Catching my breath.

When you wake up not sure what day it is, I think that’s a sure sign you’re about to recover from a drunken stupor.  However, in my case it’s a sure sign that I’ve definitely overdone the piling of my plate.

Call me a glutton for punishment.  At the end of the day I actually think I love what I’m doing.  I don’t know how much I will love doing it once October 5 rolls around, at which time one more thing will be added to my plate, which may tip it over completely because it pertains directly to grad school.  However, right now I’m surviving.

So I decided to take a job as a tutor at a nearby college.  This is where I had completed all my science prerequisites for grad school.  This is where I also, somewhat on a whim, decided to enroll into the culinary program because I figured it would give me something challenging yet not too science-y to do as I complete the last few quarters of grad school.  And it’s related to the whole nutrition/wellness/healthy interventions thing I’m hoping to focus on when I’m set free from academia.

My former Anatomy and Physiology professor caught wind of my presence on campus and the next thing I knew, I was hired as a peer tutor to lead guided study groups for her classes.  The first few weeks have been a bear, as I’m trying to get used to office dynamics (politics) while reacquainting myself with the human body.  I am a little surprised that it has all come back with relative ease.

However, I’m still trying to figure out the office dynamics part, which will likely never happen because unlike the “me” of my 20s when I cared about what people think, the “me” of my 40s doesn’t really care.  Or really, I probably just don’t have time.  Along with A&P, I also do math drop ins, and I have a handful of appointments related to everything from Biomedical Terminology to Developmental Psychology.  Granted, I do think the drop ins and appointments have more to do with showing students study techniques and ways they can organize the giant heap of information they have to learn.  At least I hope so because I don’t have that much brain capacity.

In addition to all of this, I was unexpectedly hired to teach Bodypump at a nearby gym, an opportunity I jumped at immediately because in all my 9+ years of teaching group fitness classes, I have never taught any Les Mills program within such close proximity to my house.  The only problem is, the times they need me conflict with the tutoring gig, except for every other Saturday.  I’ll take it.

So in a nutshell, this is my current laundry list.  And I am only writing this all out to remind myself to not do this ever again:

  1. Grad school (online/independent study)- Advanced research study with children and weight perception/diabetes prevention.  With a group, thankfully.
  2. Tutoring – A&P guided study groups, math drop ins, appointments.
  3. Culinary Arts – Intro to Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management (online).
  4. Group Fitness – Bodypump and Bodyjam.  Nothing more.  Nope.  Just say NO.  Seriously.  Even though it’s fun and the participants are awesome.
  5. Marathon training – Chicago Marathon, 10/8.
  6. Grad school – Research Methods in Nutrition, begins 10/5.
  7. Parenting – which I am trying not to suck at.
  8. Oh yeah, ACSM personal training certification, which is totally on the back burner even though I’ve been “attending” (sleeping through) the weekly webinar.

Somewhere in the mix is my husband, injured so he hasn’t been running with me.  But he gladly does the laundry, makes me coffee, and carries all 200 pounds of textbooks, gym gear, and/or culinary tools out to the car for me, depending on where I’m heading off to.  Next semester that list will be reduced by more than 150%.  Seriously.

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Half way to something

A few days ago I celebrated another birthday.  Every year it becomes a time of new commitments, almost like making New Year’s resolutions.  I always keep this simple by telling myself I’d drink more water, get more sleep, start doing yoga again, etc.  It’s usually so simple that by the time a year passes I usually can’t remember what I committed to, which is probably for my own good because I tend to overcommit to larger, more complicated tasks on a regular basis.

This past year I underestimated the effort needed to balance everything and learned the importance of not only prioritizing, but doing it with such fierceness that I made a few enemies along the way.

Why?

1. Because not everyone has children.  Or I should say, not everyone has adolescent children.  Life is completely different from the time when my children were portable and agreeable. Hormones have transformed these sweet angels into pissed off little turds who question the need to do things adults tell them to do like folding their laundry or making their beds so that they don’t become nesting grounds for dust bunnies and spiders.  Now they want independence, but at the same time need rides to band rehearsals, basketball practice, friends’ houses, in addition to the funding necessary to do all of these things that have taken over the family calendar.

