March 23, 2011
If you’ve known me a while you probably have read the article below but the tooth-brushing analogy is worth repeating, so enjoy! It was also published in The Huffington Post which you can read HERE. It would make me happy if you would stop by the Huff Post and comment or”like” my articles, I annoy myself by even asking you to do this, but supposedly, these comments are validation that often help new writers. Click here to read the Hoff Huff Stuff.
And if you can’t click one more time, here you go:
As a fitness teacher, I often feel misunderstood. When I am out walking my dog (and I never walk him as much for my exercise as for the pitiful look that he gives me when he’s been imprisoned all day), friendly people that know me roll down their windows and yell things like “You go, girl!” or, “Faster!” or the memorable, “Your dog’s in better shape than I am!”
I want to set something straight right now. I cannot remember the last time I woke up in the morning and was raring to get to exercise class. As I lie in bed, the Other Penny in my head says something like this, “Let’s just sleep a few more minutes; the kids don’t really need breakfast,” or, “I’ll work out tomorrow or maybe later today, just not right now.”
No one usually feels like it. Of course, lots of us like exercise once we get about halfway through, and everyone loves a workout after it is completed, but very few souls are skipping around the spinning room with joy prior to class.
There are a few exceptions, like the same people who enjoy sleeping on the rock-hard ground in a sleeping bag in a tent during August with a dozen boy scouts, or maybe people who have been mistakenly placed on bed rest for six weeks. These folks might feel anticipatory about their workout, but for the general population, they are the fitness exception rather then the fitness rule. And of course, those who, over the years, are faithful in their fitness don’t mind doing the sweating, because they’ve started to reap the benefits of feeling and looking better.
These people tend to not mind exercise at all, because they’ve integrated the connection between their fitness regime and good bodily results.
As Dr. Phil says, “You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.” This means putting on your running shoes and grabbing your iPod, even as the voice in your head concocts various excuses and ideas to avoid sweating.
You have to approach your workout plans just like you deal with brushing your teeth. Do you ever skip brushing your teeth because you brushed them yesterday? Or do you tell yourself you can brush them tomorrow or that you know you should brush, but you just don’t want to do it right now? Or how about saying, “To heck with brushing altogether!” because you haven’t done it in so long, why start now? Think of exercise as your anatomical brushing.
One way to get yourself moving is by using what I call self-backtalk. You have to learn to respond to that voice in your head in the same way that I talk back to the Other Penny. When she suggests sleeping five minutes more, I tell her that we can take a nap later (even though she never feels like it after she gets her body moving). When she wants to skip a day, I tell her that she might not feel like it but do it anyway. When she says she’s tired, I respond by saying five minutes is better than no minutes and that the hardest part is getting started; then it gets easier.
I also think that every time we give in to these sabotaging thoughts, we strengthen our giving-in habits, and that conversely, every time we resist these thoughts and exercise anyway, we strengthen our “Nike” (just-do-it) habits.
Another big part of a consistent exercise routine is making exercise a priority. You have to put it on your calendar just like any other important appointment. You deserve to put yourself first.
Another self-backtalk sentence you can use is to tell yourself that you can be loose with your fitness routine or you can be fit, but you can’t be both.
Or how about this self-backtalk response: “I may not care if I skip my workout now, but I will care a lot when I get on the scale.”
Tell yourself, “No excuses.”
Another important part of this self-backtalk is giving yourself credit when you do do it, in spite of not wanting to. You deserve credit every time you exercise, every time you stick to your workout plan.
If I am honest, I’ll admit that I really didn’t feel like writing today. Spring is getting closer, and it’s warm outside for the first time all month. and the afternoon sun is angling in on the Other Penny’s face in just the most tempting angle. But I told her we had no choice, that we’d enjoy our walk more after having crossed this off our list. And now, let’s walk the dog.
March 11, 2011
This week I was the recipient of a Barn Raising but instead of a barn it was my house and instead of a raising it was more of a razing and instead of building a place in which to put my cows, it was more along the lines of trying to sell it to avoid The New F Word- Foreclosure.
Until you’ve had a chance to see friends in action the way I have this week, you cannot fully appreciate the definition of the word friendship. It is true; When crisis strikes, we find out who our true friends are. Often if a crisis is bad enough, like when there’s a terrible illness or injury or even worse, when a loved one dies, our friends want to rally around- they are wringing their hands, wanting to do something , anything. The truth is that most times, when an accident or injury or illness or death happens, there’s not one thing for the people who love us, to DO.
But in our house-crisis situation, there was not just one thing to do, but hundreds of things that my friends not only could do, but they really, really would not take No for an answer to do and they did those 987 things that were wrong with my house in an amazing record breaking week of dumping, scrubbing, scraping, moving, rearranging and painting.
After eight days of overtime back-breaking work, the end result was that my house was an Extreme House Makeover; so extreme it could be a new hit reality show, but not extreme only in the end result but also Extreme in that my friends, who’s health and fitness has always been my business, now were making my house their business.
Just like author Deborah Underwood has said, there are many kinds of Quiet: first awake Quiet, jelly-side down Quiet, don’t scare the baby robins Quiet, car ride at night Quiet.
