Dear me, shut up and stay focused.

Allow me to begin this long overdue post with what I have come to affectionately refer to as “The Saddest Photo Ever Taken of Me.”

Tough Mudder
My awesome Tough Mudder teammates, getting pumped.

Wait, why is this sad? These are some badass women, getting ready to crush the Tough Mudder. And I’m not even in this picture, am I? What gives?

Maybe you caught it, but just in case, let’s take a closer look.

Oh. There I am. Pathetic.
Oh. There I am. Pathetic.

Yep, that’s me. Sidelined at the Tough Mudder and, to be completely honest, fighting back tears but trying to look supportive and excited for my friends. Because they really did kick ass.

As for me, I kicked no ass whatsoever on that August day in Vermont thanks to my injured Achilles (officially diagnosed: Achilles tendinitis). I kept wearing the boot for a week or so following my last post, and then got the clear to gradually stop sporting that sexy look and just move into a long, long, LONG journey of modified workouts, physical therapy, and slow improvement.

But I won’t say “I couldn’t run the Tough Mudder.” I will instead tell you, “I chose not to run the Tough Mudder.” Why is this distinction important to me? Because I’m a grown ass woman, and no one said “You can’t do it, Stephanie.”

Several people, whose opinions I value because of their expertise (eg, my trainers and physical therapists) advised me not to run the Mudder because, well, dicking around with an Achilles injury is a super shitty idea, and I chose to take this oh-so-wise advice seriously. (Look at me! Taking sound advice and listening to my body! Woohoo!)

I’d like to say that I was proud of my decision and it wasn’t a big deal to miss the Mudder because I knew it was the right thing to do, but that would be a bold-faced lie.

I’d like to say that I was super psyched to go to Vermont anyway and support my girls, but that would be another big fat stinking not-so-true statement.

Going there and not being able to participate, putting on my happy encouraging face, go girls go!, etc etc, was really effing hard.

Standing there in the background, watching them hold hands and get psyched up, and then take off on the course, well, it sucked.

It sucked so much ass that I had to go to the ladies’ room and take about 15 minutes to compose myself. (Not to mention the fact that their heat left around 9:20 and Tough Mudder folks did not see fit to start serving beer til 11am. A big WTF? to that.)

I wish I had a different story to tell about that day.

A selfless story that paints me as somewhat saintlike in my acceptance of being left out/left behind instead of someone who spent five hours wandering around alone and feeling sorry for herself while they ran the course.

An uplifting story that shows me cheering triumphantly as I watched my friends cross the finish line instead of swallowing over a huge lump in my throat, silently, as they hugged each other in victory and relief, having formed a bond that can only come from facing the challenges they had faced together on that course.

A bond that, even though I was technically “there,” I wasn’t a part of.

But apparently, I am not selfless, and so far, this is not that uplifting of a story.

Shit.

While I’m detailing depressing things, I may as well let you know that I also bowed out of dance crew for the October performance. This, also, makes me want to cry a little.

Ok, a lot.

Ok, I have already cried several times over this decision.

Dance crew is something I do purely for my own personal joy and happiness and nothing else, so taking a break from it and missing a performance so I can heal is just…crappy. Miserable. Sucky.

I’m also only working out 3x a week at the gym, with no jumping or explosive movements (buh-bye, box jumps, high knees, tabata rounds, jump squats…I could go on, but I’ll stop there because I think you get the picture).

So, in a matter of 2 months, I’ve gone from crushing 4-5 workouts a week, plus 1-2 dance rehearsals, to 3 workouts a week with my feet firmly planted on the floor.

I’m still putting up heavy weights, but my metabolic is significantly curtailed. And given my work to develop a healthier relationship with food by working towards intuitive eating (another long, painful process), this whole thing feels like a backslide.

My clothes are too tight.

I know I’m losing my explosive power.

I worry that when I am fully healed, I’ll be starting over, re-conquering fears of jumping on a wooden box, re-building the stamina to do 12+ burpees in a 20 second interval, re-starting my journey to do a set of 25 perfect pushups. (With this injury, just being in the plank position has been painful because of the flexion required of my ankle to hold a plank. I’ve been doing pushups one-legged on a box and it’s not going well.)

