Monthly Archives: January 2005

1/31/05 Week 4 check in (279)

Good Monday all. 279 Days to the marathon.

Well, sorry to report that the scale did not budge this week. I remain at a total of 8.5 down. I’m not upset. I feel I stayed on plan on all week, I didn’t suffer and all things equal it is a lifestyle I can maintain. I think if I had been starving myself or eating just grapefruit and didn’t lose any weight I would be more mad. But I ate very healthy food, followed my plan and felt under control all week. I honestly believe my body just needs a week or so to readjust — it is trying to figure out what is going on.

One thing I think I was lackadaisical about this week was my water consumption. I think in previous weeks I was very conscientious about drinking more than sufficient water. This week I was drinking water but I think I just did the minimum. On a couple of days I realized at midday that coffee had been my only beverage so far.

Some of the triathletes on weight watchers play a little point earning game with themselves — it’s like playing poker for matchsticks — no real reward other than the knowledge that you won. You designate 5 daily goals for the week and earn one point each time you make the 5. In the week you have a total possible score of 35. At the end of the week, everyone reports how many points they earned. Here are my 5 daily challenges:

1 – Drink a minimum of 10 glasses of water a day (8 + 2 for workout)

2 – Take my multivitamin & Glucosmine (you’d THINK that would be easy)

3 – 1 hour minimum exercise a day — on the day when I don’t swim/bike/run that means strength work out or pilates.

4 – No eating at all 3 hours before bedtime — new rule. I’ve tried it a couple of times this week and it worked well. I’m not sure how it will work after practices etc. But this week I have no night time practices.

5 – Write in my blog and record all extra points consumed and earned. (the blog isn’t a problem, but I stopped recording points last week because I didn’t think I was using any — then when I thought about it I realized I had! I didn’t go over, but I did use some.)

So each day I will earn 1 point for each of these tasks I complete. At the end of the week I have a total of 35 points to earn. I’ll write in the top of each day’s blog the number of points I earned and note which I slipped up on. I think I’ll put a little index card on my desk so I can check these items off. Maybe I’ll give myself shiny little stars……

So, here we are, officially arrived in the trenches of my journey to fitness. The flush of the new romance is over and now is the time for me to see what stuff I am made of.

I am proud of myself for sticking to it for 4 weeks. I’m a little disappointed I didn’t drop the whole 10 as the first GTS is Saturday. (Who knows, maybe I’ll drop 1.5 by Saturday?) But I’d rather not carry the 8.5 pounds and had I not worked this hard for these 4 weeks I would still be carrying them.

I notice in a lot things I do — tennis, running, even work on complicated projects, when I feel like I just can’t go on any more — my confidence is not there, my muscles are too exhausted, or my brain is twisted from too many calculations, if I can push through that critical moment I am always surprised at what I can do.

As you read more of my posts, you’ll see I like to use tennis as an example a lot because like many sports, what happens on the court is often reflected in life (or is it the other way around?) For me, I play a power game. I am not comfortable just hitting it back and forth on the baseline. I look for any opportunity to come to the net and put the ball away. I have to work a lot on staying in a rally, sometimes that is the right thing to do. After I hit the 5th ball, I start to become aware that we are “duking it out.” As soon as I am aware of it, that’s when I miss. As soon as I say “oh, we’ve hit 5 balls” some equation in my mind gets completed and I drop the next shot. I have found, however, if I start right away with the mantra of “next ball” it gets me through many more balls than 5. I don’t count how many balls I am hitting, I just hit the ball, return to ready position and say “next ball.” If I invite the ball to return, I am not intimidated about staying in the point. Ironically, the opponent usually misses on the sixth ball. Hmmm, maybe they have the same problem? LOL

In running, the same thing happens all the time. As I’ve mentioned, it takes me a long time to get warmed up to running. The first two miles I am in mental pain. My body is fighting me tooth and nail and does not want to do this. I hear my bones creak and my body admonishing “We were so comfy on the couch, why are you doing this to me? Ouch, ouch, I can’t breath.” Then around mile 3 my lungs kind of release — I’ve heard this called “the second exhale.” Then I can breath normally, my legs have grown bored with complaining and now I can run without all that commotion. Miles 3 and 4 are my best miles, I usually feel I am running well (as long as my knee has not gone astray) and that is when my body usually says “hey, this isn’t bad, why don’t we do this more often?” Continuing on to five, six through ten all depend on how much I’ve been training.

My work too, consists of a lot of what I call “short burst” thinking. I have two jobs, farm out the work to the people who work for me and figure out the problem when they can’t figure it out. Often I have one small problem to figure out and it takes a day of mulling it over before I find the answer. It usually takes the same form, someone calls me “Connie, we can’t figure out how to xyz — uvw isn’t working.” My immediate response to myself is, “I don’t know, the gig is up, they’ll now find out I don’t know anything.” I wander around my apartment, mumbling, murmuring — I can’t figure it out, I go to sleep mad at myself because I can’t figure it out. Then almost every time, I wake up, take a shower and Eureka! The answer appears. It always happens in the shower — I don’t know why. And, even more interesting, I’m surprised every time! I’ve usually forgotten that I was even thinking about the problem. I’ve often thought I should just jump in the shower after one of those phone calls and save us all a lot of time.

