Monday, April 20, 2009


This is Troy. Troy was my supervisor when I was in grad school in Vermont in the late 90s. Over the course of two years, he became a fantastic friend, and someone who challenged me to think about my work in more complex and sophisticated ways. He helped to lay the groundwork for what I believe is a wonderful career in student affairs administration.

Today, Troy ran the Boston Marathon. He has had this dream for many many years, and today he ran the Boston Marathon in 3 hours and 50 minutes. Someone today asked me if that was a 'good' time. It's the freakin' Boston Marathon!!! Of course it's good! It's amazing!!!

So not only did Troy inspire me to be the professional I am today, but with him fulfilling this dream, he's inspired me to reach higher, work harder, run farther, and achieve more. Tonight, at the gym, I couldn't help but crank up the speed on the treadmill while I ran. I stopped over-thinking my power-cleans and am starting to feel great about them. I didn't think twice about putting 630 pounds on the leg press (that's 14 big plates), and powered out 3 sets of 15 reps (FYI: 630 pounds is just a little heavier than 2 20-cubic foot Maytag refrigerators). And as one member told me I was looking good, and as a trainer at the gym told me my workouts were looking great, I couldn't help but be happy. Proud. Inspired.

It's having people like Troy in my life that helps to keep me going on this journey. I'm surrounded by wonderful friends and family who are all very supportive of what I'm doing. But I do have to admit, that as of late, this has begun to feel like a very solitary journey. Yes, I've got lots of people cheering me on by the sidelines, but when it comes to actually getting to the gym, and cranking out my workouts, it's just me. And it has to be. But on days like today, I couldn't help but feel that as I was running on the treadmill at 9.0 miles an hour (I normally run at 7.5), that Troy was running with me. I felt the same way as I closely monitored his progress on the internet, and beamed with pride when his time came up on my computer monitor at the office. He fulfilled his dream, and I am well on my way to achieving my own.

So, while running the Boston Marathon isn't at the top of my list of things to do, having that feeling of elation, joy and accomplishment that I am sure comes with crossing the finish line is right up there. I've often fallen asleep at night wondering what it might feel like to run a race. A 5k. A 10k. Maybe even a half marathon.

So, as Sebastien tells me all the time, having goals is important, and saying them out loud is even more important. Because, then they become real. I said this one out loud to my friend Jonathan yesterday, and I'm saying out loud to you all today.

October 2010 -- I'm going to run the Toronto Half-marathon. That's 13 miles. It's more than a year away, but something I've always wanted to experience, and something I know I will. Because it's entirely possible. I didn't think that losing 30 pounds was ever going to happen, and today, I weigh the same as I did in 1993. And I've still got a ways to go. So, by October 2010, I should be ready to take the plunge, and run 13 miles through the streets of Toronto.

I also said this goal out loud to Troy the other day as I sent him words of encouragement for his big day. And in his true style, he was supportive, encouraging, and a true friend. He also offered to join me on the run. It will be the first time I will have seen him since I graduated in 1999. I'm already excited thinking about the possibility.

So, in October 2010, I'll have a Boston Marathon 'finisher' running by my side in realizing one of my own lifelong goals. Troy's going to join me. How about you???

Kia kaha.
Stay strong.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Make them eat crow....

I don't know if you've ever had that moment in your life when you feel like the whole world is against you. The whispers, the eye rolls, the laughing and the pointing of complete strangers are all signs that you've got a battle to fight. And if you never experienced this, consider yourself extremely lucky. But as I've moved through the world all my life carrying extra weight (physical and emotional), I've always felt like I've had mountains to climb -- bigger, higher and steeper than most people, just to prove that I'm 'worth it'. It's a tough haul, and I don't think I'll ever let go of that sense of battle or that I have something to fight against, even though the load gets lighter each and every day.

Today, a friend posted this video to his facebook profile, and I cannot put into words just how much I know how this woman feels. I want you to take the 7 minutes to sit back and watch. Watch the doubt. Watch the eye rolls. Watch the fact that thousands of people make blatant assumptions about who this woman is and what she is capable of. Hold up the mirror to yourself and watch if you have the same reactions, and make the same assumptions.

The, I want you to listen. Listen to her voice. Listen to the lyrics (oddly one of m favourite broadway show tunes of all time). Listen to her spirit. Open your ears, your mind, your heart. Listen to this woman. And in the back of your head, or even out loud, join me in cheering her on and saying to this audience and all of those who watched: "Take that, you skeptical f**kers!"

Susan Boyle on Britain's Got Talent

(I would normally download the video, but my conversion software isn't working, so this link will take you to YouTube)

Welcome to my world. Welcome to my battle. Join me in my fight. May we all have victories like this our lives.

Kia kaha.
Stay strong.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

How much fight is in me?

