We Are All Brave

My bike on the rail trail.

My bike on the rail trail.

Up by my cabin there is a long and wonderful rail trail. It is completely paved, more or less flat, and perfect for biking. I’m still a biking newbie so trails like these are great for me. Since I don’t yet know my limits, I would set an alarm on my armband for 30 minutes or so and head out to see what happened. I was testing questions like, “Can I ride for an hour?” (yes.) “How many miles can I ride in an hour?” (Eleven.) “Where are the ice cream shops?” (About 8 minutes from the cabin, near one of the trail heads.)

So, one afternoon I am riding along, enjoying the scenery, when I heard the unmistakeable sound of a gunshot. This really isn’t that uncommon. My cabin is located in a rural area where people do a lot of hunting, and naturally, they practice target shooting. I looked around, but surely no one would be firing at the trail, right?

And that’s when it hit me. I was out here on my own. If something went wrong, it was up to me to deal with it. Sure, I had a phone with me, but I am miles down some rural trail, how do I even tell someone where I am? By the old railroad mile markers? On top of that – who do I call? It was just me and the pooch up at the cabin that weekend, and I haven’t yet taught my dog to drive. This is when I started thinking about other blogs I’ve read of women cyclists. I read some awesome blogs with some badass gals who bike. I’ve noticed though that they have all mentioned fear at one time or another – whether it was with traffic, or riding alone or using a new bike. I always think they are so brave… and here I was, biking alone, in a new area, and guess what? I was being brave!

Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but lately I haven’t been feeling very brave. I think my friends would say that I am, but that’s because I talk a good game. In truth, this depression and anxiety stuff has taken a real swing at my self confidence. It’s been hard. There are times when I feel like I am mired in a rut and don’t know how to find my way out. I’ve lost some of the faith I’ve always had in myself.

As I rode my bike though, I felt great, and as the miles passed, I started to think of other incidences when I’d been brave:

  • Getting married
  • And then getting divorced
  • Buying an old house
  • Choosing to live in that house, despite a lot of reasons not to
  • Deciding to get fit
  • Joining my boxing studio
  • and so on….

Even things that I am a little embarrassed about, like getting divorced, changed completely when I looked at them in this new light. It stopped being a failure. I made the brave and bold choice to marry someone and try to make a life with them, and when I knew it wouldn’t work out, I made the brave and bold choice to end it. I have a tendency to look at decisions where things went wrong (or didn’t turn out as I expected) as a failure on my part. I didn’t plan enough, I didn’t prepare enough, I ignored the little warning signals, this is my fault. Instead I started to turn them around to think of those choices as bravery – being brave means stepping out of your comfort zone, and sometimes ignoring your own warning signals and doing something anyway.

We are all brave. Each of us had made leaps of faith. Even if they didn’t turn out as we wanted, we had the guts to take that step. That’s something to be proud of.

Biking Adventures

Pure summer, right here in this photo.

Pure summer, right here in this photo.

My little hound dog is on the mend. The meds the vet gave him help and he is a much perkier pooch. He’s still on restrictions though, so no walks for a couple weeks. I took him up to the cabin last weekend. There, I have a big open lot where I can put him out on a tie-out and he can get fresh air without a walk. It also has the advantage of not having any stairs to climb, so it was a good spot for recuperation.

In fact, it was good for both of us. The cabin is the perfect place to relax, but there are also a ton of options for outdoor activities. Maybe I can’t walk my dog on the trails, I can still bike them! I went out on the kayak several times a day and even went for a run one morning. Cabins aren’t all R&R though, they are still another house that needs maintaining. I spent a couple hours each day raking, picking up sticks and cleaning out the gutters. It might not be pretty, but it is definitely a work out!

Being able to take my bike up was glorious! It’s the first time I’ve been able to do that. There is a rail trail near the cabin, which is perfect for me. It’s fairly flat, which suits my one speed cruiser to a t, and as the photo suggests… it wasn’t all about fitness! There was plenty of “life by the lake” downtime as well.

I stayed through Monday, (an early morning kayak ride is the perfect way to start a week, by the way, so much better than meetings.) With some newly acquired bike time under my belt, I decided to try something else new on Tuesday – I biked to the studio! Now, the boxing studio is not that far away, I knew I could ride there. What was holding me back was traffic. I just got my bike last summer and I haven’t really ridden a bike since I was 16. I’m still getting my feet under me. There are bike lanes part of the way, which are super nice, but still, it is a little intimidating.