The point is, in all of these cases, and I hate to be so cliche, but it is darkest before the dawn. The moment you feel like you can’t go on, you can’t hit one more ball, run one more mile, you can’t figure it out, the diet is going to fail, I’ll be fat forever — that’s when it is most important to push through because you are in the darkness before the dawn. It is hitting that one extra shot that wins the point. If you can keep running just up to that lamppost you’ll finish the race. It is thinking about the problem one more minute that finds the solution. It’s about not giving up.

The world is full of people who stop too short. It is easy to stop short. The fun comes in the final push — that’s when you find out what you are made of. There is glory in the groan of ONE MORE!

Andrew Carnegie said “Whatever I engage in, I must push inordinately.”

Hey, I figure, good enough for him, good enough for me!

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1/30/05 The Come Back (280)

Just finished watching the men’s final of the Australian Open. Very interesting match — a real roller coaster. Marat Safin was the favorite to win going in, but Layton Hewitt would be the first Australian in something like 29 years to win their Open. The energy of the crowd was explosive. Hewitt came out riding on a horse of adrenaline and won the first set 6-1 . Safin was totally demoralized. Like most people, I like Safin ’cause he is the good guy and Hewitt behaves like a jerk. So it really was a good guy/bad guy fight (only Hewitt was dressed in white and Safin in black).

It is hard to watch someone suffering on the tennis court — especially when you know they are nervous and just can’t find their game (been there!). It is actually painful to watch — I have to cover my eyes. The crowd was cheering for Hewitt and Safin was hitting balls out. Then Hewitt was yelling his “C’MON” when Safin made an error (one of the many reasons we don’t like Hewitt).

Slowly Safin’s serve started to settle in and before I knew it he had won the second set. He still, however, didn’t look like he believed he was going to win. His nerves were apparent. He was just holding on by the skin of his teeth.

In the third set Hewitt came out and took advantage of Marat’s nerves — he had Safin down 3-0. I heard the hand of doom knocking on the door. Hewitt was riding the energy of the crowd and some lucky net shots fell his way. It wasn’t looking good.

Hewitt made a few unforced errors and then they had some amazing long rallies. Inch by inch Safin started coming back. Point by point he just kept plugging away until he had won 9 consecutive games. He went from being down 0-3 in the third set to being up 3-0 in the 4th set. It was amazing. In front of my eyes he morphed from a pile of nerves to a man of steel. He became a machine — steamrolling right over Hewitt. Safin was popping off ace after ace after ace and displaying all around power and athleticism. Hewitt was working hard and struggling to stay in. He wasn’t shouting “C’MON” anymore — even Hewitt knew he was over. When Safin finished him off in the 4th set there was no doubt in anyone’s mind who was the stronger player. I mean Safin beat Federer — only the best can beat Federer.

After the match I couldn’t help but have one of my “Sports ‘r Life” moments. That match was very similar to my quest for fitness and health. I like to think I’m like Marat Safin in the second set. Yeah, I’m down a set (in pounds) but I’m making a comeback. Comebacks happen when you hunker down, focus on the ball and just keep grinding away until point by point, pound by pound you win. Even in those moments of doubt, Marat just kept plugging away.

They interviewed Marat’s coach Peter Lundgren and asked him how they were addressing the problem of Marat’s temper and losing focus on the court (Marat has been know to smash a racquet or two). Lungren said that the way they were approaching it was to not worry about Marat losing his temper. Instead, he said, they would concentrate on getting him back into the game as quickly as possible. It struck me that philosophy would work for me too. If and when I fall off plan (I’m sure it will happen one day) I’ll try to just let it happen and focus on getting back on track as soon as possible.

In my magazine “Experience” they were talking about some of the reasons people fail on diets. One of the reasons is because often if people stumble early in the day or week they say “what the hell, it’s ruined now anyway” and use that slipup as a permission slip to eat with abandon. Instead, they suggest, if you fall off the “diet” wagon — your ultimate success is tied to how quickly you get back on the wagon. If you ate a box of cookies at 10 a.m., don’t consider the day a failure — just continue on trying to eat your next mouthful with nutrition and health in mind instead of focusing on that box of cookies.

In tennis sometimes we miss a shot because we are still thinking about the one we just missed. That is pointless and I have NEVER seen that help someone win the next point. You must constantly remind yourself to look forward. What’s happened has happened — the next ball is going to be coming at you regardless of what happened in the last point. You might as well get over it and focus in on this one. This is the same in life — we have to stay in the moment. What’s past is past. The only way to win the tournament is to focus on this one game, this point, this one shot, this one day, this one meal, this one mouthful.

Tomorrow is weigh in — I don’t know if I’m down anything this week — might be a wash, but I feel like I had a very good week on plan so I’m not going to be disappointed if I don’t drop any actual pounds. This is still very early in the game, and as Marat proved today if I just keep plugging away, victory will be mine.

I have spin class on Monday — Tues, Wed & Thurs I will try to run, Friday bike, Sat. GTS, Sunday the Gridiron!

So today I’ll leave you with a quote from yours truly “you’ll never get ahead if you are still looking back.”

280 days to the marathon…….

