Training Update: Here We Go, Again… Again

IMG_9267My neck is still a little twingey but we’ve agreed that if I keep traction-ing, icing, and PT-ing, I can get back to training.

My goal is to get my IronFat event done by the end of May for several reasons:

1. I want to do it before it gets too hot. Heat is my enemy. I would have preferred to do it in March but there’s no way I’ll be ready in time so I’ll hope for a cool day in May.

2. I may have a little speaking tour coming up in Portland in June and I’d like to have this behind me when I go so I don’t have to worry about training and such.

3. OMG am I so very ready to be done with this.

That said, based on all the unknowns,  I’m going to see how it goes before I set a final date.

We’re going to ease back into it a bit and then build the mileage that I need. I’ve been allowed to do things slow walking and light weight lifting and such, but nothing that might strain or irritate my neck – every time I tried it set my rehab back. So I haven’t been really training since September.

Today was a short walk (Short as in, it may have taken my GPS watch – nickname: Old Unreliable –  longer to find the satellites than it took me to complete this walk.) Good news – my neck feels fine. Bad news – to say that I am out of shape would be vastly understating it. Getting from where I am today to where I  need to be to complete the event in May is going to be a challenge.

I may have told you this before, but my iPod is…kind of psychic. It almost always knows the right thing to play at the right time. So I pulled up my Massive Workout Playlist (basically every song I’ve had on every playlist since I was training for my first  marathon.)

The first song that came on was Queen’s Under Pressure. Thanks for the reminder, iPod.

The song that it played for the last bit of the workout was Pink’s Just Like Fire. I realized that it’s the perfect song to make the theme for this last stage of my journey:

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Finding the Funny in Triathlon

After a stilted attempt in 2010, I’ve been wanting to try comedy for a while now. And the amazing woman of Fatch – The Fat Sketch Comedy Group let me be a guest on their (sold out!) show New Year, Same You at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade theater. I decided to use the opportunity to find the funny in being a fat athlete and a triathlete in general.

Here is my Comedy Coming Out, I hope you enjoy it! The first part is about the trials of being a fathlete, and then I talk about triathlon specifically.

If you want to be on the mailing list for my comedy stuff (of which, hopefully, there will be lots more) you can click here! If you want all the background to this performance, you can find it here!

Thank you so much to Nikki Bailey for a tremendous amount of help and advice about comedy, Kathy Deitch for plucking me from a little panel discussion to be on her show and all the support since, to the women of Fatch, Rodney their director, his husband James, and Cara and DJ who were all really kind and supportive, to Julianne who did a ton of work to coordinate our friends (and listened to my set, like, a lot of times,) and to everyone who came and laughed! This was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to do it again!

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4 Things You Should Never Say To A Fat Person At The Gym

Shhhhhhh!It’s New Years, which means tons of people joining (or going back) to the gym. Of course, fitness, by any definition, is never an obligation or barometer of worthiness (running a marathon and watching a Netflix marathon are morally equivalent activitiest!) But there’s nothing wrong with people choosing to go to the gym. Unfortunately for fat people, it can also mean people sharing their thoughts (and I use the term loosely) about us and our workouts.

 

In addition to the fact that people of all sizes just want to be left TF alone when we’re at the gym, there’s the issue that people choose to visit their stereotypes on fat people who are just trying to work out. Below is a list of some of the things you should never, ever say to a fat person at the gym:

“Good for you for starting a workout program!”

You don’t know anything about this person’s workout history. If you’re assuming they are starting a workout program because they are fat, you’re operating from weight bias. If you are assuming they are starting a workout program because you’ve never seen them before, you’re operating out of idiocy. You don’t know if that person has been working out at another gym before this or, for that matter, if they are starting a workout “program” or just here for a one-off workout, if they are a beginner because they’re switching activities as part of a lifetime of fitness activities. You don’t know, so don’t guess, and certainly resist the urge to turn your guesses into speech.

“Keep going and you’re going to lose that weight!”

I mean…just…ugh. Don’t do this. You have no way of knowing if weight loss is even a goal of the person you’re talking to (and, regardless, they can’t be expected to lose weight long-term regardless since almost everyone who attempts weight loss loses weight short term but gains it all back longterm.) Basically, you’re saying “Hi stranger, I want you to know that I think your body is wrong, but believe that with continued attendance at the gym you’ll become more of what I think you should be.” Just don’t.

I’ve seen you here a lot, you’re doing great

Ok Creepy McCreeperson, take two steps back. Maybe instead of monitoring other people’s gym attendance (and then making sure they know you are doing it,) you just focus on your own workout, ok pumpkin?

You won’t lose weight doing that!

I have heard this while doing cardio, strength building, and flexibility work. So good news, people understand that weight loss is highly unlikely. Bad news, I was never trying to lose weight, nor was I soliciting the opinions of randos at the gym. So annoying.

