Saturday, January 1, 2011

More than I ever imagined

I cannot believe a year has passed since I started my Forty for 40 challenge; 365 days (well, 366 if we're getting technical) since I sat down and announced to the world that I was going to embrace the big Four-O as the beginning of the rest of my life, rather than the beginning of the end.

I'm finding it fascinating to look back at my list and see what my almost-40-year-old self imagined would be significant. I put a lot of thought into that original list--things I thought would make me feel like a fulfilled, accomplished adult. Things that would challenge me, push me, make my life more well-rounded. And they have...just not in the ways I imagined (which, I suppose, is part of the point.)

When I made the original list, I was a little too consumed with tying in the number 40 wherever possible. Logical? Sure...but focusing on quantifying everything made it all about the numbers, not the actions themselves. How could I have foreseen that some of the most "insignificant" items on my list--the ones that were more afterthoughts than true personal challenges--would become the most life-changing?

A year ago, it would really have bothered me that I didn't accomplish all 40 things on my list...but today, I understand that I found what I was really looking for, even though I never wrote it down: a feeling of belonging, a sense of community, the courage to be more open with my life and feel like I'm being heard. A feeling of true self-confidence--not just a brave face I put on so no one would understand how unsure of myself I often felt. An appreciation for the people in my life--those who've been here for years, those whom I've just met this year but are destined to be with me for the rest of our lives, and those who have passed through my life for a brief time but left a lasting impact.

In reality, I would say I did about half the things I wrote down on my list...and you know what, I'm thrilled by that. It means I didn't waste valuable time doing things that I wasn't really interested in just to prove a point. The thing is, nobody knows or cares (I guess you know now because I just told you, but you get the idea). Does anyone out there think less of me because I didn't read 40 books the BBC has decided all English-speaking humans should read? Frankly, some of those books are downright boring (believe me, I tried reading them...until I realized I could be doing something I actually enjoyed--like starting a knitting group at my church to knit hats for Wayside clients, or just reading books I actually liked!) Seems like a no-brainier, I know...but for me, who's always been driven by the fear of letting people down, being able to say "screw the list---I'm doing what I want!" was freedom. So much more valuable in the greater scheme than reading the last 150 pages of Correlli's Mandolin!

In a separate post, I'll share my most memorable moments of the year--the takeaways that have made 2010 the best year of my life. I'm glad so many of you followed along this crazy journey with me, and especially grateful to those who gave me an extra dose of motivation when I needed it, as well as to those who told me I'd inspired them in some way. I'm so humbled and moved by your love and support.

For those who've asked what's next, I've made three resolutions for the new year:
1) To begin and end each day with a sense of gratitude and wonder.
2) To intentionally do something kind/caring for at least one person each day.
3) To do something each day to be kind/caring to myself.

Happy new year, friends! May your new year be overflowing with joy, love and laughter.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Home sweet home

I'm 37,000 feetbover Albuquerque, New Mexico as I write this (yes, I splurged on in-air Wi-Fi...I am not getting home for about 9 hours!). What a wonderful, exhausting, enlightening two weeks it's been since I left Portland two weeks ago. I understand fall has arrived at home, which seems fitting, as I prepare to shed my old habits and fears like so many autumn leaves swirling to the ground. My Biggest Loser experience seems, in some ways, like it happened months--rather than days--ago, though I am anxious to go home and put the lessons I learned at Fitness Ridge to work in my everyday life. I wasn't completely reckless this past week but I cant say I was counting calories too closely either (sorry, but I was not going to pads up my first chance to have authentic Mexican food while in Arizona! Totally worth the splurge).

I think the trick for me, to achieve lasting change, will be finding balance. Paying attention to what and how much I eat without becoming fanatical. Making exercise priority, not an obsession. Taking time to relax, recharge, and rejuvenate on a regular basis.

I appreciate everyone who's come along on this journey with me in spirit. I have felt your thoughts, prayers and cheers every step of the way, and knowing you will continue to be there to support me makes all the difference.

Cheers from high above Texas! xox

Monday, September 13, 2010

The journey really begins NOW

I cannot believe it's been just over 24 hours since I left Fitness Ridge with tears of joy in my eyes after surpassing my wildest dreams and losing 11 lbs and 4 inches (including 1.5 inches from my waist alone!) in one short week. I was so proud, so overwhelmed to see that my very hard work paid off, and gave me the jumpstart I need to reach my healthy life goals.

Of course, the real work begins now. During "graduation" Saturday night, all of us who were leaving Sunday received a tee shirt that says, "I survived The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge!" What I need is to be able to say, "I survived being on my own without a chef and personal trainer to keep me on track daily." That said, I have a plan and I will work very hard to put the lessons I learned to work in my "normal" life without letting them take over my life. So far, so good. It helps to know I have so many cheerleaders out there urging me on. It really does.