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1/29/05 The Slippery Slope and the Camel’s Nose (281)

Yesterday, Friday, I took a day off from working out. No doubt it is important to rest. I feel much more rejuvenated today and the temperature is a balmy 32 degrees. I’m going to head out to the park at noon (the morning 10 mile race should be over by then). I think today would be a great day to try some hill repeats to get me ready for next weekend’s race. Next Sunday is the Gridiron 5k. I would like to get two runs in this weekend, as well as a run on Tuesday and a run on Thursday. Saturday morning will be our first GTS (group training session) and they will probably just have us run a 2 mile social run. Then on Sunday, let’s see what I have for the 5K. If all goes well and I lose the 1.5 on Monday I will be down 10 lbs for the first race. (Okay back to where I was last year when I ran this race, but still down 10.)

My friends and I are all excited because we got our official invitations to register for the marathon. Of course they are torturing us and making us wait to register until Monday. This is going to be a great event. Stephanie, Melissa, Michelle and I all qualified by doing the 9 races. Missy qualified because she’s been denied the lottery twice so this time she is guaranteed. It is going to be an amazing race, but it is going to be even more amazing to do it with this group of people — each one inspirational in her own right. I am so lucky to have such motivating people around me — what did I do to deserve this wealth?

As I was cleaning the dishes this morning I was trying to figure what caused the ten pound gain this year. I know I had gained the ten pounds before Thanksgiving because I was not even counting the 3 extra pounds I gained at Thanksgiving and lost by January in my total weight loss. So how did I gain 10 lbs this year considering I was working out regularly and eating what I thought was very healthily?

Of course, there are lots of reasons, not just one. But one I reason I came up with is I was indulging too much in the “healthy fats.” In August I bought that book “Super Foods” which is a great book. But one of the things he talks about is taking a handful of nuts a day. Even before I bought the book I was abusing healthy fats. Once I bought the book, I added nuts to the abused food list. For years I have been an Olive Oil abuser. I lived on Feta Cheese, cucumber and tomato salads –on which I was liberal with Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar.

Let’s just do the math on those two items. One handful of walnuts (about 7 walnuts or 14 halves) is 185 calories. Not too terrible (that’s all he is recommending for health benefits). The three handfuls I was spacing out over the day on salads in yogurts and just nibbling — 555 calories. Olive oil, 2 tsp – 80 calories — not too bad. 2 tablespoons used throughout the day on salad and in sauteeing food 240 calories. So let’s just take the excess (the amount over 1 handful and over 2 tsps a day). 370 excess calories for walnuts and 160 excess calories for olive oil comes to 530 calories a day. 530 calories a day times 7 days is 3,710 calories. It takes 3,500 excess calories to create 1 pound of fat on your body. Of course even if I was eating relatively healthily the rest of the day — fruits, veggies, no fried foods. Just consuming those two items could result in a 1 pound a week gain. Of course the fact that I was exercising a lot fought off some of the gain but ultimately somehow between Feb 2004 and November 2004, I had let 10 pounds creep back on my body.

I would often complain — I work out so much, why am I not losing weight? I honestly thought I was trying to monitor my weight loss. I somehow rationalized away a lot of calories every time I worked out. If I did a big swim I would be so hungry that I felt I had earned an occasional bag of potato chips or an order of Pad Thai. I would not get the small snack size of chips, I would get that midsize bag — about 5 oz. I liked those fancy olive oil potato chips with cracked pepper. One bag holds 5 servings of potato chips and I could consume the entire bag after a swim practice. I didn’t do that every week, but I would say once a month I was good for a trip to the deli and getting a bag of chips (this ALWAYS happened after a swim practice). One ounce of chips is 170 calories and 7 grams of fat. 5 servings is 850 calories and 35 grams of fat. 850 calories is probably just about what I burned off during my swim workout. So that’s why my workout wasn’t helping me lose any weight.

Of course one bag of potato chips is not going to make you gain weight. But a bag of potato chips here, an order of Pad Thai there, an evening of cheese and wine here and a couple of nights out to dinner with rolls, butter and of course a shared dessert — and you are presented with your bill — 10 pounds. And that’s with working out five days a week. Ouch!!!

It doesn’t come on quickly, it comes on slowly so you don’t notice — so you feel okay with your weight. If we gained 10 pounds in one day we would all notice immediately and jump right on a diet. But time passes and weight accumulates in ounces first not pounds.

We are not surprised when we over spend (or maybe some of us are), why are we so surprised when we overeat? Think about it. If work hard at your job all week and then you go out and spend your whole paycheck on one shopping spree at Ann Taylor, are you surprised when you get the credit card bill and you don’t have enough money to pay for it? You’ve already spent your money on the necessities — the rent, the phone bill and electricity. You overspent when you did the shopping spree. Same thing with calories — they are just like money — blow your allowance — you go into debt. Notice DEBT and DIET are both four letter words? hmmmmmmm

I’m trying hard to change my focus from “diet” to “lifestyle.” I want to work within a budget but have some freedom to spend. Just like I would be frustrated if I worked hard and never got to buy something nice — I want to work out and every once in a while have an indulgence like a glass of wine or maybe some cheese. I don’t want to freak out if the scale doesn’t move or if I have a morsel off of plan. I want my focus to be nourishment not negativity. The sign of a success is not falling down, it is getting back up. I think I live a little in fear of falling down.

