My Solstice to Equinox Streak: Thoughts, Results, New Directions

On June 21 I set out to accomplish a goal: MOVE EVERY DAY between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox.

Ste streak stewart falls start
To make sure I didn't miss the very first workout of my streak, I did this hike after work. There wasn't a ton of light at the waterfall so this pic isn't fantastic. What isn't apparent, unless you hike here often, is how the area was just decimated by our winter of heavy snows. Trees down everywhere!

So here it is, September 24, the day after the autumn equinox, and I'm thinking about how I did and what I learned and where I'll go from here.

I did 20 hikes including yesterday's, which was, while short, an epic one because there was a moose on the trail, and we had to wait for him to move before we could go around.

Ste streak end aspen grove trail
Same trail head as the June hike, but a different direction so a totally different waterfall. Early evening so still not a lot of light! This is a fun trail with several little scrambly spots and amazing views. And moose!

I'm feeling too lazy to scroll back through Strava and count my runs, but I ran about 45 times during my streak. Two of my runs were on the beach in Florida!

I did a few trail runs (three to be exact) and want to do more, but I think I need some trail running shoes and I haven't made it to the running store yet.

I went to one High Fitness class, which I really enjoyed but my knees sort-of didn't. (Squats are basically impossible for me.)

The rest of the days I did yoga or strength training of some sort.

I missed either one day or four days, I can't decide. When we were in Florida, on the days we were at Universal Studios I didn't do any other exercising besides walking around the park. I think that counts, as we went at least ten miles every day, but it wasn't all sustained, fast, high-cardio walking, so maybe it doesn't. (I know, it's my streak so my rules, but I can't help but think it was cheating.)

My results:

I lost not a single ounce, nor a millimeter of measurement anywhere.

That is, of course, super frustrating. Actually, as I sit down to write this, I find myself almost in tears over that fact. Especially because during that time, I developed a medical condition that requires me to give up chocolate, tomatoes, spicy foods, citrus, coffee, tea, yogurt. Chocolate was the one indulgence I wasn't restraining myself with at all, but after my diagnosis I have had almost none (one mint brownie at our city-employee lunch, one mint brownie at my aunt's funeral, and, yes: A bag of almond M&Ms I bought when we were in Florida because I was pissed at Kendell, and it was actually that moment when I realized how much I've been depending on chocolate for my emotional stability).

So, healthier eating and more exercising for (almost) three months, and not even a pound down? Not even a half inch somewhere?

In fact, my belly is even bigger.

Yes, that makes me feel like crying. (Actually, I *am* crying.) I had my gynecologist test my blood and my levels are normal. I have an appointment next month with my GP, but I already know what he's going to say: something about how my body responds to cortisol, and how the changing levels of hormones effects belly fat. {{{shrug}}} (Cue me going off on a rant about how the medical community is skewed towards men's health, as you can be damn sure if there were a falling hormone level that made something distressing happen to men, they'd have solved the problem decades ago.)


I do still feel like I had some results, if only that I changed some of my attitudes. I learned that having a goal helps me to be more consistent. I've watched people on IG or in my running groups do running streaks and right now I can't do that. But this little goal of mine, a moving streak? It changed my thought processes and got me more dedicated to always making sure I take care of what my body needs.

I also learned that I have a LONG way to go as far as strength goes. Mostly this is because strength training is so boring to me. After I finish a run or a hike, my heart is lifted, my spirit is lighter. During a run or a hike I feel that happening. During a weight training session I'm just…bored.

But I know I need it. Especially as I've done more over the past months, I can see where I am weak. I definitely have some asymmetry going on, my lazy glutes are still lazy (I have been known to actually TALK to my glutes on a long uphill hike to get them to do something other than go along for the ride), it's hard for me to work my quads.

Clearly I'm OK with getting my cardio in. I think, knock on wood and barring any injuries, I will continue to be more consistent with cardio. So for my next streak—now that I've streaked once, I want to keep doing it—I am going to concentrate on muscle work. I will still run and hike (and hopefully do more High Fitness classes, maybe just once every other week for my knees' sake), but my goal for today until the winter solstice is to do some strength work EVERY DAY.

It's a strength streak!

