Coming Clean

One woman’s honest quest to clean up her unhealthy life for herself and her family.

Experience Life Magazine

Staying Hydrated and the Summer Challenge You Can Start Now

Sometimes we need a little extra help. The days of summer can feel long, but they also fly by. Between running errands, soaking in the sunny days, and attending graduation parties, weddings, and family barbecues, even the simplest, healthy habits can fall by the wayside.

Does this sound like your May and June? I know it does for me.

I was happy to participate recently in the Handel Group’s Design Your Health teleseries (if you’ve been reading my progress reports and want to join in, Experience Life is sponsoring another round, beginning July 29). We were talking big-picture health — digging in and tackling our obstacles to living a healthier life. But maybe you want to start small, with doable weekly steps that will start to make a big difference right now.

That’s where our Take Action Challenge comes in. For eight weeks, you’ll get a new prompt on Mondays in your email inbox, such as decluttering new spaces or packing healthy snacks. Then on Thursdays, you’ll receive a check-in email to keep you on track. There are also helpful resources and articles within the emails so you can get more tips and tricks to making these habits stick.

And, did I mention that it’s FREE?!? Sign me up!

Especially because, I’ll admit, I don’t think I’ve been drinking enough water as of late, which is week 2′s challenge.

I’ll have a cup of coffee in the morning, then drink some water, then some tea, then I get busy with my work and all of the sudden realized I’m parched. I decided to set a reminder on my Up band to buzz me every 45 minutes, both to get more water and to stand and stretch, but sometimes I work right through it. Alas.

I tried to uncover the resistance: I mean, I really do like water, especially at work, where we have a great filtering system. Our water at home is well water, and even though we had it tested last summer and it came out very clean, maybe running it through a filter would make it taste even better? It’s not necessary to have it ice cold (and it’s even a bit easier for your body to process and hydrate when it’s not), but chilled is my preference during the warmer months (and helps this pregnant lady stay cool, important for Baby O.).

WaterInfusion_webMaybe I was just getting a little bored with water. After our last video shoot with chef and food stylist Betsy Nelson, we had a surplus of kumquats and Betsy suggested I slice them and use with fish or chicken, or submerge in water overnight to infuse the citrus flavor. Brilliant!

I added kumquats to one carafe, and cucumber and thyme to another, riffing off a recipe I’ve had at spas. I’ve been able to refill them with the same ingredients three to four times, but then the flavor starts to fade (and the veggies aren’t as fresh). Lemons are also nice, and I’m thinking of adding berries when they are in stock shortly at the farmers’ market, since the prices are still a bit high at the grocery store. (Although, adding frozen berries might be the most economical way to infuse any time of year.)

The glass carafes, p.s., are oh-so-pretty and since they are made from glass, there’s no need to worry at all about BPAs (check out this report on why even BPA-free plastics have risks). I picked these up at a local kitchen store, Cooks of Crocus Hill, but I’ve been told that Ikea carries some. Another great and cheap idea: Ball makes wide-mouth mason jars in large sizes, so you can transport these in your lunch bag as well. Find them at your local hardware store.

Sign up for the Take Action Challenge by noon today. I hope you’ll join us!

More resources: Want more information on why staying hydrated is so important? Read up (and listen in for the podcast):

Experience Life Magazine

Design Your Health Part 2: Revising the Dream

After our second call for the Handel Group’s Design Your Health teleseries, I got a little tripped up. When I had done one-on-one coaching with Handel cofounder Lauren Zander a few years back, I wrote a health dream that I loved. It came off almost as an ideal day of sorts: I envisioned waking up energized, something I’ve never experienced, and then carried out this smooth-running, productive day that was balanced with work, exercise, rest, and play.

I still read the dream day nearly every week in my journal, and usually I come away motivated to make a few changes to my schedule so I get closer to my vision.

But lately, I’ve read it and only sighed. Ah, what a nice dream, I think. If only I could have it.

