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So when you saw the title of this post, did you really think I was going to post my “Before” photos here in all of my XL glory?  Seriously?  HA HA HA HA  No.

But here’s the idea: 

Photo Credit

Now please, before you go reading anything into this cartoon, please know I just snagged it from google images (credit given) because the lady still looked cute, even for a big girl.  Kinda like me.  So I appreciate her struggles, even though she is, well, a cartoon.

The thing is, I DID just take some super-duper-top-secret “BEFORE” photos.  I’m getting ready to start something new this Monday and I’m certain that the last quarter of 2010 is going to yield awesome results for me physically!  The Before Photos will be my evidence of how far I’ve come. 

But I am most certainly NOT going to be sharing those “Before” Pics here unless I’ve got some hottie “After” Pics of myself to post along side them.  This will take time, effort, and cooperation from my metabolism.

If you want to know why most people don’t embark on these weight-loss odysseys that require photographic evidence, I have a theory. 

I do NOT think the problem is not wanting to face one’s blubbery image on the screen.  I do NOT think the problem is embarrassment of the throngs of curiousity-seekers who might ogle at your photo like some sort of freak in a carnival tent. 

No, I’m pretty confident that the Real Issue is that Before Photos are NOT a one-person job.  There is another person clicking away at the camera to capture all that voluptuousness.  In theory, this photographer is an encourager, someone who you trust.  But the Before Photo is where theory meets reality. 

It’s ugly, people.  In so many ways.

I shall illustrate.

My photographic helpers were daughters Ninja (11 year-old tomboy) and Princess (10 year-old girlie girl). 

Princess:  Mom, you don’t look that fat.  You look cute.

Ninja:  You don’t look fat at all Mom.  (pause)  *giggle*

Me:  What?

Ninja:  (collecting herself)  No.  You look great Mom. 

Princess:  It’s just that we’re not used to seeing you with, you know, THAT (points to my XL belly sticking out between the bottom of my bright yellow running bra and the waist of my black compression shorts.)

Me:  Yes, I usually try to be more modest.  It’s not like I’m going to be wearing this get-up out at…

Princess:  (interrupting)  No, really Mom.  It’s not that you look like a hootchie or anything.  It’s just that I had no idea your belly was so…

Ninja:  (cutting her off)  Let’s take the pictures, now.  (clicks away at camera)  Okay, turn to the side now.

Me:  (turning) Like this?

Ninja:  Sure.  Yeah, Yes…Yes…  ACK!  WOW!  Oh Mom, I had no idea. 

(Princess flees from hallway photography studio, possibly in fear, possibly to avoid being caught laughing at mama.)

Me:  Nice.  Did you get the stinking picture?

Ninja:  Yeah, Mom.  Here’s your camera. 

Me:  (looking at the photos)  Ugh.  I have my work cut out for me.  Thanks for your help, girls.

Princess:  (peeking back around the corner)  You really do look cute, Mom.

Ninja:  In a silly kind of way.

Princess:  Yes, “silly.”  That’s it exactly.

Me:  (muttering to myself as I head away from the camera crew, who I imagine is now dissolving into a fit of giggles) I guess the whole experience could have been worse.

Helpful Husband:  (from the next room) What experience?

Exactly.

So this is exactly why most people do NOT put themselves through the ordeal of those Before Photos. 

Marathon training?  No problem. 

Intense cardio?  Awesome.

Strength training from hell?  Bring it. 

They are small potatoes compared to the ordeal of the Before Photos. 

But I figure if you can make it through the Before Photo ordeal, then everything else is downhill from there! 

Check back with me on December 31, and I’ll tell you whether it was worth it!  🙂

 [UPDATE:] 

Helpful Husband has now been exposed to this blog post.  After laughing hysterically–a little too loud and long, I might add–he asks, “When did this happen?  Was it here?  Was I here?  Really?” 

“A couple weeks ago.  Yes.  Yes.  And yes.”  Hard stare at HH.

Long pause while HH ponders whether he would have been in more trouble if he’d been involved during the infamous photo shoot than he is for being so very unaware. 

Again, I say, it could have been worse!

 

 

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So this is the shirt I SHOULDA bought during my last VA Beach Rock N Roll Half Marathon.  And it’s also the shirt I SHOULDA worn at my race this last Sunday. 

Photo Credit

The company is One More Mile Running and I get absolutely NOTHING if you buy something from them.  (Come to think of it, I should talk to those guys about some kind of finders’ fee–but I digress.)