I went to my 3rd Weight Watchers meeting on Friday. This time they said I lost 1 pound which I felt was about right. I was definitely retaining some water, and I had upped my caloric intake before workouts that week. 1 pound was good. (Of course official weigh in is still Mondays).

I like the WW leader very much. I think her name is Marianne. She is just the right blend of upbeat energy and realism. She was pretty funny telling us a story about a woman who came up to her and said that she was going to Paris for vacation and would have to miss the NY meeting. The woman told Marianne not to worry because she found the location of a Weight Watchers group in Paris and would be sure to go to a meeting. Marianne rolled her eyes and said “please, if you are going to Paris, don’t spend your time at a Weight Watchers meeting!” I thought it was a good story because it illustrated how ridiculously zealous people can get about their “diets.”

I certainly understand the fever of not wanting to touch a carb thinking I would suddenly turn into a pillar of salt. I remember making fake mashed potatoes out of cauliflower because I was on the Carbohydrate Addicts Lifespan Plan diet and that’s what they told us to do. Like a potato is the embodiment of dietary evil. Someone once said to me they felt bad for the potato because it got such a bad rap. It’s not the potato — it’s what we do to the poor thing. We fry it, top it with cheese, butter, sour cream and then when we gain weight the first thing we want to blame is the potato! A plain baked potato is less than 100 calories. Gimme a break!

I don’t want to be a dietary zealot, but I also don’t want to set foot on the slippery slope. That’s were you slip one inch, see it didn’t hurt that much and start to slip another inch. Next thing you know you are at the bottom of the hill in a pile of Mississippi Mud Pie.

Time to head out for my run — Stephanie just called saying she is going to do hill repeats in the park. How’s that for a sign?

A great variation on the slippery slope:

“The camel’s nose is in the tent, and in one year, the camel is in the tent.”.

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1/28/05 Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (282)

Yesterday I wrote about the Demon of Doubt and I didn’t get a chance to acknowledge Thanksgiving on Thursday. So today I’d like to combine thankfulness and feelings into one day.

Today I’m thankful for my health. I want to start celebrating food and exercise not as a means to an end (losing weight) but rather as tools to build a life of health and fitness. want to start enjoying food and exercise as spiritual tools on my path of awareness. I want to make the connection that this grain I am putting in my mouth is building a stronger and leaner body. I want to be aware of the nutritional needs of my body and give it the opportunity to perform at its peak.

I guess this week I have been feeling a little like I’m on “food duty.” Every day, every hour in some way I’ve been on call. Either I’m buying it, cooking it, chopping it, eating it, cleaning up after it or thinking about the next time I am going to eat it — it’s been a little exhausting. I know this sounds pitifully whiny. Oh poor baby, people starving all over the world and you have too much food to think about? A good problem to have, no?

If you think about the disgusting abundance of food in this country and how we eat massive amount of calories without a second of consideration for where the food came from, how it was mechanically processed, what it is meant to do and how our bodies will use it — it’s disturbing. We are a nation of unaware eaters. I have been an unaware eater. The process of becoming aware is hard. It is much easer to put blinders on, a bucket in front of us and just chow down. To shop for and prepare our own food is hard work. That’s why people in the 40’s were thinner — they ate at home — they ate less.

Yesterday, it was hard to come up with some portable quick food to bring with me to class that didn’t require containers to take home (so I could go running). The whole time I was running I was aware I didn’t have enough food in me. On the walk home I stopped and had dinner at Georgio’s (lovely salad with grilled tuna and asparagus). Spent the evening looking for recipes for next week (didn’t find a good one though.) I feel like the day was spent from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with food on my mind.

I also spend a lot of time talking about this way of eating. I’m sure my friends are getting sick of it too. This is why people don’t diet or change the way they eat. It’s hard work. Everyone else in class ran next door to Starbucks and got one of their 3 lb sandwiches for lunch. There wasn’t a thing about those sandwiches I could eat. The bread was a huge roll. The portion size was ridiculous (have you seen those sandwiches? They are literally four inches high.) They were dripping with mayo or some secret sauce. Me? I ate a Luna Bar (4 pts) and an orange and drank a liter of water. I still failed in my lunch choice. They ate too many calories, I ate too few. That’s not the answer.

Last night I watched my tivo of National Weight Loss Challenge. It wasn’t as good as last week because they just followed one guy around as he tried to lose weight. It was more about his quest to be a race car driver and his need to lose 40 pounds. They put him to work with a trainer and it wasn’t going too well, so they brought in a different trainer. The new trainer puts the kid through all kind of workouts and then went with him to the cafeteria. The trainer said one thing to me that stuck. He said “right now, you may feel you are little limited in your choices here. You are eating the school cafeteria and they don’t have that many healthy choices. You’ll be eating a lot of repetitive foods. Just know that it is just for now. Later, you’ll start incorporating other foods into your diet.” So basically the trainer put the kid on a salad diet for the remaining two months. The kid was happy because he lost 31 pounds and could now fit into the race car, but what had he learned about living and eating in the real world?

I don’t know how I feel about that. Isn’t that a recipe for disaster? The kid didn’t have to make any of his own meals, make any of his own choices. I don’t think they were fair to him. I think they showed him how to drop weight but they didn’t show him how to be healthy. The kid went on to get his publicity photos and made it onto a race car team — now he is just looking for a sponsor. I’d like them to follow up with him in a year and see how much weight he has kept off. I think they just set him on the train to dieting yo-yo-ville.