Don’t say these things, don’t say anything that is these-things-adjacent.

Before I wrap this up, I want to address the inevitable objections:

But some people might be helped by my seriously questionable behavior!

Maybe, but the potential for harm overrides any potential for helping. Also, you’re not the fat person whisperer, and there’s no “encouraged a fatty” merit badge to be earned, so pipe down and return to your own workout.

But surely there are exceptions to this rule!

There absolutely are. If someone says “please make assumptions about my workout history, assume that I’m trying to lose weight, monitor my presence at the gym, and give me unsolicited workout advice” then knock yourself out. Otherwise, it’s a no.

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“Be Glad You Didn’t Race” and Other Reflections at the Beginning of Another Year of Triathlon Training

Monday Recap

My coach texted me on his way back from IRONMAN Arizona (where he had a bunch of athletes racing) to joke with me – “Be glad you didn’t race” because the water was freezing and there was rain in the days preceding the race and, charmingly, the rain causes the cacti to eject their needles. Onto the road. Where the bikes go.

Apparently, there were so many flat tires that the Support and Gear folks were actually running low on tubes (again, triathlon is a sport that puts you in the elements in very real ways.) Of course I’m not really glad that I didn’t race (though that sounds like a big bag of no fun at all) though I’ve made peace with my decision to move forward with my own Iron-distance event with the hope that the sixth year of what was originally a two-year plan will be the final year! 

My neck rehab is becoming increasingly more frustrating because the problem is now quite intermittent. It feels fine and I start to think that everything is ok, and then I lean on a table wrong and half my arm gets tingly, or I cough and pain shoots down my arm. My doctor and PT both say that this is normal (and it could be much worse) and I just need to be a little bit more patient, but I’m ready to be all the way better!

As I’m doing what I’m allowed to do – easy walking, weight lifting, etc. I’m struggling mentally. I know that I’m losing my fitness and that when I can get started with training again it’s going to be like starting over, all over again. That’s something that has happened several times over this process as injuries and family stuff have created big breaks in my training, and each time I find it more difficult to get psyched up to do it again. I also struggle to do the limited workouts that I can do because there’s a feeling of “what’s the point.” I know better, of course, but that doesn’t make it easier. 

That said, the fact that (once I’m training again) I get to schedule and plan for my event (instead of slogging out another entire year) makes me feel excited. One of the things that I’m promising myself in the new year is to have more fun with my activism and fitness. Whether that’s revamping songs to be body positive anthems, or finding ways to enjoy my triathlon journey (even if it means enjoying all the stuff around it like making playlists, designing my tattoo, planning the event etc. and just getting through the actual training.)

I’m also excited about this blog because I’ve made the decision to broaden the scope. I’ve gone through a bunch of iterations and ideas around what to do with this blog, I have trouble just writing about my training day in and day out because, even when I’m not on exercise restriction, it’s generally pretty boring. 

I also have a lot of things that I want to write about fitness, but I tend not to post about it on my original blog because, while it started to talk about my experiences as a fat dancer, it pretty quickly evolved to be more about fat social justice and weight stigma in general, and a lot of my regular readers now are, completely validly, not into fitness stuff – not to mention that, because of the fatphobia in the fitness world and the number of my readers who come from eating disorder community, some can be very triggered by it.

So I’m going to turn this into a blog that talks about my personal fitness journey and training, but also talks about the intersections between fitness, fatness, weight stigma, health etc. Right now I write about these things for publications like espnW and with my series for US News & World Report, and I’m grateful for the work (and the audience!) but I also kind of long for the additional flexibility that a blog provides. 

If there is something you’d like me to blog about, please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot or and I’ll see what I can do!

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the poem that my dog Bu and I came up with to celebrate the New Year:

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First Week Back In Training

My first week back was… a qualified success.

My first workout back was on the bike trainer. Besides having lost my strength and stamina it went fabulously! Oh, and I’ve lost what Coach Steve indelicately calls the “butt callouses.” Which is to say that the saddle (bike seat) hurts like a MF-er when you start but after a while it doesn’t bother you (or at least you can ride longer before it starts to hurt.) Soooooo…I’m back to the hurts like a MF-er stage.

My first walk went fine. I tried a new route which was fun, and I did the walk at night which was awesome (any workout that doesn’t not start with me slathering myself in goo is a good workout!) I was a bit tired at the end I briefly got frustrated with myself for being tired by a distance that I have literally considered a warm up in the past, but then I decided to take the advice that I give to other people which was to celebrate the victory of finishing the workout.

The swim is where it all went wrong, but we suspected it might. The act of turning my head while pushing down with my right hand causes my right arm to go number, and that’s not what you want. So it will be a little while longer before I can get back to swimming. I’m a little bummed because the only thing good thing about the ridiculous heat wave we are having is that it would have made an ocean swim much more pleasant.