Now that Fitness Ridge is behind me (for now...don't be surprised if I go back next year for another week...I loved it that much!) I am settling into the rest of my vacation. Yesterday I drove to the Grand Canyon, a place I had always wanted to visit. The drive itself was spectacular (I even saw a herd of buffalo!) and the truly took my breath away. I don't even have words to describe how amazing it is (and if you've been reading my blog, you know I can usually ramble on about anything : ) If you've been to the Grand Canyon, you already understand. I felt very close to God, especially this morning when I was up to watch the sunrise and the paths were not yet filled with people yapping on their cell phones (those who could get service, that is)...hard not to feel the presence of a higher power when surrounded by something so astonishing, so beautiful.

As if that experience weren't enough, on a whim I decided to change my plans slightly and instead of staying at the North Rim another night, I drove to Zion National Park, which was just as mind-blowing. The pictures I took will never measure up to the splendor of the real thing, but they will help me remember how lucky I am to have had this wonderful experience.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Out of the Nest

I can't believe how quickly my week at Fitness Ridge has flown by. True, there were moments where I thought it would never end, but I'm preparing to depart tomorrow with mixed feelings. Sadness that I'm leaving this beautiful place and all the wonderful people I've just started to get to know in this short time. Excitement to enjoy the rest of my vacation without 7 hours of exercise every day. Pride in seeing how far I've come in a week, regardless of the numbers on the scale tomorrow morning when I test out. And confidence that I have learned what I need to learn, and that I have the drive and motivation to use the tools from Fitness Ridge to live a healthier life.

Tonight was Graduation, where they showed a DVD of everyone during the week (which I have a copy of and can't wait to share with my family and friends). And, everyone who wanted tonhad a chance ton stand up and share thrill thoughts on their time here. I was so inspired, and reminded again how happy I am to have had this experience. It's been one of the hardest but best weeks of my life, and I will not waste the lessons I learned.

By the way, if anyone has been toying with the idea of coming here after reading my posts, you should call soon..there's an 8 month waiting list to get in! (They require a $200 deposit to reserve a place). And be sure to mention my name--you'll get $100 off your stay (and so will I if I decide to come back!)

Thank you so much to each and every one of you who has sent an encouraging word over the past week. Your thoughts and prayers have kept me smiling.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Stop Means Go

This morning I discovered just how much I've gotten out of this week. My group's Friday morning hike was the infamous "Stop Sign"--a hike I've been hearing about ever since I arrived at Fitness Ridge. It doesn't involve climbing up ravines or trudging throguh miles of sand, or scaling sandstone fact, the route is completely paved. It's not the toughest hike offered at Fitness Ridge, from what I've heard.

What makes Stop Sign different from all the other hikes is that it's 4.2 miles that start out as rolling hills and end with a huge vertical climb for the last mile...the road doesn't flatten out again until you reach the very, very end. Stop Sign is also different because the guides drop us off, and send us on our way (this is so they can drive the resort vans up and down the mountain to check on us and, if needed, give struggling bikers a ride.

Stop Sign has a time limit. You have to reach the top by 10:00 or so (our drop off at the bottom was 8:15) so the vans can get everyone back in time for the next class. Those who really want to push themselves can try to get back to the bottom before 10:30. In my group (the slow group : ) we all just wanted to get to the top.

The first mile and a half of the hike was exhilirating. I got into my stride and found a pace that was steady and sustainable but also fast enough to get my heart rate going. I felt great! And then, the hills started. Not the little dips and curves of the start of the trail. I'm talking steep, glutes-on-fire hills that forced me to catch my breath several times. But I kept on, passing the 2 mile marker (which seemed a lot further away than the previous markers!) 2.5 miles seemed like it would never come. The hill got steeper, and the fire in my quads burned hotter. I cranked up the volume on my iPod to try to drown out the self-doubt that was starting to creep in. Could I really do this after all? Wasn't this meant for people who are in better shape than me? How am I ever going to make it to the top.

And that is the real secret of Stop Sign. It's as much a mental challenge as a physical one. You're out there on your own, in the hot sun, looking at nothing but the incredibly steep incline of pavement under your feet, wondering how in the world you're going to make it.

That's how it was to me, until I started remebering the words of Nicole, one of our amazing trainers, during yesterday's treading class. "It's ok to be uncomfortable...that means you're not holding anything back." And,"Imagine the people you love are waiting at the finish line. Are you going to quit, or are you going to sprint to the end and make them proud? When you picture the people there cheering for you, are YOU one of them?"