It’s a natural part of growing up, of course, so I’m happy to do all of these things for them, amid the pouting and protest when there is a scheduling conflict or a conflict of interest.  But when I have deadlines or have to be on campus for class, it’s tough to break away from the mommy guilt.  Sadly, I can’t be in more than one place at one time, so my children have grown accustomed to my absence.  When I really think about it, they have never complained about that, partly because my husband has done a pretty good job of taking over.  And maybe they just totally get it, which totally deserves a trip to Disneyland when I finally graduate.

2. Because not everyone thinks this grad school gig is worthwhile.  I will go so far as to say that my butt cheeks have made a permanent indenture on this chair that I currently sit in.  I am here for hours upon hours each day when the session is in full swing.

Sometimes I surprise myself and turn everything in early, which leaves me paranoid that I must have forgotten something because twiddling my thumbs doesn’t happen all that often.  Many times I’m feverishly racing ahead of a deadline, especially when I’m having difficulty wrapping my head around whatever it is I have to research and analyze so that I have enough to write a concise 5-page paper.

Needless to say, I’m a hermit.  When I am extremely overwhelmed I would much rather escape and do something other than focusing on what I really need to do, which is why I often deactivate my Facebook account and place my iPhone and iMessenger on “Do Not Disturb”.

My family already knows that a closed bedroom door means that I’m in deadline panic mode, and until I emerge I cannot process any extraneous information.  They have attempted communication during such times of duress, but they have also learned that I don’t remember any of it.

I’d like to think my friends and extended family understand this also, but I also learned this past year that not everyone really gives a shit about what I’m doing.  They don’t realize that I spent more than 15 years out of the work force so that I could raise my children. A divorce during that time left us in financial ruins and we have been living off of the same amount of child support since 2010 because their biological father has successfully avoided mediation since then.

Even if I wanted to return to work as my original calling in graphic design, I’d need extensive schooling to catch up with the times, for technology has changed just a little bit over the years.  They also don’t realize that in my attempt to avoid school loans while completing my pre-requisites, I paid for everything out of pocket which was a huge financial strain.

I’m a sociable person and would gladly hang out at the local bar or night spot with a drink in hand catching up with friends, but even that was only feasible if I had the extra time between semesters and a little bit of wiggle room on my credit card.

The burning question is:  Why do I have to explain this to anybody?  I don’t, which is why I have burned some bridges this past year.  This was drama, like the sort of stuff I had to deal with in high school, but only amplified with the extra dynamic of social media.  Needless to say, there is also a Block function that comes with many forms of modern day gadgetry which I have used extensively in order to stay focused on what is really important.  I can only do so much; therefore, my time is spent on only those who realize it and appreciate it.

3. Because not everyone realizes how much work is involved with my job.  I still don’t even consider “group fitness instructor” to be a real job even though my years of experience have earned me a substantial rate for every class I teach.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a real job that requires a lot of work that I don’t get paid to do, most of which involves countless hours of learning music and choreography so that I can teach an effective class.  The satisfaction comes from the delivery, and I can see this on the participants’ faces who come back week after week after week.  Showing up and teaching is actually the fun part, almost like a break from the outside world in which I can just do something else for an hour or two.

This past year I have had to step away from the lure of teaching multiple classes and multiple formats at multiple gyms.  Not only was this exhausting, it was eating into time I could have been spending with my kids, and I was constantly confused about where I had to be.

I also learned the value of working for people who appreciate what I do.  As ridiculous as that may sound, I realized for some managers it’s all about simply filling the instructor spot with any breathing body just so the class can happen, regardless of experience, commitment to the facility and its members, or the potential for injury.  I have always been told to treat that time slot that I’ve been hired to teach like gold, which I have always done even when I’m just there to sub.  However, I expect this to be reciprocated from the management, especially when I work my butt off to pack their classes.  Sadly, that doesn’t always happen.  Normally I would simply step away and move on, for in this instance I did need to make my life less busy because grad school had started.  But I refused to let this manager think that was the only reason why.  Hopefully the parting letter to him and his superiors explained this clearly.

4. Because I fill every amount of free space with something.  Several years ago, I moved back to the Chicago area to be near family.  I assumed that because we were related, they would take an interest in me and my children and we would have that social support that I had been craving since my divorce.

I realized after ending a long relationship with a sociopath (“What’s His Face”) that this was not the case, and I would assume that having fun with him was probably more appealing than hanging out with me at home because I no longer had the time or the financial means to party hard alongside them.