Another walk (2 and a half minutes per mile faster than the first one this week. As Shangela would say, Halleloo!) two more bike trainer sessions, and some weight lifting rounded out this week. I’m happy to be back training, I’m feeling optimistic, and I’m excited to start next week and to get my bike off the trainer and onto the trail.

Halfway done, found some fancy lights!

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Starting Over. Yet Again.

My neck is way, way better. I’m still having little issues moments of pain, but no more pain shooting down my arms when I cough, and no more pins and needles across my back and down my arms if I don’t hold my head just right. So I have the go ahead to resume training.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that all this neck stuff started around the first of September. Now it’s the 8th of November and I’m frustrated. This has been the pattern. I start getting some momentum, something goes wrong, I feel like I’m starting entirely over, and I don’t have much to show for five years of hard work. (Honestly, it’s been the same with blogging about the process. I still don’t feel like I have a great sense of how to write about this when so much of it can be boiled down to “did a repetitive motion for a really long time, spent that time questioning my ability to make good life choices.”)

But I keep trying for both because I believe in that old saying… “four hundred and twelfth time’s the charm!” So here I am, feeling like I’m starting over. Again. What makes it different this time is that I’m not training for an official IM event, but for my own Iron-Distance triathlon. This is where (I hope!) the pros of that strategy will start paying off.

I predict that training without the pressure of time cut-offs is going to be life-changing when it comes to my morale. With the cut-offs looming over me, most of my workouts felt like, no matter how hard I worked it wasn’t enough. Looking down at my Garmin just to see that I wasn’t hitting the time goal (again…) was really tough to take (sometimes on a daily basis.) I think (hope!) that training to be able to complete the distance is going to be a whole different world.

I’m also happy that I’ll have some flexibility to workout at night. As I’ve been doing the little walks I’m allowed to do, I’ve been doing them at night and I’ve been reminded how much I love late night workouts. Just before I hung up with Coach Steve we talked about how, for the first time in a long time, I was excited to get on the computer to see my workouts for the week. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

For now, here’s a picture from my last little walk on exercise restriction. This place is part of a little complex where all the entrances look the same, except for this person who had their decorations all the way out and, even though I usually have a “no December holiday until after November” policy, I couldn’t help but take the picture!

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Jellyfish In The Swim And Other Triathlon Atrocities

While I’m on exercise restriction and have even less to talk about in terms of my workouts, I thought I’d let you in on some parts of triathlon that I didn’t understand at all when I signed on. One of those is the interaction between triathletes and nature.

Now, I’m on the record since forever as being indoorsy. I like the idea of nature, I like looking at it through a window, I even like limited, controlled, exposure. But I generally prefer an indoor, temperature- and lighting-controlled environment. Triathlon is decided not that.

I started thinking about this because I was reading race reports in various forums that I’m in about IRONMAN Maryland, which is known for having jellyfish in the swim portion. Seriously, actual living jellyfish.

In those race reports I read about people who went down to the water for the practice swim, but decided to skip it when they heard people already in the water screaming because of jellyfish stings. I read about people who knowingly broke the cardinal rule of racing (which is “nothing new on race day”) to wear sleeves they just bought in the hopes that they would cut down on the stings because, while they knew about the jellyfish (and still signed up for the race,) this year they were more plentiful and aggressive. Others nonchalantly talked about pouring vinegar on themselves in transition before they got on the bike. Oh yeah – remember, they swam 2.4 miles while being stung by jellyfish and that was just the prelude to biking 112 miles and running a marathon.

Having to wear a shit ton of spackle-esque sweat-proof make-up, and trying to appear as if I was not exerting myself at all while, in reality, working my ass off were definite cons of competitive ballroom dancing, but never once was I at risk for a jellyfish sting. Also, there was air conditioning, but that’s a discussion for another day.

When it comes to dealing with their surroundings, triathletes put up with a lot of, um…what’s the word I’m looking for here…bullshit, that’s it – bullshit. Shark bites, snake bikes, and other wildlife encounters. Running barefoot from wherever the swim happened to wherever their bike is (I have personally been at a pre-triathlon talk that included the words “be careful of the broken glass as you run through the parking lot to T1.”) For those who ride on the road (I confine myself to trails) there are the joys of biking over potholes and reflector bumps, and in and around traffic with plenty of drivers who resent them at best and aim for them at worst.

Then there’s the weather. Triathletes are like mail people…neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night, not to mention wind – wind that makes it feel like you’re swimming in front of an industrial fan, makes it seem like the entire bike ride is uphill, and like you’re pulling a parachute behind you on the run.

And that’s just standard “road” triathlons. They also have triathlons that involve mountain biking and trail running – it’s way too much for this indoorsy girl to even contemplate! As someone who is a bucket-list triathlete (as opposed to a lifer) I can only stand in awe of people who fling themselves at nature the way that triathletes do. Still, I’ll pass on the jellyfish encounter.

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