Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Practicing What I Preach

So, you know all these posts of mine about eliminating “I can’t,” stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things? I admit that I fight a daily battle to follow my own advice.
I am not a natural risk taker. I’ve always preferred what is safe, what is familiar, and situations that won’t leave me looking or feeling like a jackass. I never joined any groups or clubs when I was young. I never asked questions or made comments in class as I just wanted to blend in. I played softball for a few years but quit when it got hard. Even when I started working out regularly, it had to be in a gym, on my own, preferably when hardly anyone was there.
Initially, I lost most of the extra weight I’d always carried and went from being a total couch potato to getting into decent shape. But eventually, I got into a workout rut. I tried Pilates classes and some at-home exercise videos, but I never stuck with them. I looked and felt OK. But I knew I could be better. I considered getting a person trainer, but the thought of training one-on-one with a scary guy barking orders at me (as well as paying crazy fees) kept me from looking into it. I could talk all day about how people should step out of their comfort zones but when it came time to do it myself, that was a different story.
Then, earlier this year I got a message on MySpace from a trainer named Zach Hunt. I had always ignored messages from people I don’t know, but for some reason, I opened it. He was trying to build his business as a trainer and wanted me to come in and try his program. At first, I was hesitant. This would require a giant leap out of the comfort zone I had grown so accustomed to. I’d have to try new things. What if I failed? What if I was so out of shape that I couldn’t do a simple set of exercises? What if everyone laughed at me? Also, what would a man know about training women?
Still, my butt wasn’t getting any smaller, and I had told myself that 2009 was going to be the year I tried new things.
I called Zach and set up a date and time to meet him. Before I knew it, that day had arrived. As I sat in the parking lot of the studio, I realized I had no idea what to expect. I hoped I wouldn’t fail so miserably that I’d have to leave MySpace forever. I hoped he wouldn’t weigh me. If he did weigh me, I hoped I wouldn’t break the scale.
An hour later, my first session was over. My face was red and I was sweating profusely. I could barely breathe and I felt like I was going to vomit. My hands were torn up from bear crawls and lifting weights. Not only was I weighed, my fat was pinched and measured… and all from a kid as young as my little brother. At the same time, I felt strangely great. I felt like I’d really accomplished something. Every muscle was on fire, including muscles I had no idea I even had. Turns out, this man does know a lot about training women.
Not only are Zach’s workouts effective, he’s an extremely nice guy. Sure, he wants you to do your best, discourages excessive resting, and carries a cattle prod (without batteries) he calls a “motivation stick.” But he doesn’t yell at his clients and I’d probably die of shock if I ever heard him swear. Instead, you’re encouraged to do challenging exercises while listening to Christian rock music in a positive, supportive environment. Best of all, Zach trains several people at once, making the cost more affordable and taking some of the pressure off. This is not to say you can skip reps. Zach will know. Trust me.
After three sessions with Zach, I got a massage from my regular massage therapist. He could already feel a difference in my muscle tone. After two weeks, I started losing weight, which is a miracle in itself because my body is convinced it needs to hold on to every fat cell in case we encounter a new ice age. These days, I admit that I’m still not at my goal weight. This is partially due to a love of wine and chocolate, partially because I travel frequently (and often make bad food choices when I do), and partially because muscle actually does weigh more than fat and the scale isn’t always the most accurate measure of progress.
But the difference in my energy level is unbelievable. I have more energy than I ever thought I could have. I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been. I’ve even tackled the most vile form of exercise on the planet, something I swore I’d never do: running. Best of all, I’m wearing a smaller jeans size than I ever have. Usually when I do manage to lose weight, I lose it only from my upper body until I resemble a squash or pear. But the program Zach has us doing has actually managed to shrink my lower half, something I once thought only surgery could do.
Zach’s training is not easy. About twenty minutes into it, I tend to hate my life and wish I could just be one of those happy fat people. Sometimes I want to puke or cry….or both. But when it’s over, I always feel amazing. Never once have I regretted going. I workout twice a week with Zach and three times a week on my own. Like I said, I love food, but I’ve learned to look at it differently. I know if I eat healthy meals I’ll have more energy for my next workout. It’s not easy, but it is undoubtedly and completely worth it.
Normally, I don’t do product promotions on this blog. Even this tiny blog, with its handful of readers, has been approached to advertise some things. I’ve always refused because I want this to be a place where I say what I want without worrying about what others think. But this is something I have personally experienced and cannot recommend enough. This is something that has caused me to step out of my comfort zone and in turn showed me that I am capable of so much more than I ever thought I was.
If you live in the Spokane or Coeur d’Alene area and have weight to lose or are in a workout rut, do yourself a giant favor and give Phyzique a try. Zach knows what it’s like, unlike most trainers, to be overweight and out of shape. You will never be put down, teased or told you can’t do it. You will always leave feeling better than when you came. It’s less than an hour out of your life, more affordable than you think, and the schedules are flexible. Best of all, Zach gives everyone two weeks free to see if his program is right for them (it usually is). You have nothing to lose except your old ways of thinking and living.