I get it.  It’s not cool.  It isn’t the type of stuff that makes for successful selfies on social media.  Naturally, being the sociopath that he is, this guy took advantage of this, which I’m sure softened the blow of being dumped by me.  He made sure he was in every single photo with my cousins and it was always posted online somewhere, like the sick fuck that he is.

Sure this hurt, but not as much as the backlash I received when I voiced my concern to these people who I thought would understand.  You know, because they were family. I am convinced now that some higher being intentionally made this traumatizing for me so that I would walk away from them and the lifestyle they lead forever.  This wasn’t the type of thing that would make me a productive human being in society.

Needless to say, I then had endless opportunities to meet new people and create life changing relationships because I finally had the time to do it.  After a 2-year hiatus, I started teaching group fitness classes again, something which I gave up when I left North Carolina because at the time it was instilled in me by What’s His Face that it wasn’t a real job and it didn’t matter.  I cannot even begin to say how wrong he was.  I have met hundreds of people over the past 4 years because I was no longer limiting myself to this small circle of so-called family, and many of these people have become close friends, one of whom I ended up marrying.  I don’t even think they realize the impression they made on me as I was attempting to pave a new path for myself, but here I am, with every crevice of free time filled because of school, teaching, marathon training, all the while trying to establish some sort of normalcy at home.

I think the most important lesson I learned this past year is that this process doesn’t have to be perfect. At the same time I need to respect myself and hold true these boundaries I’ve started to build in order to keep my priorities straight.  Quiet the negativity, whether it’s those who don’t believe in me or the voices in my head that tell me I’m not worthy.  Those who matter the most will continue to offer guidance, support, and understanding.  For at this point I’m half way through my 40’s already. Or, one could even say I’m half way through my lifespan if I make it to 90.  Rather than get caught up with What’s a girl my age doing all of the things she’s doing??, I need to just seize the day.  For tomorrow… who knows.

When it hurts to sneeze.

This kickboxing circuit class.  It’s going to kick ass.  I know this every time I sneeze, cough, or burp because all those muscles that are apparently used to do these simple bodily functions scream in pain every.single.time.

It’s been two days since my test run, with my only intention to see if the combinations flowed smoothly and, most importantly, to make sure the intervals app I downloaded on my iPhone worked without crashing.  I’ve realized through the years of teaching that anything related to technology can go wrong at any time, so the latter will require some crossing of fingers and a back up in the form of my old school iPod Classic, which has it’s own story of death and resurrection that I will save for another blog entry.

At least now I know what sorts of pain the participants might be feeling a week from today, and hopefully it’s the type of pain that will keep them coming back for more.  Not that I have a no-pain-no-gain mantra by any means, but at this particular gym I know the members have been seeking a class that isn’t Zumba or anything related to music and choreography.  It’s bare bones, simple, but intense, which will add some nice variety to the evening schedule.  Followed by CXWorx, a 30-minute core conditioning class, we will all have awesome core muscles in a few weeks’ time.  Honestly, can it get any better?

Well, I can answer that more honestly in a couple more days after I get a much needed massage from the hubby and the soreness subsides.  Until then, all those muscles.  They seriously hate me right now.

Circus, I mean, Circuits

Next week I’ll be adding a kickboxing circuit class to my schedule.  It would be nice to say that I’ll be a participant this time around, but let’s face it, I never seem to have the time (or the motivation) to head to the gym to do my own thing, unless it’s squeezing in a few miles on the dreadmill for marathon training.  And even then I feel like I’m sometimes doing it under duress, like if I don’t adhere to the training schedule then I will be doomed in 15 weeks so it has to be done, no matter how miserable it feels.

I have to blame the mind tricks.  The first couple of miles are awkward and slow, and I ask myself why I can’t just skip today and do this tomorrow.  Then in the last one-tenth of a mile I’m in a euphoric state because it’s another few miles in the books and my runner’s high suddenly outshines my old, lazy, unmotivated self.  Yes, I must do this again and it will feel awesome, it really will!

Which leads me to the question, once again:  How did I get myself into this?

Oh that’s right.  It was winter.  Training through the summer in preparation for a fall race sounded like a great idea at the time.  Most days it still sounds like a great idea because it does the body good to do something different every so often.  But some days I am so tired.  The knees hurt more this year than last year and the previous years.  I’m getting old.

Or maybe I just need to stop teaching so many classes.

Which leads me to another question:  How did I end up teaching a kickboxing circuit class?

