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I have been a pretty keen follower of the Biggest Loser in the past, mainly because of the voyeuristic car-crash cannot-look-away nature of the whole debacle. I finally caught up last night to watch the first couple of episodes. We will see if I can invest in this season and keep on watching, but for now I will give it a go.

But the format of this season dug completely into an absolute pet peeve of mine. I know that it is bloody stupid to point out the flaws in a reality TV production, but I can’t resist. If you haven’t seen it, the current season is built around families who compete against each other to lose weight. Each family has a trainer assigned to them. The twist is that the trainers go and live with their assigned family for a week, eating everything that they eat and drinking everything that they drink. Which hello? Is ridonculous. But good television yada yada yada and you get to see people spewing from eating bad stuff rather from lots of exercise.

However. What also makes good television is showing that the contestants in their ordinary lives are so over the top out of control with their eating EVERY SINGLE DAY and EVERY SINGLE MEAL that it was giving me the irrits. So you had the one family of sisters and cousins who is eating a lunch of basically eight varieties of baked carbs – home-cooked mind you. And you have the family who cracks their first beers at breakfast (though we later find out that breakfast is at 3pm). And you have the family whose idea of TV snacks is frankfurters, sponge cake and whipped cream.

Now this (just like the binge that they used to do in previous seasons) is obviously considered good television. But it just seems to completely defeat any attempt to genuinely prompt in the audience an attitude that will “change people’s lives”. I am sure that there are people who eat McDs at every meal and have the sort of appalling habits which are depicted in the show, and maybe even these contestants fit into that category. My bullshit detector says no though.

The family that they featured the least on this part of the show revealed two meals from the week that the trainer shared – one a BBQ with what seemed like a lot of food, but apart from a bit of potato salad and white bread, seemed like a meal that was fairly adaptable to more healthy eating. The other meal that they showed was bacon and eggs – hardly the rarest indulgence going around. Poor portion control, but if those are the two most disgusting or TV-worthy meals they can come up with then they don’t particularly scream that this family is a bunch of irredeemable gluttons.

Which is probably why the blue family barely featured in this segment, with them preferring instead to focus on the contestant who professed to eat microwave pasta with pasta bake sauce, sour cream and clotted cream every day for “breakfast”. It was all a set up job obvs but they couldn’t seem to decide which way they wanted to jump. The whole story was that *everything* that these people did was horrifying. Which led to one of the trainers being pictured crying after having to go through the terrible ordeal of eating a chicken parma and some bruschetta. Seriously – if that is enough to make you cry, maybe you should take a long cold drink of HTFU.

The thing that was frustrating me is that presumably we are meant to like these people on some level. And yet they set out this idea that these fat people are obscenely self-indulgent and greedy and slack and they only walk as far as the fridge and only to get another beer. It’s like that reality is so much easier to compartmentalise than the one where people who don’t eat eight types of carbs at every meal or four types of drive-through takeaway in a day can still put on too much weight and struggle to lose it. Or the one where most people who try to lose weight generally do try to make good food choices most of the time, even if unsuccessfully. Or the reality where some sedentary self-indulgent and slack people don’t for whatever reason end up massively overweight.

And this of all shows features an absolutely brutal diet and enormous amounts of exercise – so don’t be doing the knowing glance at the two pies for breakfast, when you know darn well to “transform” them you are going to be a darn sight more radical than just introducing them to vegetables and cutting out the chocolate.

Harrumph.

PS Does anyone else find it vaguely endearing when after all this time reality TV contestants still seem a bit shocked when they are asked to do something they find humiliating? (What, weigh myself in front of my family and friends? I just thought I was going to do that on prime time television in front of anyone in the country who cared to turn the idiot box on!! I never imagined I would be asked to do this!!)

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Thanks for all the encouragement on the tanty. As I said, I really wasn’t fishing for compliments, but I certainly won’t knock them back. To be honest, I have a real tendency to engage in evil head games to distract myself from my own discomfort. My post was just venting. Let me make a couple of things clear.

First, I don’t have anything against fun run tourists who can walk faster than I can run. More power to them really. I am jealous of them and occasionally when I am struggling I want to cause them pain. But that is not a personal thing at all. Really. And to date I have not hurt any fun run tourists in real life.