I love the hilarious shirts this company makes.  Going to an expo for me is like going to Vegas is for some people.  I give myself a certain (small) amount of money that I know I will throw away on super-fun running gear on the (likely) chance that I will have a great time while wearing said gear in the future.  Actually, in this light, the odds are far better than Vegas, but again…I digress.

So I did NOT buy the shirt but I did INDEED have the experience the shirt indicates at a race this past Sunday at one of my local running club’s signature events. 

Explanation:

Each year our awesome local running club, the Kennekuk Road and Trail Runners, hosts an event called the Wild Wild Wilderness Run.  Runners from all over the midwest descend upon our lovely little hamlet to challenge themselves on the Wilderness Trail. 

See, the thing is, the Wild Wild Wilderness Trail Run includes at least one portion of trail that is not really a trail for human beings.  True, some deer and squirrel may have ventured up the side of that beast, but humans…not so much.

And the OTHER thing is, THIS year I knew that beast was coming.  I ran the stinking trail last year.  And I heard from my friend–let’s just call her Ami (because that’s her name)–that the run was SO much easier when you knew what to expect.  Just so you know: she totally lied.  (A different experience, but NOT easier!  Still love you though, Ami.)

So now in the interest of Truth, Justice and the American Trail-Running Way,  if you’re EVER considering the Wild Wild Wilderness Trail Run, you should know THIS is TRULY what to expect: 

7.55 miles (or 7.45 miles, depending on the race year) of some of the most beautiful trail in the region.  Including: 

3.5 initial miles of relatively bumpy, grassy trail, in and out of the woods.  Wear your deet during tick season.  Basically an enjoyable but moderately challenging run.  Followed by…

4 miles of hell on earth.  A mountain fit for certain animals, but definitely not people.  Creeks to leap over.  A slippery bridge to run across.  Hills, hills and more hills.  A “stairway” built into the side of a nearly-vertical hillside just before mile seven–that conveniently had its STEPS removed this year–where you are basically sliding up a rooted-mud-hill.

Essential Aside Advice:  Try to strategically select the people who are running in front of you and behind you as you face these natural obstacles.  Sliding down a mud-hill onto the head of the helpful, but completely unsuspecting, gentleman behind beneath you as you lose your footing on one of these obstacles is not the most polite way to make new friends.  Even if he does promise that he won’t let you fall down the hill.  As you are practically sitting on his head.  *sigh*  Well, after hitting solid ground, at least there’s plenty of motivation to pick up the pace and get outta there as fast as you can after that little getting-to-know-you adventure. 

And back to the shirt.  See, while the front-half of the shirt would have been me on Sunday, the back-half of the shirt would be me TODAY.  After my rugged adventure.  While trying to walk or move quickly.  Thank goodness for my friend, Ibuprofen. 

And regarding the WWW Run.  Would I do it again next year, even after all of the muddy drama?  OF COURSE!  Maybe even several times next year.  Because, come to think of it, it wasn’t really that tough after all.  Yeah, in fact, it was more like awesome.  Kinda like childbirth is awesome the farther you get away from it. 

I’ll be there.  Probably with a cool new shirt.  And definitely with a strategy that calls for me making new friends in more lady-like ways than sitting on some poor stranger’s head.

 P.S.  As proof that I should have known better and for the entertainment of the historians among you:  Here’s the post about a couple of last year’s trail runs:  Trail Runs Before I Knew Better 

 

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Well, one of my friends just lost her 100th pound on her 40th birthday.  (I would post her name here, but I don’t know if she’s willing to be a public figure, so you’ll have to die of curiosity.)  Another friend is in size 9/10 jeans as of this weekend, in spite of her PMS.  (I have absolutely NO qualms posting her vitals here, since she’s crazy bold enough to share them with the world herself!) 

I am SO happy for them.  Not a bit jealous.  Not. One. Little. Bit.  Okay, well maybe a little.  But sheesh, these ladies have quite literally worked their fannies off, so it’s not like I can begrudge them their awesome achievements.

This just ain't right.

Photo Credit

As for me, faithful readers of this blog know just exactly how much weight I’ve (not) lost.  Indeed, LOTS of you have weighed in (No pun intended…I leave the puns to Linda and Charlie, who are really, really good at puns.  My humor usually occurs by accident.) with really great recipes in my recipe contest, designed to give me ideas and inspiration to be able to cook/eat/feed my family in a more healthy manner.   (Do you notice how often I interrupt myself?  Imagine being my husband (known here on this blog as HH).  Constantly being interrupted by my bursts of inspiration.  He’s such a lucky guy.)  Thanks for your entries!  I will be using them!