Visit Zach’s website at http://www.spokanefitnesscoach.com .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

We've Come a Long Way, But Not Far Enough




I’ll be the first to admit we’ve come a long way toward eliminating racism and discrimination in this country. The segregated drinking fountains are gone. No one but Ann Coulter and her crazy cronies believe women shouldn’t be allowed to vote. More often than not, people are judged on their merits rather than their race or gender.
But recently, it feels as if we as a society have stalled. People seem to realize how ignorant statements like “separate but equal” are. But now, it seems they’re having a hard time understanding that discrimination is discrimination, no matter what the group is. And it seems some slimy, worthless scumbags are managing to float to the surface with messages of hatred and discrimination I honestly thought we as a country had buried long ago.
First, there’s this Judge Keith Bardwell who refused to marry the interracial couple in Louisiana. I would actually have a tiny bit of respect for this guy if he was actually smart enough to admit he’s racist. But sadly, he’s so ignorant he actually believes he did the couple a favor by not marrying them. But oh, Judge Bardwell isn’t racist. He marries black couples all the time and “interacts” with them on a regular basis. His concern is for, as he so eloquently put it, “the offspring.” Apparently children of mixed race often get teased, which is news to me. Granted, I haven’t been a young kid in almost 20 years, but even when I was, I can’t recall the mixed race kids at school getting teased for it… and I went to a very redneck elementary school.
Judge Bardwell has been interviewed many times and is obviously surprised people are so against him. Every time he claims not to be racist because he has “black friends,” he jams his big foot just a tiny bit farther into his big, unattractive mouth. This guy also claims that many mixed race marriages end in divorce. Last time I checked, about half of all marriages ended in divorce. Maybe he should just marry every other couple who asks him. Or, maybe he could educate himself and see that he’s as racist as they come and that in this country we “tease” mixed race people so much, we elect them as President.
Second… I begrudgingly admit that I live in North Idaho. Idaho is a state that, while beautiful in parts, isn’t exactly progressive. Even backwards-ass Idaho has a Human Rights Act which forbids discrimination based on race, sex, religion, color or handicap… but not on sexual preference. So technically, legally, people can be fired or denied housing in this state if someone finds out they’re gay. Surely the omission of homosexuals is simply because the Act was passed a long time ago, before this was such a hot button issue, right?
No. Earlier this year, a bill was created to include homosexuality in the Human Rights Act. The bill wasn’t passed. So apparently, even in 2009, the majority of Idaho Senators feel that it is acceptable to discriminate against someone based on their sexual preferences. To add insult to injury, Senator Nicole LeFavour, an openly gay lawmaker in Idaho, has to work alongside these people who don’t think she deserves the same rights they do. No one is asking these people to engage in homosexual behavior themselves or even personally believe that it is morally acceptable. The bill was simply created to ensure that these people wouldn’t be discriminated in the workplace or their home based on things they do in private. Apparently that’s unacceptable for the state of Idaho, home of Senator Larry Craig, who sleeps with men privately and in airport bathrooms but publicly denounces homosexuality.
Then there’s that recent incident at the Lakeville Country Club that found “I Swastika Obama” carved in the grass. OK, really? I certainly believe in the right to free speech in this country. And I can relate to people who are frustrated with the decisions our President has made. I don’t agree with everything he does, either, and God knows I nearly had an aneurism over a few decisions his predecessor made. But a swastika? Really? How disrespectful… not toward the President necessarily, but to an entire group of people who, ironically, are probably banned from the country club anyway. There are ways to get your point across without being a hateful fucktard. I used to get angry at racial minorities who I felt played the race card too often. Then I spent ten months watching the leader of our country face blatant racism and disrespect. I’m not saying anyone who criticizes President Obama is a racist. I know that’s not true. The majority of his critics are seemingly intelligent people who simply have concerns. But no one can deny there are plenty of people who hate him for no other reason than his race, and that’s shameful and sad.
When I was a little girl, we said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in my first grade class. One girl in my class was a Jehovah’s Witness, so she didn’t participate. Six-year-old me was so angry, so offended, that I used to turn my back on her so I didn’t have to see her sitting there while we said the Pledge. I miss that patriotic little girl. She hasn’t been around in a long time. I still have a love for this country and the rights and opportunities I have and I know we have it pretty good here in America. But we could be so much more, and these recent atrocities have proven we still have so far to go.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When Words Fail Us

Each of us goes through this life knowing that nothing is certain. We hope for the best, we pray for the best, and we take measures to keep ourselves healthy and safe. And though we are aware that terrible things can happen, it doesn’t make it any easier when they do.