Simply because I really wanted to teach CXWorx, a core conditioning class, right after it.  Currently I only teach it during the summer and it was my chance to teach it on a regular basis.  It’s only 30 minutes long, but does a phenomenal job with functional core strength, which is needed for every day things such as picking up children, gardening, lugging groceries up two flights of stairs, and of course, teaching one too many group fitness classes and marathon training.

But before I start to convince myself that I’m not a kickboxing anything, I must be reminded that it was my first group fitness class many, many years ago, when I was too scared to join a gym and a girlfriend decided during her bachelorette party that she would like all of us to attend a class as part of the festivities.  It became part of my workout even after I started teaching classes, though I never personally taught it.  I know the technical basics, which is all I need to see how this class fares the first time around.

If there is anything I learned as an instructor, it’s to teach in the essence of the program.  I know that’s totally Les Mills thing, which is engrained in all of us when we go to the initial training for any of their phenomenal programs.  It simply means do not show up to an RPM (spin) class wearing leotards and a tutu.  Needless to say, the gloves have been broken in, and the outfit is in the works.  The rest will come in the form of an attitude.  If it’s an opportunity to hit stuff, then it will definitely be worth it.

Mileage.

In the last seven years of teaching group fitness classes, I’ve amassed a few certifications and licenses:  Bodypump, Bodyflow, Bodyattack, CXWorx, Zumba, Insanity, and PoundFit.  The only three I don’t teach regularly are Bodyattack, Zumba, and Insanity.  I’m not a huge fan of cardio; PoundFit is about as cardio as I get.  So even though I’ve had many opportunities to teach these classes, I often hesitate long enough so that someone else who absolutely loves teaching those formats can have a go at it.  I don’t want to be a class hog, after all.

Obviously marathon training involves a great deal of cardio, however, I’ve come to the realization that the temporary bout of insanity brought on by cabin fever around the frigid months of January to February is the reason why I tend to find myself at the start line of a marathon the following fall.   It sounds like such a great idea at the time:  the warm wind in my hair, the sound of pavement beneath my feet, the chance to be one with nature.  But then there is the training schedule, and so many miles.  So many miles.

Yet, as the first week of marathon training was underway, where was I?  Sitting in this very spot starting a new blog because I couldn’t do much else.  I’ve had injuries before that involved broken toes, sprained ankles, a random ache and pain that is easily foam rolled away.  However, this thing going on with my back was maddening because I could not pinpoint what it was.  I immediately looked up the anatomy of the back to try and find what muscle was affected, perhaps so I could attempt to fix it somehow.  But the following day I was rendered immobile, literally.  The only remedy was to sit and wait.  And wait some more.  As much as I welcome the idea of sitting and doing nothing, being forced to do so was starting to gnaw at me.

Tomorrow I’m back teaching Bodypump, which will be the true test to see how the back holds up.  With my husband there, I won’t be tempted to go over the top, even though I am so incredibly antsy at this point.  If anything, I suppose I should give myself some credit for following doctor’s orders, and also for showing restraint every time a friend mentioned another race.  I could have easily signed us up for half a dozen races between now and December.

But lesson learned:  Let the body heal itself.  Rest.  Recover.  Because being sidelined, even for a few days, really stinks.

The trial run.

This morning will be my first time back in the gym teaching a class.  My mental schedule is so out of whack, when I wake up each morning I have to really think about what day it is.  It’s Sunday.  That means it’s the 5th day of being down for the count.  I’ll blame my lack of routine and the pain meds.

Since June I’ve taken on 9 classes a week.  It’s likely the reason why I injured my back, though I will gladly blame anything else but that.  The night before I didn’t sleep very well, therefore, I didn’t allow myself to recover.  That morning I cleaned all three bathrooms in the house, like really got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed every corner.  Cleaning has not been my top priority since starting school, so I’m fairly certain that contributed.  And ultimately, the first day of marathon training with the inaugural 3 mile run could have done it also.  But I refuse to blame my teaching schedule.  Bodypump six days a week?  Nah, that can’t possibly be it.  Right.

Today the test run will be Bodyflow, a fusion of tai chi, yoga, and pilates.  It can be more difficult that lifting weights.  Or it can be relaxing and restorative.  I have a feeling today will be difficult, but more mental than physical.  A lot of talking, which I don’t like to do normally.  This will be an interesting challenge.