Anyway, it is not that I haven’t worked hard enough.  As you (may) know, I’m training for a marathon, so I am getting bunches of exercise.  And as you (may) know, distance runners are particularly weight-loss-challenged because of the distinct nutritional requirements of their sport. 

However, it occurs to me that my sport does not require me to have a burger and fries twice in one day.  And it also occurs to me that I now do have LOTS of awesome recipes from my faithful friends who read this blog. 

Further,  it occurs to me that I have this most salient reminder of two friends that have had MEGA success in the fanny-shrinking department, that these women are really normal, nice, friendly gals, who weren’t doing anything faddish or into some wierd trend.  They were just doing the Hard Work of monitoring what they put into their pie-holes.  These women aren’t supermodels, but they’re superheroes–at least in the weight loss department (and my eyes).  Worse yet, they are totally likeable.  I really LIKE them.  You can’t hate someone who you like, so since I like them I am now left with:  No Excuses.

Since I found myself today at the crossroads of No-Excuses and Forever-Fat, and since I found myself at the end of My Own Strength and Will-Power to Do Anything About It (seriously–I’ve made this a pretty public journey–the public nature of any “failure” would have been enough to have caused me to change if I’d been willing/able/ready to do it), I did the only thing that there was left to do.  I prayed.

[Time out now, because this is something I’m actually serious about.  I take myself pretty lightly, but God?  Now, I take Him seriously.  Just because God has a sense of humor doesn’t mean He’s a joke and He is one of the few things you won’t find me kidding about.  Just wanted you to know.]

SO, I prayed that God would just help me care.  Seriously.  I obviously hadn’t cared enough to do something about it.  I’m not trying to be hard on myself and I’m not trying to make light of God Almighty here.  But I knew that He cared about me taking care of myself, and I obviously wasn’t caring enough to make the necessary changes in the Eat Less curriculum of the Eat Less/Move More game plan I’d taken on. 

If God cared and I didn’t, then I had a problem.  So I asked Him for help.  And of course, He gave it to me.   [Aside:  Even if you’re not a Christian, the exercise/weight loss/diet stuff you’re about to read will probably interest you.  It’s worth it to continue reading.  If you are a Christian, please do not believe for a minute that I “heard from God” just because I said so.  Test it.  If you don’t know how, then message me or ask your pastor.   I’ll be happy to share my testing-process with you personally, but that’s way beyond this post.  Listen, the important thing to know is God does care and He does talk to us, but our “feelings” are not the litmus test for the will of God.  Even if you love everything I say, I don’t speak for God.  God is perfectly capable of speaking for Himself.]

SO…very surprisingly, the help that I received was in the form of several distinct and unassociated people who’ve had great success in this weight loss program called Weight Watchers.  Perhaps you’ve heard of it. 

Now, I’ve done WW before and was quite successful with it.  I have clothes that used to fit me in my closet to prove it.  The problem was that I “did” WW before and I’m now really, really looking for a permanent lifestyle change.  One that can accomodate my new lifestyle as Mom-Who-Runs.  One that I can do as a Normal Person (which I desperately would love to be) instead of either a Dieter OR as a Rebelling-From-Being-A-Dieter-And-Doing-Whatever-I-Please-Person. 

My big objection to WW was that I would have to go to those meetings.  Now, when my world operated on a different schedule, the meetings were not a problem.  At this point in my life, though, the meetings are Out Of The Question. And so, WW was out of the question.  Until now. 

I know this is old news to some people, but it’s new to me, and I’m kinda excited to hear it.  Weight Watchers now has an ONLINE program.  Which means no more (stupid) meetings!  No more needing to get a babysitter so I can step on a scale!  No more lecturettes!  

And *ahem* no more excuses.  

Undaunted, I had one last remaining excuse.  This bit of being an endurance athlete.  Seriously, people.  We need CALORIES to run 26.2 miles.  Or 13.1.  Or 10.  Or 6.  Reasonable people understand that there’s no way to safely crash diet and safely train for a marathon.  But THEN, while poking around on the WW site, I discovered something I’d forgotten entirely.  ACTIVITY POINTS.   

Hallelujah, activity points!  I don’t remember the way they are calculated.  (It’s been a long time since I achieved lifetime WW member status.)  But essentially, activity points help to account for the activity you do by giving you more points that you can/must consume for that day.  So there was actually a chance that I might be able to lose weight, train for my marathon, and not starve/injure myself in the process. 

There was a light at the end of the tunnel.  I just needed to reassess my WHY.

