Saturday, July 21, 2012

Action is the foundational key to all success. - Pablo Picasso

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 365:

It seems we have hit another major milestone, BlogLand. Today (July 21) officially marks the one-year anniversary of my decision to commit to changing my life and chase down some very real goals.

On this day, one year ago, the sun rose on a sunny morning (yeah, I actually do remember that), which I took as an excellent omen for this new road I was to be on. I laced up a pair of old sneakers - just a pair of WalMart specials - put on some old cotton "active wear" (because it was what I had), and I headed out to try Day 1 of the Couch to 5K running program. It was early in the morning, as it was the cooler part of the day, but I was sweating during just my brisk warm up walk. I remember thinking that day that I couldn't go on like this. I didn't want to live the rest of my life trapped in my own body. I felt horrid - out of breath, sweaty, tired - just walking that little mile on some flat sidewalk. I also felt apprehensive. I'd never been a "fit" person and looked at myself in the mirror and acknowledged the mountains that I was going to need to climb to make this a successful venture. And yet.... here I was. Pushing "play" on C25K app that I'd downloaded, and following along with rapt attention.

For anyone that'd done the C25K program, you know: Week 1 is very basic. You run maybe 30 seconds at a time with 3-5 minutes of recovery in between. I remember struggling with those 30 seconds. I remember screeching to a slow walk at the end of one of those 30 second intervals, chest heaving, thinking how insanely long 30 seconds was and wondering how in the HELL I thought I was going to get through this. But I pushed through. I had decided that in a year, I was going to run my first Spartan Race (I had given myself a long-range goal of running in Amesbury, this August.), so I had a lot of preparation to do. Just keep running and have faith in the process, I told myself.

That day that I came home from Day 1, I remember recording all my statistics (how long I'd run, how long I'd walked, mileage, etc.) in my workout log spreadsheet and sending a text to my GT; I'm not sure he knew, at the time, just what sort of undertaking he'd gotten himself into by taking me on, but his virtual applause and support of my basic Day 1 conquest (eight 30 second intervals!) were exactly what I needed to hear. I could do this, I would do this, and I'd done the hardest part: gotten off the couch, laced up my sneakers and made the decision to DO SOMETHING.

Here's a little flashback to who I was, just about a year ago:

In the last year, I've done some pretty amazing things, for a Fat Chick that'd never been athletic.
- I've gone from not being able to run a full minute, to running 8+ miles (over an hour at a time).
- I've progressed from little 5-10 pound hand weights and a yoga ball in my basement, to full Olympic Lifts with official barbells (sometimes with triple-digit weights...). 
- I have finished more than 10 official road races (5 and 10K lengths)
- I have finished 5 Spartan Races and 1 local mud run, at varying lengths (Spartan Sprints and Supers)
- I have adjusted my diet from The Typical American Crappy diet to something akin to the Paleo diet with minimal/no processed carbs, or grains (mostly lean proteins and veg), which means, yes, I pretty much gave up bread and potatoes...
- I have conquered my fear of walking into sports stores without feeling like an outsider.
- I've learned to enjoy wearing spandex and totally stopped giving a flying eff what other people thought (Yes. I've been known to grocery shop in my workout clothes, on my way home from the gym. What of it?!).
- I learned (thanks to the wise words of the GT) that my lungs will not explode, my legs will stop feeling like jelly, and my heart will slow down eventually, no matter how hard I push myself. So just keep pushing.
- I found that there are people in your life who love you for who you are inside, despite the fact that they don't understand why you need to crawl under muddy barbed wire. And there are those that don't. The ones that don't have no place in your life.
- I have completed hikes (with a Rock!) that I never would've otherwise thought possible.
- I didn't think twice about harnessing up and trying rock climbing for the first time.
- I've worn shorts and skirts *voluntarily*, proud to show off the "runners legs" complete with monster quads, that I've worked really hard to earn. 
- I'm entered into not one, but TWO Half-Marathons in the fall, and one half-marathon distance Spartan Race (The Beast!). 

.... and I'm no longer afraid.

BlogLand, the point of that list is half for you and half for me. I want you to know and really understand that You Can if you DECIDE You Can. On Day 1, I was a hot mess (or where my blog title comes from: A Beautiful Wreck) who had let the world run her over. Today, one year later, I find myself unafraid to tackle new challenges (rock climbing, what?!), embracing of my strength and power (YEP. I did just run with that sandbag!) and eager to find out what comes next. What happens in Spartan Shape-Up, Year 2.0? BIG THINGS. BIIIIIIG THINGS. 
Don't be afraid to try, BlogLand. That's where it all starts. No matter if you're 700 pounds or 300 pounds, or 150 and unhappy with where you are in your life, make a decision. Decide to grab life by the horns and beat your goals into submission. If I can, you can. I'm nothing special - I'm not a natural athlete, I wasn't a sports star in high school, I didn't have access to immersive camps or expensive weight loss programs. You make do with what you have and you will find a way. "It's not going to be easy, but it WILL be worth it."

