October, I decided, is about getting back into shape.
I feel like the last few months I’ve been letting both my mind and body lie fallow. This isn’t a totally bad thing. After all, think of farming: agriculturalists know you’ve got to give a field a chance to rest, to regain nutrients, so that it can sprout forth a new crop next season. So the summer might have meant a mushy brain and less than stellar commitment to hard-bodyism, but it was what the two needed to come back with renewed vigor.
It’s often hard to change habits, though, and a helping hand can be useful to pull us to our feet or give us a much-needed smack. My help has come in the form of Yvonne, a personal trainer at the Green River Recreation Center I’ve begun seeing. The first time we met, we spent two hours going over my current fitness and nutrition plans. “You know you’ve been coasting,” Yvonne told me with a kind but knowing look on her face. “It’s time to step it up.”
Stepping it up first involved figuring out my baseline numbers, which meant getting a wrist heart-rate monitor I’m still not adept at using. The instructions say to hold it up level, making sure the strap is fastened securely and lays flush against the skin. It also says I may need to moisten my finger when I push on the sensor – but not too hard, because that creates “muscle confusion.” My muscles are already confused, but this heart-rate thing is scrambling my brains too! How am I supposed to get a heart-rate reading (nevermind a decent workout) when I have to stop moving, hold my left arm in the air while licking my right finger to press delicately against the sensor?!
Nevertheless, when I have managed to get the darn thing to work, it has told me clearly that no matter how hard I push myself on cross-country walks and hikes, I’m not going to challenge my body. And if I’m not challenging it, then I’m not improving my cardiovascular system or torching the extra Tostitos I tossed back on the couch…
The next wake-up call was in mid-September when I realized the CIBC Run for the Cure was two weeks away. Last year I ran the 5km (my first!) a few weeks after moving to Wyoming. I was new to running and had just moved from sea level to 6,100ft so I was allowed to struggle. This year the 5km should have been a piece of cake. It wasn’t. Although I’d jog a couple of miles here and there, I certainly had not been training regularly. So I hauled my butt down to the Green belt for a test run, so to speak, and breathed so hard that I must have sucked in half a sagebrush plant because for the next day I had intermittent sneezing fits and my left nostril ran so much I had to stick a kleenex up it during mealtimes to avoid extra ‘dressing’ on my salad.
So for the last two weeks I executed a mini training plan and by October 4th I was able to do my 5km “Run for Mums” and fulfill my promise to my generous sponsors. Mind you, the run took place on a treadmill in the gym because mother nature hit us with hail, rain, snow and 45 mph wind that day. But I did it. And it didn’t even hurt that much.
Okay, so the body is cooperating alright and I find it really helpful knowing that in a month Yvonne will look over my fitness logs. Accountability helps. Praise is even better. And gosh darnit if I pull out my gold star stickers I could run a marathon, or maybe even make it through a spinning class!
But what about the mind? That is a trickier beast indeed. It is happy doling out stickers to the body that surrounds it, but mightily resists its own changes, challenges, and work. It is very good at distracting me, too: ooh – I should make muffins! Or clean out the closet! Or go for a run! These are all practical, useful tasks that seem rational, but they are designed to distract. So I’m trying to be crafty back: I took my brain to a writing workshop in Cheyenne, WY last week where it was impossible not to be inspired. Then I borrowed books from the library with such winning titles as “The Plot Thickens” and “How to Write and Sell Historical Fiction.” I also sit down every morning with a caffeinated beverage to try and get the old brain cells sparking, and slowly but surely I think they might be responding.
What I really need, though, is an Yvonne for my brain. Or maybe some really super-duper stickers…