal-stiffness is actually awesome, because I always eat better, since I’m conscious of the work I did to get that feeling, and I need that added consciousness so I can have success. Being an emotional eater, though, if it’s PAIN, I don’t react the same way, diet-wise. It’s weird, but there you go.

So, this is the first time I have that — the combination of pride and no heavy price getting paid the day after.

And maybe it’s a little more sucky tomorrow, since day two often is, but my day-afters have been kinda pretty shitty before now.

This is pretty awesome. It’s not home-free, but it’s better, and those stairs were a THREE-YEAR GOAL. Couldn’t do it with my back injury, not for the longest time, and I always hated doing them but knew they were effective.

So. Yes.

Yay.

I hated writing yesterday’s post, hate having it up there, but I think I’m gonna leave it. Sometimes ‘fessing up about the steaming pile of shit you feel like you’re in is the best way of climbing the hell out of it, too.

40 floors, motherfuckers.

Methinks I might finally be turning the page on the oh-so-painful break-in phase. That’s exciting. I do want to have the ass-kicking experience that comes from intense exercise. Once you get capable of doing it, it’s a real adrenaline surge to get into it. That’s what I’ve been longing for, not this fucking “ugh, this sucks but I know I can do it once I get past this, so let’s do it right” mind-over-matter crap I’ve been having to dial up.

So, to the unpublished commenter: Bite me. Yeah, I “train”. I complain because I *try* to leave it on the floor every time. I don’t phone this shit in. Most of my problems come from overtraining.

Mostly because I’ve done it before and I know I have it in me.

I want this, and I want it badly. This was that moment of “ah, finally”. And I know I’ll feel worse tomorrow — but I’ll be doing everything I can to avoid that today, by being smart.

This was the start I’ve been waiting for. It won’t be all smooth sailing here on out, but it’s still gonna be sailing. Sitting at the dock sucks, man!

Yep. I’ve had this moment before. This feeling I have now came once at the start of a very awesome and empowering journey. Yes, I bitch, but I keep plodding through all the crap, whatever it takes to get it done, and when I do cardio, I give it 100%, and endure the stupid pain that comes after.

Because when you finally have THAT moment, that “oh, I’m gonna be able to do this!” moment, it’s a really great thing.

And I think I’ve had that moment. I’m glad I gave into the dark side, plodded through how I was REALLY feeling about things, and decided to achieve one of my really long-held goals.

The first time I ever did that staircase?

I quit at 10 floors (220 steps). Stopped for breath on floors 3 and 7. I hurt for FOUR DAYS. I couldn’t get out of bed the next day without whimpering. Had to see the Rolling Stones in their last Vancouver gig here, and walking all the stairs at the stadium (nosebleeds!) nearly KILLED me. I was 270 pounds then.

So, you know. Yeah. Today, THIS feels good. This is how exercise should feel.

I wasn’t just jumping into the stairs, either — I’ve done them a few times lately, but only 20 floors. I figured the gruelling lunges that Nik Yamanaka’s had me doing lately had broken my thighs in and it might be the best time to try it.

Moral of the story is, I think it’s fine to give in to the “fuck, this sucks, it’s so hard” feeling as long as I take the time to remember why it was so important to start the process, and keep trying for success.

I was wrong about why I wanted to get fit.

I forgot why I wanted to get fit. Why did I? Because I was scared of returning to a life of pain, because my back injury had been recurring. I was scared of the depression that came with.

In the end, I guess confronting that fear in my writing yesterday sort of brought me full-circle on my journey, and being the GENIUS THAT I AM and doing the stairclimbing immediately AFTER that journey?

Yeah, I get the Nobel Prize for Awesome on that decision.

“Go there, go to the dark place, but get the fuck out,” that should be every writer’s mantra.

Anyhow.

Couldn’t leave yesterday’s words hanging without opening the door on a new and better chapter.

So: [squeak]

There. Door’s opened. It’s a long hallway, though.

Funny how breaking points are so often turning points. What one does next determines which it is.

Building Blocks: Mastering Less as More

It’s been a long week and you’re probably wondering how it went, given my dreaded Month of Suck admission last week.

