Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"... With your shield, or on it."

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 300:

Day 300 of my "Spartanization" seemed like an appropriate day to deviate from the regular chronicles of my adventures, and reflect a little bit. (If you don't understand the implication here, check this out for a quick recap of the significance of 300 to Sparta...)

Today was a Tuesday like any other, Sprint WOD on the schedule, etc. but it was pouring rain, so the GT granted me a pass to do a nice longish run instead. There was a lot of time to ponder over those 5 miles. There was, in fact, 300 days of Life-Changing to ponder, while trying to figure out what I wanted to share with you, BlogLand.

To be honest, I'm still not sure, so we're going to wing it a bit here.

In the days before my quest toward Spartan status, a lot had happened. I'd lost my job, been unemployed a while, had some family drama, personal life crap... you know. Life.
Here's where I had let it drag me to:

That is me and my (now) step-mom, heading out on a trip. I remember that distinctly, because I remember not being particularly excited at getting on a plane. Why? Because at 284+ (I'd stopped counting...) pounds, it's really uncomfortable. You're squished into the person next to you, you're praying the lap belt will fit at it's biggest setting, and even if it does, it's pinching and tight. That is not the way vacations should start and end.

Shortly before this time, I had seen some really horrific pictures of myself from a New Year's Eve gathering with my family (and coincidentally, the first time I'd met my soon to be GT), and I decided something needed to be done. I was losing my life. I wasn't living it any more, I was just surviving it. I didn't "enjoy" doing a whole lot of things, because EVERYthing is challenging when your body is carrying around that much extra. Tying your shoes makes you breathe hard. Walking up two flights of stairs and I'd break a sweat. Life was running me down. The harder things got, the less I did, the harder things got..... and it went down hill.

One thing led to another and I made some little changes. You know, then ones that everyone "knows" they should do. Less hand-to-mouth snacking syndrome. More veggies, less desserts. The usual. I lost 10-15 pounds, but was then stuck. I tried to hit the gym a little bit, but it's hard when you don't know what the heck you're doing. Not to mention it's just plain HARD for obvious reasons. You're ashamed that you've let yourself get that far down the unhealthy rabbit hole, and you are embarrassing that you don't even know how to get yourself out.

Then, through harassing my friend (now, GT) into checking out the Spartan Races and such (for him, as he was into that sort of thing), I found myself volunteering at the Vermont Beast, in Killington, last July. I'd recently turned 29.

I spent the day at the water station, opposite the cargo net and the vertical wall, watching people attack these obstacles. People afraid of heights, screaming, but still moving over the top of the net. I saw vertically challenged people struggle and persevere (with the aid of the spartan next to them), over the impossible walls. All the while, they sweated, grimaced and kept pushing themselves up and down a ski mountain.

I realized what I had been missing. I'm not sure if I could've articulated it for you on that day, but I knew inside what I needed to do. Spartan Race lists part of the Spartan code as "Living each day like it is your last." These people, dirty, sweating, bleeding, tired but still moving, were doing just that. They were pushing their limits, crushing the boundaries that society had set for them (Who SAYS a 5 foot tall woman can't get over a 12 ft wall?!), and in general, refusing to settle for anything but total domination of the challenges set before them.

These were Spartans. And I wanted to be one.

That day, I took back the reins and made some decisions. That, BlogLand, is the key to all of this: Make a Decision, Stick to your Plan and Solidify your Resolve ("Sign up, Show Up, Never Give Up!" - Spartan Race). I decided that I no longer wanted to be trapped in my body. I made a plan, found some help when I needed it, educated myself and just kept chipping away at the pieces.

The last 300 days have been some of the most difficult ones of my life and yet, the best, all at the same time.

In the last three hundred days, I have lost a lot of toxic "friends" that couldn't allow me to change, gained a family of some of the most supportive people on the planet and surprised myself with what I have become capable of.

It's not just about the physical. In fact, if I have learned anything in the last 300 days, becoming "Spartan," getting in shape and changing your life is 99% mental. Sitting at dinner with my friends and choosing a no-carb dinner, while everyone else ate breadsticks: Mental exercise. Placing blind faith in my GT that I could learn to run, when I'd never run a day in my life: Mental. Walking in the door of a CrossFit gym, while still significantly overweight: Mental.

Here's where the decisions come in. I decided I wanted it bad enough. Getting healthy and taking charge of my life was more important to me than feeling stupid at the first few CrossFit workouts, because I couldn't do a box jump (seriously. I couldn't do it with 2 feet). Knowing that by the time I turned 30, I would be able to go on vacation and choose excursions that didn't say "limited activity" was more important to me than the chocolate cake.