I was in pain, hot and tired with a mile of hill to go, and as I played Nicole's words over and over in my mind, and realized not only COULD I do this, I WOULD do it, and finish strong. I stepped up my pace and stopped thinking about the pain. I started saying out loud, "I'm worth it! I am strong. I can do this!" I'm not going to lie--it was so hard. So painful. But all of that melted away when I saw the roof of the guard shack that marked the end of the road. I had made it!

Today was one of the hardest single physical challenges I have ever undertaken. Finding the strength inside myself to push through the self doubt and pain was the perfect culmination to my experience here. It reminded me that I needed to be here, and I'm ready ton leave the nest, so to speak. Of all my amazing experiences at the Biggest Loser Resort, I think Stop Sign is the one I'll conjure up when I need to be reminded that I can do ANYTHING I set my mind to.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I cannot believe Thursday is almost over already. This week has gone so fast, even though there are certainly times during the day that we all pray and beg for it to be over with. Being here is as much a mental challenge as a physical one.In fact, we are told several times at the beginning of the week that nearly everyone who comes here has at least one moment when they cry uncontrollably.

Mine happened today during a mandatory class everyone dreads--Treading. Treading is a class saved for Thursday because if it happened Monday, everyone would want to go home.

What is Treading? It'S a 45 minute cardio class where, after a 5 minute warmup on the equipment of your choice, you do 5 minutes at the absolute max you can muster while the trainer tells you she's pretty sure you've got a little more in you. Then you get 5 minutes of active recovery (still moving, but slowly), and then you kick it up for 4 minutes at your absolute max, 4 minutes recovery, 3 min max/3 min recovery, and so on, until you end with two one minute sprints at your absolute top level of effort. I chose the elliptical machine because it's hard for me. I can do a few minutes in my Y classes, but I rarely choose it if I'm at the gym. I certainly have never done 45 minutes on one at once,a and I don't think I've ever gone past Level 8 of resistance in my life. Today, I listened to Nicole, an incredible trainer here (for Biggest Loser fans, Nicole reminds me so much of Jillian except she doesn't scream). As she told us to believe in ourselves and see what our bodies can really do when we stop telling ourselves we can't, I pushed myself so far past what I thought I was capable of--and certainly didn't know if I could sustain for the whole interval. I got to Level 19 on this machine that has been my nemesis...and I was completely overcome with emotion. I did something that felt impossible, and it made me believe I can come home and make this all work. It was the most incredible feeling. I am so proud of myself.

My other breakthrough of the week is that I finally feel like I know what it feels like to be hungry, and full. I have left food on my plate at almost every meal...and they're only feeding us 1200 calories a day. I feel confident that I have the tools I need to come home and live a healthy life, and the mental fortitude to stick to my plan and reach my goals.

I may not come home looking much different (there is only so much weight a person can lose in one week) but inside, I am completely transformed.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Terrible Tuesday

Ever since I arrived at the Biggest Loser Resort I've been warned about "Terrible Tuesday." Monday is hard, but you run on adrenaline and somehow manage to think you had a good time. Tuesday hurts. Bad. You are reeling from muscles screaming in pain, even as you hurl yourself out of bed at 5:30 am to go to your mandatory 6 AM workout class...and 6 more hours of workouts after that.

So, I was feeling pretty smug when I woke up this morning in NO pain (thanks to my friend ibuprofen or, as the trainers here call it, "Vitamin I"). Feeling even better about myself when I was at the front of my hike group for most of the 8 am hike. No Terrible Tuesday for this gal...Tuesday is terrific!

And then, it started to go downhill. After 2 hours of hiking, a cardio class in the pool (did you know you can sweat in a pool?!), lunch, I met my match in Cardio Intervals...basically, 45 minutes of hell on the machine of your choice (this is like asking me if I want to be shot, stabbed or poisoned). That class was amazing, but it broke me. I felt completely spent, depleted, exhausted. But, lucky me, I had two more classes after that, neither of which was anwalk in the park. I wanted to curl up in a ball and die for about 15 minutes...we're only eating 1200 calories a day, but I can tell you that if I was not required to attend a lecture afterward, I would have skipped dinner and gone straight to bed. Yep, it's called Terriblr Tuesday for a very good reason!

And yet, I love it..even the feeling of working so hard throwing up would be a welcome relief. I love pushing my body way past what I imagined it was capable of, and I love the feeling I get when the workout is over. It's such a gift to be here, even for a week. I know My life will be forever changed after this experience.

And hey--tomorrow is Wonderful Wednesday (wonderful because I have a massage scheduled at the end of the day!)

Thank you all for your wonderful, supportive comments. I feel so lucky to have such a big groupnof cheerleaders rooting for me!