I’ve spent this past week slowly recalibrating myself, lowering my expectations, ditching my guilt, and focusing on the individual steps to take rather than being overwhelmed by the bigness of my journey…

Found on SciFiTV.com.And it’s been much, much better.

My workout with Le Physique’s Nik Yamanaka last Monday was really an empowering start to my week. She was empathetic, didn’t dwell on my admitted failings, changed the game up a little, challenged me, and provided great positivity, support, and encouragement during the workout. She also brought The Funny, and we like The Funny.

It wasn’t that she was babying me, not by a long shot. She pushed me enough, and god knows I felt it the next night as the Screaming Thighs of Fury set in a day after the epic “Let’s try some lunges” experiment, but she didn’t push me past what I could take.

Who cares about the Screaming Thighs of Fury, though?

Face it, anyone who doesn’t have killer-sore legs after doing their first-ever triple-set of lunges is probably immortal. We don’t like those people.

We really, really don’t like those people. But I digress.

Aside from letting me ditch my guilt and shame by playing me her version of the “everyone has reversals” record, Nik also provided a lightbulb moment when it came to stretching.

I think I know better than most people the profound difference that can come from tweaking a stretch angle by a few degrees, so I was really surprised to find that, a) I’m still being uber-overzealous in my hamstring stretching, b) it’s probably a huge part of why my hamstrings never stretch out, and c) it’s likely instrumental in why I have recurring back issues on a small scale all the time.

Nik drove the point home that the hamstring is a very gentle stretch, and one of the most important ones we can do. She said to wait while the hamstring naturally extends itself. Stretch the leg to the point of feeling it, hold, as it releases and resistance lessens, extend slightly further, hold, repeat, etc.

Okay, whoa, hold them technique-horses a moment.

This needs saying: I’m not a licensed kinesiologist, I’m not edumacatin’ you on stretching, and you shouldn’t be doing anything by way of my limited explanations here. This was a trained professional explaining the best way of stretching for MY body. Your body is a whole ‘nother thang, and this is why certified personal trainers are a wise idea for anyone embarking on a new life of fitness: Because every body responds a little differently.

(But if you’re like most people, you probably should be stretching those hamstrings more, honey.)

Anyhow, that slight adjustment, less-kamikaze approach has been making a difference in my legs and back this week, but there’s another stretch that’s proven monumentally important to me, now that I’ve been hearing Nik’s voice in my head all the time: “Drop your shoulders. Drop your shoulders.”

I’ve always had my shoulders up too high during stretches — and now I realize my stretches are probably largely responsible for the “tension headaches” I get, or at least as responsible as other things, like carrying too many groceries or wearing heavy shoulder bags.

By keeping my shoulders down during the stretches, I’ve greatly reduced the headaches that were seriously cramping my style. Whew. Fantastic.

So, where didn’t my week go as ideally?

Well, everywhere, of course.

But “perfect” wasn’t my goal.

Sure, I didn’t exercise the “Full Nik Yamanaka Kicking-Ass-And-Taking-Names” routine, but I decided to cut myself slack and instead just focusing on Doing it Right and Feeling Good Later. Nik seems to approve.

I still haven’t stretched often enough, eaten as well as I would like, but I really don’t care.

I really don’t — because I’ve done everything better, I feel better, and I know I can still do better.

The difference is, this time I feel like doing better isn’t going to kill me. I don’t feel the dread and fear I was feeling for a while, when I kept paying for my efforts with negative fall-out (thanks to the trifecta of overdoing it, poor sleep, and bad stretching.)

Now I think “doing better” might even have me feeling better overall.

Working out through my pneumonia recovery has proven challenging, but I’m finally at the point where pushing cardio may still have me spent and asleep on the sofa by 8:30, but a good night’s sleep recharges that battery, and I find myself with more to give the next day.

That’s a new thing — having more to give — and a good thing.

Will I manage the Full Nik Yamanaka Kicking-Ass-And-Taking-Names program this week?

No, probably not, but I can get closer, do it better, feel stronger, and have the feeling that I’m adding to success rather than kicking myself when I’m down.

I’m listening to my body with exercise, and soon I know I’ll be listening to it for food, too. That’s always a 1-2 thing for me — I get the exercise sorted, then figure out the food.