You see, dear friends, on March 14, I learned some delightful news: I’m pregnant with our first child! The timing was quite apropos: March 14 is the day I met my husband, Kyle, on a trip to Florida nine years ago, and the same day he proposed on our one-year anniversary.

KBpress_june13_sglaros_webI’ve been working hard to get my body and mind healthy through exercise, overhauling my approach to eating, and utilized life coaching to realize I can (and will) rewrite my story. All those times I’ve said, well, I’m just not athletic or strong, or I’m always destined to struggle with my weight, those stories are gone. I’ve learned that I am indeed strong (see photo at right), I’m in control and can live at a healthy weight, and I can keep reaching for my dreams.

And my dreams in the past few years have been to have a healthy pregnancy, one I feared I could never have when my doctors told me my health was in jeopardy five years ago.

So how have I revised the dream statement? The key thesis goes like this:

I am confident, my body is sexy and strong, and I feel energized. As my body changes during pregnancy, I allow myself to be quiet, deliberate, and nourish my body and spirit with self-care. I continue my healthy-eating habits and move my body daily to benefit both my baby and myself. I embrace life and feel excited for my days. I am efficient, punctual, and a joy to be around — my friends and family love my enthusiasm and frequently ask to spend time together taking walks, hikes, or trying a new sport. I feel that I can do anything in my body, and the possibilities for my life are endless.

Sounds nice, right? But do you see where I simply sigh? Maybe you young parents out there are nodding along, but I think my hold-up in moving forward with designing my health has come from the fact that I have no idea what challenges parenthood will bring.

I mean, I know I want to continue as many practices as I can, both for myself and to model for my child, but maybe there are days when, say, a daily walk with baby is out of the question. It’s raining or it’s too cold or baby is sick or fussy. Maybe all we do is yoga or dancing in the living room, or climb the stairs at home. Maybe I can squeeze in a run at the gym during my lunch break, or maybe my day is so swamped that I only have time to take a walk around the block.

It’s what life coach Laurie Gerber referred to as “extenuating circumstances.” Generally speaking, it’s when there’s a party that week, or perhaps you’ve come down with a bad cold. Those times require a bit of creativity, flexibility, and, she noted, “more design. You have to fight for your dreams.” You can change your plans for how you’ll eat at an upcoming vacation — if you’re a diehard at the gym, you allow for walks on the beach and rest instead. When my baby is sick, I tend to him or her and give myself permission to simply stretch and catch up on a good book.

Our lives will continue to change, and often change quickly. That’s often what makes it so exciting. And as I’m learning from Laurie, the more willing we are to adapt and revise our plans as needed, the happier we will be with the outcome. And if there’s one thing I need in this chapter of parenthood, it’s flexibility.

Resources
Are you struggling with making a change? Excited yet stuck? Check out this article on “The Stages of Change,” based on the Transtheoretical Model of Change developed by psychologist James O. Prochaska, PhD, and hear more from coach Laurie in the video below.

Experience Life Magazine

Design Your Health Part 1: What’s in a Dream?

As a tween, I had vivid dreams. I’d listen to music as I fell asleep — at that time, most often it was Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, or Joan Osborne — and would imagine myself singing their songs and playing the guitar at the local coffee shop. (I didn’t own a guitar at the time; I now own one and still haven’t learned to play it.)

I was in the school band and played the flute, but didn’t really enjoy it, maybe because I didn’t feel it was “cool enough.” My friend Natalie played the trumpet and was learning guitar, and me and my sad flute always seemed lame in comparison.

Alas, my dreams of being a musician died, save for my one-time karaoke performance at the VFW in 2006 and the handful of times I begged to cover Radiohead’s “Creep” when my friends and I would play Rock Band a few years back. Bless their hearts for remaining my friends — I’m pretty sure the mellifluous voice I heard was all in my head.

So why did I let go of that dream? Sure, I had other interests I wanted to pursue, such as a career in writing, but I still could’ve kept music as a hobby. I could’ve learned the guitar, improved the little piano skills I have, or taken singing lessons. I could’ve translated my love of writing into songwriting, and maybe would’ve become awesome enough that Tori or Sarah or Joan would’ve been singing my songs. Just maybe! And those songs could’ve become No. 1 hits! Oooh, and maybe win a Grammy! (Dare to dream. Sigh.)