Some ways I am going to accomplish this goal:

  1. Use the tools I already have. I have some weights, a couple of yoga mats, and three books with workouts in them.
  2. Actually *use* the workouts I've saved or pinned on social media.
  3. Acquire a few more tools: heavier weights and some resistance bands.
  4. I haven't decided for sure on this one, but: sign back up for Ballet Barre classes. It is SO expensive. But I loved them when I went. But I never managed to go consistently, even though I was paying for them. But I know it would help me. But I feel weird showing up by myself when everyone else seems to be friends (probably that's the real reason I wasn't consistent before). But maybe if I went consistently I would make friends? Why is this a complicated decision?
  5. Post about it. (Not every day, but more consistently than I did with my solstice-to-equinox streak.)

Also, just going to include this other goal: I am searching for a half marathon to do near the end of October or beginning of November. I haven't really pushed myself to up my miles, and I think a race would help with that. Seriously considering the Moab Trail half marathon and I can't tell if the little thrill of fear I feel at that is because I'm actually afraid or if it's just excitement at a new challenge.

Did you streak with me? How did it go? And if not, what are your upcoming fitness or health goals?

Goodbye July!

I can’t believe July is already over. We are still in the heat of deep summer here, and honestly, July isn’t my favorite month. It’s hot and almost no flowers are blooming and even the grass just seems drained.

But if July ends, then it’s August. And if it’s August, can autumn be far behind?

Time, though, moves too swiftly, so I’m trying to savor summer before it ends. I’ve tried since Kaleb got out of school, in fact, to just enjoy the days, even though they’re hot. One thing that’s helped is that this year I’ve mostly abandoned trying to wear shorts. I just never feel comfortable in them. I’ve worn a lot of dresses and a LOT of running skirts and yeah, my elephant knees are exposed but I’m just so much more comfortable this summer. I didn’t post on Instagram every day for 31 Days of Skirt, but I did actually wear Skirt Sports every day!

Heat aside, July was a pretty good month. And before I turn my calendar over to August, I wanted to write a recap.

Solstice to Equinox Streak:
I exercised every day this month, except for the Saturday I was sick. I didn’t do cardio every day; on some days I lifted weights or did resistance training for a half hour. I had a little exercise epiphany: there is almost always time. One day I went for a walk at 1:00 in the afternoon, when it was blazing hot, but I wanted to get it in. So I went to the shadiest part of a path by the river and I got it in. Several nights I did my resistance/weights at 9:00 p.m. But committing to the streak has helped so much, not just with my consistency but with my mindset about exercise. I can really do it every day. And while I have yet to see any weight come off (it actually is continuing to bulge around my belly…I have an appointment with my doctor next month because I’m so frustrated by this!), I feel like I am stronger.

I added cartwheels to my workout strategies. I know: that sounds totally weird, and is a cartwheel really a workout? Surprisingly, yes. More of a plyometric thing, but a simple cartwheel asks a lot of your upper body, your core, and your flexibility. Plus it’s just so fun! I visited for a little while one night with my niece and her daughter, who was trying to do ariels in the grass. My body totally remembers how to do them, how it’s not really about the speed you put into it but learning how to swing your arms correctly. I gave her some pointers, and she said “but you can’t do ariels Aunt Amy!” and I said “not anymore, but I can still do a pretty good cartwheel,” and she said “NO WAY! Show me! I think you’re too old!” and so when I was done holding her new baby brother I did a cartwheel for her. Never too old!


I also achieved a milestone this month that I haven’t done in two years: I had a 100-mile month. 103.7, to be exact. (To compare, I ran 90.5 in June and 75-ish in May.) And, I know: that’s not a lot to many people. Lots of runners have 100 mile weeks! But for me, it is a little reward to see my count for the month go over 100. Even last summer when I was in marathon training I never had a 100-mile month (whooping cough!). It feels like I accomplished something. Not all of those miles were running, but that’s just fine, because I also hiked a lot!

I ran a total of 50 miles (it’s actually 49.98 but I think I can round up). I had my longest run since my marathon, 6.5 miles around where I live. I had the fastest mile I’ve had in a long time, 8:48. (Again…I know that’s not fast in comparison to many runners. But it’s fast for me.) And, guess what?