Secondly, I don’t actually think that I put in as much effort as some people who are lot better than me at this as some people encouragingly suggest. I wouldn’t for a moment suggest that my hard work in my context is the equivalent of the dedication and commitment that a lot of people I know demonstrate in their running. It’s not. I could train more often and longer or with more intensity and I could achieve results more quickly if I did. I am more focussed on training and preparation than young deege runner ever was, but things always came easier to her. But there are plenty of people more focussed, dedicated and committed than me. You don’t see me giving up alcohol or even having proper ice baths. But that is just not where I am at the moment (and frankly would probably be asking for injuries and frustration). And that is fine with me.

There is a season to things, and my season at the moment is getting myself to a base of fitness and ability to become a middle of the pack runner. At this stage it is enough of a scary commitment to consider renewing my Runners’ World subscription for two years rather than one (so I can get the cool free stopwatch), so I won’t be comparing myself to the people who are club runners training in high quality sessions and 6 or 7 days per week or preparing to race marathons.

I am really enjoying running the longer distances. I may not be able to run fast, but increasingly I can keep going for a long time which I think is kind of cool. Hopefully the next big event is the Great Train Race, provided I can get the logistics sorted. We have a guest from NZ staying and Hub seems to think it is rude to bugger off to run up and down hills in the rain rather than being the gracious hostess. But I am holding out for the only sane point of view.

So, as a refreshing change from the tanty (a tantydote?), here are the things that I am loving about running at the moment:

  • If I get to run in the GTR, I will probably be doing so as part of an Ausrun team which will just be the coolest thing EVA. We may have to have a secret handshake.
  • I am about to have two and a bit weeks of annual leave with nothing scheduled but relaxation so I will be able to fit in all of my scheduled runs – this is one of the hardest things for me to accomplish given the everyday demands of my work, so I am really looking forward to it
  • I have set aside some money out of this week’s pay to get some shiny new shoes. Imagine how clean they will be.
  • It is getting to be cooler and darker at night which means I am able to run more often. I love winter and with any luck by next summer the fitness will have improved enough that running on hotter days doesn’t make me think I will have a stroke
  • At the local factory clothing outlet, I found another SPORTS XLNCE shirt in my size for $9. This is like my favourite running shirt for all time. It that it even has a profile set up in sportstracks to track how many kms it has run. And now I have two of them (in different colours)
  • Last night I did an easy 3.5K recovery run. And I am rapt that I don’t have to do another first recovery run after the first time that I run a 15K race. (Even at very easy pace, it hurt – though I feel better today). So that is a good thing.

So you see, I am actually a very positive person. The tanty person only comes out occasionally. I am really looking forward to the next couple of months. I have found a half marathon program which seems to match my stage of abilities and I am going to start on that next week. Even though I am not working towards an actual half marathon, doing a formal program will be better for me than just faffing around amusing myself.

This post started as a part of my Run 4 The Kids post, but I think I will keep the tanty separate.

One of the lowlights of R4TK was a bit of the mental game that Celeste experienced at the Bridges Fun Run. Throughout the day, the people around me were run/walkers or just plain walkers who were powering along at a fair trot. There were a couple of people who were clearly doing it as tough as I was, but mostly it was fun run tourists taking snaps, speaking on mobile phones, exchanging SMSs and the like. Even comparing times with others I feel ridiculous saying that I was aiming to complete 15K in under two hours. It makes me cringe.

I might get one up on young runner deege from time to time, but she beats me on this one. Even on bugger all training, she never had to worry about whether she was going to beaten by walkers. I am not so much discouraged by this. If I was going to be discouraged by stuff like this, that would have happened long ago I am totally at peace with the fact that it is what it is. I am pissed off about it though. I want to stamp my foot on the ground sometimes and shout “it’s not fair”. It’s not fair that I do a heap of work over a long period of time and my reward is to beat some but not all of the people who are mainly walking. That sucks. Just about every week I am noticing improvements and changes as a result of the PROJECT, but how friggin unfair that all those improvements have only brought me this far.