That is why I did my practice run at 7:00 in the morning. There was some traffic, of course, but it was early enough that it wasn’t crazy. The ride went fine. There was only one spot that I was a little unsure about – one large intersection where the bike lanes get really confusing. Fortunately, a woman many years my senior smoked passed me and flew through it ahead of me. I got to see how she handled it. Yay for older gals on fast bikes teaching this gal on her slow bike how to ride! (In retrospect it was perfectly obvious, but for a newbie like me, it was a little intimidating. That woman passed me at the perfect time, I am very grateful to her, and I am sure she has no idea.)

Now that I have done it once, I know I could ride to the studio for a class. I’d have to pack my water bottle and boxing gloves in a backpack (I don’t have a basket for the bike yet) but it seems fairly easy. It would be nice on weekends or if I decide to swing in for the 5:30AM Monday morning class (yeah, I know) to be able to peddle over. I’m looking forward to it.

Putting it all Together

spokes by ben alfordTonight I am fasting so I can get some blood work done. It’s nothing serious; when I saw my physician the other day she noticed I was overdue for a full physical. She wants to get the blood work done in anticipation for that. I spoke to one of the nurse practitioners about when I should stop in to get the blood drawn – she said I could do it any time of the day, but since it is a “first come, first served” situation, the earlier the better. She suggested getting there right at 7:00AM since the lines are lowest then. So, I’ll have a meal around 6:30 and fast for the rest of the night.

I’m not particularly worried about it, I don’t eat much at night anyway. Actually, I am glad I am having it done. It will be good to see what my health looks like now. It seems like I am focusing a lot on health right now – two different doctors this week and three fitness classes, (two boxing classes and Hot Yoga is Saturday morning.) I’m hoping I can also get in a run or a bike ride too.

Speaking of which – I stopped in at the fancy schmancy sporting goods store yesterday and inquired about a bike/kayak rack for my car. Since I have an older model car (I bought it 10 years ago this month!), they had to special order in some of the parts. It will cost far more than the cost of the kayak and the bike combined, in fact, it will be pretty much double. I’m a little freaked out about spending that much money, but it will let me take the bike up to the cabin and bring the kayak back here, giving me so much more flexibility. Since I drive a Honda, I expect I’ll have this car for another ten years, so it’s a good investment. (And most of the parts I can take to a new car when I get one, so I won’t lose that way either.) It looks like it will be a couple of weeks, but once that is done, I’ll have a lot more options. I like that.

 

Photo credit: Ben Alford on flickr

Building Slowly

I’m in the process of catching up on my blog reading. I missed a lot while I was out on the road! There were some wonderful articles. I wanted to write about a couple of them that got my mental wheels a’ turnin’. The first one is: Habit – the Real Key to Long-Term Weight Loss Success on gokaleo.com.

I’m going to excerpt a bit of it, but you should really go over there and read the whole thing for yourself.

From gokaleo.com:

Five years ago I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that my body was the result of my lifestyle habits. The way I ate, the way I moved, the way I slept, the way I dealt with stress…all these things worked together to produce the body I had at the time. My body, and my health, were a product of thousands of small, seemingly inconsequential behaviors (both conscious and unconscious) I engaged in on a day to day level. Trying to undertake massive behavioral changes all at once, as I had done so often as I tried fad diet after fad diet, rarely worked in the long term, as those massive behavioral changes gradually gave way to the ingrained habits that had established themselves over the course of decades.

I shifted my focus. Instead of focusing on an aesthetic goal and trying to force my body to that goal, I decided to focus on those small, seemingly inconsequential habits that formed the vast majority of my day to day activity. I identified the habits, the nearly subconscious behaviors that I fell back on automatically, that shaped the body and health I had at the time. And once those habits were identified, I identified new habits that could replace them, and I focused on shaping those new habits, slowly and methodically. The end goal wasn’t ‘weight loss’. The end goal was a new habit, a nearly subconscious behavior that I would fall back on automatically in my day to day life. I believed that with new habits and new behaviors, my body and health would change. I was right. []

That’s the essence of the article, but what I loved was what she wrote about the science behind modifying behavior. I am not going to excerpt that part, (seriously, go read it on the site,) but what really struck me was her idea of creating good solid habits that you can always fall back on when times get rough. I immediately started thinking about how I could start to apply those concepts to my own life… when I realized that I already do! I didn’t have the terminology that she uses, or even really do it consciously, but it is how I have approached my weight loss and fitness. A great example has to do with my goals on being physically active.

As I have said many times, one of the things I do each and every day is walk my dog. We go for a half hour in the morning and a half hour at night. I’ve tried lots of different walk times over the past three years – at one time I was trying for 45 minutes each walk, then I tried three 20 minute walks for a while, I played with a 15 – 20 minute walk in the morning and 40 – 45 minutes at night, and so on. It took a long time to find exactly what works for me. But being able to commit to this daily isn’t just about when to do it, it is also takes other little helpful habits, like keeping dog walking clothes right next to the bed – ready for when my feet hit the floor, having routines for what I do when I walk in the door at night, always knowing where his leash, waste bags and treats are, and having them ready to go. These are all little habits that have formed over time. Now walking my dog is just something I do automatically, I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s so ingrained in me that even when things are bad, never consider not grabbing the leash and heading out.

