Monday, November 18, 2013

It Is Possible

Do you want motivation? Meegan is motivation personified. The first day that I worked with her, seeing her perform warm ups was painful to watch. And I could tell that she hated those damn walking lunges, so of course we always did them. But she stayed with it. Deadlifts and squats and presses. Medballs and rows. She changed her diet. And man, one day, something just clicked in her. Something rose up inside of her and she decided that enough was enough. I am getting chills as I write this because it was that dramatic of a change. She changed everything. She walked in one day and you could see a difference. Meegan had dropped some weight, her face was different looking. Yes, it was thinner, but now she had a look of determination when she trained. She became a different person.  Her confidence soared with each new goal reached. I made her text me her weight every morning. When she travelled, she took pictures of the squat rack that she was getting ready to use. 
I wanted her to write this article because I know that there are folks out there just waiting for someone to tell them that they can do it also, that they can make the changes necessary for dramatic change with consistency of diet and training. That they can turn it all around. That if Meegan can do it, they can do it also.  Be sure to check out the before and after pictures at the end.  I am proud of her.
I’m 47.  I've been heavy my entire life, born this way. I come from good Irish heritage of wide hips to give you an idea. I hated exercise, and gym class. I would hide during gym class mostly because I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed about my body. Anything that had to do with exercise would bring on panic.  I'd rather sit in a bar and hide in the dark.  I hung with the crowd that were misfits, arty, punks and definitely not athletic.  I covered myself up and protected myself with an armour of long coats, tattoos, alcohol & chemicals, numbing myself to pain and ridicule.   As many layers as possible.   For years, I didn't feel good about myself and therefore I didn't take care of myself.  At 36, my weight was at an all time high, 256 pounds. Seriously?  I'm surprised I didn't have a heart attack.
In October 2002, my Aunt asked me  to join in on a one day Dragon Boat race. I had never done anything like it and I truly had no idea what the hell I was getting into but it  turned out to be the best thing that I ever did. I managed to paddle a boat for 3 or 4 minutes and not keel over. Something animal-like clicked in me. I liked this feeling of raw power.  So  5 months later, I got sober, joined a Dragon Boat team and started paddling.
In Dragon Boating your weight matters. The heavier that you are, the slower the boat, so when I started racing as a novice 10 years ago,  my coach had to pull me aside sometimes and say “Hey Meegan can I talk to you for minute?  I have to sit you out this race." It was tough for her to say and it was tough for me to hear.
All those feelings of hurt and embarrassment came rushing back.  But that’s the way it had to be because my weight would slow the boat down. So I worked on it.  I trained with a close friend who held my hand through lifting weights and not getting a panic attack from just walking into the gym. Over time I started to lose weight just from being sort of active. I saw results and felt better – plus I was now addicted to the rush of paddling.  This was like nothing I had ever done before – to be part of a team and to know others counted on me.
I was peeling off layers.
I ended up losing a good amount of weight over the next few years. The most I was down was 40 pounds from my top weight. And then I would gain it back. The lowest I got was in 2006 when I trained for a Nationals. I was still heavy though, still over 200 lbs. Then life got to me again and different events happened, and that was that – I gained almost all of it back except for 20 pounds. That was about a year ago.  In October 2012 we had a team meeting and our current coach sat our team down and laid it out.  She said that weight matters and we can’t pretend that it doesn’t exist. There it was again: the same old feelings of being the Fat Girl, unworthy, not good enough. 
I cried after that meeting.  I knew I was the heaviest on the the competitive crew.  I had always been considered one of the strongest.  I had been captain of the competitive crew for a few seasons, my testing scores on the ergometer were always one the top ten, but my weight meant that I not only had to pull my butt in the boat, so did my teammates.  We were bumping up our expectations, we wanted to race with the best,  and bottom line - the best are not fat.  I was like," Crap!" How was I going to do this? I felt hopeless really.  I got angry.  I worked too hard and pushed through so many personal challenges to let this take me down.
I didn't want to go back to that dark place. 
I needed a plan.
