Sunday, September 29, 2013

Things No One Warns You About

Most of us realize that some of the amazing perks of our early years fade as we enter adulthood.  One such benefit that comes to mind (other than naps) is being able to eat copious amount of unhealthy food without any impact to your waistline.  Unfortunately, as the responsibilities of full-time employment, college, and other grown-up activities find us, there is potential to pack on some serious poundage.  Most likely, if you don’t modify food intake or step-up activity levels, you may be saying goodbye to that tight little teenage body you didn’t realize you should have appreciated so much more all those years.

That possibility was looming over my head like an ACME anvil, when I first moved to San Diego in the summer of 2001, and I was very mindful that it was feasible I would need to revamp my approach to exercise as I started this next chapter of my life (um hello, food is never negotiable.  It has to be the exercise piece for me).

I can see myself as being a very impulsive person.  If left unchecked, I have the propensity to jump head-first into things that I have very limited information about.  This was never more apparent to me then during my first summer in San Diego.  I was in full-on broke college student mode (you know, when your shopping cart has nothing in it other than Cup-O-Noodles, Mac & Cheese, and damaged discounted canned goods).  I hadn’t found (or looked) for a job, and really hadn’t made any friends yet, so logically I was spending my afternoons feverishly working on my tan.  I had heard the best job-hunting time was between 8:00-11:00am and/or 4:00 – 7:00pm anyway, so it was a no brainer.  My daily routine was quickly established as rotating between the apartment pool and the nearby beach.  When the sun would get too hot for my native NW skin (you can’t rush these things…slow cooking leaves the meat far more succulent), I would retreat to my tiny 600 sq. ft. apartment for a Cup-O-Noodle and to watch either an episode of Gilmore Girls, Friends, or 7th Heaven.  This was a glorious 6-week season in my life… unemployed, tanner than a pint of Guinness, and watching mediocre reruns midday.  My biggest stress was finding enough change to buy tanning oil and patches for my Dollar Store pool floatie that would constantly spring a leak.

One afternoon during my daytime TV sun break, I watched an infomercial for a product called the Abtronic.  You can read about the Abtronic online if you want, but let me summarize for you: It is a belt you strap around your waist that basically electrocutes your Abs. The idea is that the electric current contracts your abdominal muscles and is equivalent to doing sit-ups.  The big selling point was you could wear it under your clothes at work, in class, or even as you did house work, and it would be like you were doing sit-ups all day long. BRILLIANT! Thoughts of my future Sports Illustrated worthy bronze abs were already dancing through my Mac & Cheese brain!  This is just what I needed to combat the results of the processed food, schoolwork, and job I would soon have.  I don’t know if it was the sun, or my ridiculously high IQ being dumbed-down by the sheer proximity to SoCal girls, or perhaps it is what happens when loneliness and boredom are allowed to go unchecked for too many weeks in a row.   Regardless, my broke ass decided that I must immediately order this overpriced item.  After all, once I found a job I’d be back to eating 5 hearty meals per day and could totally pay my “emergencies only” credit card back for this purchase.   

When my beloved Abtronic arrived, I knew it was a piece of crap instantly.  Not wanting to admit too quickly that I was a complete fool, I used it anyway.   Multiple 2nd degree burns to my abdomen later, and one what-I-swear-to-this-day was “the cheapest abortion since the coat hanger” (and the most unintentional), I realized my impulsive nature needed to be addressed right then and there.  Side note: Please ponder the physical symptoms I experienced that would have caused me to think I had a WalMart style abortion.

Over 12 years have come and gone since the infamous Abtronic catastrophe of 2001, and I feel confident that my endeavors for rock hard abs are far more respectable.  Not that I have actually arrived at “respectable” or “rock hard abs” but I am definitely to a point of proactively participating in my fitness rather than just relying on AA batteries and an infomercial gimmick.

So here I am today, having crossed the sacred threshold into my 30s with the dream of a perfect teenage body & metabolism as distant memory, and I am forced to actually find real tools to help me avoid becoming a blimp.  Recently, I was duped into joining CrossFit.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I struggle at CrossFit.  Not just because I’m physically weak, which I am, but because I am painfully uncoordinated.

CrossFit is different in the sense that you can’t be half-assed about it, and unfortunately for me, half-assed just so happens to be my modus operandi for all things exercise.  The entire structure of the class forces you to be accountable and perform at a level beyond your capacity.  I can’t decide if I think it’s complete bull-shit or completely brilliant.  Now, a couple months into my CrossFit experience, and still retaining my status as the “weakest link” in all of CrossFit history, I am actually starting to move beyond half-assed.

Signing up in the first place may have been a relapse of impulsive Rachelle from the Abtronic era, but it is proving to require far more commitment.   Sure at the average 6:00am class I still show up with wine stains on my lips from the night before, and once I even had my pants on inside out because I woke up late and ran out the door in a hurry.   But that’s hardly relevant. I am showing up more consistently and I am getting through the workouts without contemplating pulling the fire alarm.  This might be because I haven’t located the fire alarm trigger, but I’d like to think it is because I’m improving and that I really do want to stay the course and push myself beyond my ability.