Trail running

Well, maybe “took up” is too intense. I started trail running. I didn’t buy any trail running shoes so I don’t feel like I can call myself a “trail runner” yet. I was cautious and I went on very safe trails. But I just decided one day: I want to run trails too. (A longer blog post is coming on this topic.) I did two trail runs and I’m really itching to do more.

Big Springs with friends twice
My friend Wendy and I got out three times for hikes in the foothills.
Kendell and I together: Great Western Trail, Scout Falls and part of the TImponooke Trail (until the snow got too risky), Buffalo Peak, Rock Canyon, and Silver Glance Lake. We are up to 28 hikes together this year. I’m hoping we can make it to 50 but we’ll see.

I am more in love with hiking than ever. The best thing this year is the wildflowers. They’ve been amazing from all the snow we’ve had! I just wish that I were a better photographer and could capture images that communicate how beautiful they are. But instead of carrying my big camera to photograph the flowers, I have tried to focus on being present and fully admiring the meadows.

20190719_200502 wildflowers buffalo peak 4x6

I had a couple of conversations with my kids this month that helped me get rid of some unnecessary guilt I’ve been carrying for a long, long time. Well, maybe the guilt wasn’t exactly “unnecessary,” but these two conversations just helped me to see my choices in a different light. My heart feels so much lighter.

I took Kaleb to swim in a little local pond this month, with some of his friends. He loved it. I had taken him there five years ago, when he was only 9, and I had to pull up my pictures of that day. It was amazing to see how much he has changed. (Sometimes I just have to stop thinking about how utterly strange it is that Kaleb, who was the baby I waited the longest for, is becoming a person. Even though he’s been a person (by which I mean, not a baby) for a long time, it still just sometimes hits me hard. I waited and prayed for him for so long, and then, BAM, all of a sudden he’s grown up. I had a lovely time relaxing on the grass by the pond, reading, but I got so fried on my legs. Three weeks later, they are still so tender and itchy.

Kendell and I had a fun date night when we had to drive north to pick Kaleb up from Lagoon, an amusement park about 90 minutes away from us. We brought Kaleb and his friend some pizza for dinner, and then he and I went out to eat, went shopping, and then saw The Lion King. We haven’t done enough dating in the past little while. We hike together a lot but it was nice to get out and do something a little bit different.

I got to meet my two newest great nephews. I just love babies and am so happy they are here safely. I love that both sides of our family continue to grow.

While I managed to buy a lot of new supplies, I didn’t ever get around to making any scrapbook layouts this month. I haven’t, in fact, made a scrapbook layout since February or March. I’m not really sure I can explain why, but this is the longest I’ve gone without scrapbooking since I picked up the hobby in 1996. I scrapbooked as a mom with young kids, as a mom with young kids working on her degree, as a mom with young kids doing student teaching and then being a teacher. I scrapped around Kendell’s many surgeries. I scrapbooked while I stayed up late waiting for teenagers to come home from dances and jobs and dates. It’s been a central part of my identity for as long as I’ve been an adult. Kendell working from home has something to do with it, as does the process of cleaning out my mom’s house. (By scrapbooking am I just creating a huge burden for my kids to deal with when I’M dead?) Some of it is that I feel like all the pictures of my mom’s that I need to scan are hanging over me, a project that is zapping all of my creative energy. Some of it I don’t understand. I still want to make scrapbook layouts. I still shop for supplies. I just…haven’t done it.

But! I have quilted a ton. I’ve got all my scraps managed and organized. I am almost done with the quilt I’m making for Jake and then I can start the one I’m making for Kaleb. I am actually, finally sewing together all the billion half-square pink and black triangles I’ve made over the past 7 or 8 years. (I’m trying to decide…is 90x90 too big for a quilt that won’t be used on a bed? I just have so many squares I love. And I live with tall people. But on the other hand: How much will a 90x90 quilt weigh once I back it (with minky!) and add batting? Will it even be useful or just a big pain in the butt?

