Archive for July, 2011

What It Takes

I was recently speaking to a man at my gym about training for an Ironman. He’d never done a triathlon, and was just learning to swim, but all his friends are doing Ironman Canada and he thought it would be fun to do with them. Having done my last IM with a big group of friends, I totally agree – it can be a lot of fun.

However. Now, ok, I hate it when people are discouraging about doing an Ironman. I really do think anyone who wants to train for can do it – I really do. But you have to want to train for it, and given that “training for it” can become an all encompassing life changing time suck, I think it’s really reasonable that people tend to NOT want to train for it.

(When people tell me they have done an Ironman, I do not think “Wow you must be an amazing athlete,” I think “Wow, you have prioritized triathlon pretty heavily in your life.”)

So anyway, I was kind of annoyed when gym dude started arguing with me regarding the amount of training that was needed to do the race. “But I have a family” he whined “I can’t get in six workouts a week plus crossfit.” Which, I mean: that’s fair. Most people can’t. But most people don’t do Ironman races, and hmm, that might be why.

I wanted to tell him to not even bother if he legitimately didn’t have the time. I wanted to tell him that the stress of trying to meet family and work commitments on top of training commitments would overwhelm him, would make this year one of the loneliest of his life. I wanted to tell him that he likely wouldn’t enjoy the process, would come to resent the race, would have years of apologies due to his wife for the selfishness and stress he was about to bring into their lives. But I couldn’t get a word in edgewise because I was too busy listening to him tell me about why the training load I’d described couldn’t possibly work for him, why there had to be another way.


A family member recently told me that they wanted weight loss surgery, they had tried everything simply everything and nothing was working.

Now, I have never been obese and I do not have an appreciation for the work it takes to lose massive amounts of body weight. And I do believe for some people medical intervention can be a blessing. But it’s hard for me to look at someone who wants to lose 40ish pounds and agree, “yes, clearly you have tried everything” when “Everything” = “many, many diets, some lasting almost two months.”

Like I said: I’ve never had to undertake the work that would be needed to lose 40 pounds. But I do understand what it takes to drastically transform the physical part of your life, and when I hear things like this I can’t help but get sad, because, no, no: you are selling yourself short, no.

Two of my favorite bloggers on the web are Ben Does Life and AndreAnna. Sometimes when I’m bored and killing time, I’ll go to the BenDoesLife tumblr and start reading from the beginning. His short posts detail the daily undertaking of someone trying to change his life. When he started he was overweight, wanted nothing more than to fit into the desks at his college, and wasn’t really sure what to do, but he figured it probably started with different eating habits and a trip to the gym. And you read through these daily posts, you see the picture of what it takes to change a life. These short daily doses give a good sense that it was the little things, repeated every day, more than it was a major thunderclap that marked the difference between then and now. It’s a daily diary of What It Takes, and I find it to be one of the more inspiring things on the web.

I feel the same way about AndreAnna. Over the past year I’ve watched (read) her completely overhaul her entire life, in some ways to a degree I cannot even imagine, and I think  “Ok. Right. That’s what it takes.” It’s taken her ten years to figure out what works for her, but she’s done it in fits and starts and is still working it out.

Now, much like I don’t care if gym dude ever does his Ironman, I don’t really care if people want to lose a bunch of weight. Life is full of a lot of pursuits, many far more worthy than triathlons and weight loss. But it really chafes me to consistently hear from people who kind of sort of maybe want to do this major thing that requires a lot of effort, but they never will because man, that’s like a lot of effort, you know?

Well, sure it’s a lot of effort. And you choose to make that effort, or you don’t choose to make that effort, and I don’t really care which one, but don’t bitch to me about how things never change if you’re not going to work to change them.

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Oh, For the Love

I just read an article about a State Department contract officer who awarded $42 million dollars  (spread out over years and contracts) to a company owned by her secret husband and her daughter.

So, here’s my thing: that’s ridiculous, but I get it. If there’s a way to game the system, and you’re the type of person to be a system gamer, you will do this. And man, there is some money to be made ($42M, apparently) in gaming State Dept contracts. (It goes without saying that I’m not one of those people, right? I generally believe most gov contractors are very ethical and provide a lot of value to the country, and will happily talk at length about that if you find it interesting.)

HOWEVER – and I am just thinking outloud here – if you’re going to defraud the government of $42 million dollars and the thing that stands between getting away with it and not getting away with is the government not knowing that you’re married…maybe take your wedding pictures of MySpace? I’m just throwing it out there.

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My most excellent friend Ellie just posted some lovely quotes from Gurujii, and one regarding the strength women gain through Ashtanga yoga spoke true to my little crossfitting heart.

