Depression and Me

Rain washed fenceI’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile. I planned to write it shortly after the one on anxiety, but just about that time I learned of the death of Robin Williams. Not wanting to look like I was comparing myself to Mr. Williams, or add to the already numerous articles about depression, I decided to wait a bit. I want to be very, very clear, what I am describing is my personal experience with depression. I am not in anyway comparing myself to anyone. Nor should you take my experiences as gospel for what other people feel. It’s very much an individual thing. Here’s what it feels like to me:

  • My blood feels like it was replaced with cement. It’s hard to move, hard to even get up out of a chair. Activities that I do every day suddenly seem overwhelming.
  • Likewise, my brain feels like it is coated in molasses. The synapses feel like they just aren’t firing like they should – like everything has to pass through goo to work. My thoughts are slowed down. It’s an effort to think. I even talk slower.

Here is something important – I don’t feel sad. Because the symptoms mimic sadness, I think it is something that is misunderstood about depression. Mostly, I’m apathetic. Sadness and emotions? They take too much work. When I am depressed, I don’t have the energy for emotions.

You see, I think “Depression” needs a new definition. Thinking about depression as sadness is the wrong way to look at it. Here’s a better way: imagine there is a pipeline that pumps happiness, joie de vivre, energy and motivation into you. Everything you do during the day uses a bit of that energy, but it is okay, there is more coming in all the time. Now, imagine that someone has “depressed” a button or a plunger that stoppers that pipeline. All you are left with is a tiny, tiny pool of energy at the pit of your stomach. Your instinct is to protect that pool since every single thing that you need to do draws from that pool: from getting out of bed, to getting dressed to eating food. It all sucks that energy away. It feels like if enough energy is sucked away, you won’t have enough to breathe, or even keep your heart beating. To make things worse, you have absolutely no idea when the depression will go away and the energy will return.

The thing about sadness is that it eventually goes away. The body can only sustain true grief for so long before it turns into other things – anger, frustration, even gallows humor. Depression is different, there is no way of knowing when it will end. It feels like it is coming from the outside – as though someone else is inflicting this – and you don’t know why. It’s heartbreaking. It is also so frustrating to know that something that was so easy a few days ago, suddenly seems so hard.

I’ll give you an example – I’m sort of a foodie. I love great food and I enjoy eating. I’m also a planner, so I have preplanned out what meals I have available for the week. It’s not so strict as to be a daily plan, but it’s a list of what’s ready to make in the fridge. Recently I had a morning where I woke up depressed. I won’t go through what it took to get up and get going, but when I got to the kitchen I realized I didn’t have the energy to make breakfast. I thought I’d have yogurt instead. And I found myself standing there, looking at the silverware drawer, completely drained by the very idea of how much energy it would take to get out a spoon. A spoon! It isn’t like my silverware drawer is in a safe! This thought actually ran through my head, “Why bother? And I am just going to have to eat again later.” It all seemed so pointless. And believe me, eating has never seemed pointless before! In fact, I am convinced that that is why most “comfort food” are things that are easily chewed and don’t require many utensils. Think about it. Comfort food used to mean the casseroles and foods of our childhood, but it’s grown to mean things like fast food. I swear that’s because no one who is depressed has the energy to make a roast or their mother’s apple pie – they barely have enough to pull through the drive through. (I don’t actually eat fast food, even when depressed, but I get it. Boy, do I get it.)

Here’s one more example – I drive a stick shift car. I don’t usually think anything about it. If I do, it’s that I love my little rocket ship of a car, but when I am depressed, the idea of having to go from second to third and back again, just seems ridiculous. It’s so draining!

I have a lot of things to be grateful for, however. For me, depression is a fairly recent thing. It is not something I have suffered with my whole life. I also have a wonderful group of people in my life who are incredibly supportive, including my boyfriend who has been awesome. I’m getting help, I am privileged enough to have a job that affords me good health insurance and I’m seeing a therapist. My truly bleak days have become fewer and fewer.