There’s a fear in dreaming, especially dreaming big, and Handel Group life coach Laurie Gerber nailed the answer during our first teleseries call for their Design Your Health workshop:

  • We are afraid to dream because we might just get what we want. Then what? We have to deal with life.
  • Or we are afraid to dream because we might not get it. We’ll disappoint ourselves, or we may let others down. (And, I don’t know about you, but that disappointment always makes me less inclined to try again, save for more letdowns and regret.)

When it pays off, it feels oh so good. A few years back, we were sharing goals at an Experience Life team dinner and end-of-year celebration. I decided to share a big one: I was going to keep losing weight, getting healthy, and write my weight-loss story for the magazine. Once I did it, I felt proud, but I was also a bit terrified: What if no one read it? What if people thought I was boastful or a jerk? How would my family react? What if it’s not impressive enough, or I didn’t lose enough weight — was my “success story” really a success in other people’s eyes? And, did that matter to me — and if so, why?

And the big question after you dream and reach your goal: What next?

Maybe my challenge in dreaming, and why I lost my musical affinity, revolves around a lack of specificity. I was seeing myself singing in a coffee shop without owning a guitar, learning and practicing the instrument, or understanding how to read music written for the guitar. For a long time, I always dreamed of a slimmer, healthier body as just that: I want to be skinny! Or, I want to be healthy! But there wasn’t a big why as in why was “health” important to me? What did it really look like, feel like, every day to be healthy? What steps would I take every day, every week, and every month to get me closer to that dream?

So Laurie advised us to follow the Handel Group’s Rules of Dreaming, which includes:

  1. Give yourself goosebumps when you write your dream. It should be exciting for you to read. If it gives others goosebumps, too, terrific.
  2. Use the present tense, saying “I am feeling energized,” instead of “I will feel energized.” Write it as if you are already experiencing this dream right now. The active, present tense engages your brain into action mode.
  3. Make it juicy, and avoid clichés (“I feel like a million bucks!”). It should be specific to you. Include emotions and actions, be descriptive, and paint a picture.
  4. Avoid extremes like “I always” or “I never,” or “all the time” or “perfect.” It’ll make it seem too unrealistic.
  5. Use positive language and write from a place of love. Focus on what you do want and avoid listing what you don’t want.

What do you think? Can you dream big? If it’s not like my former singer-songwriter self, or for your career, can you do it for your health and your body? What would that look like to you?

All you have to do is write it. You can always change it, and you most likely will over the years. If you want to share it with a friend or family member, wonderful! But it can be yours alone.

I’m working up the courage to share my dream with you later this week. And if you tell me you’re writing yours, well then, I will harness my bravery and share! Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter @clewisopdahl.

Want to sign up to Design Your Health with coaching from Laurie and the Handel Group? Find more information for the next teleseries at ELmag.com/designyourhealth.

Experience Life Magazine

The Book and Movie That Changes Our Approach to Weight Loss — and Good Health

I’ve been reading Jonathan Bailor’s new (and already) New York Times best-selling book, The Calorie Myth. (Look for an adaptation from senior editor Anjula Razdan and Bailor, along with a Q&A and podcast, coming in late August for our September issue.)

If you get a chance to pick it up, please do so. There are some themes you’ll recognize from the pages of Experience Life, such as:

Bailor’s fine work follows similar messages from other best-selling books, blogs, lectures, and papers by doctors such as Mark Hyman, Robert Lustig, David Perlmutter, to name a few.

Mostly, I’ve been nodding my head as I read this fascinating book. But there have been several moments where I’ve shouted to my husband from the other room. “Kyle! You have to hear this! It’s madness!”

