Tricking the puppies

I don’t go to a gym.

We have a beautiful gym near my house, with fancy machines and fitness programs and people who flex and look better in spandex shorts than I do.

But I don’t go there.

Because, teenagers.

When you spend all day teaching teenagers, you don’t want them to see you when you’re doing things that make you gasp for air, your boobs flounce abundantly, and your spandex shorts cling ever-so-slightly-embarrassingly. You prefer to be teenager-less when you are doing those things.

High school teachers suffer. Teenagers are everywhere.

Those pesky part-time jobs they have that develop their character and teach them the value of a good work ethic and education and personal hygiene mean that everywhere I go, I encounter my students.

Buying tampons? Kid working at checkout.

Buying the bulk box of red wine, on a Tuesday? Kid pushing carts in parking lot.

Debit card fails at checkout? Kid stares at you, horror-stricken because you’re buying tampons, and the debit just failed, and the tampons are like, right there, and it’s a jumbo box, and the only thing worse is the next guy in line is a father of one of your students…

It’s a miracle I can go out in public at all.

So, I don’t go to the gym.

I work out in my Love’s garage, which I now call  The Gym because that’s where I… Work Out. I usually flex a little when I say it. “Hey honey, I’m going to The Gym. To Work Out.” I also waggle my eyebrows. He finds it alluring.

In The Gym, there is a wood pile, a huge freezer full of meat, the garbage and recycle bags (a small mountain of wine boxes), two old mattresses we haven’t thrown out yet… and eleven Chesapeake Bay Retriever puppies.

I work out at 5am. For an hour. Every day.

I can’t Work Out in the house because my Love is sleeping.

The puppies wake up the minute the door to The Gym is opened, and they express their love for me at the tops of their lungs. They scream their undying affection for my very soul.

It is a piercing, intense serenade which makes it impossible to think, impossible to hear the urgings of my video workout coaches to do “just one more round”, and, after about three minutes, impossible to do anything except cringe and cover your ears. Or give up entirely and snuggle them all because, cuteness.

But I shall not be thwarted!

I would rather brave the tintinnabulation of the puppies than the uncomfortable stares of my students and NOTHING will prevent me from Working Out and thusly, I contrive a way to trick the wee canines.

I have to trick them into believing that I’m not there. If they know I’m there, they want to nuzzle and scream their way into my aural cavities… not conducive to the flexing. First I feed them… they have a single-minded zombie fixation on kibble…

…and while they are climbing over each other in a frenzy, I push two sawhorses draped with sheets in front of the gate to their run, blocking their view of my workout space. I place my laptop close to the door, so it hopefully can still connect to the distant wifi signal from the distant living room… and I turn off the lights.

Yes. I exercise in darkness. It is, after all, 5 o’clock in the morning when all this super sneakiness is happening. If I leave the lights on… they’ll know I’m there

The puppies finish eating, I begin my workout video, and they snuffle and make questioning noises because they can hear and smell that someone is in their space, but they can’t be sure. It’s just like hiding potato chips from the children when they were young. They would hear the rustle of the bag as I sneakily indulged in the darkest corner of the pantry, but by the time they found me the evidence was hidden. They could sniff my deceit, like the feral children they were, but they couldn’t find the evidence. Sneaky McSneakerson.

The chips are the reason for my current need to workout.

The teenagers are the reason for my avoidance of the gym.

The puppies are the reason I’m posting this. Nothing will prevent me from my early morning workouts! Not even epic cuteness… and they are… epically cute…

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Focus your intention

There’s a paradox in the starting of a fitness routine.

It only takes a little bit of time… but you have to fight to squeeze it in.

You have to want to start it… but you have to really want to keep going.

It’ll make you feel better… but it’s gonna hurt to get there.

So… it’s easy, but it’s hard.

Why can’t it just be easy, painless and quick instead of hard, ouch-y and slow?

Fitness programs are successful when you are ready to be a success doing them. I have spent the last several years wishing to be fitter, planning to exercise, thinking about losing weight… and indulging in sporadic fitness adventures that fizzled before I really saw any results. I tried Weight Watchers but it didn’t excite me enough to stick with it. I kayaked until the black flies got too bad. I biked until my ipod died. I cut out wine… for two days.

I wasn’t ready.

I didn’t want it badly enough.

I couldn’t maintain my good intentions because I was focused on it being easy and quick, instead of becoming an enduring part of my daily habit.

“Weight loss doesn’t begin in the gym with a dumb bell;                                                                      it starts in your head with a decision.”
– Toni Sorenson

It’s been really hard for me to start… and now I can’t stop! My internet died the other day in the middle of one of my streaming workout videos and I was wild! I’m getting out of bed twenty minutes earlier (4:40 in the am, people. Try it! It’s awesome!) so I can squeeze in two half hour videos before work. I’m planning my day around being able to get out to walk, or bike… pushing supper later, spending less time online… and fitness has become my routine, on a daily basis. It wasn’t easy to get here, but the more I focus my intention on my own wellness the more motivated I am to get it done.