There is one other thing I am grateful for – my love of fitness classes. They help tremendously. I’ll write about it more later, (I have a whole post planned on this subject,) but I’m finding that regular exercise is helping me keep the thunderclouds at bay. I’m glad I discovered that while I am still all new and excited about it, rather than when things had become routine. I’m not sure it would have been quite as effective.

If you know someone who is depressed, give them a hug, bring them a meal, and give them a ton of credit. They are probably doing the very, very best they can.

Photo credit: Priyambada Nath via flickr

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I Suck at Pilates – and I Like it Anyway

The studio where I take my boxing classes offers a lot of different fitness classes. I decided awhile back to buy a three month unlimited membership, so I can go to as many classes as I want. I wrote awhile ago about trying Pilates for the first time. I went again last week.

So far in all the classes I have taken there have been a few people who are older or less in shape than I am. Not so in Pilates. The gals (and so far it has all be ladies) who take this class look like they are all in their 20s or early 30s and are super fit. In fact, I’ve come to realize that I am the older, less fit person in the room! I should note that there is absolutely no reason why men or anyone else shouldn’t take this class, it really is a great workout. The studio where I go seems to have a really nice cross section of ages, races, and genders, and I see it in other classes. Perhaps it’s that Pilates has gotten a bad rap? Maybe that’s why women who all look like former dancers take it? (Or perhaps 2 classes isn’t much of a sample and I’ll see something different when I go the next time.) In any case, I don’t actually mind being the “older” “kind of out of shape” woman. The fact is, I suck at Pilates.

And I don’t care.

It was something like this - but without the ball, and our faces were down. That whole thighs off the mat thing? Not happening.

It was something like this – but without the ball, and our faces were down. That whole thighs off the mat thing? Not happening.

That’s kind of a new thing for me. I tend to be an overachiever. I like to be in the top percentile. However, as I continually find in all my fitness adventures, that just isn’t going to be the case for me. I did not grow up doing sports and I’ve never been anything like athletic until very, very recently. Also, bendy, I am not. In fact, you could say that between an ironing board and I, the board is going to have the easier time in Pilates! At one point the instructor led the class through a pose I could not do. Normally I can get (sorta) close, perhaps with a modification, but this time I just laid there. I was trying – with all that I had I was trying – but nothing was happening! (Everyone else was able to do it, naturally.) Instead of being frustrated or angry, I just started cracking up – my face planted in the mat.

The beautiful thing about being bad at something is that there is only room for improvement. I am enjoying “the beginner’s mind”, as they say. I mean, why not? As adults it is too easy to get hung up when we aren’t good at something. Instead, I am just going to enjoy the process – or the bridge position – as it were.

However, I also tried “Glow and Flow” yoga, and that didn’t go so well. There were a lot of weird things going on though. First of all, there was a fill-in instructor. Secondly, it was the first time I had taken two classes in a row. They offer yoga right after boxing and I’ve noticed that a lot of people do multiple classes. So when I saw someone staying for yoga after boxing one week, I asked her about it. She said, “It is great for stretching out all the muscles we just pounded together.” I liked that idea, and the following week, I stayed. I ended up being at the back of the room, and usually when I take a new class I like to be right up front. However, there were several of us from boxing staying, and I ended up near them. (Honestly, I get so sweaty during boxing, I thought it would be good to be by “my people” rather than risk offending the noses of the yoga-only crowd.) The acoustics in the studio are kind of rotten, which is one of the reasons the instructors normally wear head mics, but, of course, that seems too tech for yoga. Net result? I was super tired from boxing so I couldn’t think, plus I couldn’t really hear, I couldn’t really see, I didn’t know what I was doing, and frankly, neither did anyone else. You could tell even the die hards were struggling to follow along with the instructor. Nothing wrong with her, but it wasn’t their usual. There was a whole lot of looks that clearly said, “Umm…. what? Oh… okay.” So, it wasn’t fun. But again, that’s okay. I don’t have to like everything. I won’t write it off based on this one experience, I’ll definitely give it another try, but if it doesn’t click for me, I am okay with that.

