My Couch Dweller

I just read a facebook post from an online friend who enjoyed a two mile run with her husband. She quipped that, for him, it was a long run. It was not long for her but she cherished every foot fall because they were together.

Following her post were a number of comments, all saying how great it is when couples run or workout together and how it helps make their relationship stronger.

I read through them all and felt the strong urge to add my perspective as the triathlete wife of a couch dweller.

But, rather than put it directly on her facebook page and reach – oh, I don’t know – the thousands of people who LIKE her page – I came here, to my personal blog, to share it in more detail with you, my nearest and dearest devotees.

In the beginning, when the world was younger and I had no need to look for hair color that ‘covers all the gray and doesn’t fade’ (which is a lie, by the way), I often thought it would be fun to have a husband who shared every interest of mine.

I pictured us laughing our way through everything together. No matter what either of us suggested, the other one would say, “Sure!” and off we would go, under cloudless skies, enjoying whatever we did in perfect harmony with no disagreements of any sort along the way.

Did I hear you snort out loud just now? It’s okay if you did – I totally understand…now.

It’s not that I really thought it would happen that way. It was just, as they say, my inner fantasy. And, from the very start, I never thought it would extend to physical activity.

After all, I married a man who was never interested in physical fitness. I knew that going in. This is the man who joined the health club nearest to our home simply to enjoy the sauna, steam room and hot tub. Seriously. When he went there one day and found all three of those “CLOSED FOR REPAIRS” he marched out of the men’s locker room and asked the buffed young athlete behind the front desk how long they’d be out of commission. When the man told him it would be indefinitely, my husband asked whether or not they planned to issue any refunds for that time. Why would we, the man asked my husband? You didn’t join just to use those, did you? My husband took a step back from the desk. He stood there in all his glory, extending his arms out and down, and said, “Look at me. Take a good look at this body. Do I LOOK like I work out? YES, I joined just to use those.” And, while you are coughing through your laughter, I will add this footnote: he DID get a refund.

I worked with a woman whose husband was/is totally devoted to healthy eating and fitness. We ended up seated across from them at a company Christmas party and the man listened as my husband ordered a medium rare steak and cheesy potatoes and watched him devour a roll slathered in butter. I watched the man’s face and knew he thought he could/should try to enlighten my husband. He was known for trying to change people’s lives and eating habits – and my husband presented him with a great opportunity! Within minutes, it began. He told my husband the benefits of healthier eating and then boldly told him he wouldn’t live a long life if he kept his current eating habits. You want to live longer, right? he asked. “Listen,” my husband answered in between bites. “Living longer doesn’t necessarily mean ‘better’. It doesn’t mean you’re going to live more years like you are 20 years old. It probably means you’ll have more years sitting in a wheel chair, drooling on yourself. So, no, I don’t want more of those years. I’ll go out younger, knowing I savored every bite instead of eating tasteless food and sacrificing that for a couple of extra years.”

As you can see, he’s pretty set in his ways and more than willing to be vocal about it.

He’s overweight and knows it. He’d like to lose weight, but also wants to find that magic pill, the magic potion that will make it easy to do that. (Boy, don’t we all?) He’d like to have our doctor “just liposuction it all out of me, ok, doc?” Again, if it were only that easy…

Then there’s me. My fitness and health goals are fueled by self betterment and the need to stay physically active because I know, for myself, how much better I feel and how much I need to be active and healthy to maintain my well-being. That’s me. That’s how I roll. I want to be a great example for my children, grand children and great-grandchildren. I want to be able to do things with them rather than just watch them from the side lines. That’s just me.

Two divergent lines, to be sure.

I do not try to change him. He does not try to change me. I do not push him, although I will always invite him to go with me on a walk, snowshoeing, swimming, whatever. He does not rudely refuse – and, in fact, sometimes he does join me. I cherish those times, but I don’t resent him if he doesn’t go. It’s not his ‘thing’. He doesn’t like it. Why would I try to force him to do something he doesn’t like?

Do I think he’d feel better if he were more active? Absolutely. Do I think he’d lose weight and ultimately have less health issues? Without a doubt.

But I also realize he needs to do what he needs to do because HE wants it, not because someone else tells him he should. It’s like quitting smoking or any other unhealthy habit/lifestyle – a person has to want to change to make that change.