July has not been a great reading month for me. I’m stuck in a book with characters I like and am interested in…but the story is moving so slowly I keep putting it down for other things. But I don’t want to not finish it because I want to know what happens to them all! Maybe I need another sick day just to get through it. I am also re-reading the novel Contact, which I read about 18 times as a teenager. I was a little bit nervous about the re-read because what if my adult tastes found it lame or inane or narrow minded? But what I am discovering is just how much of my beliefs about the universe/religion/is-there-anything-after-this-life was shaped by this book. Which is really strange, but also fairly liberating.

Finally, writing. I’m continuing to work on the poem I started. There is a deadline and a place to submit so that is pushing me. I still haven’t written the perfect transition I need, but I DID dream I wrote it, and then in the dream repeated it over and over so I wouldn’t forget it when I woke up. But I don’t remember it. I want to write more—I have an essay about pie crust that’s partly formed, too.

Tomorrow I am going to write my goals for August, but right now I am going to go sit out on my back porch. I’m going to listen to the crickets and admire the scent of the summer air, which is especially delicious tonight because it rained today. I’m going to breath in this deep-summer night and try to store it up as a hedge against winter darkness.

How was your July?

I have spent all morning today thinking about my body. How it has changed over time and how I feel about it.

Here’s a photo of me from five years ago, at a 5k race I ran in that was a library fundraiser. (You were supposed to dress up as your favorite literary character; as I am easily annoyed by anything extra while I’m running, I kept my costume extremely simple. I’m Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, right? Two braids, blue dress, sparkly red shoes.) Not necessarily my favorite literary character, but those are hard to represent in costume anyway.)

Dorothy running

Kendell and I were looking at this picture last night and I started thinking about all of the ways my body has changed in the five years since it was taken.

My perimenopausal body has finally decided to grow some boobs. Seriously, I’ve been waiting for this to happen since I was 13 or so. Unfortunately the message got muddled and the boobs are in the wrong place. SIDE boobs? That’s not really what I meant, body.

My belly is so much softer and rounder now.

My back looks like I used to weigh about 100 pounds more, and I lost the weight, and now the skin won’t smooth back. Except that didn’t happen. If it had, I would understand what was happening back there on my back (like I understand why my belly will never be flat). If I understood the source of my back fat and wobbly skin, I might feel a little less bugged by it.

The skin around my knees is saggy and wrinkled.

My batwings—and my maternal line has never been known for having resilient triceps skin—are a million times flappier.

I have side chunkies and a muffin top.

AND I have crepe-y skin on the fold of my arm at my shoulder.

My face has more wrinkles.

My eye asymmetry is far worse.

My grey has gotten greyer and more pervasive.

Do I wish I had the body back of my 42-year-old self? Sort of. Well, yes, of course. If wishing actually worked then I would wish for the body I had before I started having babies. But wishing doesn’t work. Sometimes it feels like nothing works, because I exercise and I eat as healthily as I can but the weight is still creeping on.

But this post really isn’t meant to be a listing of all of the ways I perceive my body is faulty.

Instead, it is about the ways that bodies change over time and how to accept those changes.

Yes: in the eyes of the world, my body is less attractive than it was five years ago. It is FAR less attractive than it was 25 years ago.

But the eyes of the world (which is sometimes much, much smaller than it seems) (which means that by “the world” I mean the critical voices that influence my thinking about myself, and the actual words they have said—“heavy,” “chubby,” “soft,” “old”—and how those words grow more cruel as I replay them) are always going to be critical.

My body is not perfect. Right now, I feel betrayed by my body in many ways.

But it is the same thing I say to people—to women—who refuse to be in photos because they’re “too” something (too fat, too grey, too wrinkled): it is only going to get worse.

The Amy in that photo 5 years ago had the same critical voices as the Amy in this photo:

Black dress july 9

Actually, 42-year-old Amy had more critical thoughts about herself, because I was still equating “runner” to “fast runner” then. Not only was I too chubby, too soft, too flat-chested, I was also (in my mind) too slow.

It is always only ever going to get worse.

In five more years, when I am in my early fifties, what will I think when I look back on that photo of me today? (What I thought of it when I saw it: my calves look enormous, I should’ve sucked in my stomach more, my body proportions are all wrong, my nasolabial folds are getting worse, that dress is so unflattering, I have man shoulders, there's that embarrassing forehead...) What will I wish I had back?