 

 

My Boxing Coach Gave Me An Actual Compliment!!

Gloves and wrapThat’s right, I got an actual compliment from The Instructor (TI) in my boxing class!! Understand that TI is a nice guy. He’s funny and he’s encouraging. He’s also a Welshman who yells like a drill sergeant. All the other coaches at the studio use head mics to be heard over music and sounds of people working out. Not TI, he just bellows.

While in class TI walks around and helps people with their form or encourages them to work harder. This usually means variations of, “C’mon you can do more than that!” or, my favorite, “Keep moving! This isn’t yoga!” When he helps me he’ll say something like, “There you go. You’re getting it.” But it isn’t an actual compliment as much as an acknowledgment that I’m trying.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to modulate my effort in class. The first few classes were so hard that I just did what I could do and sort of limped my way through, happy to just get through to the end. Once I started getting a little better, I realized that all my energy was going to the first part of class, but by the end I was completely worn out. So, I tried holding back a little at the top of class and about halfway through pushing out as hard as I could – but that’s a lot trickier than it sounds. Once you get used to holding back, it’s hard to suddenly pick up, especially since make no mistake, the class is tough. Last night for whatever reason, I just went all for it. And that’s when it happened, I was working a combination at the bag and he walked over, watched for a second and said:

Beautiful.

AHHH! I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know if it was on my form (which I kind of doubt since I am still working on that,) or if it was because I was really going to town on that bag. I have to say, it made my night – and just that one word helped me keep pushing through the class. At the end I was slowing down, of course (and so was everyone else,) but it felt great.

You know what that means of course… now I have to give it everything I’ve got every week. Whew.

 

Photo credit: Maxim Pierre via flickr

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.

This Is Life

My heaven.

My heaven.

Recently I took a week off and went up to my cabin. The cabin is a fantastic place for doing what I love; I spent a part of each day hiking with my dog, kayaking, biking, cooking, napping and reading. It’s a little like heaven. The cabin is also good for thinking. There are fewer distractions, plus it is much easier to think about life when I am well rested and relaxed then when I am running from one thing to the next.

Yesterday I wrote about coming to accept that I don’t have a “big dream.” That was something I spent a lot of time thinking about. One morning I took the kayak out and spent time thinking about passion. We all are familiar with people who have always known what they wanted. They have a drive and a passion and go after it with determination. Then there are others that have dreams that they wish they could do, but have accepted that they may not become reality. I have a dear friend who recently said that if she was given millions of dollars she would open a wildlife sanctuary in Africa. She said it with such conviction that I was impressed, even though we both know that for a variety of very good reasons she probably won’t make it happen in this lifetime.

Then there is me. When I thought about what I would do with millions, my first thoughts were mighty mundane: install insulation in the attic, build a sleeping porch on the cabin, take a trip to Ireland, and so on. What didn’t pop up was some big dream. It is frustrating because I am a planner. This is why I am very successful at my job. I am very good at identifying goals, mapping strategies, making budgets, setting goals and figuring out the best way to achieve them. Not having a big goal or an endpoint is difficult for me. I keep struggling because I feel like I should be working towards something… I just don’t know what.

Then a thought hit me… what if I had already achieved my goals? I have a pretty darn good life; I have an amazing network of people I love and who care about me in return, I have not one, but two, houses filled with books (and one is by the water!), I have a silly but awesome hound dog and my life is filled with doing things I love. The last couple of years I have been working on my weight and my health, and I finally feel good about that too. Sure, not everything is perfect: I never have enough time with my loved ones, one of the houses… no both houses, have roofs that leak, my dog has had a string of very expensive illnesses, and so on. But what is perfect? There isn’t such a thing. Even if you have the perfect house, for example, entropy will come in and things will break (or the roof will leak.) It’s true with everything in life – stuff happens, things go sideways, and even if they don’t, we change ourselves. So what was “perfect” five years ago may not be perfect today.

