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Math is hard

By Dalene Rowley

Last July I did a brave thing. I overcame my fear of being judged and dragged my sorry and broken body (hip, shoulder, knees and toes) to the gym. A certain gym chain that has a bit of a rep for being a bit of a meat market and sporting a lot of silicone (or whatever they make them out of these days–not that there’s anything wrong with that) and, sometimes a good bit of skin.

After the first couple of days at a training boot camp (did I mention our session was at 6:00 in the morning, during summer vacation, when people are meant to sleep in?), I could hardly walk. I was hurting in muscles I didn’t even know I had. Despite that, I discovered I kind of like the gym. It wasn’t the exhibition fest I expected. Because really, if you’re going to the gym just to check out/flaunt hot bodies, you’re probably going to wait until at least 6 p.m. Only the diehards show up at 6 a.m. (Except for during the first three weeks of January, when everybody and their dog is there.)

Sure there are some hard bodies. But those are a dime a dozen. The people who catch my eye are the people who, like me, sort of limp or drag themselves in. The elderly woman with the cane. The sister of my friend down the street who’s been working out for the past six weeks with her arm in a sling because she just had shoulder surgery. Not to mention the cute and very pregnant girl who was there every day pre-delivery with her husband. And then was right back at it seemingly mere hours after delivery, with a noticeably flatter-than-mine tummy. I like seeing those people at the gym. They make me feel like I can do this.

Eight months later, how am I doing? I can swim more than one lap w/o hacking up a lung. And–despite my worst fear–so far none of the other swimmers has ever jumped out of the pool and run away screaming “Orca!” when I jump in wearing my classic black tank suit. I’ve improved by 50 pounds the amount of weight on the pull-ups machine. Yes. I said pull-ups, people (and I didn’t mean the kind used for potty training purposes). I can now either walk or do planks while chewing gum. And my stationery biking exploits have taken me to Canada for curling and short-track speedskating, borne witness to several intense wipe-outs on the Downhill and Super G, and endured numerous early-morning episodes of Charmed and a handful of Friday-night movies of the week.

Have I lost any weight? I don’t know. Probably. Math is hard. It’s not really about the numbers for me. But I’m sure I’ve lost at least 20 pounds in my bust and one and possibly another half of my extra chins. I have to cinch my belt a few notches tighter on my favorite pair of jeans, which I can now pull down to the floor while they’re still buttoned up (not that I really want to, but if I did, I could.)

The best thing about becoming a gym rat is that I’m not going it alone. I found the perfect workout partner. She meets me at the gym several early mornings a week. The fact that she comes at all amazes me, because she is still the mother of young children, children who don’t always sleep at night. But even after sometimes only finally getting sleep at 3 or 4 a.m,. she still shows up with her game face on and even manages to make me laugh. She is awesome like that. Laughing at the gym, however, is not always recommended. Recently I dropped a 25-lb. dumbbell on my lap. (Note: this is not a move I’d suggest adding to your regular work-out routine.)

This dear friend is a triathlete. Which means that when she told me she was signing up for a triathlon this year I realized she would be training for the triathlon during our gym time. Which meant that if I wanted to train with her I would be training for a triathlon too. And it stands to reason that if I were going to train for a triathlon, I might as well participate in one, right?

And so I am. In about six weeks. It may just be the end of me. Part of my workout now consists of getting my heart rate up by running between a state of confident denial “I can do this. I’ve been working out.” to a state of total, hyperventilation-inducing fear. (Can you hear my heart racing this very minute as I type?) Why am I doing this? Partly because, in addition to my ADD of housework, I also have ADD of working out. Kudos to the half-marathoners and marathoners out there, but after about two miles (of walking–not running–I don’t run.), I’m quite sure I’d be distracted by the nearest Super Target and start fumbling for my credit card. But changing it up a bit with swimming, biking, and running a walk? Maybe. I might just be able to do that.

(Shhh. Don’t tell. But the real reason I’m doing this is in a deliberate effort to escape my resident slacker status here at Segullah, home of numerous winning marathoners and some real triathletes (as opposed to my what-will-surely-be-feeble attempt), all highly educated, accomplished women. I figured doing a tri is cheaper and much less work than taking the GRE and applying for a graduate program. And I don’t want to get kicked off the board.)

