Things are about to get ugly at the Temple of Queen Athena. According to my Official Triathlon Training Plan, I should be able to swim four laps in a pool by now. The problem is I cannot swim even a quarter of one lap. This is because I cannot swim. Also I have the cardio fitness of a peanut.
Lucky for me my old running partner is also a former swimming instructor. She’s already seen my body parts jiggle in alarming and unnatural ways. She’s heard me wheeze and gasp for air. She knows I’m painfully slow. So we can skip all the self-conscious apologies and get right to the jiggling, wheezing, and gasping.
Even so, I’m nervous about it. I’ve never been comfortable in the water. And although my friend loves me jiggles and all, the rest of the world will stare at the extremely white lady in the giant purple swimsuit who’s floating like an enormous bouyant eggplant. Let’s face it: just showing up is incredibly hard. So yay me, even if I am a rotund floating vegetable.
Huzzah to the Seattle Times and Martha Stewart for this super easy and tasty way to make broccoli. Even my ten-year-old scarfed it up (and let’s just say we invented the Two Bite Rule for broccoli).
- Two heads of broccoli
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 fresh lime
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/4 cup chopped toasted cashews (optional)
- Steam the broccoli. (You could even use frozen broccoli if you absolutely must.)
- While the broccoli’s cooking, whisk together 4 tsp lime juice (basically one very well-squeezed lime), 2 tsp soy sauce, and 1 tsp sugar.
- Toss the cooked broccoli in the sauce and serve. If you like, sprinkle on a handful of chopped, toasted cashews.
Weight Watchers Points Plus = 0 (zero!) unless you add the nuts, in which case it’s 1 point per serving.
People admire dainty ankles. Don’t let thick ankles spoil your appearance!
Nothing beats a good haircut to make you feel five years younger and five pounds lighter, especially when the transition from spud to stud is going a leetle slowly. When I feel like a schlub I eat like a schlub, full of why bother and who cares. But something about feeling cute makes salad very appetizing. And there’s no faster way to cute than a couple of hours in the hands of a hair alchemist.* So tomorrow my cute hair and I are going to plan and track our meals. Then we’re gonna play Just Dance on the Wii.** Then we’re gonna wear our schwanky boots downtown and just walk around radiating cute vibes.
* Here’s a shameless plug for my old friend Tim at Salon Blast. Go see him! Go see him right now! Guaranteed cutification!
** My current fave way to trick myself into exercising.
Oh, nummies! Please may I have some sanitized tape worms with my Diet Coke?
Pity poor Athena. Stumbling into the gym this morning, full of motivation and caffeine, I noticed – surprise! – a Zumba class was about to start. I’ve been meaning to try Zumba ever since I impulsively bought crazy purple dance shoes at the local Nike Outlet for less than a peso. With ten minutes to spare I had plenty of time to claim a spot in the back row, a good distance from the dreaded mirrored wall and the instructor (who would surely judge me), and close enough to the door to bolt if necessary. More goodness: as the class filled, I was smugly pleased to see I was in good company: I wasn’t the oldest or youngest, the thinnest or fattest; in fact, there were men and women of all types. And the final stroke of awesomeness: the leader turned out to be a chubby frat boy in a backwards baseball hat, a young Drew Carey who seemed cheerfully energetic and very welcoming.
I lasted ten minutes. I snuck out at the first water break and headed straight for my old friend the elliptical, where I sweated up a storm and spent 30 defeated minutes thinking about what went wrong, which can be summarized in one sentence: I set myself up to fail.
My biggest mistake was hiding in the back row. It was a tragic miscalculation: I couldn’t see the instructor well enough to follow the steps. I’d also forgotten my water bottle — not a big deal in the gym, with plenty of water fountains, but definitely a problem in an enclosed studio for a one-hour workout. Worse, by avoiding the giant mirrored wall at the front, I ended up showcasing my backside through a giant window facing the rest of the gym. Jiggling my … assets was not something I wanted to do in front of an audience. So I found myself completely lost, painfully self-conscious, marching in place and turning in the occasional half-hearted circle while everyone else bounced through the choreography with pep. I was not peppy. In fact, I wasn’t even getting a workout. How could I? I was barely moving.
Next time (and there will be a next time), I will choose a spot near the front (where I can see) but off to the side (where I can be unseen). I will tell the instructor I’m new to the class. I’ll bring a water bottle. And I’ll wear my happy purple shoes.