Perhaps impulsiveness was my saving grace in this instance, because had I known some of things I would go through due to CrossFit, I probably would have never shown up on day one.  I’m not even talking about the fact that I have swallowed my own puke three times now, or that my hands could easily pass for belonging to a lumberjack or gymnast because of the calluses- that stuff is superficial child’s play.  I can deal with barf and man-hands.   But I’m referring to the things that no one warns you about, the things that weed out an impulsive Abtronic-style participant from the committed-to-the-cause participant.

Example: One morning last week, as part of the daily workout (I refuse to use the acronym WOD) we had to do 100 burpees and 100 kettlebell swings with a time cap.  Now keep in mind, I am usually tired by the time we finish the warm up. Needless to say, that night I was hurting. My shoulders were burning, and my arms and upper body were sore and tight.

When your muscles are sore you find yourself compensating or modifying your regular movements for even the most basic life functions.   Now let me pause here.  I have pondered if I should even share this moment of my life with the general public and/or the two people who actually read my blog (Hi mom! Hi Grandma!) because even typing it out makes me shudder.  But let’s be real, there are just certain things we ALL do, and being raised with three brothers I am not one to shy away from potty talk when the story is good enough.  Having said that, I will tone it down a bit and spare you the graphic detail a lucky few received (you’re welcome).

Being as sore as I was, I decided to treat my aching body to a nice soak in the bathtub.   I poured myself a glass of wine as the water was running, made sure my docking station was in the bathroom so I could listen to some tunes, and was looking forward to winding down after a long day.  I kicked my clothes off and decided I should probably make a quick flyby the “loo” before submerging into my lavender water oasis.  Here enters a little CrossFit repercussion no one bothered to mention to me.  The basic act of going to the bathroom turns into a challenge.   I mean just sitting down on the toilet and standing back up is no picnic when you’re sore, but having to follow-up with the whole toilet paper portion when your arms and shoulders are throbbing is ridiculously painful (guys you’re lucky you get to the dodge the bullet on this one most of the time).   I was not about to let a little toilet trouble keep me from my steaming hot bath, I needed to suck it up or I would be soaking in tepid water – not acceptable. So I did what any resourceful woman or athlete would do, I “modified” the “exercise.”  Done & done.  With a measure of pride, after successfully completing the full toilet experience, I quickly stood up.  As I popped up, I shook my head to get my hair out of my face. Pre-bath or not, I’m not about to touch my hair or face before washing my hands- Gross!  As my hair whipped around, I felt something wet touch both my back and my boob simultaneously. Hmmmm.  Now that’s interesting I thought to myself.  Where did this liquid come from?  I looked down and in horror realized that the bottom two inches of my hair were actually quite wet. Apparently in my creative way of practicing impeccable hygiene while being CrossFit sore, I had bent to a point where my hair was actually touching… yes, the toilet water.  “How is this even possible?”  “I don’t think my hair is even that long.”  “I don’t think I’m that flexible”  “Holy hell I think I’m going to vomit.”  These thoughts, among others, were all racing through my mind. As I struggled under the weight of the moment, I remember wondering if I did puke, would this count as #4 on my CrossFit vomit chart?
Words of wisdom from a true friend

Of course there was no way I could possibly enjoy my bath now.   That would be like taking a few extra laps around a toilet water pool.  I unplugged the drain, and turned on the shower and proceeded to wash my hair until I ran out of shampoo – 4x in case anyone was wondering.

While I think it would have been a courteous gesture for the staff at CrossFit to warn me that their workouts could lead to my vulnerable and naked body being doused with “used” toilet water, It’s probably best they didn’t… as I may have passed on the CrossFit experience all together.

Perhaps the combination of no warning labels and impulsiveness are the only way to get things done sometimes. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sleeping Arrangements

No one likes having their sleep disturbed, count me in this group.  Granted, a few super humans are somehow able to function with erratic sleep patterns or very little sleep; I however am not one of them.   My personality tends to be rather cantankerous and mischievous in ideal circumstances, throwing the delicate balance off with sleep deprivation is never a good thing.   