The other half of the reason I made that list is for me, BlogLand. I started this blog initially just as a record-keeping journal for me. The GT requested that I log my workouts so we could monitor my progression, but as I started to fill them in, in a spreadsheet, I felt like that just wasn't enough. About 4 weeks in I was feeling how much of an emotional/mental journey this was going to be and a spreadsheet of numbers just wasn't going to capture that. I could feel in my bones the life-changing potential that was happening here, and felt like recording it was going to be the only option; born was 

It has served another purpose however, which is the one I find it serving tonight: Motivation. A Marker of how far I've come. 

I won't lie, BlogLand, after 365 days, I do still love the process and the goals I'm chasing down, but it never gets easier. There is always more/harder work to be done, limitation lines that need to crossed, boundaries that need to be stretched and finish lines that need to be chased down. It's WORK. Changing your life is WORK. And, like any other work, some days, you just don't want to. 

Those are the days when I come here, to BlogLand. I read my thoughts from months ago, see what triumph I'd taken in a seemingly small victory (the day I ran a full 30 minutes, for example), and re-energize my motivation and determination. I remember the "Old Me" and the reason I began this all in the first place and why I've kept it up for an entire year.

The greatest advice I can give to any of you on a similar journey is to record your progress. Whether it's writing it in a blog, taking regular pictures, or scrap booking your race bibs, do it. You will hit rough spots, and you will thank me. Personally, I've been having a little difficulty getting back into my regular, super consistent workout schedule, since I had to take all that forced time off for my knee issue. However, telling you all about the whirlwind year I've head, has refocused my brain on what this is all about. It has reminded me all the things I learned at the finish line, when I completed my first Spartan Race.

I'm still discovering who I am and what I'm capable of, but BlogLand, it's the best present I've ever given myself. With that, I must include a recent picture that I just adore, from the recent PA Spartan Sprint.
This picture was taken at the top of a brutal black-diamond ski slope (that we'd hiked from the bottom), with a great new-friend with an unparallelled positive attitude that I've met through the Spartan Race community (Hi Sam!), about halfway through the race 5 mile course:

Here's what I see in this picture, 1 year after beginning my quest to Spartan Up: I see a Spartan Chick. My Inner Fat Chick has pretty much gotten the picture that she needs to take a hike and is no longer welcome cluttering up my brain space, because THIS picture is the reality that I'm embracing. I'm never going to be a small person, but hey, I'll be damned if I'm not going to be the best, fittest version of me that I can be. In this picture I'm sweaty, hot, wet, covered in mud with a giant hill still to conquer in front of me.... but I'm smiling. Really, for real smiling and happy to be tackling that challenge. I'm hanging with some like minded people that keep me on the right road with a positive attitude, even when the couch looks tempting,.......and I'm lovin' Life.

What more could you ask for?

Happy One Year Spartan Shape-Up Anniversary to Me!

Before I conclude, I could not possibly celebrate this milestone without a special nod to the Guru Trainer (GT) who has orchestrated this all. From Day 1 he's handed me well-constructed training plans that would allow me to succeed but still push my physical and mental limitations. He's answered every "...but WHY?" question thoroughly, with patience and well-researched answers, talked me down off every training problem freak-out, adapted The Plan at a moments notice to accommodate my latest whim, race addition or schedule change, and kept believing - with rock solid certainty - that I could do more, even when I doubted.  Maybe more importantly, he's pushed me to do it and see for myself. BlogLand, find yourself a trainer and support system like Chris Irving... and never forget to remind them just how much they've helped change your world and your view of it. (Thank you. With Fiskars axes and homemade protein bars on top!)

.... having said that, my new plan for the next few weeks leading up to the Amesbury, MA Spartan race is looking a little rugged, thanks to that GT. Highlights include TWO sprint nights a week (one of longer sprints, one of shorter sprints), one regular run and a whole crazy lifting program that I don't have all the details of yet. OH MY (I better stock up on Tiger Balm...). Stay tuned......

This. is. Sparta!!!!!!!! AROOOO!


  1. WAY TO GO AJA!!!!!!! This is really cool to see. Something that you might not realize is that there will be people in your life that will never know the old you. I have only ever known you as the awesome person that you are today! Great Work!


  2. Aroo, Aroo, Aroo! Keep on keepin on! I love reading your blog! I am sure I will be reading this particular one a few times! You should feel so proud and accomplished!

  3. You are a rockstar! :D

    Welcome to Year 2.0