All in all, it feels like the pieces are falling into place — or, rather, that I’m kicking ass and throwing them into place.

This week, less has been more.

By doing less and feeling like I’ve executed it better, or more well, or more promisingly, the emotional gains and the confidence I now have in going forward is both a pivotal and welcomed change in my life.

I knew I’d get here, but it was just such a rocky road with so many obstacles, and me with my lack of objectivity at the time.

Recalibrating, lowering expectations, and focusing on technique but working through obvious pains while trying to reduce unnecessary pain, have been a key in my week of regrouping.

Going into this week with a little less fear and a little more confidence will be a nice change, provided I remember that it’s doing less, but doing it better, that’s being my “more” right now.

Baby steps, baby.

Le Physique is in Leg-And-Boot Square, in Vancouver’s False Creek. Nik Yamanaka is co-owner, and was the BCRPA Personal Trainer of the Year for 2008. Le Physique tailors a program to meet your abilities, goals, and lifestyle. They can’t do the work for you, but they can tell you the tweaks that will help you meet your best performance and give you the mental tools and simple practices that might help you attain the success you need. You can listen to Nik talking about training in this radio interview here. You can follow her/them on Twitter, too, by clicking here.

Bouncing Back from The Month of Suck

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October was My Month of Suck.

Things went badly at the end — personally, financially, physically, spiritually.

Times like that, my struggle is with Emotional Eating. Growing up, if there was something we’d celebrate or mourn, we’d do it with food.

At 37, it’s still my battle.

Another struggle is the pressure I put on myself and the self-damning I do when I don’t meet those lofty standards.

What happens when I get angry or disappointed in myself? I eat.

When I eat, what happens? I get fat or feel like it — equally dangerous to morale.

My first mistake in October was not saying sooner that I’d bitten off too much, regarding my post-pneumonia recovery.

The problems with me getting something like pneumonia is, it’s easy to think the pneumonia’s just some “thing” I’ve created to get out of shit, regardless of how sick I actually was.

As a kid, yeah, I was in and out of hospitals, but I was also a lazy kid who loved the excuse of illness — I hated exercise. When it came to exercise, I was happy to play the “I’m too sick” card.

The last five years, the greatest “getting fit” struggle I’ve faced was overcoming “I Can’t” and those old excuses.

In so doing, when I thought I couldn’t do something, I often did better than I expected. When I thought I was too weak, I was strong. If I wanted to improve my time in how long it took to cycle someplace, I did. When I thought I was too tired or too sore, I proved I wasn’t. That’s how I lost 70 pounds on my own.

Sure, I beat “I can’t,” but I’m still not an “I Can” girl — and that’s what I want to be, via my work with Nik Yamanaka from Le Physique.

I want say “Sure, I can do that!” without blinking. Now? Not so much, more like “Maybe?”

A lot has to do with the “I Can’t” Girl legacy.

In October, when I first thought I was doing too much too soon, I didn’t take a break — I didn’t want to use the “I’m not well” excuse or to make allowances for being sick or recovering. I didn’t want to admit I’m weaker or less strong.

Now I’ve paid for it through too sore muscles, too tired body, and the emotional fatigue that comes from the too-much-too-soon lethargy one suffers after trying to bounce back post-illness or injury.

***

Today I see Nik for the first time in two weeks. She knows I’ve been ass-kicked by both life and myself of late. I think I really need a session to get my head from Where I Was last month to where I’d rather be now.

For me, returning to anything after injury or illness is a struggle. The longer I’m out of the game, the harder it is to get back — especially when my body doesn’t like the pace I set, since I normally like to take my angst out on a workout, but my body doesn’t like that approach.

That said, almost every time I “return,” I do too much too soon.

I warned Nik that a former chiro labelled my tactics as “KAMIKAZE”. I mean, I know I do this shit.  I told her, “I know this about myself, I’m gonna be careful”, but, boom, there it is: History repeating.

This time, my bounce-back wipeout coincided with Heavy personal stuff on a few levels, and a bout of food poisoning, all within 10 days. I got knocked on my ass — hard.

Coupled with emotional baggage and the caloric hell that is Halloween, it’s been a doozy of a three-week stint in which I’ve been visiting all manner of feeling like a Failure.

We’ve all been there.