So now that I’ve gotten the bitching, the whining, the self-pity and the worrying out of the way, what now?

What she said.
What she said.

It’s time to shut the hell up, and just keep working. Do the best I can to stay focused on what I CAN do the progress I CAN make during this recovery period.

OK, maybe I will have to start over with pushups, and maybe I didn’t kick a bit of ass on Mt. Snow on August 10. Maybe my jeans are too tight and maybe I’ll have to build back up to jumping on a box when the time comes.

Who cares? Really, why would I let this bring me down? I’ll admit that I did for awhile. A pretty long while. A long while in which I alternated between pretending I didn’t care (I did), beating myself up, and throwing pity parties for myself at which I was the only attendee.

But now it’s time to just move on and adjust my expectations and my focus. It is what it is, and I have to find ways to be awesome in my current context and capabilities.

I have to see this not as a backslide, but as another opportunity to become the most kickass version of Steph that I can possibly be.

Another way to learn the lesson that being awesome IS NOT AFFECTED BY WHAT SIZE PANTS I WEAR. (*note, I am not yelling at you, I am yelling at me. In case that was unclear.*)

Right now, I have to focus on setting goals related to where I am and what I can do right now with what I have…and what I can do is keep lifting heavy shit.

For example, last week I squatted 200. I wasn’t even up to 200 yet in my plan, but I had that number in my mind as kind of a goal and I just wanted to see if I can do it. Damned if I didn’t duck under that bar and squat 200 THREE TIMES. Like a boss.

And it’s pretty awesome, when someone annoys me at work or some rude person at the airport cuts past me in the boarding line (I remember you, man in Detroit…) to just look at them and think to myself, “Go ahead, be a jerk. I could totally squat you.” It really helps, and I recommend this strategy to be able to deal with assholes with utter serenity.

So where do I go from here?

Well, I may not be selfless, and I will likely have some more moments of self-pity here and there. I may not be society’s vision of what  fit person should look like, and I may not be able to do a set of pain-free mountain climbers. At least not today.

But I am strong, inside and out.

Injury or no, I’m going to find a way to keep moving forward. It may not be the path I choose or prefer, but I’ll just create a new path and keep working to be the awesomest version of myself that I can be.

As awesome as these two little turkey are, every day:

Random picture of my awesome and badass kids to end this post.
Random picture of my awesome and badass kids to end this post.

 

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Boot of shame/badassery.

I have been a very naughty girl.

I ignored an injured ankle for a coupla weeks and I got a big ole fat swollen cankle that I could barely walk on. (sad face)

I went to the ortho walk-in and they gave me the boot. I was appropriately shamed at not having seen the line between “I can safely push through this” and “Oh snap, I’m injured.”

The boot is heavy. The boot is clunky. The boot is most decidedly un-sexy and un-cool. My daughter stubbed her toe on the boot and cried, then yelled at me for putting my “stupid boot in her way!”

I promptly set about the business of being lame. I was in a boot, for God’s sake! How effing lame is that?!?

Got my lame face on!
Got my lame face on!

I schlumped/clunked/booted around noisily. And slowly. For like two days.

I was grouchy. I yelled a lot. I had no heavy things to lift.

Then, I got tired of being lame, got into my workout gear, put on the goddamned boot, and went to my workout.

And that’s when the BOOT OF SHAME became the BOOT OF BADASSERY.

With some slight modifications, I kicked the usual ass at my workout. I benched a new PR (110 for 5 reps), did some pull-ups and good mornings, and even got in a little metabolic work…with my feet firmly planted on the ground, of course.

Suck it, boot!
Suck it, boot!

So yeah, no boot-related excuses for me.

And I feel soooooo much better now.

More weight.

So, back in the day when I was a high school English teacher, I taught The Crucible. My students and I were always fascinated by the consummate badass Giles Corey.