It slowly came to me that I have been spending a lot of time thinking about “what’s next?” (it is originally why I started this blog,) and I haven’t been taking time to enjoy what I have right now. And at that exact moment, I looked up to discover that I had paddled halfway around the lake in deep thought staring at my knees! I hadn’t been enjoying the beauty around me. It brought home the point perfectly. After that, I tried to take off the thinking cap and instead be very “in the moment” and really enjoy the rest of the trip.

life movesLater, when I got back to the cabin, my first thought was from Ferris Buller’s Day Off. Remember this:

But it didn’t quite fit with how I was feeling. It’s not that life is fast or short or long, it’s that This Is Life. Right now. Everything I do is part of my life. Even the things that don’t seem like “life” like going to the grocery store, sitting at a doctor’s office, brushing my teeth – it is all my life. I’m not just putting in time waiting for something better to come along, this is my life right now, the good, the bad and the ugly.

I’m not saying that I’ll never have a big life changing dream. Anything can happen. But I keep running in mental circles trying to build a foundation for an unknown future, and frankly, it’s exhausting. I’m realizing I need to bring my focus my closer. I can work on smaller goals – like fixing at least one of the leaking roofs and figuring out how to spend more time doing what I love. I have what I need, it’s more of a matter of enjoying the here and now.

This Is Life.

Happiness isn’t Made with a Cookie Cutter

Lack of passion

Oh, shut up.

I’ve been thinking a lot about passion and happiness. It started with a question – if I wanted to change careers, what would make me happy? It seems like it’s a pretty straightforward question, but I didn’t know the answer. When you think about it, it’s ridiculous how we choose careers. Unless you know from birth what you want to be (and some people do have passion like that,) it’s hard to know what to pick. There should be some kind of “try out period” where you can sit in on different jobs and see what they are like before you commit. (And no, I am not talking about college.)

Trying to narrow this down I asked myself a couple of questions: 1) What would I do if money wasn’t an issue, and 2) What do I enjoy doing now? The first question wasn’t about a career, it was more about how would I spend money if I didn’t have to worry about earning it. I didn’t mean the lotto, because that’s a whole different kettle of fish, I just meant if whatever it was that I did paid “enough” what would I do? Most of the things on my list were pretty practical – I’d remodel the downstairs bath, I’d get another kayak, I would take more fitness classes. The only thing that really popped on my list as “extravagant” was that I would travel more.

Then I looked at what makes me happy now. Again they were simple things: walking with my dog, being on the water, spending time with people I care about, reading books, cooking and so on. I quickly figured out that while there are a lot of things I love, none of them were things I wanted to do as a career. I love to cook, but I don’t want to be a chef, I like paddling around in my kayak but I am not looking to become a guide, and so on. In fact, what it seemed like I would be best at was being retired!!

That’s when it hit me – I had gone through this same cycle when I was in my 20s and in college. I was trying to decide what to major in. My passion at that time was community theatre – as a volunteer, I didn’t want to be a professional actor or stagehand. So ultimately I decided to find a career that I enjoyed, but that was also stable, interesting, challenging and could support my “theatre habit.” I ended up in marketing since it beautifully combined my love of art and writing.

Now that I am in my 40s, all that holds true. I might be on a break from theatre, but the basic premise still holds true – I want a job that I enjoy and that I am good at that will support my lifestyle. I don’t have one huge dream to chase after, instead, I know what I want in my life, and I have set up my career to support that.

I admit that part of me feels like this is a let down. That somehow I should have this big… goal in my life, some grand dream. I don’t though, and you know what? That is okay. I can love riding my bike without having to race in a triathlon. I can have a career that I am proud of, without it being my “lifelong dream.” I can be good in business without feeling like I have to start my own. We push ourselves so hard to go big, to be the best, but how about just enjoying what we have right now?

