So now that this busiest of seasons is behind us, I am pausing to think about "New Year's Resolutions."  

Everybody is making resolutions right now, and it's something I enjoy doing as well.  A year to two ago, I started making resolutions that I knew I had a good chance of accomplishing: things like, try more new recipes, knit more, etc.  I think it's fun to pick things you enjoy, and then you do feel good about yourself when you do them, and you feel good from multiple perspectives.

I read a blog post recently about how making big resolutions about changing something you don't like about yourself or quitting something or giving up something or dieting or what have you -- a lot of these things set you up for failure, because (1) they are negative and (2) they are big changes that happen over a long period of time, and when people see them as just one "thing" they can accomplish, they get discouraged when that change doesn't happen right away.

I thought that was really insightful, and it made me thing about my own personal journey into fitness and health.

My journey started in January 2011, pretty much as a New Year Resolution, but the spark and the real change that took place was when Stephen was born and a mental switch was flipped.  That switch was simply believing in myself.  It seems like such a simple thing, but it is probably one of the hardest things that people struggle with.

I say this all the time, but it is just so true.  When Stephen was born, I believe that I was reborn.  I new confidence started growing in me that day in August, and by January it had learned how to walk and it was starting to contemplate running.  By January, I knew that I wanted to lose the baby weight from my *first* pregnancy.  I also was thinking about running the 3.2 for 32 Run in Remembrance.  It was at that point that I joined and started hearing a lot about the Couch to 5K.  Right after that, a friend told me she was going to do the c25k.  I started doing it with her, and for the first time (ever!) I didn't hate running.

I think this new feeling towards running (I wouldn't go so far as to say that I *loved* it at that point), was due to the fact that the c25k is so gradual, and that relates back again to the fact that big changes actually have to take place gradually, over time.

And guess what!  I didn't lose any weight.  That's right.  I went for a really, really  long time without losing one damn pound.  Again, big changes = really gradual, over time.

The c25k is not a very rigorous cardio workout.  For the majority of the time, you're alternating walking and running, and really don't do more than 30 minutes, including a warm up and cool down.  And there were some days when I barely made it to the gym.  There were days when I would go (with my totally awesome running buddy, Steph!) and would only do 18 minutes.  Some days it might have even been as few as 10 minutes.  Barely enough to justify going to the gym, changing clothes, etc, right?

But all of that c25k training was SO IMPORTANT.  Because it gave me the confidence to know that I could run 3.1 miles without stopping.  It was gradual and took a long time, and I wasn't seeing a difference on the scale, but it gave me confidence and it established a routine.

While I didn't see any freaking change on the scale (which I will admit was frustrating), I could see that my muscles were changing.  I had new muscle definition in my legs, which was a huge motivator.  I also knew that I felt better when I was running.  It had a huge impact on my emotional and psychological well-being.

I started running at a time when Stephen was experiencing horrible ear infections.  He was allergic to one of the antibiotics and the other ones were not very effective for him.  We went through about 3 month where he was waking multiple times a night, crying inconsolably.  It got so bad, the doctor injected him with antibiotics, a procedure that was pretty traumatic for me.  Needless to say, Bob and I were not getting a lot of sleep, and I was an emotional wreck.  Lack of sleep makes me a pretty angry person, and I wasn't in a very good place.

Something about the running, even as little as 10 minutes a day, helped me deal better with everything else that was going on.  It's hard to express how much it helped, but I can say that running was definitely better and cheaper than therapy for me.

So even though I wasn't seeing any difference on the scale, I kept running, because it facilitated for me, things that I quite possibly had never quite felt before: a strong sense of self-confidence and peace.  Certainly, I had not experienced these feelings in quite this way before.

It took over a year for me to lose 4 pounds.  I got back to my pre-Taylor weight in time for his 4th birthday.  I had to increase my running, and I had to change what I was eating.  It's just a fact of life: there really isn't enough cardio in the world if you are eating more calories than you're burning.  And I did not (and still don't) consider myself an unhealthy eater.  

I lost the four pounds with a lot of running and some fairly minor dietary tweaks.

Since Feb. 2012, I have lost more weight, but more importantly, I have shifted my focus and my energy into being a healthier person.  I'm not trying to diet.  

This past summer, I started strength training, and that has made a huge difference.  My body shape has really changed, I have more muscle definition than I've ever had in my life, and MOST importantly, I physically feel that best I have ever felt.  

I have tried to cut out a lot of processed foods from my diet, and I think it has had a major impact in every area of my life.  I think my moods are more stable, I have more energy, I tend to not get sick as often and when I do it's fairly short-lived, my digestive system is more stable.  It has just been such a positive change.

The strength training has also been a gradual process.  When I first started, I felt like a total weakling and like everyone in the room was watching me and thinking I was a fool.  But I just told myself, everyone has to start someplace.  Each person in here had to make a decision one day to walk into the gym and pick up a weight.  And then they made the decision to go back the next day.  And the next, and so on.  And each of these people has probably felt foolish on more than one occasion.  The only way for me to stop feeling like a weakling is to go back each day, and so that's what I do.  And I realize that this is a lifelong process.  There are still some days when I totally look the fool.  I mean, seriously, one time my awesome trainer had to come over and point out to me that I was trying to push the prowler backwards.  I couldn't get it to move, and I couldn't figure out why!  It's because it was backwards!  Luckily, I have a pretty good ability to laugh at myself.  You've got to be able to laugh at  yourself and say, yeah, sometimes I'm an idiot.  And I'm okay with that.  If you're now willing to make a fool out of yourself, you're going to miss out on a lot in life.

