Thursday, Mar. 23, 2006
Dear Diary:

Angst. It's not just a teen thing.

I don't know what happened to me after Christmas, but the closest description I can give is to say that it feels as if I've blown out a tire. Before Christmas I was a running machine � well, as close to a machine as someone with zero aptitude for running can come � making pretty consistent speed and stamina gains.

Then Christmas hit. When I went back to the treadmill in January I just couldn't seem to find whatever it was that kept me throwing myself against the wall of my own ineptness. It wasn't just that I couldn't make any more gains. I was actually backsliding.

The woman who could run over 4 miles on a treadmill set to a hill program at 6.3 mph suddenly couldn't run three miles on a treadmill set to utter flatness and a speed of 6 mph.

So much for that dream of a nine minute mile.

Two weeks ago I pulled myself off the treadmill in frustration and switched back to the elliptical machine and the rowing machine. I know that if I want to keep physically healthy I have to keep moving. I also know if I want to fend off the pressing need to impale myself on the sharpest nearby bit of gym equipment, I have to stay away from running for a while.

Okay fine.

Normally I can console myself through a cardio plateau by marking progress in strength training. Normally. But for the first time in my life I've hit a cardio and a strength plateau simultaneously and they've lasted over a month now.

Okay fine.

Now I know that on the list of Really Terrible Things That Could Happen To Me, hitting a cardio and strength plateau simultaneously does not even come close to Cry Me A River territory. I know that. But that does not stop me from being stunningly angsty about the whole situation because the gym has always been a place where effort has been rewarded with gain.

There are lots and lots of corners in my life where I work very hard and don't see appreciable gain. Just as a fr'instance, I can spend eight hours on housework and promise you that four days down the road you'd never know I had been a veritable cleaning dervish.

I've been trying to convince my cats that being shaved bald is really the way to go, but they are stubbornly attached to their fur. Well, 90 percent of it. The other ten percent they sprinkle liberally over every surface in the house.

So yeah, this place has been angst central. (This would be the part where I put the back of my hand against my forehead in the classic haute Victorian woe-is-me gesture.)

All together now, "Oh Boo Hoo".

I gave blood a short while ago. While I was sitting in the chair for the health check, having my blood pressure taken and answering 4,251 questions about my sexual and travel habits, I indulged in another broodapalooza because hey, the beauty of pity parties is that they are completely portable.

When my stats flashed up on the monitor I got a little wake up call. My normal heart beat is 51 bpm. My blood pressure is only slightly higher than that of a hibernating bear. My haemoglobin levels are excellent. In my struggle to do something I have no gift for, running, I have made myself fit. I just don't feel it.

Audrey has been writing about how challenging it is for her to pursue her climbing passion because she is um, er, ah, vertically challenged. I have to admit that I have that wistful "pressing nose against glass looking in at something I really, really want" feeling when I read her adventures.

It's not that I want to dangle upside down over the puke-coated floor of an artificial cave. No, uh, it's not that. It's that I miss the sense of achievement that I used to get at the gym.

Audrey sent me a link to Liz, who makes me laugh and through her I found The Mighty Kat who has shown me a way out of the strength plateau. Microloading.

Yeah, adding eensy weensy bits of weight at a time. I've been doing it on dumbbells for ever. Why I never thought to transfer it to stuff such as bench press, leg press and squats I do not know. I believe the word "stupidity" might be a possible explanation, though.

The spousal unit has promised to make me very tiny � pound magnets for the dumbbells because I am mired at 30 pounds for dumbbell shoulder presses and dumbbell bench presses. There is a woman at my gym who can use 40 pound weights to do these exercises. If she can do it, I can do it. It will just take me baby steps.

I have been taking serious ribbing over the microloading at the gym. Serious. The guys crack up every time I bring out the shoelace and tie a 1 � pound magnetic doughnut weight to the middle of Olympic bar for my bench press. But next week I'll have made enough of a gain that I can add a second 1 � pound weight. That means I can just stick one magnetic 1 � pound doughnut weight to each weight plate on the side of the bar and I'll be less conspicuous.

Until the week after when it's back to me, my shoelace and the magnetic doughnut weight in the middle of the bar. Then there will be much, much snickering.

It's hard not to be bitter.

But here's the deal. If I can make a 1 � pound gain each week on the bench press, then one year from now I will be benching 65 pounds more than I do now. It's probably unrealistic to expect a weekly gain, but if I could add even 40 pounds over a year using this method, that would be fantastic.

All it will involve is huge amounts of patience and a deep appreciation of the concept of delayed gratification. Oh, man. Don't think that doesn't chap my, uh, buttal region, because it does.

"Baby steps," I tell myself. "Baby steps." Yep, somewhere in northern Vermont there is a white-haired 54-year-old Canadian woman wandering around a small gym muttering the words "baby steps, baby steps" under her breath all the time.

Nothing weird about that, eh?


Mileage on the Marnometer: 288.66 miles. 10 per cent rubber duck10 per cent rubber duckOh, man, I'm falling behind

Goal for 2005: 1,250 miles - 2000 kilometers

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