That seems so unAmerican, right?

I’m tired of feeling like I am not meeting some kind of expectation because I’m happy with some fairly simple things. And I am tired of justifying those simple things. I’m fixing my life, but not by making any big changes – instead, I’m simply finding small ways to enjoy what I have now even more.

 

Life Changing Thoughts

For the last couple of weeks I have been trying to write a post on therapy and how that is going. It’s hard though, really hard. Talking about my physical fitness adventures is a lot more fun! It also seems a lot less private. But let’s give it a go again and see if I can get one out of the draft box and into the published space, shall we?

Bravery

I’m going to start with a revelation I had while biking. That might be easier – I like writing about biking! I wrote about taking my bike up to the cottage a couple of weekend ago. While riding, I figured out something very important. It’s completely changed how I look at my life.

Spotted on the rail trail. (Yes, that's a pun!)

Spotted on the rail trail. (Yes, that’s a pun!)

A Little Background:

The week before I went to the cottage I had read a blog post by a woman who competes in triathlons. She was struggling with the bike portion – she wasn’t enjoying riding with certain groups, but at the same time, said she was afraid to ride alone. We’re talking about serious racing and long distances, not just little neighborhood jaunts or rides in the park like I do. I empathized with her dilemma.

Fast forward to the weekend at the cottage:

I’m tooling around on my one speed cruiser and meandered my way to the ice cream parlor. I thought it was going to be a fairly decent ride, but had grossly underestimated the distance. It took me… eight minutes. I had my ice cream, but the plan had been to take a nice long ride and then get ice cream. I felt a little cheated, and not quite ready to pedal home, so instead I went over to the nearby rail trail. It was nice. It was gorgeous going through the woods, wildflowers were in bloom everywhere. At first, I saw other people pretty regularly, but the further I got, the fewer I saw. Then I heard it –

The unmistakeable sound of a gun being fired.

This rail trail goes through some pretty rural country. You are on the backsides of farms and pretty rustic homes. A gun going off isn’t really that surprising. There are hunting ranges nearby and undoubtably a fair amount of target practice going on. I was dressed brightly and I was mostly sure that no one would fire a gun towards the trail, but still, it gave me pause. If I got into a jam, there is really no one I can call. It’s not like I can call my dog and have him come pick me up, (he’s a terrible driver and I don’t let him have a cell phone.) I have the phone number of one neighbor by the cottage, but how could she even get to me? I was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Let’s put aside the shot for a moment, what happened if I got a flat tire or hit a root and fell off my bike? What do I do?

And that is when I remembered the blog about why the triathlete doesn’t like riding alone. I thought about it as I rode. I didn’t feel particularly scared, just a little cautious, and suddenly this thought floated across my brain….

You are brave.

This is something I have been struggling with. If you have been following this blog at all you know that I am really excited about all this fitness stuff that I’ve been doing, and one of the great things about it is that it makes me feel brave. I do things now that I never would have done a few years ago. Part of the reason this has been so important to me is because I haven’t been feeling very brave. But in that moment, with that one thought, everything changed.

I thought about it all the way back to my cabin, and then was so caught up in the idea that grabbed an old notebook and went to sit on the picnic table to write and think about it some more. There are a couple of big things that happened in the last 15 years or so that really kicked the snot out of my concept of bravery. They’ve stuck with me and made me feel out of control and sad, but as I sat writing at the picnic table that night, brave things started popping up. There are things I’ve done that are brave. 