So here I am, wide awake, staring at a clock that reads 3:08am, but slightly hesitant to allow myself to fall back asleep.   This is because about 15 minutes ago I woke up after having a vividly dark nightmare about someone trying to kill me.   Yes, I’m sure Jung, Freud, and a handful of others could dissect the graphic details of this dream and explain in no uncertain terms why I am slightly crazy.   But I already know this about myself, so I don’t see how that will be helpful in the current moment.   I’m mostly worried about returning to a place of peace, so I can return to restful sleep. 
When the uncommon nightmare predicament presents itself, I typically have three trusty go-to strategies that I can faithfully rely on.
1) Praying or talking it out with myself or with Riley.   Who by the way is also upset that his sleep has been interrupted (oh I can just imagine how disheveled his fur will look come sun-up).  Something about my racing heart and sweat drenched body (fear sweats are the worst) has made Riley slightly resentful of my requirement for him to cuddle with me right now.  Annoyed puppy aside, I have found that identifying the thoughts and addressing them by name can aid in putting things back into perspective.  
2) Watch a comedy.   Countless nights have I shaken off haunting thoughts with How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Friends reruns, How I Met Your Mother, or various other lighthearted entertainment. 
3) Lullabies.   No, I don’t call my mom and ask her to sing to me.  Although I’m quite confident that she would come over with her guitar and bust out Peter, Paul, and Mary in a heartbeat if the situation required.  Hhhmm…this has me thinking, would I request “Blowin’ in the Wind” or “Puff, The Magic Dragon?”  However, I am actually referring to a playlist, entitled “Lullabies” that I created containing songs that at one time or another I deemed as comforting or soothing.  So at this unholy hour, I grab my phone, select Lullabies from the list, and hit “shuffle.”  The song that plays first is an old one, but does the trick… “In open fields of wild flowers, she breathes the air and flies away…”  Thank you Jars of Clay.

As I sit here, I think of how over the past two weeks my sleep has been interfered with time and again.  I begin to wonder how things went awry, and if unknowingly I have somehow been set on a course of increasingly sleepless nights.

It all started two weeks ago, at the very beginning of a flight from the West Coast to London when the woman in the seat next to me dropped an entire cup of coffee in my lap as she was taking it from the flight attendant.   This would have been

unpleasant in any circumstance, but it was made especially awful because I still had almost 10 hours of flight time before I had hopes of reuniting with my checked back and a change of clothes.   Normally, sleeping on a plane is no trouble for me.  In fact, I have actually slept from takeoff to touchdown on those long flights before.   However, being forced to sit there with a hot wet crotch (no, that is not supposed to be sexual- get your mind out of the gutter! sheesh!) would prove to make sleep hard to come by on this particular flight.

I eventually arrived in London, and quickly made my way to the Piccadilly Line and headed to Cambridge where I would be meeting up with my brother.   Being the all-star procrastinator and poor planner that I am, I had not booked a hotel room for the first night.   My brother was speaking at a conference, and had been provided lodging in the dorms on campus.   But this wasn’t an option for me, so I was supposed to find a place for my first night.   Apparently Cambridge is a popular weekend destination (who da thunk?), and there were no hotels, no hostels, and no guesthouses available.   Now I know the Brits have a slew of anti-homelessness measures, including a recent No Second Night Out pilot program created in 2011 by one of their many ministries.   To be honest, I was just worried about my first night being “out.”  Although, by this point, quite frankly, I would have been fine to sleep in a stairwell or under a bridge.  That’s how exhausted I was after my travels.   After my brother and I evaluated our options (or lack thereof), we decided that I really didn’t have any other choice but for me to crash in his dorm room (flashback to UW circa the late 90s).  I was convinced I would have no problem sleeping across a table/desk in the room, but sheepishly this brilliant idea lasted all of 30 seconds.   My brother then graciously threw some blankets and pillows on the floor and laid down on the cold tile so his little sister could sleep in the bed.   Feeling guilty about a conference speaker having to sleep on the tile floor, I suggested we try to share the bed.   So there we were back-to-back with a pillow separating us, on a twin bed, both vowing we’d never speak of the incident (oops). 

The next night, as luck would have it, quality sleep proved to be elusive as well.   We had a full day and traveled for several hours, and were staying in a dorm style hostel.  I woke up around 3:30am to the most obnoxious snoring I have ever heard in my life.   I kid you not, the snoring sounded like a cross between a garbage disposal and nasally pig with its head in a trough amplified for a stadium crowd.  After lying awake enduring this fate for hours on end, I was teetering on the verge of violence.   I actually had my shoe in my hand and was seriously considering huffing it at his face while seething with anger.   My only consolation, and that fat bastard’s only saving grace was the fact that the sounds coming from him were not those of a healthy man, and compassionately I reasoned that chances are his insalubrious lifestyle would catch up with him, and he wouldn’t continue to afflict the masses with sleeplessness for much longer.   I had to refer back to my nightmare tool kit here as well…
1) Prayer – Dear God please don’t let me do anything to this sweaty slug that could get me thrown in prison. 
2) Comedy – getting my iPhone out and taking his picture and recording the sound of his snores. 
3) Lullabies – putting my headphones in and cranking up my music in a futile attempt to drown out the awful noises.  

Fortunately as the week went on, my accommodations improved and sans a few random incidents involving spiders and a naked stranger sleeping in our room by mistake (while touching himself awkwardly), my sleep quota began to return to normal.   (Stay tune for a future blog post- the tale of a naked vagabond defiling Mike’s bed)

Apparently, I can add blogging as option #4 to my nightmare recovery plan, as it is now 3:47am, and I seem ready to go back to sleep.