Saturday, October 27, 2012

Embracing the Mom Jeans

Tonight, after years of deluding myself into thinking that I can make low-rise jeans work, I finally gave up and bought what I suppose some people would call "Mom Jeans."

Yes. I did. Because I just can't deal with the muffin top anymore. More than that, I can't deal with the possibility of anyone else asking me whether I am pregnant. (As it turns out, that question really bothered me. I didn't think so at the time, but not a day has gone by since that I haven't looked at myself more critically in the mirror.)

I can't remember when it was that low-rise jeans became the go-to jean fit (seven years ago? More?) but let's face the fact that a good portion of the population, in shape or otherwise, can't really make these work. At least, not if they're buying cheap, mass-produced department-store brands like I do.

Here's the thing. I'm in the best shape ever, for me. I feel strong. I can see muscles in my arms now, and muscles in my legs that I didn't know existed before I started marathon training and ballet/Pilates. In Xtend Barre class, I can plie, releve, and squeeze a ball between my upper thighs multiple times without thinking twice about it (three months ago, that move almost made me collapse in a sweaty, shaking heap). Plank, times two? No problem. 20 mile run? Not easy, sort of painful, but I can do it.

Yet I have hips. I have stomach flab. I have extra skin that will never go away unless I get plastic surgery, which I would never do because even if I HAD the money, which I do not, I'd much rather pay for a fancy tropical vacation than go under a knife. No question.

But do I really want my I'll-never-leave-you muffin top doing all the representing? No thank you.

I hesitated to try on the dreaded "mom jeans," and even when I had them on I was sort of cringing at first... But then I looked in the dressing room mirror and was like, HEY! Look at that! I can work this cut. No fleshy waterfall, no pseudo-baby bump. No sucking in my gut. Butt looks fine. Do I sort of look like I belong in a JC Penny ad? Kind of. But I'd rather my muffin top can hang out behind the zipper instead of over my waistband.

Also, Public Service Announcement: be warned that walking into the women's wear section of Target this fall/winter is like walking back into 1989-1992. I SWEAR I wore some of the exact same bulky/long sweaters in 7th grade.

Exhibit A

Sweater skirt

I also saw sweater pants, but I can't find them on the Target website. Sad.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


My birthday's tomorrow. I will be 34. I'm cool with that, and I'm starting to understand what people mean when they say that your 30s are in many ways (not every way) "better" than your 20s.

Tomorrow I will be 34, and I will have more gray hair, cellulite, and spider veins than ever before. I will still have my pizza-dough stomach and my tiger-stripe stretch marks. I will still be in school. I will still be struggling to help maintain a savings account. I will still not know how to ski. My child will still be saying "Mommy? Mommy? Mommy. MOMMMMY. Mommy. Mommy (ad infinitum)" just as he is right now as I type this.

Tomorrow I will be 34, and I will be in the best physical shape of my life so far. I have more resources than I've ever had for coping with difficult emotions and my sometimes-erratic brain. I have more self-awareness than I did at this time last year. My life hasn't changed much since then, but I have a greater appreciation for my life. Same situations, same circumstances, different outlook.

I bought myself two birthday presents:

1) Fancy (for me) shampoo and conditioner

2) This book, which I am really enjoying so far and hope will be helpful: The Mindful Way Through Depression... Because at some point, it would be nice to stop taking Zoloft (though I'm not counting on it).

Tomorrow should be really low-key. I'm doing an early-morning 8-mile run with RF, taking some treats in to share with my class, and maybe grabbing some takeout with my family.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Difficult long runs and depression: How to keep going

What I have learned through marathon training so far is that running long distances is a true mind/body experience. As in, at a certain point both your mind and body (especially the legs) are screaming at you to STOP THIS NONSENSE IT IS INSANE. Then you have to somehow find the one small part of you (the David to your Goliath) that is willing to ignore both of them and carry on in the hope that at some point it will get better.

That's the other thing I've learned: you can be feeling completely trashed at mile 16, yet by mile 18 you'll feel like you're flitting weightlessly along on puffy clouds and rainbows. It doesn't seem possible, and yet it happens sometimes - that complete, rapid shift to feeling 100 times better than you did just a few minutes prior. Of course, sometimes it doesn't happen, but with the help of gels, water, mini goals (run to the mailbox... now run to the telephone pole...), and your running buddy, you get through it anyway.