I also have to say that he is, without a doubt, my biggest fan and supporter. He is my sounding board – the person I can go to and express my inner most fears – whether it’s training related, race related, job related or something else in life. He is the one who buoys me, tells me how strong I am, tells me I am an inspiration to him and to our family. He rubs my back at night, lulling me to sleep, telling me he loves me. He kisses me as I head out for training and says, “Have fun!” and smiles at me when I return, always asking how it went. And when I tell him…he listens…really listens.

Can I ask for more than that?

Truth be told, yes, I probably can ask, but it probably won’t change the outcome. So, we move forward. I know I am very, very blessed to have this eclectic soul as my partner through life. My biggest fear is that he will be taken from me too soon. In the meantime, I just love him.

It’s Only Fitting

I’ve spent a lot of time on the toilet over the last couple days. I’m not trying to gross anyone out here – as the old saying goes, ‘no brag, ma’am. Just fact.’

No brag indeed. Just getting to the start line of my colonoscopy was a race in itself. The prep was an endurance event, sprint, and dirty girl mud crawl – all rolled into one!

It’s all behind me now (OK, I’ll try to resist any more puns- but that one was just too good not to include!). No polyps but the doctor found some inflammation and sent in a sample for biopsy. We’ll have results in 7-10 days. Meanwhile, I’m keeping positive vibes going and looking ahead rather than (ahem) backwards. (aren’t you proud of me?)

But (no pun intended, honest) while I was seated there on the stool today, I happened to notice the clothes tag on my pj’s staring up at me. “XL” it proclaimed. XL indeed. Like I needed a reminder at that point about the size of my bottom, hips and legs?

Now, before I go too far, for all those petite ladies out there who buy XL clothing because they like to wear loose clothes, especially pajamas and sweats, I just want to say, good for you. You are able to make a conscious choice to buy those big clothes. I’m happy for you (I guess).

But, from my perspective, here’s the thing – it’s tough to find clothes – especially workout clothes and sleep wear – that looks and fits nicely if you’re a size 14 or larger.

I look far and wide (again, no pun intended) to find good clothes that fit me. Some brands – Champion & Under Armor, make it easier. But Nike, Adidas and most of the other ‘top’ active wear providers need to listen when women like me say, ‘your clothing sizes need to be re-vamped to include those of us who won’t be in any upcoming commercials!’ We need workout clothes, too – dri-fit clothing, cold weather gear, warm weather wear, bras, shorts – all of it. Personally speaking, I shouldn’t have to go to the men’s section to find a top that fits my shoulders without straining. I’m an Athena…not Godzilla.

It would be nice to shop for women’s workout clothing without feeling bad about myself for not being a size 10 or less. I won’t ever BE a size 10 or less. I’ve accepted that. It’s taken a while, especially considering some cruel memories.

When I was a child, my mother would take me school clothes shopping at a store called Robert Hall Clothing.
Robert Hall
We’d start in the children’s section but ultimately be led to the back of the store – the ‘chubby’ section. The saleswomen would ‘tsk’ as they pulled out selections for me to try on. ‘If she loses weight we’ll be able to find her SO much more,’ they’d tell my mother in a pseudo-whisper I was meant to overhear (as motivation?). My mom would nod and agree as she turned away in embarrassment. I’d cry silently in the fitting room as I sweated and tugged ugly clothing into place, wiping away any evidence of tears before opening the door afterwards. I hated shopping then – and (here’s an aha! moment) – it’s probably why I dislike clothes shopping to this day. Shame on them all. Shame, shame.

The reality is, I am 40+ years older, living an active, healthy lifestyle but still large enough to be considered overweight – and I want good looking, well fitting workout clothes. I want choices. I want pretty colors. I want to look feminine.

It’s not too much to ask. So, get with it, people. This is long overdue.

The Sum of My Parts is Much Greater Than the Whole

“Like most things in my life, if you judge me by my results, you aren’t getting the entire picture.” – Casey Revman, from an article in this month’s Runner’s World magazine. 


She’s a teenager with tuberous sclerosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to form in major organs.  Basic tasks are difficult for her, yet she trained and finished two half marathons.  She runs – not to win – but to find normalcy in her world.  What others see doesn’t matter as much as what she knows from the inside out.


We’re years apart and propelled by different forces, yet we share the same philosophy about running/walking.  When we put our soles (souls) out on the road, we tap into our inner being and the lessons we learn about ourselves can be life-changing if we choose to listen.