I’m trying hard not to do that. I am trying hard to live and find choices in my daily routines with which I can feel satisfied and nourished. I don’t want to live with diets or deprivation. I want to live with an appreciation of nutrition and be thankful for the food I am able to eat and the exercise I am able to do. To live this way is an expression of thankfulness for life and that is what I want. Yes, I want to lose the weight but not at any cost.

So I’m caught between feeling grateful for my health and exhausted at the maintenance. I realize I have to get smarter about food. If I keep going this way, I’m going to snap and have a relapse. I don’t want my way of eating to be something I have to snap from. I want it to be a seamless integration into my healthy lifestyle. I don’t want to think about it so much.

So that’s how I’m feeling — a little over processed, a little over analyzed. But, despite that, I am thankful for having the luxurious opportunity to try to unlearn my destructive behaviors. I am thankful for the resources to work on creating health and a stronger spirit in my body. I am choosing to change my life and that is a powerful thing and for that opportunity I give my most humble thanks.

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”

[Max Depree]

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1/27/05 The Demon of Doubt (283)

Thursday — sorry today’s post is so late but I had class today and then I tried to do a couple of laps in Central Park. I say tried because it didn’t go too well.

My writing class is at 59th and Columbus which is conveniently located next to Central Park. I had the brilliant idea that I would wear my running clothes to class and afterwards I would go right into the park. The temperature when I left this morning was 10 degrees. The weather channel promised, however, that it would get up to 20. It actually wasn’t THAT bad once I started running. The problem is I ran out of steam. I just didn’t have enough calories in me to do the workout. I didn’t plan well enough to bring enough with me to class. I figure my body was also using a lot of calories to keep warm. I’ll try again next week after I figure out some good, portable, workout foods. I ended up doing two loops but had to walk most of the second one.

As I was running the first loop I started to get a little tired coming off 72nd street and up the little hill near Tavern on the Green. I’m sure most people don’t even call it a hill, but I do. And, might I say, I hate it. Harlem and Cat hill don’t try to trick you — you see what you are in for. Cat Hill short and steep. Harlem hill, longer and steeper. But they don’t pretend to be anything other than hills — you’ve got to respect that. The “hill” heads south from 72nd street to Tavern on the Green but it doesn’t even look like a hill. It’s a gradual incline — not particularly steep. That’s why I hate it. It looks like it should be easy, yet I always struggle with that sneaky, insidious slope.

Today I made a little game to get up the hill. On the road in Central Park there is a band of two parallel white lines about 2 1/2 feet apart that run along the edge of the road. These lines divide the space designated for the cars from the space for the runners. Within these two parallel lines are perpendicular lines about every 4 feet. If you start at the bottom of the Tavern on the Green “hill” and lookup you can imagine a kind of ladder. You can then further imagine that you are trying to run up the ladder to get to Tavern on the Green.

Most people will pick landmarks a little further spaced apart — like lampposts or trees as running targets. I was so tired that I needed something even closer. These lines spaced four feet apart were just what I needed to trick myself. I just kept repeating to myself, “climb the ladder — just get to the next rung.” It is not a long hill, but I made it up and even though I was drained of energy it was just the trick to get me through.

I have found, for me, some kind of focal point or mantra helps. In running class they told us that when we are trying to run up a hill, imagine a string from your chest to the lamp post at the top of the hill. Then imagine the string is pulling you closer and closer to the lamp post. It works. It keeps your head up, your shoulders back and makes you lean slightly into the incline. More important, it distracts you from the heaviness of your legs and the lack of oxygen in your lungs.

—-

As I was running today I had a good amount of time to reflect on last night’s tennis fiasco. Those who play tennis with me know the ongoing saga of my disappearing serve. My serve can be one of my stronger weapons in a match. It usually can pull out an ace or two and more often than not can at least press a weak return out of my opponent. But my serve suffers from wanderlust. Just because I show up for a match does not mean my serve does. Let’s just say our palm pilots are not in synch.

I’m a certified tennis instructor with USPTR (not a pro, an instructor — there’s a difference). I’ve been trained by some great coaches over the years and have played a lot of tennis — from competitive in my teens and early twenties to more recently in the USTA Adult League. (Okay there was a long gap of 18 years inbetween but that’s besides the point). I have a notebook full of tricks to coax my serve out of hiding. Sometimes my tricks work. Sometimes my serve stays on a beach somewhere sipping pina coladas.

Yesterday morning I played an hour of singles tennis and my serve was fine — not a powerhouse but it was going in. I was keeping up nicely with the guy who beat me last week. Last night, however, I went to play some doubles with a group of women who are pretty good players. They all know my serve and I think they all have a healthy respect for it. I didn’t think anything was amiss until I served my first game.

My turn to serve. Fault, double fault. Fault, double fault. Whoa, that’s two points down and we haven’t even played a ball. Okay, time to start in on the first level of tricks. Throw ball to one o’clock, hit the ball at five o’clock (that’s from a pro at Amelia Island). That usually clears things right up. Fault, double fault. Fault, double fault –game. Oh my God, I just double faulted away an entire game. This is the equivalent of tennis suicide. Placed another call to my serve — I just got its answering machine.

