Today is the day. After months of hibernation, like Punxatawney Phil I poke my head out and announce summer is on its way. With Valentine’s Day gone and all the legitimate excuses to eat candy, cookies, and cupcakes behind me (at least until Easter), it’s time to shed my winter fat stores and get back into training. That MS 150 ride I mentioned? It’s four months away and, while summer may feel like a lifetime from today, swimsuit season will be here before I know it. I need to kick it into gear both figuratively and literally and place my couch-softened tush back onto my rock-hard bike seat.
After months of sitting on our couch or huddling under covers in bed trying to escape the cold, I have to admit I have let myself go. (I hate to be cold. Have I mentioned that yet?) I escape the cold of winter by hunkering down, sitting on my butt, and enjoying glasses of wine and ridiculous amounts of sugar. This behavior creates an inevitable weight gain that then fosters a total antipathy toward exercise because, well, why bother? I am comfy, cozy, and warm, and that is all that matters. I reason that the extra fat is insulation keeping me warm like whale blubber.
Then, one day it hits me…usually on a warm February day when I’m not disguised by seventeen layers of clothing. While preparing to shower, I catch a glimpse of myself au naturel in the mirror and officially freak out. I take a good, long look at what I have been hiding under the sweatpants and baggy sweaters. When I think I can’t stand it a minute more, I make myself look for one minute more. Later, just to be sure I have the message, I photograph my muffin top so I can refer to it the next time I think I want some ice cream. Then, I vow to stop being a sloth and get back to the gym or ride my bike.
Once dressed for the day, like a woman possessed, I earnestly tear apart the kitchen. I throw out chips, cookies, leftover restaurant take out, cans of frosting, and yes…even candy. Anything that might become a temptation must go. With a quick and decisive vengeance, I purge the cupboards, fridge, and pantry. I save a few things (for my kids’ sake), but I make a promise to myself not to ingest anything with sugar and to reduce greatly my white flour intake. And, true to my word, I don’t put so much as one lone goldfish cracker or one seemingly innocuous M&M into my mouth. The damage has been done and now it’s time to recover. Then, I go exercise. No excuses.
I don’t think it would be so easy for me to do this if years ago I hadn’t discovered Power Jus mode. I was in my mid 20’s and depressed. I was a college graduate living in a garden level apartment, working two jobs to pay my bills and still barely making ends meet. I had a pet hamster to keep me company. That should tell you how bad things had gotten in my life. Pa-the-tic. Then, one day I hit rock bottom; I decided I couldn’t stand myself anymore. Who WAS this woman? Whoever she was, she wasn’t me. At least she wasn’t the me I had dreamed I would become. It was time to change. From that point on, I would run my life rather than letting life run over me. With an invisible but indelible manifesto etched into my brain, within four month’s time I had secured a higher paying, more fulfilling job, moved away from the guy who was holding me back, and started exercising again. Power Jus mode whipped my life back into shape.
Ever since then, I’ve had Power Jus on reserve. Each time I activate her, it becomes easier to get back to my old self more quickly. Of course, none of this is to say that I am giving up wine completely or that I’ll not be sitting in bed with my laptop even once more through the rest of wretched winter. I’m just not going to do either of those things until after I’ve clipped into my bike pedals and done my time on the trainer. Like my own personal Jillian Michaels, Power Jus doesn’t tolerate excuses; and, trust me, she will kick my ass. After all, that bike ride gets closer each day, and it brings with it swimsuit season. It’s time to hit the road.
**Postscript: My very sweet friend informed me that my muffin top is actually more of a mini-muffin, so upon her request I hereby acknowledge that “muffin top” is a subjective term. I know others feel their muffin tops are more substantial than mine, but I can only speak to my own experience and this is muffin top to me.**
It’s cold here today and getting colder. The projected daytime high for tomorrow is a whopping -2 degrees before windchill. I know I’ve already written about how much I hate to be cold, but I can’t emphasize that fact enough. Oddly enough, though, when the weather gets like this it changes me. It freezes the apathy in my heart and suddenly I care more than usual about things I generally forget.
So today, as I sit in my heated home (wearing a cozy sweater and the Ugg boots that are so-hideous-I-cringe-as-I-put-them-on-but-so-comfy-and-warm-I-won’t-live-without them) and watch through insulated windows as the snow swirls and the outdoor temperature plummets, I can’t help but think of those who aren’t as fortunate as I am. On days like this when I’m such a baby that I whimper as I warm up my car and fire up its heavenly, heated leather seats, my mind turns to the multitude of homeless men and women I see on Denver’s streets each day. Denver, despite all its positive, noteworthy distinctions, also is in the top ten cities with the highest population of homeless individuals. Most days I manage to forget about the homeless. I tuck them neatly into the recesses of my mind so I don’t feel too uncomfortable about my cushy life. But, on days like today, I can’t stop thinking about them and hoping that they will find somewhere to be tonight so they don’t freeze to death.
It’s easy to become complacent about difficult things these days. There are so many of them (diseases, violence, natural disasters, political unrest, etc.), and they are constantly in the news. If we focused on the dark, scary things that come at us in this continual barrage of information, it would be hard to be positive, get out of bed each day, and live our lives. I have chosen to stop watching the news because I can’t deal with the negativity. I read it when I make the time. Otherwise, I often go about in happy oblivion because there is enough drama in my life without worrying about things out there that are out of my control but not outside my realm of concern.
A few years ago, however, I decided that I needed to do something to make a positive impact in a world. I wanted to gain some control over the negatives I hear about constantly, so I started doing athletic events that are fundraisers for charities. I know it’s not much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s infinitely better than inaction. In 2006, I did my first two-day, 40-mile Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I raised $1800. The following year, I did another 40-mile walk and raised $2200. In 2009 I raised $2500 walking 50 miles for MS. Last year, I did 150 miles on my bike for MS and raised another $500. This year I will do another MS 150 ride and I hope to double what I raised last year.
I wish I could say that these events, including the hours upon hours of training and fundraising, were labors of love. Truth is, though, that there was nothing laborious about them. I got nothing but good things from my investment. I was working towards fitness goals, and I achieved them all. I got to spend time with people I genuinely like while training and participating. I was overwhelmed by the support I got from family and friends, both through donations made and by the people who actually showed up to cheer me on. Through the events, I made new friends and met many inspiring people. And, I got to feel powerful for a few minutes, knowing that my effort was a contribution to something much bigger and far reaching than myself. In the past few years, MS has become my chosen cause because of the increasing number of people I know personally who suffer because of it. Anything I can do while healthy to help them in their fight is a blessing to me. It reminds me how lucky I am. I walk and ride because I know people who can’t, and I can’t live with that.
So, today as I sit here enjoying the view of the snow from my warm home, I remember how lucky I am. And, I try to think of ways I can make a difference for someone else. It warms my heart to know there are others out there tonight, working in shelters and on the streets to help someone who is homeless because they care. Find something you care about and do something about it. You might change someone else’s life, but I know without a doubt that you will change your own.