Basically it's taken me approximately two months of marathon training to learn with respect to physical endurance what it's taken 2.5 years of therapy to learn with respect to dealing with depression/mental endurance: you keep moving forward knowing that it is going to get better. You don't know when - be it a mile down the road or 24 miles down the road - but at some point it won't be so hard. You just keep going. It sucks, you keep going. You puke, you keep going. You think bitter, evil thoughts about the drivers who don't understand crosswalk signals, but you keep going.

A difficult long run and depression are obviously not the same thing. If I had to choose between horrible, painful, 20-mile daily runs and daily depression, I would choose the running. No question. And while I *might* wish those horrible running workouts on my worst enemy under the right circumstances, I wouldn't wish depression on anyone. Ever. Because depression is like being in the solitary confinement ward of hell.

But. Sometimes now when I get depressed - and it does happen, frustratingly enough, even with the antidepressants and the running and the decent diet and 6-8 hours of sleep every night and the therapy - I try to treat my mind the way I treat it when I am struggling during a run. Which is basically to ignore the protests while giving it as much meager encouragement and positivity as I can muster, and by trying to distract it.*

It's not that simple, really, or at least it doesn't feel simple when things get bad. But I think this approach - ignoring the negative, saying nice things to myself (even when I protest), clinging to the belief that it won't always be so hard - is helping. I'm not saying it makes me feel good. Honestly, it doesn't. Depression is a deep pit. It's not like you can just launch into a standing jump and hop out of it. But treating depression like a difficult yet surmountable obstacle - as opposed to an insurmountable and permanent fate over which I have absolutely no control or any way to deal with - helps get me through, which at certain points is all I can ask of myself.

“Listen to the people who love you. Believe that they are worth living for even when you don't believe it. Seek out the memories depression takes away and project them into the future. Be brave; be strong; take your pills. Exercise because it's good for you even if every step weighs a thousand pounds. Eat when food itself disgusts you. Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason.” - Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday Four (I couldn't think of a fifth)

1. I would like a vacation. Something involving skiing, a beach (not sure it's possible to have both, but that's what I'd like), a massage (or several), good but unpretentious food, sleeping in under a light down comforter, and no work. This will not happen unless a fairy godmother or Oprah ("YOU get a car and YOU get a car and YOU get a car...!") steps in.

2. I'm feeling low. Hopefully it's because a) I'm tired from the long run this past weekend, b) I have PMS, and/or c) I've been too busy for my own good, and not because depression is sneaking its way back in. I'm keeping my guard up, just in case. I suspect some of it has to do with the shorter days. I LOVE summer, when daylight lasts past 8 p.m. I feel suffocated when it gets dark at 5 or 6 p.m.

3. Did I mention that I would like a vacation?

Oprah? Can you hear me?

(Anyone else with me on this?)

4. Ever since I started doing Xtend Barre, I find myself releve-ing and plie-ing when no-one is looking. And pointing my toes.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Wind, rain, hills... 20 miles

20 miles, done.

It was not an easy run for either RF or myself. We started off on an exceedingly hilly road and followed it for the first 11 miles. At mile 4 or 5, we hit a hill that seemed to go on forever, and I really struggled. I kept moving forward, but very slowly, and my mind kind of shut down. I couldn't manage to put together coherent thoughts, except a Little-Engine-That-Could type mantra: Keep going. Keep going. Keep going. This first half of the run was more beautiful, but although I did take note of the gorgeous red, yellow, and orange leaves, I didn't enjoy it much. It was a slog. Plus, my knee started to ache somewhere in there; I worried that it might not hold up.

At mile 11, we stopped to have a snack that my husband had cached for us. Amazing: a little extra water, a little Gatorade, an energy bar, some stretching, and I was like new. In fact, from there on out I felt a whooooole lot better. Not to say the second half was easy. It wasn't. But I found a groove and stayed in it for most of the rest of the way. It helped that we a) walked up a couple of the bigger remaining hills (honestly, I think I walk up hills more quickly than I run them - I go into speedwalker mode) and b) took a bathroom break. Plus, I promised myself that at mile 16 or 17 I could consume my beloved Espresso Hammer Gel. For whatever reason, it tasted absolutely divine, even though anything else would have likely made me puke.