And not just my body, but my life.

Because how much has changed since that photo of me as Dorothy? I went through some big traumas with my husband’s health issues, my mom died, I had some pretty severe depression, my relationship with my religion changed utterly, I had to come to peace with how things really ARE vs how I hoped they would be in almost every aspect of my life.

As I looked at that Dorothy photo last night, as I thought all morning about my “conversation” with Kendell about it—he is far more blunt than I am and maybe I am too sensitive, I don’t know—as I thought about what was fueling this swirl of despair, anger, body shame, and frustration, this is where I arrived:

I want to be seen not for my body but for who I am.

I want the people in my life to love me whether or not I am “heavy.”

I want to be more than the sum of my not-quite-good-enough body parts.

But I can’t force anyone to feel that way about me. I can’t make our society see my middle-aged body as anything else but pathetic. I can’t control any of that.

All I get to control is me—and clearly, right now I am learning that that doesn’t include controlling my body.

Maybe what my body wants me to learn is something different. Not how to run longer, stronger, faster. Not the newest body sculpting techniques. Not even how to deal with my joint issues.

Maybe my body wants me to learn how to see myself not for my body but for who I am, to love myself no matter my weight or side-boob measurements, to stop the arithmetic of shame, disgust, and self-doubt.

And if I am honest, I will say: I don’t know how to do that. I want others to give that grace to me, but I don’t know how to do it for myself.

I grew up in a house with a mother who was very concerned with bodies and thinness. I participated in a sport that was all about being small enough (gymnastics). I married a perfectionist with his own body issues. Those aren’t excuses but just the facts, the things that have influenced my thinking about my body.

I am 47 years old and I have thought about my body in negative ways for as long as I can remember.  Maybe body shame is as much a part of my identity as loving books and thin hair and my talent of standing on my toe knuckles is.


But maybe that is the yellow brick road I need to follow. Maybe that is the journey I need to take, a path that will help me finally figure out how to put down all the weight I am carrying. Not the twenty extra pounds, but the shame over the extra pounds.

I don’t know how to do this. But—and maybe this is a cliché, maybe this is banal and obvious and silly, but so be it—at least knowing where to start: at least that. Maybe knowing that I have to start with me. Maybe that is enough to be the first step.

Solstice to Equinox Streak Week One: Improv!

The first week of my solstice-to-equinox exercise streak has come and gone, so I thought I would check in.

Jump shot 8x8

Let’s be honest here: doing something EVERY day is hard for me. (Except for, you know, stuff like brushing my teeth and taking showers.) I admire people who set a goal to do something every day and then actually follow through; as evidenced by my attempt to blog every day, the do-it-every-day habit seems to be anathema to my personality.

But I did learn a few things from my attempt to blog every day (which I still intend to take up again): It really does build on itself. Something is better than nothing. Planning makes the habit easier to establish. Personal weaknesses will become obvious over time.

So each week with my exercise streak, I’m just going to pay attention to what I am learning, and this week I learned the power of improvisation.

First, though, here’s what I did on my streak:

Friday, June 21: 3.9 mile hike with Kendell (Stewart Falls)
Stewart falls 6x8

Saturday, June 22: half hour of sculpting (abs, hips, and glutes)
Sunday, June 23: 8.4 mile hike with Kendell (Pine Hollow overlook)
Monday, June 24: half hour of sculpting (abs and arms), two hours of tree trimming (that should count for something, yes?)
Tuesday, June 25: 3 mile hike with Wendy (Bonneville Shoreline trail), half hour of yoga and other stretching
Wednesday, June 26: 3.7 mile run (Provo)
Thursday, June 27: 26 minutes on the elliptical, 1 mile on the treadmill, 20 minutes weight lifting (rec center)

Every single day, I’ve made a plan. And every day, I’ve changed it. Friday, for example. Fridays are my long day at work so I know I have to plan accordingly. On Thursday night I made my plan: picked out a running route, put all my running clothes in the hall bathroom, set my alarm so I could get a run in before work. Then Kendell was like, “hey, how about I exercise with you after work?” and at first we decided to do our run/walk combo on the PRT (we decide on a turn-around time, and he walks/jogs while I run and then we meet back where we started). Then I looked at some pictures from the hiking group I belong to on Facebook and I said “no, let’s hike Stewart Falls instead.”