My motivation to lose weight is no longer what it used to be.  I’m not even willing to tell you what it used to be.  Seriously, I don’t even know if I can get my brain to go there.  NOW, however, my desire to lose weight has to do with not having to caring this extra 40 (to 45) pounds with me as a passenger on my marathon on February 21st.  My motivation is to lose some of that weight so that it doesn’t have to come along for the ride on my first marathon, or even most of the training for it.  Losing the weight will help me avoid injury, improve my time, and enjoy the experience (not to mention take a cuter picture) during that race.  So THAT’S the motivation.  And I can’t wait until January 31st to start thinking about it.

So here’s my question:  Who among you has tried (or knows someone who’s tried) this Weight Watchers Online thing?  Would you recommend it for someone as random as me?  Would it yield itself to the odd requirements of an adult-onset-endurance-athlete with a sweet-tooth husband and two athletic daughters to feed?  Would I injure myself trying it while training for this marathon?  Would you recommend it?  In essence:  HELP! 

Please, please, please give me your comments about this if you’ve got an opinion.  Even I’m not such a lover-of-contradiction that I’d start WW three days before Thanksgiving, but I’ll be making a decision about What To Do very soon.  It would be great to have input from people who’ve been there.

As it stands now, the extra weight I’d be carrying would be like carrying a preschooler in my arms for the entire 26.2 miles during my race in February.   Um, pass.  Clearly, it’s time for drastic measures. 

Can’t wait to hear your words of wisdom.  I thank you from the bottom of my…well, never mind. 

P.S.  Another benefit:  HH doesn’t know that there is a WW for Men Online available.  I feel a master plan cooking up.  This could be good!

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Okay, so ya’ll were pretty much on to me in the poll about my Top Secret Cross Training Exercise.  (I’d surely like to know which one of you voted for “Other” and typed in “12 oz. curls after a run!”  Confessions, anyone?)

So you guessed it.  My cross-training exercise of choice is:  Tap Dancing.  This is only mildly remarkable because I hadn’t danced in a group/team/class since high school.  And I’d only even put on tap shoes a couple times in my adult life.  I would have had better chances at success being a hockey player or a nuclear scientist.

But I thought I’d give it a whirl since my little princess is The Dancing Queen and my darling ninja has decided to take dancing lessons to make her a Better Hockey Player.

Photo Credit

So I see this sign:  Beginning Adult Tap Lessons–Try It!  And I think:  how hard can it be?  After all, I’m an athlete, a runner.  I signed up for the class, thinking it would be fun, but wouldn’t really qualify for anything mildly aerobic. 

Imagine my surprise when I learned that there were very few times that tap dancers actually ever stopped moving.  Think of it as the equivalent of jumping rope for 45 minutes while trying to learn new ways to move your feet, remember these ways in varying patterns, have each move of your toe or heel make a particular noise at a particular moment,  figure out how not to run into the other dancers in the room (all 15 years younger than you, of course) and, if possible, to do all this while not falling down on your larger-and-older-than-the-rest-of-the-group’s fanny. 

So maybe this actually was exercise.  Yes, definitely. 

Way different than running.  Which is, for me, essentially a solo endeavor and in which the tricky footwork consists of exactly two moves:  thump, thump.  And the biggest challenge consists of willing yourself to go farther or faster. 

So the tap dancing thing has been a welcome way for me to get that aerobic exercise without pounding on my old joints once a week.  It’s given me a chance to focus my mind a different way than I’m used to, which is a welcome brain-stretch.  It’s given me a chance to educate some whipper-snappers in the reality that indeed, Thriller and Bust-A-Move were, not that long ago, songs that real people danced to, not just some funky retro music.  And it’s given me yet another opportunity to laugh at myself, because truly–I’m quite a sight to behold, let me tell you. 

And just today, another thought occurred to me.  Happy Feet.  Oh, yes.  It makes total sense that I would love tap dancing, since I am a penguin. 

One of my running heroes, John Bingham, refers to himself as “The Penguin.”  He refers to a time in his early running career where he envisioned himself as a swift and beautiful, muscular animal, running mightily, at which time he passed by a storefront and saw his reflection in the plate glass, where he saw something closer to:  a penguin.  Are you a Penguin?  Click this link to find out:  You Might Be a Penguin If…

How does this penguin business relate to tap dancing? 

Of course, this runner would love tap dancing.  This runner is a penguin.  And in both persuits, my feet are truly happy.

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***UPDATED at 3:25 PM CST***Scroll to bottom for Update***

 

sbWalkPlank[1]

Photo Credit

At some point in this running drama, I began to think that it might make a difference if my muscles actually were stronger.  That this difference might help me move along with more speed and efficiency. This is the kind of the difference between a cheetah and a walrus.  Walrus’s move, they just carry around a lot of extra, well, blubber.  So I figured, the more muscle, the less blubber.  And the more cheetah-like my running would eventually become. 