So anyway, this long and rambling post had a point, I think.

My journey started at about 10:45 p.m. on August 23, 2010, doing something I never thought I had the strength to do.  Sometimes, all you need is just to truly believe in yourself.  It's not something anybody else can do for you or give you.  You have to find it in yourself.

Sometimes, you can find or create that confidence just by following through on something every day, even if it's the bare minimum of what you can do.

Small changes, gradually, over time, can amount to big changes.  They did for me, and I am still setting new goals every day.

I remember seeing a quote that said that goals are things you may not be able to accomplish.  If accomplishing them was guaranteed, they wouldn't be goals, they would be tasks.  That really resonates with me, because I think it emphasizes that feeling of confidence one can get from achieving a goal.  Achieving a goal is not a guarantee, and it means you've had to work hard to reach it.

I'm not quite sure what my goals are for 2013.  Here's what I'm thinking:
  • Accomplish 1 unassisted chin up (then do more!!)
  • Run a marathon (this is definitely one that is not a guarantee)
  • Run in a race with my brother (that would be fun!)
  • Scrapbook more
  • Make more progress in eating less processed (especially in terms of learning how to prepare and get my kids to eat less processed)
  • Actually, I really want to learn more about healthy nutrition for kids and really get my boys on the path to good healthy eating
So much has been going on!  The last ten days or so have been a total whirlwind, and I am still trying to orient myself.

The last post I wrote happened right before I heard the heartbreaking news about Sandy Hook.  After that, I was so sad it was hard to contemplate being able to write anything.  It's hard to contemplate saying anything that wouldn't fall horribly short of being useful, meaningful, or somehow express feelings of sadness and condolences.

The days went on, and we began to start the Christmas/holiday break.  Once I was home with the boys, it was hard to get anything done, much less write.

We had originally planned to be home for Christmas morning, but after some deep contemplation, we decided to go to Bob's parents' house on the 23rd and stay until Christmas day, when we traveled to Snowshoe for Bob's birthday ski trip.  We left Snowshoes on the 28th and spent one night in Blacksburg.  We then left on the 29th for my parents' house, enjoyed Christmas with my side of the family, and left on the 30th to spend New Years back with Bob's side of the family.  

I have to say, it felt really good to wake up in my own bed this morning!
I wish I had taken a picture of myself in all of my ski gear at Snowshoe.  I looked so totally hardcore!  It just so happened that Snowshoe was hit by a pretty big storm the night we arrived, and it seemed like the conditions the next day were close to that of a blizzard.  I'm sure it wasn't an actual blizzard, but it was frigidly cold, the wind was extremely gusty (50 mph), and the precipitation alternated between snow and ice.  If you were outside, you really could not have any skin exposed whatsoever, which we learned the hard way.

So as I prepared to my beginner's ski lesson, I had on my wool socks, my running tights, my warmest Brooks long-sleeve, and underarmour t-shirt, my snow pants, a total thermal face mask, goggles, a hat, ski gloves, and my North Face jacket with the hood all the way pulled up.  Again, I wish I had taken a picture, because it was intense.  The good news is, it kept me warm and safe from the elements.

I got up to the ski lesson place, and everyone who had signed up for the group lessons was rescheduling.  I was seriously considering it as well, but I knew that we were not planning to have Stephen in kinder-care the next day, so I wasn't sure what to do.  Right then, Bob came up and told me that the conditions were a lot better down mountain.  I thought, "I feel like a total badass right now.  Let's do this thing!!"  And off I went with my ski instructor, Shanti.  

The first thing he had me do was ski.  I was pretty freaked out, since I haven't actually been on skis in over five years.  I actually did pretty darn well, considering I wasn't all that good six years ago.  Shanti described me as "decent."  Hey, I'll take it! 

Since everyone else had rescheduled, I had myself a one hour, forty-five minute private lesson.  I really think the Snowshoe Green slopes are actually pretty tough.  They were fairly narrow and steep: not an easy combination in my book.  We started out doing simple S-turns.  I told Shanti I could spend the rest of the day just doing that, but he had other plans.  I'm not sure he realized what a MAJOR accomplishment it was that I hadn't gone flying over the edge of one of their steep embankments and impaled myself on a tree.  

He worked with me on parallel skiing, hockey stops, and more.  I definitely feel that my skills improved as a result of the lesson.  Not to mention, I managed the lifts every time without falling!  This was also another *huge* accomplishment.

I really had a blast and then spent another couple hours in the afternoon skiing the Greens with Bob.  

The biggest accomplishment for me was just that I enjoyed myself, something that doesn't always happen when I ski.  

I did have a couple major wipeouts, but Bob says that if you don't wipe out a little bit, you're not challenging yourself.  If that's the case, then I really challenged myself! :)