On Saturday, I did the binding on a baby quilt, made a cake and then took it to the baby shower celebrating the baby I made the quilt for, ran errands with Kendell, made dinner. Then I saw my streak chart hanging on my kitchen door and realized I hadn’t exercised yet—at 8:30pm! Too late and too close to eating for cardio (I need at least two hours after I eat before I can exercise without feeling like I’m dying), so I did a workout on the Aaptiv apt.

Wednesday I had to adjust because the trail I drove to was closed (it’s being renovated), so instead of a run in the shade by the river, I ran in the sun after thinking “maybe I should just skip it today” but deciding to stick to my streak.

And this morning, even though I had an hour of running planned, I woke up with a headache that I threw caffeine, extra sleep, carbs, and gardening at but which wouldn’t budge until this afternoon. So I went to the gym instead.

All of which is to say: planning is necessary, but so is flexibility. Being willing to improvise when issues or other ideas come up has to be part of being consistent.

But I also learned that the streak itself will help me keep streaking, because really, if I wasn’t attempting this streaking goal, I would’ve skipped working out on Saturday, Wednesday, and today. So I feel a little bit of success and trust in myself that I can continue.

Here’s to another weak of streaking! If you’re also streaking, how is it coming for you? Or if you want to join, it's never too late, just start! HERE is some more info, along with a chart to track your progress.

Happy streaking!

My 2019 Solstice to Equinox Exercise Streak: Part 1

A few weeks ago I was watching TV with Kendell and scrolling through my photos on my phone, deleting those I didn’t need to keep. I’d not done this for a little while, so I started with January, and as I scrolled through, I started realizing: holy cow, I can watch myself getting chubbier! I hadn’t really noticed because my clothes fit very similar, but since this fall (I went back further in my picture gallery to make sure) I have grown a belly. 

But what really pushed me over the edge was this photo of me and my friend Lynne on the saddle above Fern Canyon in the Flatirons:

Amy and Lynne flatirons 20190531_130728

When I got back to our hotel, I texted the photo to Kendell, with a whole bunch of expletives and sadness and pointing out of my bulges and just generally freaking out. The weight isn’t just on my belly. It’s also above my hips and on my sides and on my face, and I made sure to circle all of the offending parts. As well as the way the skin on my hands is starting to look old for good measure.

Sometimes he doesn’t handle that kind of thing very well (he’ll make a joke instead of really listening to what is actually going on underneath my rant), but this time he was calm and kind and encouraging.

Which really reinforced the realization that I need to start working on losing some weight.

I let myself wallow in the self-hatred for a little while. I listened to my mother’s voice saying “wow, look how heavy you are.” I thought about chocolate and other treats, a litany of bad food choices to castigate myself with.

Then, a few days later, I took a deep breath. I thought: OK. This is the fact, without emotion but the objective fact: I just need to lose some weight.

I thought about all of the things I am already doing. I already exercise quite a bit. When I cook, I use healthy fats and keep an eye on sodium and sugar. I don’t drink soda very often, I very rarely eat fast food, I don’t eat potato chips. When we eat out, it’s usually at places like Costa Vida which, while not paragons of healthy eating, are at least not fried foods—and I never get the rice.

But obviously there are still some changes I need to be making.

One thing I finally did was research how I should be eating since I have hypothyroidism. (I’ve been taking medication for it since 2008 but never really received any direction as far as diet.) I got a couple of books from the library and read them, and I learned I’ve been taking my thyroid medication wrong, with not enough time after taking it before I start eating and taking my antidepressant too soon after my Synthroid. I need to get in to the doctor and have my levels tested; I think that, in January when our deductible starts over (unless something radical happens this year and we have to pay the whole damn thing again) I am also going to make an appointment with an endocrinologist if my regular doctor won’t figure out a different medication. (Something that balances both T3 and T4, not just one or the other.)

In both books, I read that people with low thyroid levels really do have a harder time losing weight. It’s not just because I’m lazy or overindulgent, although those contribute. It is harder for my body to let go of weight because of the chemical balances playing out in there. They both suggested that an hour of exercise every day is the goal to shoot for; it’s also important to focus on muscle strength.