At mile 17.5 or so I started breaking up the run into mini-goals: run to that sign, now run to that electric pole, now run to the stoplight. Mentally, it worked wonders.

During the last mile the wind picked up to 20-25 mph, and we were running directly into it. We felt like we were standing still. That part was tough.

It was good, I think, to have such a tough run and get through it anyway. That way, even if parts of the marathon are rough, we'll know we're capable of pushing through.

*  *  *
Near home, RF joked that "we shall overcome," and suddenly I was swooped back in time to elementary school when we sang that song at nearly every assembly and holiday concert. I remembered all the words and hummed it all the way back. I'd forgotten how much I love that song. And in a way, it was appropriate for our morning. :-)

*  *  *
Got home, iced my knee, ate apple crumble, ate a burrito, ate some chips, drank a lot of fluids, ate some more. Showed my son how to use Q-Tips to spread glue onto paper; ended up with a giant mess on the kitchen table. Showed my son how to make pancakes and roasted potatoes for dinner; ended up with a giant mess on the counter. ;-) I'm surprised at how much energy I had this afternoon. If anything, I had MORE energy than I usually do on days when I do not run.

I love running.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


This week has gone by ridiculously, ridiculously fast.

Workout rundown:

Sunday - 18 miler (see previous post)

Monday - Day off

Tuesday - 5 miles in the morning, Xtend Barre in evening

Wednesday - Unintentional day off

Thursday - 5 miles in the morning, Xtend Barre in evening (kicked my butt)

Planned workouts:

Friday: 3-4 miles

Saturday: 4 miles

Sunday: 20 miles (!!!) - Yup, going to go for it. My legs feel fine.

In other news, I have been incredibly flaky/forgetful lately, which I didn't quite understand until I took a mental step back to assess what I've been doing. There's just so much going on. Usually I am on the go from the moment I wake up (~5:15 a.m.) to the time I go to bed.

Examples of recent flakiness:

-Forgot psychiatry appointment. For the second time. She was not amused.
-Forgot to put away lab equipment that really needed to be put away promptly. Luckily, we were able to resuscitate it.
-Scheduled birthday party the night before my husband's 7 a.m. marathon (the one that is 2.5 hours away...)
-Forgot to submit various important emails/pieces of paperwork
-Forgot about office hours

I try hard to be conscientious and meet my obligations, but my brain appears to have reached full capacity here. What space I have, I devote to the most important stuff - family, interesting research and teaching, running. Not so much to the things that at this point seem kind of irritating and in the way. Like my meetings with my psychiatrist, who is a nice woman with meager therapy skills and who I just wish would give me my prescription without me having to come in once a month even when I feel completely fine.

Clearly I need to make more lists or something. Except then I would lose them, so really, what is the point.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I hope I feel that good on race day!

I have never run this far while feeling so okay and maintaining such a consistent pace (10:31). It was a really enjoyable 18 miler.

What helped:
  • RF not letting me know how far we'd gone until mile 10 (better if I don't know)
  • The cool, cloudy weather - SUCH an improvement over the 15 miler from a few weeks ago, when we were slogging through 85 degrees + high humidity + blazing sun. I just plain suck at running in high temps. 
  • The leaves falling down like parade confetti
  • Discovering at mile 16 that the Hammer Espresso gel is AWESOME... I'm not a huge fan of gels (too warm, too gooey, too mucus-like) but this was just the right combination of chocolate + espresso + sugar. Pleasant surprise.
  • Running with RF, who always shows up with plenty of interesting stories to tell. She makes the time pass quickly, and I love our conversations.
  • Stopping at a gas station halfway through to grab a Gatorade. Tasted divine.
At mile 14 or so, I found myself marveling at how absolutely fantastic I felt. I should have seen that as a warning sign: 2.5 miles later my legs were killing me and I was wondering whether I could make it another 1.5 miles. We actually sped up at the end: we just wanted to be done. Something tells me a lot of the tiredness at the end was mental.