He states that we all have a “set-point weight,” and that when we eat poorly, we raise our set-point. When we eat whole, real foods that are nutritionally rich (from nonstarchy vegetables, nutrient-dense proteins, whole-food fats, and low-fructose fruits), we can lower our set-point, lose weight, and keep it off effortlessly by eating healthy. We can stop counting calories? Yes! We can exercise for overall fitness and because it feels good — and spend less time exercising overall — not to “burn off” overindulging? Yes!

Eating the wrong kinds of foods also influences our hormones, and he likens our bodies to sinks: “Sinks and bodies become clogged and break down when the wrong quality of things are put in them.” So when a sink is working properly, the water drains out, although it may rises temporarily from time to time. But throw garbage and hair down the drain — things that don’t belong in a sink — and you’ll clog it. He suggests we fix the underlying problem and eliminate the clog. By rebalancing our hormones with the right foods, we can keep our bodies working properly.

I’m still making my way through this read, so I’ll share more insights as I go.

The movie I’m psyched to see? Fed Up. It opens in theaters today. Check out the trailer and promo videos below. And if you see it, stop back and let me know what you think, or Tweet at us: @ExperienceLife or @RevAct and include the hashtag #FedUpMovie (and let them know at @FedUpMovie). You can find me at @clewisopdahl.

Experience Life Magazine

When Cabin Fever Becomes Spring Fever

Yesterday, my sister-in-law Kelsey posted a meme on Facebook of a young Justin Timberlake with the words, “It’s gonna be May.” Anyone in my generation will immediately connect it to the N’Sync song “It’s Gonna Be Me” (not to mention the delightful video of the guys as puppets). It’s not the first time this meme has surfaced, but it’s the first time I saw it.

And I laughed and I laughed.

It probably only deserved a hearty chuckle, but it’s been raining and gloomy all week, so I think I’m going a wee bit mad. The meme went viral yesterday (even President Obama Tweeted about it), and I think for good reason: After the Great Polar Vortex of 2013–14, we could all use some sunny, warm weather. The month of May has never been more welcome. In all the years of my life that I’ve lived in Minnesota, I can’t remember being more excited for summer. We earned it this year!

WhistlerUsThis month, Kyle and I had a chance to escape and took a spring break of sorts: Mid-April we vacationed in Whistler, Canada, as part of his work trip. We flew into Vancouver, a very cool-looking town that we’d love to return to and explore, and took a bus trip some three hours north to Whistler. I did my best to stay awake so I could take in the beautiful scenery, the towering trees, the bluest of blue skies. It was our first time to Canada and immediately I knew it wouldn’t be our last.

Although we weren’t retreating to sandy beaches, our spring break was still wonderful — and needed. We went for a hike in the woods, got massages in the spa, worked out in the hotel gym (a full dumbbell set, hooray!), enjoyed great food, and explored Whistler Village. There was even a ski festival happening (we’re spectators not skiers) that included snowboarder stunts (gnarly!) and a free concert by De La Soul. WhistlerTulipsThe snow was mostly in the mountains, and spring was afoot with temps ranging from 45 to 60 (Saturday was borderline hot in the sun), and when I spotted these potted tulips, I knew I was shaking off the funk of winter. (Check out our Canadian friend Sara Bown’s post today on lacing up her sneakers and getting back outside to exercise over at the How I’m Doing It blog.)

A vacation by plane isn’t always feasible, but a vacation mindset can be. My friends took a “staycation” this month, spending quality time reconnecting and enjoying simple pleasures, like a leisurely brunch without the pressure to hurry up so we can run errands and get the chores done. My dad, who is now retired, will hop in the car and take long drives to the cabin or different parts of town.

WhistlerFlowersAnd my mom, a nurse, is a true pro at powering down and enjoying her weekend, even her nights. She has a DVR now, but still likes to reserve quiet time to enjoy her favorite television program. On the weekends, she’s busy in the yard, weeding and digging and moving shrubs and dirt. And she makes her transition back to work on Sunday less painless by prepping her lunch and changing into her “comfy clothes” early, so that she can get enough sleep. Yes, the weekend may still fly by, but she does her best to make the most of it.