In fact, it is so much a part of my everyday life, that I just recently set myself a goal to do some kind of physical activity each and every day, without ever even thinking about the fact that I already walk an hour or more a day! It didn’t occur to me. Of course, walking with Hermes is great for a lot of things, but it isn’t enough for me to hit my fitness goals, which is why I am trying to develop this new habit. Like Go Kaleo suggests, I’m starting small. I’m shooting for at least 15 minutes a day of extra activity, and it can be anything at all – running, power walks, extra strength training sessions, time on my bike, my boxing DVD, whatever, as long as I do something.

I’ve got a few things that are helping me stay on track. For one thing, I am trying to look at the calendar and plan out what I am going to do the week before. Nothing is set in stone, but having a plan helps me make sure I have the right clothes, shoes and mindset for the day. I’m trying to use all the times throughout the day I have available – morning, afternoon and evening. For example I do strength training in the morning before work. I try to do it every other day, but if I know I have plans in the evening, that might be a great choice for that day. I also have lunch hours available, if the weather is nice, I can get a great power walk in around my office. It’s located near some really good residential areas for walking. Evenings are good for runs and bike rides (as long as the weather behaves,) but it’s good to know ahead of time when I am going to do that so I can pack my running shoes or throw my bike in the back of my car. I’m also using apps, of course. (I do love my apps.) I track running, walking and biking on RunKeeper and use Lift for daily motivation to keep at it!

Right now my goal is to simply build daily activity into a habit, to get to the point where it doesn’t even occur to me not to take an extra walk or hop on the bike when I have a few minutes. This is all part of a bigger goal, though. I love the weight that I have lost and the fact that I am in the best shape I have ever been in… but it still blows my mind. It feels fragile, like it could all burst like a soap-bubble. In some ways, it still isn’t real. But I want it to be, I want to feel like this (or heck, even better) for the rest of my life. I want to keep challenging myself and my long-held beliefs about who I am, what I look like and what I am capable of doing. I don’t want to jump into unsustainable changes, I want to carefully build and sculpt who I will become, habit by habit.


If you visit Go Kaleo, also check out their guest post: Winning the Fat Loss Lottery (not what you think…) by Sean Flanagan. It really speaks to exactly what I am talking about.

I Want to Ride My Bicycle… Bicycle… Bicycle

Safety first!

Safety first!

One of my birthday presents this year was a (new to me) bicycle. I don’t think the person who gave it to me meant it as a present, it was just an old Cruiser her folks had laying around, but that’s how I see it! I’ve been wanting a bike all summer, but with Hermes’ medical bills and some unexpected home repairs, I really depleted my funds. With some sadness I had decided to wait on a bike until spring. Then, I was gifted a bike!

I took it over to the local bike repair shop. I had debated on which one to go to, but in the end I am happy I picked the one I did. Bicycling is quite the thing now, and the fancy shops with their super intense Bike People intimidate me a little. This place was great. It was started in 1978, and most of the guys there looked like they had started working there about then. These were the kind of men who wore shop aprons and work shirts, and I didn’t see a speck of neon on any of them.

When it comes to fitness trainers, I’ve heard it said to always go for crusty old guy. (He’s the one who probably knows the most.) Applying that theory to bicycle repair, I had found a whole shop of knowledge! The bike needed new tubes… and I needed a helmet. The gentleman who helped me was awesome. I think it took him awhile to understand exactly how green I really was. He kept asking me questions that I didn’t know how to answer… like you know, what kind of bike I had. I helpfully pointed it out in the repair shop and said, “Ummm… a black one?” (He’s the one who told me it was a Cruiser.)

He walked me through what I’ll to need for my bike – not a sales pitch, more “as you get more experience, here are things to think about,” which was really helpful. He also helped me pick out a helmet and get it fitted to my noggin. Once I had what I needed, both for the bike and my skull, I was set to go riding!

My first ride was awesome! Being on a bike is almost as fun as being on a kayak (and I dream about being back on the kayak.) I rode at a park where I normally run and I went so fast I felt like I was flying! It probably wasn’t that fast really, but when you are used to plodding along, it felt like the wind!

We’ll just have to see how much riding I can get in before it gets too cold. I planning on doing as much as I can. It’s so much fun!

At the park after a great first ride. She may not be fancy, but she's all mine.

At the park after a great first ride. She may not be fancy, but she’s all mine. Note the bell – the guys at the shop put it on as a 40th birthday present for me. How great is that?!?