I keep saying to myself that soon I will be doing better at this and will be further up the pack, but sometimes that self talk just sounds like yada yada yada. BTW I am not comment shopping, and I am not falling off the wagon. If anything this just makes me more determined to keep going. But it is frustrating, because there are things that I would like to do which I plain refuse to do until I improve, such as enter an AV race, join a group training session or have a go at a triathlon. I am happy to leave those things as rewards and goals, but they seem like they are lifetimes away. At the moment my training pace is at best about 7:45min kms for normal runs up to about 6km. Since I started the PROJECT, I have improved my training pace from about 8:30 min kms. That has taken me the best part of a year. If I want to improve my comfortable training pace to 7min kms to join the “comfortable” group training sessions, that seems like a huge task. I said earlier I am not discouraged. But sometimes I am daunted.

Okay, rant over. Nothing to see here. At next year’s R4TK I think I might trip the walkers as I go past.

This is my new motto. I picked it up as a result of some work wrinkles which didn’t work out the way that I would have liked. So I owned up to my boss about the wrinkles and explained my side of things and decided that the best thing to do was just deal with it. It is what it is. Words won’t make me less busy or more able to meet unreasonable expectations. The best thing that you can do at any given time is accept the situation and go from there.

And the fact is that I am slack sometimes and I don’t like getting up early and I don’t like exercising on Fridays and there’s a whole range of other things that create barriers to me doing and being the sort of person that I want to be. But you know what? I is what I is. So last week I didn’t run much, but when you add in those couple of rides on the bike watching Big Fat Loser, it turns out it was my best week in the Project in terms of time spent exercising. It is what it is.

I am not feeling particularly well prepared for the R4TK, mainly because I am finding it difficult to have the time to do the long runs that I really want to be doing – anything over about 90 mins is pretty hard to fit in to the schedule at the moment. But you know what? It is what it is. I know that I am not slacking off – I just haven’t managed to fit in those longer runs. But you know what? It’s not like I am competing in a team who are relying on me, and its not like I am in with a chance of winning or anything, so what does it *really* matter if I have to walk some of it? And if I do manage to run the lot, well good for me. It is what it is, it can be nothing else.

I have some DOMS from my two good runs in a row so while I wouldn’t mind a run tonight, I think I will stick with the bike. Knowing me, I would have done that anyway so that I could watch the eviction on big fat loser – is it wrong to watch a crappy weight loss reality show while exercising? Who cares. It is what it is. Those goals over the next page are patient. They will still be there if it takes a month or so longer to achieve them than I would like. It is what it is.

Today I was reading something on the ausrun forum and it got me to thinking. I had commented that I bought a US running mag yesterday and felt too weird to read it on the train because I imagined people would be mocking my in their heads for reading such a mag when I don’t look like a runner. I mean, why wouldn’t they? I know I get head-mocky on the train when I am bored.

Sport and self-consciousness. I don’t know whether this is a peculiarly chick problem (I don’t imagine it is) but I sometimes have to engage in all sorts of weird head games to get over this. I can vividly remember an occasion from when I used to run. I was wearing long tights and a long sleeve shirt and was running around the local park. And this gorgeous chick sailed towards me on the trail and I felt like a complete fraud. Suddenly I couldn’t imagine why I would bother with this whole running thing when I was clearly out of my league and obviously not a real runner. And the thing is, I was skinny then. I was running 5.5km three or four times a week at a decent clip. And I still couldn’t get over the self-consciousness thing.

This time around though (as long as I am not in the train), I have discovered the cure to the problem. It is kind of like those phobia cures where they totally confront you with your fear by throwing people who hate heights off buildings or making people with arachnophobia bathe in spiders or something. This time around, I know before I even get out there that I don’t look like a runner. I know in fact that some people who see me will think that I look faintly ridiculous huffing and puffing along. I am pretty sure that people in races who are walk/running use me as their motivation to start running again (there is no way I am going to let HER beat me). This is not me being ridiculous; I see it happening whenever I enter a race.

And you know what? I couldn’t give a sh#t. There are no mind games to play – I don’t have to have the mental battle trying to convince myself whether or not I look like a runner or fit in or don’t look ridiculous. I already know the answers to those questions. So the only thing that is left to decide is whether any of that is going to prevent me from doing what I want to do. I say no. What good will it do me to dwell on the fact that I am featuring in the bottom 5% of participants in the races I enter? The only alternative available to me is not to feature in the participants at all. If I could choose to turn around tomorrow and have all my stuff together and be as fast as I want and as fit and lean as I want then of course I would. But you know what? That is not an option which is available to me either!!