Now, I am used to a fair number of double faults. I’m usually good for 3 or 4 a set which is on the high side. But, I’m also usually good for 3 or 5 aces in a set which is also on the high side. It evens out and I usually win my serve. No big deal. But to double fault away an entire game, this is bad stuff. This curse streak is like a black hole swallowing you up. I’ve named this curse and call it the Demon of Doubt.

For you non-tennis players, it is important to know that most good tennis players do not double fault very often. No good tennis players double fault away an entire game. (Ok maybe Jennifer Capriati, but I’ve only heard rumor.) So when I tell you that I double fault away an entire game, this is like missing four three foot putts in a row in golf; it’s like missing 4 free throws in basketball; it’s like missing 4 field kicks in a row in football or soccer. You get the idea. It’s the one shot totally under your control in tennis — you are the one setting the ball into action and you are the one hitting it. Having a run of double faults feels like a bad dream — one of those where you are running and screaming but you can’t wake up.

The first thing to know about battling the Demon of Doubt is you can’t acknowledge its existence. You must immediately ignore it and move on. I use the 8 second rule which Tona (a pro at Nike) told me. It takes 8 seconds to get that bad serve out of your short term memory — count to 8 before you serve again after a double fault. Don’t rush. Also, whatever you do, don’t lose your cool. The Demon want you to lose your cool. He literally feeds on it. The more you think about him, the bigger he becomes. Once you lose your cool, start swearing, stomping your feet, hitting the ball hard against the back wall — you’ve gone to the dark side and it is too late.

I’ve been doing battle with this Demon for years now. I’m onto his dirty tricks. I have a bunch of dirty tricks of my own now. He’s a real confidence buster. He knows the more you try, the worse you get. The higher you want to throw that toss, the lower it goes. The more you aim, the farther away it goes. He laughs at your feeble mortal attempts to control its strong arm. He wipes out any memory of any good serve in your entire life.

So after losing the first set 6-1, I was convinced that the worst was now over. I’ve never continued the whole night with this kind of unforced misery, but just to make sure I decided to use my focal-point check list as I start to serve the next set. Line up right foot parallel to the base line, point left foot at net post. This is serve 101 from when I was six years old — I still use it. Rock back, arms down together, up together — make angel wings. (That’s a good one — takes me all the way back to second grade — always works, never fails). Fault. Hmmm, let’s try that again. Double fault. Crap.

Okay, second set double faulted away another game. This is record book stuff. I tried my old trick of serving and volleying which usually puts me in a good rhythm and forces my momentum forward. One or two serves went in but really at this point giving away two double faults can lose the game. The opponents are just waiting for a mistake like that and they are all over it. I was basically at the bottom of a deep well with no rope to climb out. Now it was just a matter of keeping some kind of dignity. Even the opponents felt bad for me. I was in tennis Hell and there was no way out.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I had to dig deep down into my bag of tricks. Was there any way out of this mess? I didn’t even care about the points anymore — this was just dignity — I’m supposed to be a good tennis player (okay I don’t play very much anymore, but nobody really believes it when you give excuses…… yeah, yeah, your foot hurts — now play.)

Reiny, the director at Amherst Tennis camp, says the accomplished tennis player should be able look at her errors and make the necessary adjustments to correct it. Ball too far too the left? Put it to the right. Okay, I thought, let’s analyze. What’s the problem? I can’t get the ball high and to the right — the one o’clock position. I’ve tried lining it up with the net post, I’ve tried tossing the ball toward my opponent, I tried looking at the one o’clock position. It just wasn’t happening. I heard the Demon of Doubt starting to snicker. And then it occurred to me. So simple, so clear. I can’t get the ball in front me? No problem, I’ll throw it behind me. I’ll hit topspin.

So I adjusted my grip, let the ball go where it wanted to go (behind my head), reached over and brushed up over the ball and whoosh, kick — top spin serve ace. Probably the best top spin serve I’ve ever done. Kicked right up to my opponent’s should and swerved. Whew, what a relief. Let’s try that again. Brush, spin, whoosh, kick — ace. Followed by two more serves that forced errors. Bing, bang, boom — Game. Everyone on the court started laughing and applauding. “Yeah, she’s back!!!” I was laughing and my face was red. Man, I was so relieved.

The funny part was — they had no idea the amount of struggle I went through to get that serve in the box. To them, I think, I looked calm and cool and is if I didn’t care. But inside I was freaking out. Everyone on the court was sympathetic because there is nobody who hasn’t met the Demon of Doubt — he’s a very busy guy and gets around.

But what the Demon of Doubt never counted on was that there was another warrior in this battle — confidence. Yeah, the chips were down, everything was looking bleak, but basically deep down, way inside was a serve waking up from its nap on the beach. She was taking a sip of her cup of confidence and ready to head out. She was waiting for me to relax and just go with the flow. She was waiting for all the thinking, the analyzing the rotation of the ball, the spin of the earth, the pull of gravity — the moon in Jupiter to stop. My serve wasn’t still on vacation after all, it was just so crowded at the party I couldn’t see it had arrived already.

So today’s lesson is that sometimes there is a place for breaking everything down and analyzing every component of a stroke whether it is for swimming or tennis or golf or whatever activity you are doing. And, sometimes you just have to hit it.