  • I flew cross the country to meet my father’s long lost cousins, on my own, barely knowing anyone. I had met one of the cousins once, for about an hour, but when she invited me to come out and stay a week with her and her family, I just got up and went.
  • I own my house (which is a rental unit, so I am a landlord,) and my cabin. I take care of both these somewhat complicated properties on my own.
  • I got married.
  • I got divorced. (Both were acts of bravery.)
  • I regularly give seminars in front of large groups of people. I fly all over the country, by myself, to teach.
  • I stepped out of the familiar and decided to lose weight for the first time ever.
  • I started lifting weights.
  • and so on…

As I wrote, more and more acts of bravery started pouring out of my head. Even things I had earlier classified as decisions made on fear, I was able to turn around and see the brave acts within them. It completely changed my perspective on my life – in particular those parts that hurt.

I also realized that I have been struggling to regain my sense of bravery, and that a lot of my work over the last year has been trying to get back into my old groove – to feel like myself again. These rail trail bike thoughts helped enormously. I’ve got some decisions to make coming up, and it is hard to choose the right path when you are hamstrung with anxiety. Recovering my sense of strength is a step on the right path.

Flooded Heart trail

How to Take a New Fitness Class (Being 40 Helps.)

Pilates class

Do not make any mistake, this is hard.

Last Wednesday I took a Pilates class. (…yeah, I know. I don’t know when I became this gal either!) Since Hermes is still on crate rest and we can’t go on our long walks, I’m doing all sorts of things to keep active. I had a free hour that night, but I thought it was going to rain, so all my regular activities (biking, running, hiking) went out the window. I’ve decided to purchase a three month unlimited membership to the studio where I take my boxing classes, so I checked the website for classes. My options that night were something called “Inferno” and Pilates.

Inferno (whatever that is) seemed a little intense, so I went with the Pilates class. I knew almost nothing about Pilates when I walked in. Here was the sum of my knowledge:

  • It consists of isometric and body weight exercises
  • It was super popular about 10 years ago
  • It uses props – like balls and things
  • When I met with the head trainer at the studio and told her I was looking to increase my strength, it was the first class she recommended

When I got to the class, the first thing I did was walk up to the instructor and say, “Hi! I’m LongView Hill. I’m new!” (Note: so far as I can tell, instructors love new people.) She smiled, introduced herself and asked if I was just new to this class or Pilates in general.

“Nope! Never taken a class! I know nothing!” I quipped. (This included not knowing that Pilates, like yoga is done on a mat. I didn’t have one with me. Fortunately the studio has some that I could borrow.) She handed me a ball and told me to have fun and do what I could do.

There were about 7 other gals in the room with me. I put my mat in the center of the room saying something like, “Since I’m NEW, I’ll just put my mat here in the center so I can watch all of you, okay?” There was a chorus of nervous titters.

I couldn’t actually be in the middle though, there were eight of us, but only two of them arranged their mats towards the front of the room, everyone else was in the back. I chose the best spot I could, front center with a good view of the instructor. Like everyone else, I set my mat up yoga style – short end facing the instructor.

After the first 30 seconds or so, I realized that wasn’t going to work. We were moving into Bridge positions and with my head at the back of the mat I couldn’t see what the instructor was doing. (Pilates reminds me of yoga, but with more movement.)  I needed to see what was going on, so I stopped, grabbed my mat and flipped it sideways, so I was now parallel to the instructor. Then I could mimic her movements much easier – and see simply by turning my head.

I was glad I told her that I was new, throughout the class she checked in on me, and offered a few modifications for moves I couldn’t quite do. It went really well. The class was only 45 minutes, which was good because Pilates is hard – really hard.

Anyway, after we were done and packing up, one of the younger gals from the back of the room pops up and says this was her first class. Then another one did, and another, and another… it turns out there were six brand new students in the class! No wonder they giggled nervously when I said I would watch them!

I remember being in my 20s and being unable to admit I was new at something, or that didn’t know what I was doing. I remember being in college and thinking it was weird how the older adult returning students always sat at the front of the room – and how they always asked questions (too many, in my young opinion.) Now, I am that student. And you know what? It is great! I love having the confidence to say, “I’m new, but I’m ready to learn!” It makes classes a lot more fun.