I had a lovely moment tonight at the gym. A woman who saw me doing a kickboxing class at on Tuesday night, stopped me to tell me how impressed she was with my technique, and how hard I was working in the class. We got to talking a little bit about what was motivating each of us to get in shape, and I was thrilled to share with her how much weight I've lost. I was even more thrilled with her reaction and words of support. I smiled, and felt good... for a moment. I've been getting lots of feedback lately -- people stopping me and telling me how good I'm looking, how I'm inspiring them, how my punches and kicks are "pretty wicked". And it's an odd feeling, 'cause I've never been a physically combative person. I've always been predisposed to a fight based in words and principles, but never in punches and kicks. Which makes the fact that Sebastien and I have started sparring during our workouts that much more ironic. However, I've been in a bit of a funk as of late, and in spite of this woman's kind and generous words, and those of many others, I continue to feel that it would be so very very easy for me to give up right now. So, as I sat on the bike cranking out the last 20 minutes of my workout tonight, my legs spinning and heart pounding, I couldn't help but ask myself, "How much fight do I have left in me?"

I've been feeling a bit beaten down lately. That's likely why it's been a wee while since I last blogged. There are moments that I feel like this space should be about sharing all of the positive stuff that I'm going through. But I realize that I've got to put the bad out there with the good. I'm tired. I'm cranky. I think I'm having my 'manses'. Yes, I'm still going to the gym every day, powering through a minimum of 1200 calories in a workout, and experiencing the endorphin rush and adrenaline high, though brief, that everyone says should help a person to dig himself out of the dumps. But it doesn't seem to be working right now. I'm still asking myself, "Have I gone far enough? How much further do I have to go? How much further can I go?"

Things at work have been pretty stressful lately. It's the end of term, and students are going into crisis left, right, and centre. That means that my days are filled with trying to manage complex situations, come up with reasonable solutions, and help people who are struggling in their lives to keep on track. The irony is that I feel like I could veer off my own track without much effort. Furthermore, the economy sucks, funding at work is scarce, and I have moments of vulnerability at a time when I fear that my boss is struggling to piece together enough funding to keep me employed. Let's just say that my stress level is running high, my energy is running low, and every time I see a student on campus taking a bite out of a Tim Horton's Canadian Maple donut, I want to tear it out of their hands and shove it down my gullet to dull the stress, worry and angst that I'm feeling. I realize that at this moment in time, in spite of all I've done and accomplished, it would be really easy for me to give up.

I figure any one person only has so much fight in him. There are more and more days when I feel like I'm fighting at work -- for the university to do the 'right' thing, for my boss to realize that I'm valued. Not a day goes by when I feel like I'm not fighting myself (and my 'demons' as one student described his own addiction this week) to keep on track with my health and fitness goals. Hell, last night I was fighting with my dog -- to remind her that even though daddy was a bit late coming home from work, that taking a stinky crap in the dining room is a passive aggressive
(albeit effective) way of expressing her dismay and feeling of neglect. But really, after you fight so much against forces, perceived and/or real, that you feel are keeping you down, at some point, you're gonna crack and throw in the towel.

So I have to shake my head and realize that my fight isn't as tough as I think. I think. I have been dealing with a student at work over the past few days, who has been struggling with drug addiction. But he's trying to deal with it. I think. I met with a student who, after his third attempt at taking his life, finally entered a treatment program and is going to face his demons head on. I think. There are so many more people who struggle with issues that are far more complex and complicated than what I struggle with in my own life. So, why am I feeling like it's so difficult? Is that selfish of me? Would giving up be doing a disservice to people who have fought more profound fights, like my aunt who lost her battle with cancer, or my uncle who won his? Am I really that ready to give up???

I'm not quite there. Yet. But it wouldn't take me long to turn that corner and wave the white flag for a while. I mean, I've done a LOT of work in the past 10 months. I've lost close to 90 pounds from working out 6 days a week. I've turned into my worst nightmare -- I'm a friggin' gym rat!!!

I'm pushing my body to its physical limits, resulting in aches and pains in places I never knew existed. I'm pushing my mind to think about myself and my relationship with food and fitness in a healthier way, sometimes making me a tad obsessive about analyzing calories, sugar and fat content in food. More than anything, I'm pushing my soul -- the essential core of my being -- to be in the world in a whole new way, leaving me feeling vulnerable, exposed, and uncertain about what lays ahead.

I've done a lot of pushing.
I've done a lot of fighting.
But I remain committed, albeit sometimes by a thread alone, to getting one last punch or kick in on the fight. I'm pretty sure I've got it in me.

That said, I'm fascinated with the fact that even though I'm feeling like I don't have much fight left, and that I'm fed up with combat -- at work, at the gym, with my dog -- that the only thing I can think of that will help me feel better is tossing a few punches and kicks at the punching bag in the gym. So tonight, I did a 40-minute run (cranked up my speed by .5 km/hr), a 20-minute elliptical run (at level 13), and a 20-minute bike ride (at level 12). Then, before returning to the locker room, I walked over to the back of the gym, and tossed a few good punches and kicks into the bag. No gloves. No pads. But I felt better. Not totally better, but a bit better. And I walked away kowing that I do still have some fight in me. And that's what will keep me moving, keep me punching, keep me kicking.

Fight on.

Kia kaha.
Stay Strong.