On Friday night in Leavenworth, Mr. W and I had spent a blissful day and night completely cut off from the world. While we enjoyed our time focusing only on each other, we both began to get a little antsy, so we turned on the 11:00 news. I was shocked to see a picture of P’s older brother staring back at me.

An experienced backcountry hiker and avid outdoorsman, TJ had headed out for a two or three day hike the previous Sunday in the North Cascades. When he hadn’t returned by Thursday evening, his friends became concerned and notified the authorities. By Friday, the search was on. Sure enough, I checked my Facebook and found a message from P. She was heading to Seattle the next day, possibly to join the search on Sunday, and asked for my thoughts and prayers. I asked her to please keep me posted.

Ordinarily, this would have been a terrifying situation… and don’t get me wrong, I was worried for TJ and P and her family. But I knew that TJ was no ordinary guy. Almost exactly ten years ago, when we were seniors in high school, TJ was hiking through Yellowstone and interrupted a grizzly bear and her cubs. Mama Bear attacked. Not only did TJ survive, he walked four miles to the trailhead holding his scalp to his head. He was hurt pretty badly, but he made a full recovery. I still remember the relief the family felt after bringing him home battered, but safe. Surely if anyone could survive in those mountains, it was him.

I didn’t hear anything from P for the rest of the weekend, so I assumed the search was still on. Imagine my sorrow when, just as Mr. W and I were leaving Leavenworth, we got a call from my father telling me that I had better call P. He had just read the newspaper. TJ’s body had been found on Saturday. He had fallen to his death during the hike.

I am the daughter and the sister of outdoorsmen. This is our worst fear. No matter how smart, experienced or educated someone is, there are too many uncertainties where Mother Nature is concerned. There’s always a chance they won’t come home, and in our hearts, we know that. But we also know that, for some people, the outdoors is a passion and who are we to keep our loved ones from pursuing that passion? So they leave, and we wait and we worry and we hope. A part of us stops breathing until they return home safely.

A month ago, my father was in the mountains with my brother. They went their separate ways for awhile and after dark, my father turned around and found himself face to face with a huge cougar. He didn’t have a gun. He had no way of defending himself.

 My dad was lucky. He made noise, used his backpack to make himself appear taller, and scared the cougar away with rocks until my brother found him and they hightailed it out of there. It could easily be me in this position…. my family torn apart, my heart broken. I don’t know why some people get lucky and some don’t or why the world works the way it does. I will always be extremely thankful that my dad lived to see another day and hopefully another 30 years or so.

But now I have to be a good friend to someone who has just lost their flesh and blood. I have dealt with loss before. But I’ve never been in this exact situation. I don’t know what to say, how to act, or what to do. It’s a powerless feeling, wanting so badly to be a good friend but not knowing how. Words are my life, and yet somehow, I can’t find the right words for P.

I know everything happens for a reason. Although my heart is broken for my friend whose heart will never fully heal, I admit that a part of me is grateful. I’m grateful that P got to spend time with her brother while she was in town. I’m grateful that, just a week and half ago, P and I were on top of the world, enjoying drinks and catching up on life. I’m so glad we got to see each other under better circumstances and I know it’s no accident that fate brought her back into my life just before this incredibly difficult time. Nothing can bring her brother back, but I hope the precious time she spent with him is somewhat of a comfort to her.

I’m doing the only thing I can. As soon as I post this, I am driving to Seattle to be there for P. I told her I will do whatever she needs me to do, whether it be helping with arrangements or just sitting in my hotel room, crying our eyes out together. I recently reconnected with P and had so much fun,  I had a feeling it wouldn’t be another six or seven years before I saw my friend. I just didn’t want it to be like this.

For those of you on Twitter who offered your prayers and condolences, thank you. I strongly believe that we really are all connected in this world and although P doesn’t know any of you personally, she’s a wonderful woman who will appreciate all kind words and thoughts right now. She’s also a strong woman, but circumstances like this bring even the strongest of us to our knees. 

I don’t know if I can help her up. All I can do is try.

 
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