Part of the vacation mindset, it seems, includes quiet, novelty, and exploration. Turning over a new pile of dirt, seeing a new part of town, taking time to sit with love ones and simply enjoy nature. We were reminded of the value of that state of mind in Whistler, and we’re bringing it back home as we get ready to enjoy the next great season.

After all, it’s gonna be May.

WhistlerHotelview

The view from our hotel room at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

 

Resources:

 

 

Experience Life Magazine

No Fooling

The physical, biological side of my body is much smarter than the emotional side. I learned that lesson again tonight.

I had a craving for a BLT and root beer — you know, like the good ol’ days when I ate whatever I wanted an ignored any odd after effects like cramping, burping, and bloating. No substitute seemed like it would satisfy this desire (a lettuce wrap for a BLT with a sparkling water?), so I decided to go for it.

And I paid for it.

Withing 30 minutes, I was burping and caught the hiccups. So I drank some water. Then I felt some pain in my stomach and look down to notice it was larger than usual, bloated with gas. I started getting a slight headache, and within the hour I was paying an extended visit to the bathroom.

I had it coming.

It’s not the first time I’ve tried to reintroduce breads. I’ve also tried with cheese and sour cream. But inevitably, I bloat and within a day or two, my skin starts to break out. Every time.

Sometimes I rationale that I can handle the “discomfort,” and that’s all it is — but there’s so much more to food intolerances than just the symptoms. Dr. Mark Hyman talks about food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies at length in his books, and notes that often these reactions are symptomatic of a larger problem of body-wide inflammation. So, I may just be burping, but it’s worse inside for my body and cells. Which just makes me sad.

So no more tricking my body. The taste of those foods is fleeting, but the repercussions aren’t worth it.

Read more about food allergies and breaking food addictions in Dr. Hyman’s piece, “Beating Food Addiction,” from the March issue.

 

Experience Life Magazine

Weather Watcher

My father has always been tuned in to the weather. Every morning, he’d be one of the first ones up, checking the weather reports on the news and reading the paper. Now that he’s retired and an active Facebook user, all of his online friends can also benefit from his re-posts of weather updates.

The worst scenario, he aimed to teach us, was to be caught in the elements unprepared. Never too hot or too cold, and keep your hands, face, and feet protected. My mother, a nurse who spent many years in the burn unit and saw the unfortunate consequences of inadequate winter gear on the appendages, reinforced this sensibility.

Yet, up until 2009 or 2010, I’d say, I didn’t fully absorb this message. If it felt too cold outside, instead of purchasing the right gear, I’d just stay inside to read a magazine or watch TV. Too hot? I’d rather enjoy the air conditioning. I remember one sad summer when I was maybe 12 or 13, and my mother pleaded with me to go outside and help with her garden. Being a tween and it being too hot, I felt, it was best to stay inside, talk on the phone with my friends while watching our favorite shows, and eat Doritos.

No wonder it took me so long to truly enjoy the outdoors. Avoidance is one surefire way to create both fear and unnecessary anxiety.

Curiously, I also married a man who shares my father’s keenness for weather watching. Kyle’s morning report includes road conditions, impending snow, and a discussion on whether or not I should let my car “warm up” before getting on the road. He’ll also give me a rundown of the afternoon report, so I can plan for my commute.

I find it charming from both of these men in my life, but I also wonder why I seemed so indifferent to the weather all these years, especially when I live in a state that has all four seasons (sometimes three-and-a-half, depending on how long the winter lasts). Was nature really that uninteresting?

The more I’ve learned to understand my body, the more I care about my environment. These past few years of working on my weight loss, I’ve started enjoying sunny days — instead of dreading how much I’d sweat, which would surely be a lot (I still sweat, but much less since I dropped the extra weight). When the snow falls, I get excited to snowshoe. Even the rain, which suggests a nice break to read a book or nap, means greener grass and rosier flower petals.