Mostly I’m doing this because on most days it feels good. I don’t want to swim, bike or run walk in pursuit of a number on a scale. The triathlon is a nice big carrot to dangle in front of me to keep me going back for more of something that truly makes me better, faster, stronger. Knowing I have a sisterhood of gym rats (you know who you are–GO US!) working towards similar goals (only in different gyms), makes me better, faster, stronger, too.

What about you? In addition to normal life, which sometimes is just plain hard as well, what hard things have you recently pursued? Have you signed up for a new class? Made progress on personal a goal that is important to you? Learned or done something you’ve always wanted to?


Oh, and do you have any advice to share for a newbie’s first try at a tri?

About Dalene Rowley

Began blogging as a legitimate way to avoid housework and to keep a journal of sorts. In her other life she wants to be excellent at a number of things, but in this one she's settling for baking a mean sour cream lemon pie, keeping most of the points on her quilt blocks in line, being a loyal friend and aspiring to moments of goodness as a wife and mother.

46 thoughts on “Math is hard”

  1. I have started a three year uni degree, at the grand old age of thirty something. As a sole parent. It hurts, and is hard, but every morning I still wake up thinking "Wow! In three years time I'll be a nurse!", which makes the pain kind of bearable, and not as overwhelming.

    No advice about the tri, though I'm guessing ice may play a part at some stage, if only for the cold drink of success afterwards. That, and it's fun to throw at your training partner 🙂

  2. Wow… impressive!
    GO you!
    Advice regarding tri:
    Chew trident
    Don't trip
    Avoid trifle, trigonometry and tricky questions.
    Ignore trite comments.

  3. Dalene, what a great post! One of the reasons I like going to the gym is because it forces me to do things I'm not good at / things I don't like. Sometimes I think it's all to easy for adults to completely avoid things they're not good at, you know? I figure that if I tell my kids, "You can do hard things!" that I'd better put myself in a position to do hard things too. And it's not about the weight for me either (which is good, because I've come to the conclusion that I'm on a plateau as long and wide an immovable as a mountain in Southern Utah). But I FEEL so much better, both physically and emotionally, when I make that extra effort to haul my behind to the gym.

    Go Dalene! And a TRIATHLON?!?! You're my new hero.

  4. Crap, here I was thinking that I was awesome for having gotten off my butt and walked two miles on Friday. Apparently, not as awesome as you! lol!! (But that is totally ok, I gotta start somewhere!)
    You rock, and I wish you lots of luck!

  5. The gym scares me. I don't know why exactly. I'm so so proud of you for working so HARD!! I'm not running anymore, but have been cross country skiing several times in the last two months. I'm going to buy some skis and get a season pass next year.

    But start something new and hard? I'm a wimp. And my elliptical is gathering dust as we speak.


  6. You guys are my heros. Wish I lived close enough to go with you. I love gym friends. Not rats.

    Slow and steady wins the race. It's not how fast you finish, but if you finish and feel good about it. That's my advice!

  7. Wow! Dalene I am so proud of you. I wish I could follow your example. You are an inspiration to me. Best of luck on your triathalon. I know you can do it.

  8. I know how hard and consistently you've been at this…I was there the first day. I'm SO proud of you and can't wait to see you cross the finish line.
    I love my workout partner (not that I didn't love you and phread…y'all just get up to dang early!) it makes all the difference in the world.
    It does feel good, no doubt. I am number driven when it comes to weightloss. The increase in fitness level and overall wellness is a bonus.

  9. I think you could totally kick my trash. Forget math, planks is hard. As far as doing something hard – I'd say going back to church has been one. And then fighting my way back to fit and healthy this past year.

    I'd love to take on something new, like Arabic. Finally, a language a lefty can write without worry of ink smudges. And it's beautiful.

  10. I love this post. There are so many things I don't try because I'm afraid of not being great at them right off the bat.

    As far as tri advice goes, I've only done one so I don't have much. Mostly make sure your tires aren't flat. And practice (at least once) going from biking to running. The sensation is much weirder than you might think.

  11. Go you, Dalene. I love your perspective on gym life.

    I'm have a creaky difficult time pulling it together. But I am taking steps.

    Your no-nonsense optimism is encouraging me!

  12. I love it Dalene!! Having a friend to work out with makes all the difference — you're accountable to someone every day, and you work out more than you would on your own. And Shela's right — practice transitions before your first race. Going from the bike to the run is a little tricky. Cheering you on!!!

  13. You are my hero, truly.

    I'm in the middle of writing a bucket list and though I even reached #50 yet, I can feel it squeezing and stretching and generally reshaping my decisions. This is good.