Nearly every training program recommends some form of strength or resistance training.  Actually, every program I’ve seen recommends this, however, I am still holding out hope that I may one day come across a program that can provide the strengthening results without the nasty resistance training. (This is the same part of me that hopes that money someday will grow on trees and the laundry someday will get up and do itself, mind you.)

Some people love weight training or resistance bands or sit-ups.  I am not one of these people.  But I have yet to find a short cut, and at some point I began to look for exercises that would help me be stronger, thereby making my runs more efficient and enjoyable (and less walrus-ish). 

A short while into my research, my friends Chris and Shelly were talking about this thing called The Plank.  Sounded like it belonged on a pirate ship with damsels in distress and sharks (as in “walk the _____”).  Since I prefer swimming only to drowning, this Plank thing really started out with some bad mental imagery for me. 

As it turns out, The Plank had nothing to do with water or pirates at all.  Chris explained that it was part of Pilates, which sounded like some kind of pastry to me, so I was getting pretty excited about the prospects at this point.  Sadly, Chris sent me an email with a link to a Plank video, and my hopes of abs-of-steel-through-pastry-eating were dashed.

I did try to find the Actual Video that Chris sent to me, but I’m sure that somehow I accidentally-on purpose deleted it.  Oopsie!  In any case, I’ve found another video that can share the joy of Plankdom with you:

Now this was pretty much consistent with the video that Helpful Chris sent to me.  Didn’t look too hard.  Not at all.  Easy-peasy.

What they didn’t show was the New Plankster.  The Plankster whose arms shook, whose sweat dripped of her forehead in buckets, whose stomach and fanny muscles wailed in pain.  And this was all after holding the position for a grand total of about four seconds. 

Now the exercise worked.  It was very fast and effective.  Which of course, explains exactly why I stopped doing it and resigned myself to more of a walrusy kind of running experience.  (Not really, but there’s no legitimate explanation at all, so I just made up a Ridiculous Response instead.) 

But things have changed now, and I’m afraid that I’m going to have to venture back to Plankdom and pick up where I left off. 

Since I’m actually going to Run A Marathon (there, I said it again!), I’m going to need all the cooperation from my body that I can get.  That includes my stomach, back and fanny muscles, which are now officially on notice that it’s time to get with the program. 

I predict The Plank Experiment will be a success.  And, other than unsightly character flaw of wanting to slap the woman in the video who can do the stinking exercise without so much as breaking a sweat, I’m sure that the effects of The Plank will be well worth the effort. 

And everyone will be happy.  Except perhaps for the walrus.  Who, quite frankly, can go plank itself.

[UPDATE:]

This just in.  An Actual Conversation heard in the Smith household today:

Helpful Husband (HH):  Great post, honey.  Are you, um, actually going to, um, start DOING that now?

Me:  (With a just a hint of sarcasm, flavored with my best June Cleaver tone) As opposed to what?  The way I’ve already been cooking up all those tasty recipes that everybody’s sent in? 

(Fact:  Haven’t even been to the grocery store yet.)

HH:  Oh, yeah.  Well, never mind. 

Determined to not have my hypocrisy underscored in my own household, I actually got down on the floor and did The Stupid Plank.  For 10 seconds.  Human seconds–not Violet the Cute Little Exercise Sadist Extra Long Seconds. 

And here’s what I’ve discovered:  when the stinky dog has been laying on your carpeting, right where you choose to do The Plank, it becomes So Much Easier to refrain from collapsing your exhausted body to the floor with your face in the carpet. 

The Moral of the Story:  There is something worse than The Plank.  It’s The-Plank-Over-Stinky-Dog-Carpet. 

The End.

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Take a guess.  What do you think my Top Secret Cross Training Exercise is?  I’ll leave this poll open for a few days and then I’ll let you know The Rest of the Story early in week.  Until then, a Mystery!  Happy voting.  😀

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I had to pass along this very funny quote from an anonymous friend and fellow Fitness Diva, who we’ll just call CHRIS for the sake of this post.  (So what if that’s her real name, we’re calling her that anonymously for the post.)

Heard last night:

Oh please, diet and exercise fairy, grant me the will power and energy to survive the enticements of [the coming day] and the motivation to get my booty to the Y.

ExerciseFairies[1]

Fairy Credit

Oh, have mercy!  I spent most of the night LAUGHING at things my fitness diva girlfriends were writing.  Really, who needs crunches when you can just laugh for hours?!  Just thought I’d share. 

 

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