On that same line of thinking, there are many kinds of Broke: the I forgot my wallet and can’t stop at Starbucks Broke, the I’m in college and temporarily Broke, the Homeless Shelter Broke and now, there’s a new kind of Broke- the I thought we were rich but now there’s no job and should we send our kids to college or pay the mortgage Broke.
So. It was time to sell our heart, I mean, our home, even though none of us were ready, not our 18 year old son, who will leave our nest next September, and certainly not our 16 year old twins who only have one year left at the high school in this school district where they’ve attended since kindergarten. And certainly not me. Beyond not wanting to clean out 18 years worth of clutter and cluttered memories from the basement to the attic- an idea that was not only overwhelming and paralyzing- but who felt the heartbreak every time a neighbor walked or drove by our house.
Ask anyone on Lincoln Avenue. I am the (self-appointed) mayor of our street. I also used to be the Bike Whisperer, having taught every child under 12 years old on Lincoln Avenue to ride a bike. I also was the Grand Poo-Bah for the Halloween parades, the dog funerals, the Memorial Day Talent Shows and holding the world’s record for number of kids jumped over by a dog(a kid pyramid of seven).
I try to soothe myself by reading the paper and reminding myself that this predicament is not the humiliating event that it would’ve been ten years ago. Today, we are a statistic; we are one in every six families in the country. We are no longer the upper middle class. As a matter of fact I saw a frightening scale the other day that put our family of five under the poverty line. We are POOR! Shocking to me, but nothing new in 2011.
But something unprecedented happened since last Wednesday.
In the words of author Gene O’Kelly, not only have I let go of something precious but I’ve also gained something precious, and that is the palpable sense of being carried by my communitywhen I couldn’t walk through this letting go process by myself. How precious the feeling of neighbors and even long time friends reaching out and helping in ways that perhaps used to be acceptable (when was the last time you asked your neighbor for even a cup of sugar?) . This week, no one rang the doorbell. They just marched in and got down on their knees and started scrubbing.
It took me a week to find out who painted the corner of the bathroom where my two teenage boys had missed the target for the past six years. It turned out to be my next door neighbor Martine and my longest friend Stephanie (who has three teenage boys herself)who went in there and anonymously redid that bathroom. They get the MVP (Most Vile Painting) award.
My dearest time friends (and even some friends I haven’t had coffee with in years) built shelves, threw my wrong-sized fridge out and moved in another, better sized one they found in my neighbor’s garage. My friend Susan had just sold her house in Vermont and not only did she let me move her furniture in to my living room, she let me store my furniture in her garage! Then there was Gina. Do you have a Gina in your life? If not, you need one. She was the SWAT team leader. SWAT team leaders do not ask, you know. They just see what needs to be done, pick the least intrusive time to ambush and in they go. Very effective. She was the one with the insistance on helping me. Her email said “I’m coming.” She had vision and creativity to see what I needed (and to overcome my hillbilly tendencies) and to assign the target teams to do it. At times this past weekend she, without a whistle even, was the traffic cop directing movers, painters and gofers in ten different directions. Not only that, she let me cry over long expired beach passes , trophies, bus passes and report cards, but also had the fortitude to allow my sniffles to dry, then snatch the random scraps from my hand and either file it away or pitch it.
My dear neighbors arrived with lottery tickets in the hopes that I’d win and get to stay! I have one friend in particular who is a former beauty queen (Miss Tennessee is my nickname for her) I used to think of her as Elle from Legally Blonde; the “bend. and snap!” girl. BUT because she slaved painting my radiators and heaving carpet out the upstairs windows for three days, I know she would also respond like Elle did in the movie “What? Like getting into Harvard is hard?” Mizz Tennesse would say”What? Like renovating Penny’s house is hard?” An amazing gift, my firends have given me.
My friend Debby,who will be the one that will ride in the ambulance with me, was the one kneeling with her arm around me in the attic while I uncovered and recovered long-lost and disorganized but also never to be forgotten home videos and photo albums. Needless to say, she made me organize them.
Beyond these angels, there were probably thirty more friends and neighbors trudging silently back and forth between the dumpster and my house and sweeping up in the background. They know who they are and I’ve got dibs on sitting next to them in heaven.
In the weirdest way, my house is now the most livable it has ever been, only because my friends have helped me, in the most radical way, to make it the most sell-able.
So. I can’t write about fitness this week. But I’ve always said that fitness can be a metaphor for life and that what applies to life also applies to fitness. When we least feel like walking the walk is when it most matters. And from the dirt can arise the most beautiful of flowers. And this week,I have been given the gift of community and friendship that almost (almost) eclipses the loss that I will feel leaving this street and this house.
I should also mention that releasing the bondage of all my “stuff’ is very similar to how it must feel when we shed unwanted pounds and start to feel what it feels like to be free of uneccessary weight that we didn’t know was weighing us down until it was gone. Finally, we can breathe.
So if this is the way it feels to be Broke, then I am the Richest Broke Girl in all of history. Bring it on.