  14. I've managed at least a 30 minute workout dvd five days a week since the beginning of the year. It's harder to get in a SAturday, and I've had thoughts of "it's a school holiday – sleep instead" but I've hauled my sorry carcass out of bed to do it. No weight loss, but I can almost keep up with my harder dvd. I know this has to be a life change, but I've stuck to it longer than I thought I would.
    I'm impressed you are doing an actual race. Go baby go!

  15. Congratulations! I'm so proud of you for taking that first step and the twentieth, and so on. I really don't think I could ever do that.

    I think I need to think about some things I've been avoiding because of my fear of failure.

  16. I discovered the joy of the gym in January and I think I might be addicted. I've joined gyms before, but I've always found excuses to quit going after a few months or even days. This time is different. For one, I found a time I can live with- night. Sometimes it's 10:30 at night. ANYTHING is better than morning. Also, I'm a quitter by nature and I can always talk myself down from a goal when the going the gets tough. But this time I had a trainer tell me how long and how hard to push myself. Now I relish the feeling of denying myself the choice to quit before I've reached the goal. It feels SO good to do hard things and I'm realizing my body is only as powerful as my mind wills it to be.

    I'm so proud of you for training for a tri. That's something I've always been afraid of attempting, but I think I could give it a shot now. Thanks so much for such an encouraging post.

  17. I love the gym. I do.

    Often, I'll be in the middle of a class and think, "No way would I be doing all these push-ups in my basement. I would have quit with 5."

    And I think gym rats–especially early morning ones- are exceptionally nice people. Every time I'm there, at least 20 people say 'hello'– not because they know my name or anything else about me, just because I'm a familiar face and we sweat together.

  18. Dalene, you are an inspiration to us all! And I don't even know what "planks" are, but they sound impressive. I wish you much luck on your triathalon—you go, girl!

  19. I will run my first marathon on May 1st. After years of despising running, I found it the key to lifting a depression fog that had settled after baby number five.

    I started running consistently a year ago in February. First 5K last May. First Half Marathon on Labor Day. And now the marathon.

    I never thought I would do this. Never thought I would even WANT to do this. But I feel energized to have something in my life again that is just for me…not related to my calling, or my family, or any other outside responsibility. This is what I do to challenge myself because I want to.

    As a result of doing this one thing for me, I am more patient, more even-tempered, more forgiving, and so much happier. I am a better wife and mother and friend.

    I don't have any triathlon-specific training…but from my limited racing experience:

    Don't try anything new on race day that you haven't tried in training, like clothing, shoes, eating different foods.

    Trust in your training. You have prepared for this. You can do it.

    Pace yourself according to your own pace. Don't go out faster than you are prepared to, even if it seems like others are faster. Just be true to yourself.

    Have fun!!

    PS Great post!

  20. Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!! I am just now finishing the final paper of a dreadful semester, in which I hardly exercised and started using sugar as motivation to do my schoolwork. I have gained about 10 lbs, and feel slothful. You have motivated me to get up tomorrow morning to run and do some lunges. In my scholarly haze I have forgotten how great those endorphins feel. Congratulations on your endeavour, and here's hoping I can follow in your footsteps.

  21. Angela–That is so true! I totally avoid things I don't think I'm going to do well. What's cool is once I committed myself to do this hard thing, I found more courage to commit to other hard things I've always wanted to do. It's been very empowering.

    KShaw–Two miles? No, you rock! I haven't really practiced the walking-supposed-to-really-be-running part a whole lot yet. I'd better hit the trail!

    Justine–Maybe next year we can go cross country skiing together. That's one of the next things on my growing list of things to try (again).

    Suedonym–You totally can run circles around me on the treadmill, girlfriend. Wanna meet me at the pool tomorrow?

    Marintha–Thanks! If I'm still alive at the end, maybe I'll come back and post a recap.

    Kalli–I wish you were closer, too! Good advice. I'm all about low expectations. I plan on finishing last. So if I come in any better, I'll be pleasantly surprised. It will be like beating my personal best w/o having a personal best (you know, cuz it's my first time).

    Barbara (who is also my sweet mother-in-law)–Thanks for believing in me–that means a lot!

    b.–I don't know if I would have had the courage had I not known you were going to be there that first day. I know how hard you are working as well. Love you–

    Millie–I know you've been working hard also. I look forward to seeing you soon as well. But don't look at me too closely…to a 10-year-old I'm (still) huge! (Name that film.)