Make a Decision. Change your Life. It is that simple.

At 284 pounds, horribly out of shape and still sitting on the couch, I made the decision to complete a Spartan Sprint by the time I was 30. I figured that if I had worked hard enough to be in shape to adequately complete one of those infamous races and *not die*, I would have made the changes that would get me on the road to a better, healthier, longer, less restricted life.

Almost two weeks ago, I hit that goal early, by completing the Spartan Military Sprint+ in Fort Carson, CO. Here is the quintessential picture:

Does that look like someone hampered by life? I'm framing this picture, by the way, as a constant reminder of that.

300 Days is a long time. As one Spartan Chick noted, 300 days is how long you would be gestating an overdue baby. Yes, BlogLand, I could've produced a new human in this time... and quite frankly, I feel like I have. Aja: 2.0.

The accomplishments I am most proud of in this time:
- That I never gave up. I read a statistic somewhere that most people stick with their new years resolutions for less than 2 weeks. I've stuck with this plan for 300 days. It's been extremely hard. I didn't want to run on rainy mornings. I didn't enjoy getting out of bed early to go to CrossFit. I didn't want to keep running the last mile of my first 10K. I wasn't happy about trying to justify my new lifestyle to skeptical friends and family.

- I have set goals and completed them. I completed a 5K road race. Then I completed one without walking. I lost 10 more pounds, then 10 more. I wanted to run a sub-11 minute mile. I added more weight to my bar. I followed The Plan for 300 days without falling off the wagon. I completed a Spartan Race.

This is not to say that is has not been the most difficult thing I have done in my life. It has been. There were days that I sat in my car, after being at the gym, and just cried at my perceived inadequacies. I cried at the mountain I still had yet to move, and the body I was stuck in, and that I had let myself get to this seemingly impossible state.

I still get angry, BlogLand. I get angry when I can't do pull ups, because I wish I'd never let myself get this weak. I feel frustration crawling under my skin when I try on clothes that still don't fit.

But my GT has taught me a valuable lesson: the importance of the word "yet". When I'd cry that I couldn't do pull ups... he would correct me and say that I couldn't do pull ups YET. I couldn't run a 10 minute mile YET. It was hard work, I'd put in the time, I'd get there, because I'd decided to.

The people of Sparta, historically, were famed to be some of the toughest, most courageous people, dedicated and loyal to the causes they believed in. At day 300 in my quest towards a Spartan Shape-Up, I feel like I'm getting there. I've done things in the last 300 days that I never, EVER thought I'd do.
I registered for a (my first) half marathon in November (this blows my mind).
I stood up to the negative influences in my life, fought them, and have come out victorious.
I went grocery shopping without buying potato chips, and haven't missed them in over 6 months.
I wore shorts. In Public. In photographs.

It's the little victories, every day, that keep you going. That, and the amazing community you will find yourself surrounded with. I fully believe that when you are truly serious, and you initiate changes, the Cosmos (in whatever form you believe in) will give you the tools you need to complete it. For me, the Cosmos had my GT unwittingly cross my path (little did he know...), it threw Spartan Race and subsequently the amazing people thereof, at me through a random Google Ad, and allowed an outstanding and affordable!) CrossFit gym to be minutes from my house. If that's not a set up for success, I don't know what is.

Day 300 finds me living the Spartan life, BlogLand. I am waking up each day on a mission, with a goal, and I'm beating it into submission when it doesn't cooperate (I'm looking at YOU, T-Rex arms!).

Therefore, I'd have to say the status of my Spartan Shape-Up journey is a raging success. I feel strong mentally and physically. I continue to move forward. I'm not done yet, Blogland. 300 days is only the beginning ("... every finish line is merely the starting line for the next race"). My goals are getting bigger and badder, my focus is getting sharper and my path is clear in front of me.

Through some tough moments, I learned perhaps the most valuable lesson of my life, over the last 300 days. I'm sure the Spartans would agree when I state it simply as:

I can. 

No doubts. No worries. The question is only How. I don't have to accept what I am handed. I don't have to acquiesce to sub-par living. I can change my life and choose otherwise.

300 days and feeling fabulous, I choose Spartan.

What do you choose?


  1. You, ma'ma, are freaking awesome.


  2. You're an incredible lady and are stronger than I am currently I'd bet you anything ;) I look forward to meeting and running with you eventually!!!! So glad we connected and looking forward to seeing both of us reach goals!! :)

  3. You totally captured "300" in an awesome way! I'm so proud of you and inspired by you on a daily basis! You were the first Chick I met in real life, and I wouldn't change that for anything!!

  4. LOVE the picture!! Way to go!! I can't wait until my run in June- you ROCK!! Keep up the good work!