Being more in tune with nature has showed me other perks:

  • I sleep better. I wake up easier. Although I’m still working on my sleeping schedule (the conclusion of March ends Sleep Awareness Month, but my work continues!), I’ve noticed a shift in better-quality sleep when I spend more time outdoors and when I exercise. And try as I might to sleep in on the weekends, I can’t fight the morning sun shining in through my window. The sunrise wakes me up, and I’ve been spending my quiet mornings reading.
  • I understand my own energy levels and needs better. When it’s really hot, I can feel my body move at a snail’s pace. The heat is draining, and I allow for more lounging. If my body needs rest, I respect that. Those images of neighbors on their front porch, drinking ice tea and fanning themselves on hot nights? Completely sensible and necessary.
  • StPaulWinterMarketI have a greater appreciation for farmers and healthy food. Fresh, organic strawberries in the winter in Minnesota can run upwards of $8 (California friends, I know that’s pretty standard). In the summer, I can buy them for $3 or $4, or I can pick them fresh at a nearby orchard. Eating seasonally makes sense, to both my wallet and my taste buds. The St. Paul Farmers’ Market stays open year-round, but in the winter, the farmers are selling mostly meats, root vegetables, apples, and an assortment of wreaths and mini decorative pine trees. (Pictured at right: Me on our visit, January 2012.) few years back, I went with my friend and chatted with a farmer helper from Farm on Wheels. He had just turned 21, but I was shocked at how mature he seemed. He spoke eloquently about his products and their farm practices, and I couldn’t help but think how opposite my 21-year-old self would have been compared to him. He seemed to have an innate value for the importance of hard labor, and showed pride in the rewards his farm reaped. I really admired that trait, and grew a new reverence for farm life. (Read more from one of my favorite farmers here.)

Can a better me come from loving and respecting the environment surrounding me? Most definitely.

 

 

Experience Life Magazine

Signs of Spring

Happy First Day of Spring! I don’t know about you, but this long, cold winter has me ready for the change of seasons like no year before.

When it’s started to get warmer these past few weeks (which is about 40+ in Minnesota), I’ve pulled out the short-sleeve tees. My coworker, Laine, celebrated a recent warm day with a pair of heels that showed a bit of skin. Our rationale: If it’s true that you dress for the job you want, then maybe the rule transfers to dressing for the weather you want. To be sure, I’ve been adding in more pastels, too. I figure it can only help to pull out all the stops when it comes to ushering out the great Polar Vortex of 2013–14. (Our local paper, the Star Tribune, tallied all the numbers for our state and their design team came up with an “I Survived” snowflake badge for social media.)

Combined with more sunlight in the evening thanks to Daylight Savings, the vernal equinox has shifted my outlook. I’ll admit the cold, dark days got to me, and I often felt like I was walking around in a fog, like Pig Pen with his ever-present dirt cloud in Charlie Brown. But now I’m feeling a bounce in my step, and more optimism as I consider all the beauty in the day-to-day and the possibilities for 2014.

Take this morning discovery, for example: As Kyle and I made our way out the door, we noticed that these tiny plants beneath the pine tree in our front yard had survived the beast of this winter. The yard had mountains of snow piled up, but deep below, the green leaves made it. Perhaps the snow preserved them, as if they were frozen in time. The sight of these perennials made me positively giddy.

The snow will melt, the seasons will change, and like these little plants, we are born anew.

EarlySpring2014

Vernal equinox fun fact: Although the name implies that the length of day is exactly equal to the length of night on today’s vernal equinox, that is, in fact, incorrect. The equality of light usually happens before the vernal equinox, according to Geoff Chester, a public affairs specialist with the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. The definition of “vernal equinox” stems from when the center of the sun passes over the Equator. Read more in this piece from National Geographic.

Experience Life Magazine

Inspirational Stories: Stephen Preusz

Stephen Preusz’s story about his sudden diagnosis of kidney failure at the age of 29 hit home. Here’s a healthy guy, one who was an athlete in high school and college, and who participated in several Strongman Challenges in his 20s, and then he starts to feel like he’s getting the flu. As his symptoms get worse, his then-fiancée/now-wife, Ashley, brings him to the emergency room, and subsequent testing reveals he had 6 percent kidney function.