So in November 2012  I  began to weight train with Coach Steel.  I joined a Biggest Loser contest with my team and another at work.  I need to be accountable and I figured two is better than one. I joined a gym in my neighborhood.  I started riding my bike to work.  At first my training with Steel was once a week with members of my crew.   It was hard, I had to get my head in the game, talk myself out of self sabotage,  and I really struggled to not give up.  I couldn't do a lunge, I hated squats, anything with my legs was a nightmare.  My upper body was strong, but my legs? Forgetaboutit.
We were slamming medicine balls, boxing, pushing the prowler, learning how to lift with correct form.  If you know Steel - you know he doesn't say too much, but once in awhile he’d say something like, “"Your lunges are getting deeper, consistency…”.  This sparse motivation is what makes me work, If I got a compliment or got noticed, I must have been doing something right.   I started working out 2 times a week with Steel.  Weight started dropping off little by little, and my body was changing, I felt better, a little more confident, lighter and healthier. I could deadlift 230 pounds!  I had lost 20 pounds.  More layers.
In May 2012 l decided to get even more serious about my workouts.  There was some motivation there.  I had tried out to make the National US team in for dragon boating.  I didn't make it.  Why?  I was still heavy.  Even though I had gotten down to near my 2006 weight,  I was heavier than anyone else.  The boats we test in are incredibly sensitive to weight. Weight creates drag.  And so once again, The Fat Girl.  I got pissed.  Fuck that.  There is a PIL song called Rise -  there is a lyric where Johnny Rotten is screaming “Anger is an Energy” over and over.  Ok, so I was angry...
I began a personalized program with Coach Steel.  He asked me what my goals were, what my current diet was.  He gave me a workout plan and a diet.  I started to eat all protein, veggies, no sugar.  Sweet potatoes were fine for cravings.  I would text him my body weight every day. We had a goal weight in mind for a certain date.  When I would reach that, then we’d go for the next step.  I needed this accountability because left to my own devices, well,  it just wouldn't happen.  I had a lifting plan each week. If I couldn't make it to his gym because of travel I would find a gym wherever I was.  I was no longer afraid to go in there and throw around weights.  Steel taught me how to do it right.  So I confidently walked in, went straight to a rack and started my lift, wherever I was.  I snapped pictures of the gym so he knew where I was training.   Warm up, then deadlifts, squats, squats, squats, bent over rows, one arm rows, laterals, biceps, triceps, on an on.  Switching it up each week so I was working on my entire body.  Sometimes I would get frustrated because I’d stay at a certain weight for a couple weeks.  I’d message Steel - and he’d motivate me to keep going, stay focused.  I have a wonderful partner who who cooked me low fat , high protein meals and snacks, worked out with me and pushed me when I was feeling unmotivated.   I carried cooked sweet potatoes in my backpack in case I was hungry.  I keep biking to work as much as I can. Keep moving, Keep moving.  I always joke that I have the metabolism of a slug, so I have to keep moving. That’s what works for me.
I’m down another 30 pounds - that’s 50 total since I started with Steel,  and 70 down since I started Dragon Boating.  My energy has increased, my clothes are dropping off of me, my size has gone down from a 22 women's size to a 14/16 regular.  I am out of the women's department!  I’m more confident.  I have done things I would have never done before.  I competed in an OC1 Outrigger canoe race and beat the time of experienced men.  I competed in a 15 mile, 6 man outrigger canoe race on the ocean and we placed 2nd.  A year ago I could not fit in that boat. I was too fat. That was huge for me.  Last night I had dinner with my good friend who I haven't seen in many months and he couldn't believe how much weight I have lost.  I feel good.  It’s hard work and I have to keep moving, because I have a goal to be down 100 pounds from that day I was weighed in by my first Dragon Boat coach and had to be left out of the race.  I have 30 pounds to go.  I want to time trial again for Team USA in 2015 for the women's Senior A crew.  I’ll be 49 and right on the edge, but I’ll be ready, lighter and stronger.  Whatever happens it will be done with 100% effort.   I guess the thing to know is that it’s possible.  I never thought it was.  It takes hard work, focus, a good support network, an awesome coach, and to always  remember that you can do it, YOU can do it. Keep telling yourself that it IS possible.


All About Being a Lifer

What's a Lifer? Someone who isn't in to something for just a day, a month, a's for life. Whether its training or your family or your doesn't matter. You work at it, you build on it, you see the big picture . You don't miss workouts because it means something to you. You are like a Shakespearean actor- no matter what is going on in your life, you block it out when it's time to train. You walk into the weight room and all else disappears. Worry about it later.