With confidence, you can reach truly amazing heights without confidence, even the simplest accomplishments are beyond your grasp.–Jim Loehr

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1/26/05 Salt of the Earth (284)

Good morning. Welcome to Wednesday — Wisdom day. So here we are into week 4 and I’m eating healthily, buying organic, chopping, cooking, cleaning, chopping, cooking, cleaning, chopping, cooking and cleeaannning. Okay, I’ll stop whining.

No doubt about it though, this healthy eating is a lot of work. Yesterday walking back from my run in Central Park (nice steady pace — two lower loops — kind of slushy conditions) I was suddenly struck by the realization that I was going to have to go home and cook AGAIN! All I wanted to do was stop somewhere, pick something up and bring it home. Uh oh… here come the old habits.

The idea of having to chop, cook and clean yet again was a little too much for me. Ordering in or taking out is a lot easier. There is also the pamper factor — someone else is wiping down the counter, washing the pot, putting the dishes away. Once in awhile it is no big deal, but when you prepare 3 meals a day plus 4,000 snacks — the kitchen starts to look a little like a war zone. Never mind the fact I have yet to find the proper storage unit for all of the canned goods I have purchases so my counter space is a little cluttered right now.

But, I fought the urge. I did think of my friends (you guys) who have been so loyal and supportive to me and I really didn’t want to have to report that I stopped at the Sushi joint and took home dinner. So I made it home and within 10 minutes I had grilled some portabello mushrooms, shrimp and a baked potato (nuked first). It was very good, very filling and not such a big deal. Actually it would have taken me longer to stop somewhere, wait for them to prepare it, bring it home and eat it.

So that was a small NSV (that’s weight watcher’s talk for Non-Scale Victory). This week I have to sit down and strategically plan out some meals with left overs. I really haven’t been doing that. So this afternoon, I will sit down and two recipes to try to make so I have leftovers for some quick meals.

New topic — I want to talk about something that has been bugging me — Sodium. I’m trying to find ways to not have to cook every single meal from scratch and one of them is buying canned soups. I have been buying Amy’s organic soups (lentil, three bean chili, veggie bean) because they are not full of crazy ingredients and are all core on WW. I looked at one can of low fat medium Chili the other day. One can contains 2 servings. Each serving has 28% of the day’s allotment of Sodium. That’s 680 mg of sodium in one serving!?! Of course I eat the whole can. So in one large bowl of chili I consume 56% of my daily sodium intake? And that is an organic soup maker? Hello? What’s up with that? I’m going to write them a letter.

I’m feverishly reading labels to get calories, fat and fiber. I never read the sodium level before. I don’t even want to know what the sodium levels are on the non-organic stuff.

That prompted me to look at the sugar free fat free pudding I have been making. Get this — serving size 1/4 of a package (makes about 1/2 cup of pudding). Sodium is 300 mg. 13% of my daily intake in a half cup of pudding. There’s only 35 calories, 0 fat but 300 mg of sodium? That can’t be good.

The following info comes from the McKinley Health center http://www.mckinley.uiuc.edu/Handouts/reducesodiumdiet.html

The human adult needs 500 to 1000 milligrams of sodium per day. A daily sodium intake between 1,100 and 3,300 milligrams is considered safe and adequate. This is equal to the amount of sodium in approximately ½ to 1½ teaspoons of table salt. In actuality, the average American consumes 2,500 to 5,000 milligrams per day. Reducing sodium in the diet may reduce high blood pressure in some people. This in turn can decrease the likelihood of heart or kidney disease and stroke. A low-sodium diet may need to be combined with weight loss and exercise or medication to decrease blood pressure.

Taste for salt is acquired. Like drinking diet soft drinks and decreasing use of sugar, taste for salt can be relearned. By cutting down on salt use gradually, the taste buds have time to adjust.

I really want to write a letter Amy and tell her to knock out all the sodium. This is crazy — how hard is it for people to self-salt?

Anyway, that’s my rant for the day. Think twice before you pick up that salt shaker today — there’s probably plenty in your food already!!!

Last page of my favorite magazine EXPERIENCE has a cool quote for Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions.

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

What if they are a little coarse, and you may get your coat soiled or torn?

What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice?

Up, again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.

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1/25/05 Fear of Success (285)

I got an email this morning with my horoscope in it. I thought it was pretty appropriate so I thought I would share.

Libra

(Sept. 23-Oct. 22)

From this point, backing up is forbidden. Lead the charge. Everyone knows where you’re going. Those who don’t want to go have already dropped out.

I found this horoscope notable because as I was lying in bed planning out my day I did my usual check-in with myself. Any stiff muscles? Ready to get up and go the next round? What’s your mood today? How are you feeling? Nope, yep, okay, dunno…. Whoops back up on that one. How are you feeling? What was that tiny little voice I heard?

Yep, I heard it again — ever so faint. What if? What if, what? What if I can’t get fit? Do the marathon? Do the ironman? What if I actually succeed? Yes, yes, yes and YES. Whoa, who let that doubter in the door? Kick her out. Is she gone? Wait a minute, she is still there. I see her, she’s shrugging her shoulders, looking at me and holding a little white sign that says “But, What if?”

Oh Lord, I thought we were past all of this doubt stuff. I can see she is not going to go away unless I answer her questions.