The people I have met through running are a great support in this philosophy. I turn up at fun runs and in my own head I feel more like a mascot than a part of the running group. But there are all sorts of people running all sorts of times and everyone encourages everyone else and commiserates based on their particular challenges and contexts. Which is why I only allow myself to feel self-conscious in front of non-runners on the train. Those crazy head-mockers!!

Gosh, I am feeling great at the moment. In a comment on Beki’s blog I said that I think all of us runners/fitness people go in cycles and you will see a depressed post about injury/poor performance/lack of mojo and then sooner or later the same person will feel better about everything. And we just keep repeating the cycle without ever really accepting that we are inevitably going to have ups and downs in our training or whatever. Mind you, bitching about it on the blog certainly does provide some welcome release sometimes.

So I am still pretty happy after the run on Sunday which was great fun. I am feeling in control of myself with the seasonal cheer program which seems to have relieved me of stressing about things that I can’t change. Plus I was working through some of my thoughts about this whole *project* to answer some questions for kathryn. It really reinforced for me how happy I am with the whole “motivated by fitness” approach.

So yeah, just wanted to mention that I am no longer a grumpy-bum (at least until the next time).

You may have noticed that I have stopped posting the weekly weigh in posts. I must admit that at the moment I am a little betwixt and between. Let me explain.

If you ask me how I am feeling personally, I would tell you that I am pretty happy with myself. Diet wise, there are some things that I am unhappy with, but basically since May a lot of junk type stuff has gone by the wayside. I have resisted the cheese and dip snacking which tends to go under the radar. I do eat too much sometimes, but it is mostly home-cooked and healthy. Exercise wise I am certainly happy that I am doing regular exercise at the moment running 2-3 times per week without fail. My energy is improved, my attention is improved and generally I am feeling better and better about myself.

However, if you put any of those thoughts in the space of a long term view, I am not so happy as I want to be. The early days of beginning running has given way to a longer term and slower view of improvement. It took me 9 weeks to be running 30 mins three times a week, but now I can’t help but wonder how long it will take me before I can comfortably crack the 10km and beyond. The path seems a lot longer and there seems to be a lot more work in front of me.

So I am somewhat more inclined to blow off a training run or re-schedule it for the next day, on account of the fact that the evil deege voice on my shoulder says “you are going to have to run hundreds of kms in the next 6 months, what difference will it make if you run this couple of km tomorrow instead of today?” So I have now gone two weeks without a long run, which of course means I am shitting bricks about SiS3. Part of me wants to transfer to run the 4km but the other part of me insists that I need to follow through and deal with the consequences of my poor preparation.

I am still doing the weekly weigh ins, but get depressed about the progress. Again, I find myself unable to celebrate the small advances I am making because I can’t tear my focus away from the fact that I still have years of this ahead of me. My brain tells me that I want to do the lifestyle change thing which for me means changing things incrementally, and I don’t really have the will or motivation to do any super hero boot camp challenge. But I still think that it should be easier than this. Because I darn well deserve it!!

What a grumpy guts I am today. But I need to recognise that the life that I choose to lead doesn’t always make this lifestyle stuff easy or straight forward. Over the next month I have, to date, bookings for 6 christmas drinks/cocktail parties. And I am darned if I am going to be the one in the corner drinking mineral water and pretending to enjoy my carrot sticks. But at the same time, it means that as an evening runner, it will impact often on my running schedule.

So here are my guidelines for the silly season until January 1.

First I am going to run or walk every day that I don’t have something on in the evening. No more chickening out if it is too hot – that just means I do a brisk walk or a short run instead.

Secondly, I am going to be sensible at Christmas drinks/parties. This means on evenings with drinks or parties, I have to bring in some healthy small meals to have as afternoon tea when going to drinks, so that I don’t turn up at a nibblies function ravenously hungry.

Thirdly, lunches for November and December are salad and meat sandwiches or salad. Too easy to eat less well at lunchtime which means I need a lean dinner, and my dinners at this time of year are less likely to be something that I can strictly control.