If I feel that good on race day, I'll be thrilled.

Next Sunday we're supposed to do 12 miles (I think) and then 20 the week after. We're trying to decide whether we can get away with doing the 20 miler next week, since RF has a weekend-long commitment coming up in two weeks. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012


I got home almost a week ago, and my waking/sleeping schedule is still off. I keep waking up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 5 a.m. (not like me) and by 8:15 p.m., I'm falling asleep (not like me). One evening I fell asleep standing up.

This wouldn't really be a problem - because I've actually been quite productive during the day, and I have time in the morning to eat/drink/etc. prior to running - except that I haven't spent much time with my husband. Usually we put our son to bed, talk, have a glass of wine or a beer, and watch an episode or two of Breaking Bad. But I can't get through five minutes of that show right now. We're so far behind.

*  *  *  *
Tomorrow's the 18 miler. I won't lie: I'm a bit nervous. My main concern is my legs. They were cramping pretty badly by the end of the 15-mile run, and I'm not sure how to prevent that from happening again other than conscientiously drink fluids along the way.

I feel like my RF has higher expectations of us than I do. Personally, I really don't care how we get through these long runs as long as we get through them. Walking is fine. Stopping for refreshments is fine. But she seems pretty determined to run run run the whole way. Part of me is a little concerned that I'm going to disappoint her, but I also feel like we need to treat the marathon a little differently from, say, a 10K. The expectation this time around should be to finish, period.

I've made loads of improvement in my speed since starting to run with RF, so I can't complain. She's great. But she is also a faster and more natural runner than I am. She is long, lean, and gazelle-like. I am short, stockier, and built more like... well, like not a gazelle. Sometimes I worry that she will get frustrated by my inability to keep up.
*  *  *  *
At any rate. 18 miles tomorrow, and it WILL get done! And we WILL have a relatively good time.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


I grew up in an environment that touted change - or important, life-altering change at any rate - as something that happens in an instant. You are given a choice, you make the right choice, that moment stands as The Moment When It All Changed Forever, and that was that. Change involves a single epiphany that then stands as sort of a North Star for life.

So I guess I've always had it in my head that I should be able to change immediately. It should be something I can will to happen right away, if I just try and believe hard enough. Mind over matter.

What I have come to understand is that change can be painfully, glacially slow, so slow that you can't see it happening in the moment. Rather, you can most easily see it when you reflect how you handle multiple instances of a particular situation or problem over many months or years or maybe decades. I spent a lot of time doing that last week while traveling: for instance, considering how I handled meeting new people three years ago (panic, self-consciousness, dissociation) versus how I handle meeting new people now (still shy and self-conscious, but I try to look people in the eye, smile, and hope that they will give me time to be myself, and I try very very hard to avoid spacing out). How I dealt with travel delays/cancellations three years ago (panic panic RED ALERT OMG I AM NOT IN CONTROL) versus how I handle them now (this sucks, but hey, did you say I get an upgrade to first class???) How I handled self doubt then (wow, you're such a moron, how can you even show your face) versus now (you're doubting yourself, and that's normal, but you have a lot to offer... Hang in there, you can do this).

I'm not saying I'm a whole new me or that my reactions to problems/dilemmas are always ideal, but... yeah, I see a change, and that change seems largely permanent. I have modified my habits and way of thinking to the point where I feel like I can live with myself. I even like myself a lot of the time. But again, it took a lot of time. And talking. And ugly emotional crises. And depressions. And cutting. And digging through unpleasant memories. And learning to trust certain people. And stepping back from the ledge (figuratively, but kind of literally, too) when I needed to.

I realize that life and experience are fluid, and that things won't always go as well as they are going now. But just knowing that change happens - albeit slowly - helps.

"Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible." - Thich Nhat Hanh

*  *  *
In other news, marathon training continues. Yesterday I ran 5 miles on my own, and today I ran 8 miles with my training buddies. Tomorrow it's another five miles, followed by several miles on Saturday and (GULP) 18 miles on Sunday. Wow.