I once had a friend who quit a stressful job and joined a traveling theater troupe, then dropped 30 pounds with almost no effort. How? “By feeling my feelings,” she said with a shrug. We never talked about it again, but that off-hand answer has stayed with me for years. Feeling my feelings? What a concept.
If I were a southern belle in the 19th century, I would spend a lot of time swooning in my chamber, suffering with nerves. But who has time to swoon? I need to cook dinner. Drive carpool. Pay bills. Work. Get the car fixed. Walk the dog. Buy groceries. Maybe I’m a highly sensitive, delicate hot-house flower who’s easily overwhelmed. Or maybe I’m just a wimp. Either way, I don’t have time to feel my feelings. So I medicate myself with any sweet treat I can lay my jangling hands on.
This is a key issue for me. If I really want to become my healthiest self, I either need to make life simpler, or make myself tougher. I also need a plan for the next time I feel overwhelmed, even if it’s just to let myself feel my feelings. Maybe then I’ll learn they go away by themselves, without any medication at all.
Ten years ago I had a baby. When I got pregnant I was training for a half-marathon, with eight years of running under my belt.* But even then I was an Athena, heavier than the average runner and longing to wear cute running clothes instead of stodgy black compression shorts.** Fast forward through a high-risk, low-exercise pregnancy, postpartum depression, a broken foot, two house moves, and the parallel universe of motherhood, and here I am, 10 years and 30 pounds later, wearing my ten-year-old running shoes and wishing I could reverse time.
But I can’t. Even if (when) I lose 30 pounds and build up enough mileage to race again, I will still be ten years older. My running partners are long gone. My body is different. And the massages and rock-star health club that came with working full-time went poof with my job. None of those things are coming back, and it’s taken me no small amount of grieving to realize that I cannot reclaim myself. My former life is just that.
I can reinvent myself. Just because I can’t go back doesn’t mean I have to stay put. So forget running – I’ve entered the Danskin Triathlon. Never mind that I don’t own a decent bike and I can’t swim. I’ll borrow a bike, and I’ve already asked a swimming instructor friend to help me find my inner mermaid. And screw the creaky knees – I’ll walk or crawl the 5k part. As for losing weight, why be satisfied with 30 pounds? I’m aiming to lose 50, which is still normal for my height. The lack of cute clothes for women my size and age plagues me, but those horrible black shorts are also gone. So I’m determined to find something that at least makes me feel fast and lithe and cheerful.
And now I challenge you, my fellow changelings, to dare to dream. Forget what was. Can you imagine yourself lighter, stronger, cuter, faster? What are you doing in your imagination? What are you wearing? Who are you with? Now … how are you going to get there?
* With a former “race pace” of 9:30, I use the word “running” very loosely. I have always been a proud penguin!
** But not enough to give up my precious morning muffin.
A bad idea then, and a bad idea now. Some things never change.
Dear Membership Counselor,
First off, let’s call a spade a spade. We both know that “Membership Counselor” is code for “Sales Person.” Which annoys me, that you think I don’t know it, PLUS I can’t even try your gym without running the sales gauntlet. But whatever.
The real problem here is I don’t feel counseled. I feel insulted. I’m sure you thought it was charming, that story about losing a sales challenge and being forced as a punishment to take water aerobics with old ladies. But as a woman of a certain age,* I object. I mean, are you insane? To say that to a woman who’s obviously past spring chickenhood? Oh sure, you back-pedaled when I squawked. You said “the grandmas” turned out to be so much nicer than you expected.** And the workout was so much harder than you expected.***
Thankfully, the rest of our “counseling session” is a blur. Something about your “Before” picture and no point showing someone like me (WTF?) the free weights and warning me that the prices would go up tomorrow so I should join today.
But here’s the really weird thing. I joined your gym. Because darn it, it’s a really great gym, and it really is the best choice for me. But I did leave and come back so I could sign up with the oldest female Membership Counselor instead of you. With any luck you’ll lose another sales challenge. And heck, maybe I’ll see you in water aerobics, where you’ll experience something else you don’t expect.
You may now kiss my ring.****
HRH Queen Athena
* Hey, if you get to avoid saying “Salesman” I get to avoid saying the number.
** Please don’t make me guess what you expected.
**** As well as the royal derriere.