Small Steps. No Smaller. Smaller Than That. Ok.

I went on a little jog today.

It was cold, and I seriously considered not going, even as I was pulling on my workout clothes and lacing up my shoes. I thought of a lot of really good reasons to stay inside in the warmth and spend my time doing something else. But in the end, I walked out the door and I ran to the end of our street (a distance of about four blocks), and then turned around and came back.

I couldn’t run the entire distance. I wanted to, but my lungs and legs weren’t cooperating, and I’m out of shape.

The coming together of muscles and oxygen and willpower started to work inside me though, and the beauty of a little thing called pride started to blossom and the excitement of it reminded me of a thing I once knew – that it feels good to exercise.

The sweetness of that blossom came like the ebb and flow of a tide, something I could grasp just long enough to want more before it moved once again out of reach, pulled away by the reality of how difficult it is to move 190 pounds down the street. Not easy. But I won’t dwell on that.

Small steps are still steps. A jog down the street and back is still a workout. Energy exerted is still calories burned.

Elle

That Girl, She’s a Mover

“Forehand!”

Faaaaahpop!

“Shuffle to the center. Backhand!”

Faaaaahpop!

“Your racquet was open. Don’t do that. Keep it on edge. Use your left hand to push through it, right hand guides the swing. Now get back in line.”

Mopping my forehead with the sleeve of my shirt, I realize it’s too late to keep the sweat from dripping into my eyes, and a salty burn starts to sting inside my eyelids. The stench of compost hovers over the courts, blown in from a facility a few miles north, and an ever growing swarm of gnats and no-see-ums picks at different players in our class. All of those things would normally send me running inside to the comfort of my couch, but not tonight. Tonight, I’m a conqueror of the outdoors, an athlete, and the dog days of summer can’t take that away. I wouldn’t dare claim to be good at sports — a result of being ashamed and self-conscious about my body for so many years — except for this one. Tennis.

Because I know, that I know, that I know. When I’m on my game, I’m pretty darn good.

I’ve played since I was old enough to hold a racquet, a Disney racquet, to be exact. It was white and blue and had a Mickey Mouse silhouette emblazoned on the strings. My sister and I both learned to play under the instruction of our dad, who it turns out was an excellent coach. Geez. If only I had known then what I know now. I played consistently until I was about 17 years old, then took a 10 year hiatus. It was stupid. That right there could have been the thing that saved me from adulthood obesity. Live and learn.

A guy in my class, who still thinks the idea of the game is to rocket launch the ball into outer orbit, turns to me after a backhand drill. “Soooo, are you the teacher’s pet?” He smiles with the confidence of a guy who is comfortable in a sports setting, even ones he isn’t good at. It’s disarming. Kind of funny, even.

“I don’t think so,” I say. “I just have the advantage of knowing what he’s talking about.”

Most of the people in the class are newcomers to the game. It’s refreshing to see people in their late 20s and early 30s out trying something new. It’s also unintentionally humorous. I don’t mean that in a superior way, I’m in the class myself, after all. But I take for granted that the motions I locked into muscle memory years ago are brand new to these folks. So, for example, preparing for a forehand as you approach the ball isn’t something you automatically know you’re supposed to do. You have to learn it. And watching somebody run up on a ball and then realize they aren’t prepared to hit once they get there can be pretty funny. So we laugh with each other as much as we encourage each other.

Back in line for another drill, my turn quickly approaches. I walk up to the baseline and get in ready position. Squatting forward, heels slightly off the ground, poised to move in either direction. The ball comes to my backhand and I shuffle left to make contact. A clean shot, it clears the net and the coach sends it back, cross-court, to my forehand, and I’m already moving toward it.

Coach watches with approval. He nods at me as I send the ball back over the net. “See, that girl,” he says to the class, “she’s a mover.”

And I remember what it feels like to be in harmony with your body, not focused on the jiggly thighs or belly pudge. But feeling, just for an hour and a half on Monday nights, like a boss.

To the athlete inside,

ElleElle-signature

Body Says Whaaaaat?

It was innocent enough. I was in the grocerey store shopping for–what else? groceries– when I looked up and saw this guy browsing through the bananas. He was carrying a few other items, some carrots, lettuce, grapes, in his arms. His arms, which were huge. Really huge, but not too huge. They were the right kind of huge, the kind that made me temporarily stop in my tracks and get lost in the beginnings of a daydream. My own arm was frozen in mid-air, outstretched with my hand inches from the tomatoes I was about to reach for, and I felt my eyes drift to the right ever so slightly, the way they tend to do whenever my imagination shifts into gear.