He was in end-stage kidney failure.

Earlier that evening, he was watching the Oklahoma-Texas football game with his brother, who had flown in from Indiana to celebrate his birthday. Later, he noticed that his ankles were swollen, and he woke up at 2 a.m. sweaty and began vomiting profusely. Ashley brings him to the hospital and one of the first checks for blood pressure was wildly high, at 220/120 (normal ranges are below 120/80).

His kidney failure was spurred by a previously undiagnosed autoimmune-related disease, IGA nephropathy. And with autoimmune diseases on the rise (read more here), I found his story frightening and all too real. Our family has been touched by the autoimmune disease lupus, and we sadly lost my lovely aunt, Myla, in 1980, after her body rejected her kidney transplant.

There are so many people waiting for a kidney transplant, as Steve points out in his blog posts, and since his transplant, he started a nonprofit, A Charitable Life, to help other patients with the enormous costs accrued during the process.

Read more about Steve’s story here, and hear more from him in our video interview below.

Experience Life Magazine

Lifting Weights and My Confidence

Shortly after the moving last summer and stopping my regular boot-camp-style workouts, I noticed the return of some resistance to exercise. Specifically weightlifting, which I had grown to love. Burpees, jumping jacks, pushups I could do, anything body weight, really, but picking up the weights made me nervous.

The kettlebell press was a breeze in June 2013. (Photo by Stephanie Glaros.)

The kettlebell press was a breeze in June 2013. (Photo by Stephanie Glaros.)

For about three years, I had been weightlifting with a personal trainer and then with a small group under the watchful eye of said personal trainer. I would occasionally work out and lift weights on my own, but since my group met three times — and we’d lift heavy, which was empowering (and led to faster results) — I usually relied on that time alone for my weekly exercise.

Then after the shift in my program, I’d swing a kettlebell but ventured less into the weight room. I started to doubt my ability to lift, and lift heavy, and fear kept me thinking I’d hurt myself without proper supervision. If I were just starting out, it’s a valid concern, but I had been doing this for a while.

Thoughtful rationale wasn’t in charge. It was my own fear, my own slowly lowering self-esteem that told me I couldn’t. It’s been hanging on throughout the winter, and I’ve been trying to trace its roots so I can exterminate.

My conclusion? The simple fact that I stopped lifting weights. When I was regularly lifting weights, I felt strong not just in the gym but in life. Since I’ve stopped lifting or only been sporadic, I’ve started to feel less confident overall, old body-image issues have cropped up, and I hesitated in going to the gym at all because I felt unsure of what to do while I was there.

So I asked for help. I started meeting with a personal trainer again, and recently, I nearly accomplished one of my goals I shared with him when I started. Even though I used to lift heavy, I don’t recall being able to go big for deadlifts. I told trainer Mike that I wanted to get to 100 pounds, then eventually the same amount as my body weight.

We started with the 45-pound bar so he could watch my form. So far so good, just a few issues in loosening my lower back at the bottom of the squat, so we remedied. Then he added weight so I could lift 65 pounds. All good.

Then — THEN! — Mike suggested I just lift a bar at 95 pounds, just hold it up off the rack to get a feel for the weight. When I did and said it wasn’t too heavy, we decided to have me give it a try.

And then, my friends, not only did I complete one rep at 95 pounds, I completed two. Two! Huzzah!

That weekend, I felt happier, lighter, prouder, and a bit invincible. What’s that? Problem at the mill, old boy? I’ll be the hero! I did deadlift 95 pounds, after all.

My confidence was improved, my muscles, however, were sore. My quads were so sore, in fact, that I hobbled around for nearly a week. (That’s one way to deflate this newly rebuilt confidence.) Alas, more dynamic stretching, foam rolling, and no doubt, more squats and deadlifts will be needed in the future to make my body more comfortable. But, man, it sure feels good to regain that power.

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