Right now, I don’t exercise every day, and when I go running I am usually out for about 40-50 minutes. I know enough about running and about my body to know that I can’t just all of a sudden start running every day for an hour. But I’m going to make that one of my new goals: working up to running for at least an hour whenever I run. When I hike it is always longer than an hour. But I also can’t run or hike every day. So I’m going to add in a walk, and, if I am brave, a Zumba class. And some sort of weight training every single day. (Not an hour of it, but some every day.)

I also need to make some changes to my diet, but that will be its own post.

On Memorial Day, I noticed someone on Instagram was doing a Memorial-to-Labor-Day running streak. I thought that would be a great idea, but since I didn’t notice it until Memorial Day was over, the timing felt rushed.

So, instead, I am going to do an exercise streak, where I try to do at least 30 minutes of exercise (but always working toward being consistent with at least an hour) from the summer solstice to the autumn equinox.

I’m going to weigh and photography myself on June 21 (the solstice) to start. (I have been avoiding the scale since, I don’t know…October? November?) I’ll re-measure on July 21, August 22, and September 23 (the equinox). Hopefully in that time I will see some changes.

And because I am motivated by checking things off and keeping track of numbers, I made a chart. I printed mine on a piece of cardstock (double-sided) and am hanging it on my kitchen door so I can write down what I do every day. (And of course I keep track of all my runs, walks, and hikes on Strava because if it isn’t on Strava, did it even happen?)

I would really, really LOVE it if other people joined me in my streak! I’m going to use the hashtag #solsticetoequinoxstreak on Instagram (probably won’t post about it every day though) and will be giving periodic updates on my blog. Here’s the chart (it's a PDF) if you also want to play along (and let me know if you do, even if you’re not on IG or other social media places).

Download Solstice to Equinox Exercise Streak

I’m really trying to be positive and encouraging with myself during this experience, rather than working out of a place of shame or self-disgust. It’s not about winning the skinny prize. It’s just about getting myself into a healthier, happier place with my body. I hope you’ll join me!

I Am The Ordinary, Medium Woman She Was Looking For

If you know me, you know this: I’m pretty passionate about exercise clothes. That might seem like a weird thing to feel passionate about, but I have a firm belief that comfortable AND functional exercise clothing keeps people exercising. (Cute is also important.) Exercise clothes designed specifically for women are important in the exercise community because really: we aren’t men. Our bodies are different, our curves, our shapes, or musculature, even our height.

And, yes: our weight.

Well-designed exercise clothes don’t chafe. They don’t ride up between your legs. They felt well over breasts and hips; they support and breathe and wick. They flatter a moving body, no matter if that body is running or hiking or biking or swimming or doing yoga or lifting weights. They keep you moving, and if that is weird or silly, if it makes your eyes roll, then you’ve likely never had to work out in clothes that weren’t well designed.

There’s been a little bit of an uproar in the exercise-clothing world this week: Nike had the audacity not only to make plus-size exercise clothes, but put them on a plus-size mannequin. And a writer for The Telegraph definitely did not like it. She saw it as yet another way the clothing industry lies to people in order to sell things. The “fat acceptance movement,” she thinks, is not helpful to women because it gives them freedom to accept who they are right now, instead of working hard to become some better (read: thinner) version of themselves.

I’m not really sure how she fails to see the irony of her argument. She’s say two opposing things: marketing ploys that try to trick you into believing you have to be super-skinny to be attractive are wrong because the ballerina body is unhealthy, but this marketing ploy—the one that says “if you’re overweight, you still get to have comfortable and functional exercise clothing”—is wrong because fat people can’t be attractive.

Which is it?

She ends her article by asking “where is the body shape between the tiny and the immense, which is where true health lives? Where is the ordinary, medium, contented woman?”

As that is where I think I am—a medium-sized woman, neither small nor large—I’d like to let her know.

I’m here, working out. Moving my body in my favorite ways. I’m doing it in clothing that I love. That fits! That has pockets! That is cute and makes me happy and makes me feel pretty. Some of it is ruffly. Some of it is so perfectly compressive I only want to take it off because I sweat so much in it.  Some of it is pink, some is purple, some is even black.