Still, I know my abilities and what I’ve learned about my food relationships, and my physical accomplishments with cardio and strength-training over time.

Believe me, I know. That’s why it’s so hard to accept such a rocky return.

Up side? Nik’s got a crash course in Steff’s Fitness Foibles 101 — my determination, roadblocks, how connected food is to my emotions, how I pay for my stubbornness.

Down side? It’s a disheartening start to what I hoped would resonate with awesomeness from the get-go. I have to recalibrate my expectations, and I will.

The I’ll-take-it side? I’m reminded I’m not God, I’m not even immortal, and while deities might allegedly be able to create whole worlds in seven days, we take longer to create what we dream, and more realistic aspirations make the road less arduous.

***

I’ve had a hard time writing this piece. I’ve started it six times now.

Why? I despise admitting that I’ve failed myself, but it’s more disheartening that it came after I tried too hard and hit the wall, only to fall back into old habits just ‘cos I emotionally roll that way.

That’s what I had a hard time with: feeling like I was being punished for working too hard. It’s tough to swallow that you’ve achieved what you wanted to do, but then suffered consequences as a result — and then revisited bad habits of old out of weakness.

To whatever end, it all comes back to listening to the trainer when he/she says “Listen to your body.”

They don’t say “Listen to your neuroses.”

Woefully, my neuroses speak loud and clear. Listening to that’s hard not to do.

And sometimes we don’t understand our bodies. Don’t understand? Or maybe we just don’t listen. Success usually isn’t a switch we can flick on overnight.

Some learn these lessons harder than others.

My lesson is in finding a middle ground between what I want to be Tomorrow and what I’m able to be Today, and for me it can be the hardest part of fitness.

Part of a trainer-trainee relationship comes from learning where you’re at with each other, and the trainer knowing when you’re really trying or when you’re just phoning it in. This is a tough beginning, and I know Nik’s being challenged with having to interpret that about me. I can respect that.

Still, my journey’s not just the physical roadblocks I have to contend with. I know I’ll be in a difficult place emotionally for a while, so my food struggle will be tough. That’s when training will be good, and social media/blogging also helpful, so I can get advice, support, friendly prodding, and experience accountability to others.

Because I can’t work out at 100 per cent, I’m learning I never overcame my food demons, despite having lost 70 pounds.

I didn’t. Food’s the devil, always was. This is the reality check I needed.

Waiter, there’s a fly in my aspiration soup. Check, please.

Yet, Food Demons can be beaten into submission. People do it all the time.

And, pneumonia can only hamper my efforts for so long. I’ll get there a little more each week. I’m just impatient.

***

So, today? Training looms.

My Catholic upbringing makes me dread facing people after I feel like I’ve failed them or myself, so showing up to see Nik will be a bit heavy at the beginning, but another part of me can’t wait to just get in there, see her, and turn the page on my October.

Something I’ve learned in recovery/rehab, and forgot until now: It’s best that I do cardio at the end of the day so I can recover after, rather than early in the morning, when it might take a lot out of me, since, frankly, post-pneumonic life isn’t brimming with energy just yet.

Sometimes we need to find new normals.

I’m finding mine.

***

Failure happens. We don’t choose when. Life’s tough, we deal where we can, and sometimes fall down elsewhere.

At the end, know what matters?

Not that I ate badly or didn’t exercise sometimes, but that I’ve been more honest with myself about food than I have in months, and that I’ve been active more regularly than I have in a while.

I’ve improved. That’s the point.

I haven’t improved as much as I’d wanted, as quickly as I’d hoped, but I know why I haven’t, where I can improve still, and now I’ll do better than I did last time.

In the end, sometimes just continuing to improve is the best result we can hope for.

For now? I’ll take it.

Le Physique is in Leg-And-Boot Square, in Vancouver’s False Creek. Nik Yamanaka is co-owner, and was the BCRPA Personal Trainer of the Year for 2008. Le Physique tailors a program to meet your abilities, goals, and lifestyle. They can’t do the work for you, but they can tell you the tweaks that will help you meet your best performance and give you the mental tools and simple practices that might help you attain the success you need. You can listen to Nik talking about training in this radio interview here. You can follow her/them on Twitter, too, by clicking here.