    Mrs. O.–I do know you've been doing hard things, too. I am proud of you!

  22. Shelah–Thank you. And I appreciate the advice–I hadn't even thought of that.

    b.–It is cool to ride, too. My trainer keeps giving me a hard time about biking on the recumbent bike at the gym, but the angle is almost identical.

    Funny story: I got pretty discouraged Saturday after riding around a mile or so (haven't ridden my bike for ages–it's needed some work and well, it was winter). I couldn't believe how hard it was after training so much in the gym. Today I got back on and did 5 miles (did my hill twice–first time I've ever made it all the way up w/o having to walk the bike). You know what the difference was? I finally remembered how to shift the gears. Well, duh!

    Johnna–Thank you. One step at a time is how it happens–way to go!

    Andrea R.–Thanks for the cheers. Next up on my get over my fears list? Attempting open water. The open water swims are all 2 1/2 times this one. I've got lots of work to do before Jordanelle in 2011!

    Geo–I can ride outside now–let's head down to the lake (after they get that nasty fire out, of course).

    Sue–Way to go Sue–that's awesome! And I think it's good to admit that one is proud of one's efforts. (And I love that you admitted it sheepishly.)

    mormonhermitmom–Way to go you! Early Saturday mornings aside, isn't it fun to surprise yourself by going longer and getting stronger?

    Tiffany W.–I hope you come back and share. I think living abroad is a pretty brave thing–and you did it awesomely! As for this little thing–if I can do it, anyone can. Truly.

    La Yen–I wish I could be there to cheer you on through pregnancy, labor (but maybe not so much delivery)! You are my favorite, too!

    ~j–"I hate ~j. No, I love ~j." No, really, truly, I love you. And words fail to express how grateful I am.

  23. sunny–It can be addicting, can't it? I'll admit that sometimes I go twice in one day. I keep wondering if I should feel guilty about that. Good luck on your tri–come back and tell me about it, please?!

    Michelle L.–I've found people to be friendly as well. There is definitely something to be said for sweating together!

    Melissa M.–Next time I see you I'll be sure to show off my planks. I'm kind of proud of them. *wink*

    Kristin–I have often wondered if it might be possible to get over my aversion (read, wimpy-ness) when it comes to running. Thank you so much for the advice. And please come back and tell how how your marathon goes. GO YOU!

    Jennie–Oh, can't we please share it? Maybe I should have kept this on the down-low so I didn't raise any expectations… *wink*

    JaneW–GO YOU! And good luck w/ the rest of the semester. Going to college is hard work! Maybe I'll try to follow in your footsteps and attempt lunges tomorrow, too!

    Melissa Y.–Thank you! The encouragement goes a long way. I appreciate it!

  24. Beautifully written. Beautifully done (your life.) I can't wait! This is a wonderful thing you are doing (in so many ways) and avoiding the numbers is a wonderful way to do it.

    I'm behind you all the way . . . literally . .. I'm not exercising at all. I love your guts! (and muscles and bones and vessels and all)

  25. Never thought I could do it, but I stood up for myself at work, kept a cool head, and said just the right thing at the right time!!!

    And congratulations to all of you who are achieving goals against great odds!

  26. You are an inspiration!! Go Dalene!

    I haven't joined a gym, but we got a new tv and dvr-so I am able to record programs and exercise first thing in the morning most days. I've been pretty consistent since the end of last year (except this week with some health issues). I definitely feel better when I've made that effort.

    I like the idea of training for a triathalon–but think I'm too afraid of total commitment. Plus I wouldn't know when was going to be–and here in NY it would probably be on a Sunday (excuses?)

  27. maybe it sounds dumb, but the hard thing i did recently was apply to be a vendor at the beehive bazaar! i made it and now i'm working at the sometimes impossible task of quieting the voices that tell me no one will like what i've made and i won't sell a single thing. this post was a good reminder that i'm doing this for myself, not for a number on a check. the project itself and the goal i'm working toward is valuable enough. thank you.

  28. melody–thank you dear friend.

    Angie–That can be a tricky combination–way to go!

    Sage–Good for you! I have huge commitment issues, but when I went to sign up I thought it would only be like $25, so I figured it wouldn't be horrible if I backed out. It was a bit more than that. Is it bad that my strongest commitment initially was about not wanting to waste that much money?

    annie–I love Beehive Bazaar and wish I had your courage (I keep wanting to see my soap there, but am too chicken to try). I wish you much success! Hopefully I can come check out your creations.


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