I noticed the baseball hat, casually turned backwards over sandy brown hair the sideburns that pointed toward a sturdy jaw line. The cotton T-shirt that hung close, but loosely, around his torso, which tapered inward as it narrowed down to his waist. His legs were proportional to the rest of his figure, and his calf muscles were visible, more pronounced than those of an average person.

Not the overly manufactured body of a gym rat who lives for his next set of bench presses.

No. More of a natural shape, the obvious product of regular physical activity. That’s when it hit me.

Obvious. OBVIOUS.

Our bodies are a very obvious indicator of who we are, what we enjoy, what we think of ourselves. I looked down at my own body, the lumpy belly and fleshy arms. My reflection in the mirrored glass behind the vegetables showed a girl with slightly puffy cheeks and a subtle double chin. At that precise time, the produce sprinkler system sputtered to life and the image was smeared behind a mist of water droplets.

My body isn’t saying what I want it to say about me right now.

As easily as I discerned a few key facts about the man picking out bananas (that he was physically active, that he ate healthy food, that he enjoyed spending time outdoors, that he was athletic), I became aware of some of the key facts other people could/would deduce about me based on my body. It wasn’t a good moment. Not disimilar to when you realize that you’ve been walking around with spinach in your teeth or toilet paper stuck to your shoe. Frustrating, but  not fatal. An unpleasant collison with the truth.

I looked down at my cart. A colorful array of fresh fruits and vegetables was sitting there, reminding me I’m heading in the right direction. Reminding me my body won’t always be a banner that reads “loves TV, food, sitting on the sofa, and generally spending time indoors,” in neon flashing lights.  

One day, hopefully before the end of this year, the obvious message my body sends to the world will be something along the lines of “enjoys outdoor activity, exercises regularly, eats plenty of leafy greens, has overcome obesity.”

What does your body obviously say about you?

Elle

Elle-signature

For the Love of Chocolate

I once had a reader ask a question that I quickly dismisssed, thinking it too taboo to address on the blog. I’ve since become less inhibited, so I will now share my thoughts thusly. Also, I’m pretty sure my readership is down to the single digits, so my perceived risk of vulnerability and judgement is much reduced. (These are the things a blogger worries about when preparing to exposit her personal world views to the interwebs.)

Q: How do you keep from gaining weight during your, you know… girly time?

Only the reader didn’t say “girly time,” and it wasn’t italicized. Unlike me, my reader wasn’t a squeamish, slightly prude seventh-grader at heart. But it takes all kinds to make the world go ’round.

A: I don’t even know. Gimme chocolate. Seriously, do you have chocolate? I need it now. RIGHT now.

Honestly, I’ve come to the conclusion that we, as women, are just slated to have one week every month or so where everything goes hideously wrong (and by that I mean, like, someone takes a pen off your desk and the rest of your day dissolves into a personal tragedy) and weight fluctuation is inevitable (and by that I mean maybe you’re able to sort of keep it together and you do just fine and lose half a pound, or, alternatively you collapse into sniveling mess, completely inconsolable excepting by massive quantities of chocolate and you gain three pounds and call it water weight).

The key to navigating through this difficult time is a little trick I like to call “scale avoidance.” Yeah, see, you can’t gain weight if you don’t know about it. So just steer around that little piece of hell every morning until life is normal again and then and ONLY then, with great trepidation, after using the bathroom and exhaling all oxygen, step quickly on the scale. If you accidentally breathe in, just step off the scale and reset it. You don’t want to be carrying anything extra on you when you venture back into reality. Trust me on this one.

Reader, I’d like to tell you that my positive she-conqueror attitude gets me through this predicament. That I’ve mastered the skill of mind over matter and perseverance and that my healthiness journey means more to me than anything else and that there is no temptation so great that it overshadows my desire to be successful.

I have learned however, that the great words of somebody who spoke them at some point in time are remarkably true: To err is human. In this case, to err is to eat a Hershey bar. Or three. You only live once.

There are days for being perfect and winning the dieter’s gold star. And then, there are days when you have a good long cry for no justifiable reason, sincerely thank God that you live in a country where Ghirardelli brownie mix can be purchased at a store near you, and then move on.

To Thursdays and cocoa beans and the end of of this week,

Elle Elle-signature