 

Photo credit: Robert Bejil on flickr

 

 

How to Get Better at Boxing

boxingI mentioned that I am ambivalent about hot yoga, I am not ambivalent about boxing. I love my boxing class.

This last class I had an interesting experience. It is a circuit class – they have 10 heavy bags and a maximum of 20 students. The students pair up and one takes the bag while the other does floor work. The first two times I paired up with women. The first class the instructor asked a kind woman to help me out. She would give me tips as we passed back and forth. The second time a little older gal asked if I needed a partner and I was glad to accept. I don’t think she was new, but she may have had health problems, since she did a lot of modifications on the floor work.

This time I paired up with a guy. He was fit. In fact, he looked like my idea of a boxer – powerful. He picked a much heavier bag than the ladies, which I ended up loving. A bag that doesn’t swing as easily is a lot more fun to hit. He was also a workhorse on the floor work. There were no mini breaks for this guy. Now, except for the bag choice, it shouldn’t matter who you pair up with. Even though you are “partnered” you spend the whole class with your backs to each other. One is at the bags on one side of the room, the other is on the floor facing the mirrors on the opposite side. The only time you see each other is between rounds. I say it shouldn’t matter – but it did.

When I partnered with the gal doing modifications, I took more breaks. I felt less able to complete each set. Yet, when I left that night, I knew I still had energy in the tank. I hadn’t given it my all, and isn’t that why I am there? Of course, it make sense to take breaks or do modifications if that’s what you need to do. But if I walk out of there knowing I took shortcuts when I didn’t need to, I’m just cheating myself.

When I partnered with the guy, it was different. While I couldn’t see him exactly, I could hear him pounding away at the bag. When we switched, I could sense that he kept moving through the whole round on the floor work. There were no breaks. It made me work a lot harder myself. And when we passed and he fist bumped my glove and said “way to go” I felt like a million bucks! That night when I left the studio, I was a puddle. I had given it my all – and maybe a little more.

So, I learned my lesson. When I get to class, I’m going to move to the back of the room (where the heavier bags are.) Then I am going to look for someone in better shape than I am to partner with. The harder they work, the harder I work.

Do You Still Run?

Yes, yes I do. Flooded Heart trail

Just not as much.

I struggle with running. I like the fact that I can run, I just don’t like the running itself much. I keep hoping that will change with more exposure and increased skill, (but I have my doubts.) Nonetheless, my current workout calls for interval training, so off I go!

The other morning I packed my bag to run after work. I was feeling pretty good about it as the workout only calls for 15-20 minutes of intervals. That is certainly doable, (even though I haven’t run that much this year,) but by the end of the work day, I was feeling a lot less motivated. It was hot and humid and my inner voice kept saying “F-It.”

I’ve read lots of advice on how to work out when you don’t feel like it. Most say to at least give it 5 minutes. If after 5 minutes you want to stop, fine, but usually the hardest part is just getting started. Once you start, you’ll finish. So, I figured I’d try that. I also decided to stack the deck in my favor by going trail running. I love being in the woods, so trail running appeals a bit more to me. As a plus, the park where I like to trail run is right by the river – hopefully that meant it would be a little cooler and less humid.

However, despite the proximity of the river, it was still hot and pretty buggy. I was glad I slathered myself in bug spray, (the problem with trails: flying bugs and ticks.) My run time pretty much sucked, but that was okay, the important part was that I did it. Johnny Cash, Credence Clearwater Revival and Tom Waits kept me going. After all, you don’t tell Johnny Cash that you are going to quit. But near the end when Aretha Franklin came over the headphones, I slowed to a walk. Let’s face it, Aretha wouldn’t be caught dead running through the woods.

It might not have been my best run ever (or anything close) but the important part was that I got out, spent some time in the woods and I completed what I set out to do. That makes it a winner in my book.