One of my favorite Beachbody videos starts with that imperative… Focus your Intention. Remember why you started. What is it that you want? I’m finding that this idea motivates me through my day as well as through my workout. When I focus my intention for the day, I feel successful, I feel powerful, I feel motivated.

What do I want?

How am I going to get there?

When my intention is clear, my effort becomes second nature.

Focus your intention, and go for it!

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Great Aunt Tilly never worked out

Great Aunt Tilly was a fan of suet. Yes, that white fat you can buy in little blocks to feed the birds. You can also make suet into dumplings, which are both “filling and frugal” when you are forced to feed a huge family on a shoestring because of your “reproductive irresponsibility”. Amen. Hallelujah.

Please re-read the above with an old-lady British accent for full effect.

Great Aunt Tilly was five hundred years old and had not removed herself from the confines of her corset for at least three of those centuries when she would visit myself and my four feral children, all the way from Yorkshire, to try to put me “on the right road to proper laundry.”  She was my mother’s Aunt, and I loved her very much.

I did not love her suet dumplings. Tilly used to describe me as “pleasingly plump” and “big boned” and my teaching career as a “nice little job” to keep me busy.

Great Aunt Tilly is one of the reasons I am on a fitness journey today, because she was the only female relative who tried to guide me as a child and as a young mother. My own mother died suddenly at the age of 32, leaving myself and my older sister to navigate the perils of womanhood on our own, a journey which saw our teen years scarred by desperately bad hairdos, an entirely dysfunctional relationship with mascara and fashion sense that tended toward men’s boots, bulky sweaters and polyester pantsuits.

Great Aunt Tilly taught me:

…  I would get a cold in my uterus if I hung out clothing while wearing a skirt.

…  women would go mad after child birth if they didn’t “drain” completely because all that excess blood would go to their brains and madness would certainly ensue.  (“It happened, you know, to dear old cousin Patricia who was institutionalized for the rest of her life with the blood madness.”)

…  my husband should never see me in a housecoat, or without makeup. That he should be served first, always, and that I should hide money from him whenever possible.

…  I should have a calendar in the pantry so I could monitor my daughters’ menstrual cycles because that’s what her mother did so she knew exactly when her sneaky oldest daughter (my Grandmother Barbara) conceived my mother… at age sixteen… and since my third child was the reincarnation of Barbara I should be ever vigilant…

And,

… that she had once been so ill she coughed up a piece of her duodenum.

With this womanly wisdom as my legacy, is it any wonder I blundered into womanhood like a bat in the daytime? Is it shocking that I birthed four children by the age of twenty-six, (always being sure to “drain” properly) when I had neither a driver’s license, a job nor a proper grasp of laundry symbols? Is it a surprise that I thought my children would raise themselves, much like mushrooms in a dark forest?  I didn’t know what a duodenum even was until I was thirty-five! (And yeah… you can’t cough it up. You just… can’t.)

So here I am at fifty. Almost twenty years older than my mother when she passed. Having raised four children… who sprouted quite nicely, despite the dark forest… for the past thirty years. And I still don’t understand laundry symbols. But I do understand that my uterus can’t get a cold, and my duodenum can’t be coughed up, and my third child is not a reincarnation of my Grandmother, and serving my husband first certainly didn’t save our marriage, and calendars aren’t contraceptives… and, as with everything in life, if I don’t take control of my health and fitness and well-being by myself, no one is going to do it for me.

I became a wife and a mother without a whole lot of guidance, but I did learn that no one was going to do it for me. Now that my children are grown I realize that a lot of my fitness and health needs were met when I was younger simply by being a mother to a large family. I was busy! I was running around, chasing children, chasing hockey games, chasing events and mealtimes and police cars… wait, that’s another story… and I was preparing healthy meals to feed the spawn. (Sort of. Frozen fish sticks are healthy, right?) Once they left home it was oh-so-delightful to have wine at dinner on weeknights, and to lie like a flounder on the sofa watching Game of Thrones, and to buy chips that I actually got to eat, without sharing.

Enter: Twenty extra pounds and a hard time climbing two flights of stairs and those weird jiggly dimples on my thighs.

Great Aunt Tilly never had any sage advice about weight gain, or fitness. I don’t think those things existed for her. She had corsets. And girdles. And a bra made of rebar and industrial steel.

I have Beachbody.

Let me be clear… I don’t have a beach body, but I do have 30-minute exercise videos, and a protein shake, and portion control… and my duodenum is quite pleased with all of that. And those twenty pounds are on their way out… not because of my kids, or my partner, or stress, or trying to fit someone else’s vision of who I should be… but because I am making it happen. All by myself, for myself. My fitness journey is about me, for me, and up to me!

And that is more satisfying than suet dumplings, any day!

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