Finally, enter events and races as much as possible to keep the interest up. Go on different running routes, plan excursions to places where I can exercise, pull the weights out of the shed. Anything to keep the interest up.

We’ll call this the Seasonal Cheer program and reassess my progress on January 2. If I break even I will probably call this a success.

So I didn’t really do a lot of running in the last week – in fact I went a full 7 consecutive days without a run. I was beginning to feel like I had mislaid my mojo. I of course ignored the fact that in the course of those seven days we spent two days shovelling and raking crushed rock after a spur of the moment decision to revitalise our driveway. And I ignored the fact that I was on a holiday in which I desperately needed to relax and refuel after another hectic half year at work.

But regardless of this, I was in danger of entering into a spiral of procrastination about running. So last night, despite the fact that I was tempted to just sit on the couch, I headed out for a short easy run. After I had shaken out some of the cobwebs, I began to really enjoy myself. I began to appreciate the time I was spending. I certainly appreciated the guy who said to me in a heartfelt way “Good on you” as I struggled past him.

And I began to ignore the fact that whenever I ran past a shop window, there appeared to be a slow fat chick between me and the reflection (bitch!). I began to let go of my frustration with the fact that my whole joooorney is destined to take a long time. I began to think about how erosion happens over the course of years, just one drop of water at a time. And I went to my running log and pulled up one of my cool graphs and counted that I have gone running at least once every calendar week for the last 24 consecutive weeks. And in the last 24 weeks, I have had 66 drops of water hit my big stony arse.

It might take a lot more. But I have time.

One of the things that I have to keep working on when changing to a healthy lifestyle is that I am changing my lifestyle, not myself. Whatever plans and decisions I make, it is still little ol’ me who has to carry them out.

When I joined a gym previously, the only time I could really use the gym was in the morning before work. And I hate getting up early. So I resented the gym and hated it every morning when I went, and when I didn’t enjoy it very much at the gym, it was easy to get out of the habit.

When I plan in my head what I am doing, it is tempting to schedule in a run or going to the gym at a time I should know is totally incompatible with my personality. Example. At the end of a long week I never feel like doing anything other than sitting on the couch. So I should have known better this week than to plan a run on Friday. I instructed Hub that I would get home from work, put the dinner on and nip out for a run while it was cooking. It was no surprise that I got home and welded my butt to the couch and didn’t move.

There was a time when this would have filled me with guilt and started me on the road to self-recrimination and hand-wringing. But this time it was just a reminder that changing my lifestyle doesn’t change my personality and it doesn’t change the way that I tend to react to the demands on my lifestyle. It was a reminder that I never feel like exercising on Friday evenings, which is why that is scheduled as a rest day.

Similarly I know that I will rarely get up early to exercise, so I don’t schedule exercise in the mornings. I know that although I am an obsessive list maker, any changes to my diet which depend on me tracking, counting, weighing or documenting will be commenced enthusiastically but will fail after a couple of weeks.

So on Saturday I wasn’t too concerned when I began to think that I didn’t really feel like going for a run that afternoon. But after a little while when it got to about that time on Saturday afternoon when I normally head out, I began to get an itching to go. It was run o’clock. So I headed out for a particularly exhausting dog relay. It’s a special workout that requires you have three dogs and the inclination to only run with one of them at a time. The changeovers are a killer.

Since I have started this blog, I feel much more interested in writing about my exercise and lifestyle change stuff rather than trying to lose weight. Obviously that is a big part of what I am trying to do, but whenever I begin to obsess over my weight I begin to feel like a big fat whiner. So I will still post the weekly weigh ins and so on, but in my mind, the weight loss stuff is just a bonus for the other stuff going on.

I don’t want to get to the point that if I am not losing weight, I am not enjoying this blog, even though I am getting fitter and acheiving my other goals. So my commitment is that I want to continue on with this whole journey whether or not I succeed in losing weight. If in a year’s time I am the biggest fun runner in the country, well that is better than I am now. I won’t stop trying to lose weight, but I want to avoid it becoming the focus. I don’t want to count calories or points, I just want to increase the amount of fruit and veg, increase whole grains, increase water, and limit junk, fat and sugar. If I focus on health and activity and improving my physical capabilities, then I know that my body shape will change for the better.