I kind of feel caught in a Limbo. I have to keep moving forward because I don’t even remember the way back. What exactly is so different about the way I am eating now? It seems basic enough. What exactly was my old menu? What if I wanted to go off my diet? Oh yeah, take-out, Thai food, sushi, cheese, a lot of those Greek Salads (not sure those won’t find a place in my new life though). A lot of bread and cheese. The way I am eating now seems very simple and reasonable, a lot of work constantly buying and cooking, but I certainly don’t feel deprived or on a plan from which I have to deviate.

I think I can deal with the fear of failure — I’m just going to keep trying and if I try my best and I can’t finish the marathon, I’ll try again and again and again until I do it. I have to say, I have a lot faith in TNT. Even if I don’t drop the weight, I think if I train, I can finish the marathon. I might have to walk (which would bum me out) but I can do it. So I guess fear of failure is not so much the issue.

Goals are not that hard to achieve when you break it down task by task, step by step. Do the work, you’ll usually get the results. Sometimes we fail — but usually it is because we didn’t give it our all or maybe the goal needed to be broken down into smaller steps. Of course sometimes there are just intervening circumstances beyond our control (a death, injury, evil people, or natural disasters). I think in those cases of intervening circumstance you can’t really be considered a failure — the intervening circumstance was not part of your personal attempt. And failing, trying again and succeeding is still succeeding. Failure is pretty hard to do — if you keep trying — because as long as you are still trying you haven’t failed yet. It is easy to fail if you quit.

But what about success? Could I have a fear of success? Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. We have a winner! Why would someone be afraid of success? Why would someone be afraid to change their outcome?

Of course, I don’t have all the answers, but I think the key word in that question is change. People inherently fear change. If you think about it, from the beginning of time we are programmed to build a life of safety. We lived in tribes (now called families) for security, we stored food for the possibility of famine, we made clothes for warmth, we made weapons for protection. The moment we seek change we offer up the possibility of sacrificing safety. Venturing into the unknown goes against our most basic instincts to find a safe harbor.

I also think people fear change because they might have to let go of things or people who are in their life. You may find you have to temporarily sacrifice money or a nice house to get your ultimate dream. You may find yourself with a new group of friends and you are afraid your old friends won’t come along or won’t understand you anymore. You might be lonely. (That is why I liked this morning’s horoscope — those friends who are not coming along have already left. The friends that are with me now are the ones that are going to stay with me through this journey.)

There is another reason I think people are afraid to succeed — they are afraid of the pain they may have to endure to get to their goal. I really want to do big girl pushups — this a goal of mine. For me the pushup is a big pain. I know how much it hurts me to do them. One of the reasons I don’t get down and practice them is because they hurt! They are hard! They cause me pain. I get frustrated because I can’t do them. Why would I voluntarily subject myself to this torture over and over again? Well, if I don’t subject myself to the pain — I don’t gain the pleasure of success. (Okay, I’ll practice pushups today!)

Divorce is a good example of fear of success. Why do people stay in marriages when they are miserable? Or why do women stay with men who beat them? Sure they are afraid of failure, that they will lose the safety of their marraige (albeit unstable already). But what if they are successful in leaving their marriage. What if they achieve their dream? Then what? They might think, “What if I never find someone else to love me? What if the next relationship is even worse?” Better to stay married with the pain you already know you can endure than actually divorce and take on more pain you don’t know you can endure.

How about jobs? Why don’t people seek out new opportunities? Same reason, they might think “I know I have a paycheck this week — I have bills — I can’t risk the safety and the possibility of being without a job. What if the new job I take doesn’t work out? What if my new boss is worse than this boss? What if I they ask me to do something and I don’t know how to do it? What if they find out I’m a poser? Then what?”

So we stay in the situation we are in because we know it and we feel safe. Success can bring a lot of unknown challenges. What if I do get fit and train for the Ironman — then what? What will my life be like?

I guess my answer has to be “I don’t know.” I’m climbing this mountain and I don’t know what happens when I get to the other side. I’m just trying to make it to that rock over there. There could be a huge ravine and I’ll be forced back down to take another route. Once I make it through those clouds I could discover that I am really at the base of huge mountain range and my work hasn’t even started. Of course I can choose to stay at the base camp, warm and snugly in my tent and yes a bear might come prowling or a storm might rage and leave me soaking wet — but I would not have had to have taken the risk of climbing that mountain and finding my situation to be worse. I can choose to stay where I am and my life would be safe, content and possibly happy.

But for me, there will always be this gnawing, aching desire to know what’s on the other side of the mountain. I can only sit for so long before I say, “c’mon, aren’t you dying to see too? Let’s hike — I have to see what is up there.” What if it is the most beautiful meadow where everything we want and need is nearby? Fruit trees and wildflowers and a running stream, a bar serving Petite Syrah and lovely lounge chairs in which we can watch the perfect sunset. Wouldn’t that be worth a little hike?

So to the little voice inside my head that says “But, what if?” I have to shout, “YES! But, what IF?!?!?” Put on your hiking shoes girl, we’re heading out.

——

Today I leave you with my favorite quote of all time, also from Eleanor Roosevelt (like yesterday). Today let’s think about:

“You MUST do the thing you think you cannot.”

I love that quote. It’s like a challenge to me. As soon as I say I can’t do something, it is now immediately followed with “oh crap, why did I say I can’t do it, now I MUST do it.” Time for pushups.

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