The quick and dirty on old Giles is that his wife was hanged for witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials. And then he was accused…and as you probably know, once you were accused of being a witch in Salem during that time, you were basically screwed. So Giles refused to plead at all; he just kept his mouth shut. The Puritan law stated that a person who didn’t plead couldn’t be tried, so their “just” solution to this was to press the person.

In case you haven’t been pressed lately, this meant they would lay you down, completely naked, place a board over your body, and proceed to pile up a bunch of heavy ass rocks on you until you entered a plea. Or died, I guess. Um…yeah. It’s horrible.

Giles was in his seventies. This old dude suffered the pressing torture for over 2 days, and every time they asked him to enter a plea, he only replied “More weight.” In fact, in true badass Braveheart fashion, he yelled out those two words one final time just before he died.

As in, “Suck on that, Puritan douchebags!”

In The Crucible‘s fictionalized historical account of the witch trials, Giles is emotionally weighted down long before his untimely pressing. He is burdened by guilt after mentioning his wife reading strange books during her “trial” for witchcraft. Not surprisingly, she was hanged, and he feels responsible.

This may be one of those times when you ask yourself, “Where the hell is she going with this?”

Answer: SOMEWHERE.

Here’s the thing: I think of Giles often when I’m in the gym. As I’m loading up the bar for my next lift, I’ll say to myself, “More weight.” There’s something totally empowering about it. (I also like to imagine I have a really badass gaze going when I’m thinking this…but in reality, I’m probably lucky there’s no mirrors in that part of the gym.)

But there’s way more to this than badassery. I imagine Giles feeling freed with every additional pound of rock they dropped on him. The physical burden of all those rocks might have lightened the emotional burden of what he was going through, somehow lessening his sadness and guilt. At least, I like to think that when I lift.

Of course I’m not fighting against the injustices of Puritan society in one last act of defiance like he was. I’m just working out.

But still…when life’s burdens get heavy, it helps to duck under that bar, put something tangibly heavy on my back and make it my bitch.

It’s hard to explain, but it’s one of the most important reasons I love lifting so much.

You will laugh at my Buddy the Elf reference.
You will laugh at my Buddy the Elf reference.

No matter what kind of burden I’m carrying in my heart when I walk into the gym, loading up the bar and lifting the crap out of some heavy weights makes a world of difference. It takes away the powerlessness I sometimes feel in the face of sadness, disappointment, fear or anger.

So right now, some people I care about are struggling with some majorly heavy emotional burdens. One of them is my friend and workout partner, who is dealing with serious health issues that have kept her out of the gym for a couple of weeks.

The first day that I showed up knowing 1) that she wouldn’t be there and 2) why she wouldn’t be there, I realized almost immediately that I had radically underestimated the power of a lifting partner as awesome as her. I had taken for granted the strength I drew from having her there next to me, working the same lifts, encouraging me when I struggled and congratulating me when I had a win. I missed her and her general awesomeness, and I felt weak.

I faced the bar alone on this particular morning, and again I was glad there was no mirror because yeah, I cried a little. I cried at the sheer powerlessness I felt. My friend wasn’t there and there was nothing I could to help her. There was nothing I could say that would ease her burden or change what she was going through.

I wanted my partner back so we could get into our regular workout groove and her life would be just as it had been, with all that hard stuff having just been a bad dream she had before the alarm clock went off.

More than anything, I wished that I could duck under the metaphorical bar next to her and help her shoulder the hefty weight of all she was dealing with.

But yeah, there was no “metaphorical bar.” This is life, and the only bar I had was the actual one in front of me at the gym that morning. And it looked really friggin heavy. Like, too heavy for me in my sad and somewhat pathetic state.

So I did what I usually do in these kinds of situations. I told myself to shut up. I put on my badass face (I think) and said to myself, “More weight.”

And I lifted the crap out of it.

Yes, my friend’s burden is still heavy, and that weighs on me, too, as someone who cares about her. We all have our emotional weight to carry around, and some days it is almost too much to bear.

But the act of lifting that heavy physical burden, of fighting through the weakness and powerlessness and pushing that iron up high…well, it helps. In some way, it lightens the load on my heart, and makes me stronger inside and out.

More weight? Bring it on.