(Note: I do not know what Gurujii is, but if I context clue myself from the quotes and my knowledge that Ellie is a yoga teacher, I’m going to go with: yoga related, possibly Indian, definitely awesome) 

“I do not feel that the more advanced series steal femininity. There is nothing more beautiful than a strong woman…The changes to the female body are only more masculine if you identify strength with the male. If something was lost on the way, it was probably nothing I needed. I love my yoga body. Whether it is attractive to another is not a major concern. Femininity comes from within. My female peers are women of dignity and beauty.”
  -Dena Kingsberg 

I love this … “if I lose a sense of feminity by getting stronger, than I didn’t need that sense anyway”… perfect. I hate the age-old complaint from women that they don’t want to weight train or crossfit because they don’t want to bulk up. Well, I don’t to run myself into invisibility on a treadmill for hours at a time. I want to seen in this world, I want my body to take up space as it moves around. I want to do 50 pull ups in a row (like I did last week) and lift my 100lb dog up on a table (like I did yesterday) and to know when I look at myself what looks back is a body that will continue to do those thing. To be unable to do them because of a fear of bulking up, of looking wrong:  That was nothing I needed, anyway.

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My friend Lucy and I have this little routine where we pretend we have no idea what the other does for a living. Actually, now that I type that, I see it’s not so much “pretending” as “we actually do not really understand what the other does for a living.” This started back in grad school, where she would sum up my studies as: “I dunno…something with business. And, um computers, too” and I would sum her studies as “Um, international…stuff.”

Lucy now works at the State Department and works on something related to… drug trafficking? Or the stopping of said drug trafficking? It’s possible there is child slavery stuff in there too. She’s told me a lot, and frankly it sounds super bad ass, but I can never remember the specifics.

As for me, I work with corporate client satisfaction programs and linking customer feedback to overarching corporate strategies which, I know, it sounds very Blah Blah Blah Ginger to everyone hearing me talk about it, and probably to Lucy as well, but it’s pretty cool if you’re into that kind of thing.

Anyway, that is all lead up for the following conversation between Lucy and I:

Me:  How goes saving the world?

Lucy: Oh, you know…slowly.  How goes satisfying it?

Heee. Satisfying the world is also going slowly, Lucy, but thanks for asking.  Heeee.

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1. I have not yet finished Pride and Prejudice, and it’s mostly Jonna‘s fault because she (or, more accurately, her GoodReads list) got me hooked on this VERY BAD NO GOOD AWFUL young adult werewolf series (you guys: it’s so bad. But it’s also so … compulsively readable. It’s the poor man’s Twilight, and I say that as as both a compliment and as the best descriptor I can think of.) After that rabbit hole I was then further motivated  to pick up Discovery of Witches, which so far seems promising but is approximately three million pages long, so.

2. Yes, I know I could postpone these readings until AFTER I finished P&P, but here’s the thing: after many years of extremely pointed comments regarding a) our lack of bookshelf space and b) the amount of money we spend at Amazon (last year’s birthday Kindle shocking only solved one of these probelms), I finally, finally got a library card:

I feel like that chick in PCU, who was all “Wait, if you’re nice to them, they bring you things?” Every time I leave the library with a new book I’m all “They’re just going to let me …take it?… for free?” And really, it’s wonderful, because the awful horrible unputdownable series that I got hooked on is not in any way a series I will ever re-read, so the ability to read it for free and have all evidence of the reading disappear was quite lovely. HOWEVER, I find I have this mental block with library books that makes me want to finish them IMMEDIATELY because they have to go back and other people want them and there is a time limit, and I see that ticking clock and GOD I just need to finish this BOOK and I don’t have TIME for you Lizzy Bennet, because you sit on my shelf permanently but this here library book will turn into a pumpkin SOON.

3. Speaking of Pride and Prejudice (and when am I not, these days?), I spoke with my mom shortly after writing that post, and she was all “Oh for crying out loud, just watch the damn movie and be done with it.” And it’s at this point, at age 29 and 363 days, that I finally realized parents are completely and totally winging it half the time, and the majority of rules that crop up are likely more to do with convenience than actual principles. I mean, come on: ten bucks says that I had to read Gone With The Wind before watching the movie simply because the movie version wasn’t available the day I wanted to watch it, but the book was right there and what the hell, it kept me entertained, right? But then it was, like, a precedent, and now the Family Has A Rule: no movies about books until you’ve seen the book,” and here we are today, me as a grown woman with a complex all because my mom was trying to deflect an 11 year old from whining about a movie being out of stock at the store [remember when you had to go places to rent movies??]. God I can’t wait to be a parent.

4. If you didn’t get my PCU reference up there, I highly suggest you go watch it. It’s a classic.

5. Regarding The Birthday Boots: Posting pictures of these books has prompted an invite to the Flickr group: “Something About Women In Cowboy Boots” which … is unsettling. I haven’t clicked over to see what kind of photos are in this set, because honestly I’m a little scared as to what the Internet is going to throw at me here.

6. Happy Friday, all. We’re off to the mountains to spend the holiday weekend, which will also be coinciding with the birthday weekend (as it does) and I gotta tell you: Life is looking pretty good.


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