A very good friend of mine, Kim Heinz, who founded our Adams County Running Club (and an awesome person!), often talks about her belief that the heart of any race is at the back of the pack – those plucky racers who cross the finish line long after the winners have turned off their Garmins, wiped off the sweat and walked triumphantly inside to collect their bling. 


She’s so right.  If you’re lucky enough to be at that finish line you’ll see amazing fortitude and determination in every person who finishes what they set out to do.  Each person has their own story.  For some, it’s their very first 5K (or 10K or half marathon or whatever) and their goal is simply (or not so simply) to finish.  It could be their first official step toward better health and fitness.  It may be an effort dedicated to someone they love, for a myriad of reasons.  Or, it could be the most they can do because of their physical and/or emotional limitations.


For them, each step taken is one step forward and measured in much more than miles or kilometers.  Their stories can be simple or complicated.   But each one can inspire you as much (or more) than you ever thought possible. 


Out on the road, when the fast pack has put distance between themselves and me, I have a chance to listen to the cadence of my own foot-falls.  I like that.  It’s part of the reason why I walk.  I like the mix of solitude and camaraderie that comes from running an event with friends.  I like being outside and tracing routes that wind through parks, along lakes, through woods – where ever – in all sorts of weather.  I move slowly enough to be able to enjoy that beauty.  If I were able to run, I would be concentrating more on strategy and less on nature.  I know that.  And sometimes, even though I don’t win a lot of age group awards, I think I have the better part of the deal. 


I know I will see the smiles and hear their cheers of my fleet-footed friends as I cross the finish line and I love the feeling that gives me — I know I’m a winner regardless of where I finish overall, because I’ve done what I set out to do and my friends care about me.  And, as Casey Revman says, finish line results don’t tell the whole story.


From the outside, I’m a middle-aged woman, somewhat overweight, walking briskly and purposely.  There’s nothing in my step that gives away the fact I have one hip made of plastic and metal.  You wouldn’t know that, for more than 50 years, I never walked/lived without pain.  My stride is strong and my steps are sure, because I’ve worked on them.  The smile in my heart is there because I love the gift I’ve been given.  I would LOVE to be able to run – to just throw caution to the wind and open up my stride and GO!!  …but to do that would jeopardize all that science has done… and so I walk instead and thank God for what I DO have.


I started walking about 8 months after my hip surgery, and six weeks after my husband had a stroke at 55 due to a blood clot from atrial fibrillation (a-fib).  I was utterly petrified he would die and at the same time, worried he would not recover fully.  I knew I needed to change our lifestyle to help both my husband and myself yet was overwhelmed by it all and unable to move forward.  There were oh-so-many things going on that were beyond my control…


Around that same time, Kim had just started the running club and I showed up to meet the group one Saturday morning in April, 2011 at the suggestion of a friend.  “I don’t run,” I had told her bluntly when she mentioned it to me earlier that week. “I know, but you don’t HAVE to run,” she replied. “A lot of us walk, so come out and join us.”  Before I left home on that cool, cloudy day, I told my husband, “Ok, I’m going.  Listen, if it’s bad, at most, it’s an hour out of my life I’ll never get back.” 


Off I went…  That first day I managed about a mile and took about 17 minutes to do it.  I was tired when I finished and was the last person who returned to the park.  I expected everyone to be already gone, but, no, they had all waited for me and greeted me with genuine smiles.  Kim came forward to meet me with a hug, saying, “Good job!  How’d it go?”  They were welcoming and inspiring all at the same time, and I cautiously committed to coming back the next week.


For some weeks, it was the one constant in our lives that I could control.  I found friendship but learned a lot about myself along the way.  The road, as they say, is a damn good listener.


My husband fully recovered, thank God.  He’s not an advocate of exercise but knows its benefits.  For now, he’s still working on taking that first step (but not shutting the door on it).  All I can do is offer support.


…And here I am, over a year and a half later and about 30# lighter…now looking forward each week to meeting my running club peeps for some fitness activity and breakfast.  My miles now average 13 minutes and change during races.  I set my goal this year to finish a half marathon and have actually done two.  My goal for 2013 is to finish a triathlon.  After all, even though I can’t ‘run’ I can swim and bike, so why not?


I have made friendships through our running club that I cherish and I hold them dearly in my heart.  We share a passion for life as a whole that goes well beyond the start/finish line.


That’s what has brought me to this place in my life and I’m only one story from the back of the pack. 


Regardless of where we finish, we’re all winners by our efforts.