I wear a size medium, usually. And I can’t be the only one because it’s remarkably easy to find exercise clothes in my size.

I want everyone to have the same thing, even women who are bigger than me. Clothes that fit them well and help them get out and move. It shouldn’t even have to be newsworthy, that an exercise-clothing company makes exercise clothes for large women

Because guess what helps people get healthier?


And if we are really concerned about the health of larger women, as this woman’s article seems to suggest, guess what? We should encourage them to exercise. And if they are exercising, they are going to need exercise clothes.

One of my favorite things about running races is that I get to see athletes of all shapes and sizes. Yes, there are some of those tiny, muscled runners. There are a lot of them, in fact. But there are medium-sized women like me. And there are larger women too. And all of them—even, I’d imagine, the elite runners who regularly win races—all of them have something about their bodies that they feel self-conscious about.

One of my running friends has one of those tiny, elegant, muscled bodies. She has a thigh gap and a strong back and willowy arms, and she is fast. And people criticize her for being too skinny.

Another running friend wears a size 16 but she runs five or six marathons every year. And people criticize her for her weight.

I’m that medium-sized runner. Probably on the bigger size of medium these days, but still, yeah: medium. Medium-fast, middle-of-the-pack runner. And people criticize me, too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been outside running and someone driving past me has shouted something like “keep on running, chunky!” or “hey there, fat ass!”

(And that’s not even mentioning the language I use inside my own head, the way I have to fight to see something other than my chide sunkies (my nickname for my out-of-control-these-days side boobs), my batwing arms, my chubby belly, my thighs that haven’t gapped since I was eleven or twelve. I have to fight not to let those words overwhelm me and to keep reminding myself that what matters is to just keep moving and to draw strength from all of the ways I have already moved.)

I think it’s a rare woman who doesn’t have body issues.

So that woman writer (and I’m not linking or sharing her name, because if you want to read it you can google it), with her critical voice and her surety that no one of that size could run anywhere, that the answer to obesity is to “just stop eating sugar”—that woman is not solving any problems. She is creating more shame. And that is the opposite of what is needed by anyone with a body.

Especially women with bodies.

The point of the fat acceptance movement isn’t to encourage unhealthy weights. It is to help clear away the element of shame that is so wrapped up in weight.

We all feel that shame. (I am 100% certain that clearly, the writer herself feels shame, because otherwise, why bother? Why knock down instead of encouraging overweight women, unless the presence of an overweight woman in her exercise space is threatening to her in some way?)

We are all trying to overcome the shame and to embrace what is positive.

Exercise is positive.

Moving your body is positive.

Wearing something you love while you move your body is positive.

Whatever encourages healthier actions is positive.


Week in the Life Day 5: on Sacred Thursday, Sisters, and Pelicans

For years, Thursday was my favorite day. I called it “sacred Thursday” and I told my kids and my husband that on Thursdays, we leave Mom alone. I didn’t have to work, I kept the day appointment-free, I didn’t see any friends or my sisters or my mom. My friends at work knew not to bother me unless there was a true library emergency (which is a fairly rare occurrence anyway). I got all of the housework and the bill paying and the meal planning done so I didn’t have to do any of it on Thursdays. I savored it as my one day a week when really: I was alone in my house and I could do anything I wanted.

Now Kendell works from home.

Works from home every. single. day.

And if you don’t think this creates some deeply conflicted feelings for me, you just don’t know me. On the one hand:  Kendell is happier. He likes not having to drive in to work, he likes hanging out with me.

And it’s not that I don’t like hanging out with him.

It’s the other hand: I need creative time alone in my house. When it is absolutely silent (Kendell and I are like Kreacher and Sirius Black: he slips into the bedroom to turn on the TV, and then I slip in and turn it off, repeat 15x a day), when I don’t have any other responsibilities. My spirit and my soul and my psyche and my bones need this.

I miss sacred Thursday so much. And I don’t know how to resolve this problem. Because why is his happiness more important than mine? Why is mine more important than his?

But, Kendell working from home has pushed me out of the house and into doing different things on Thursdays. (On all the days, honestly!) Becky, Suzette and I emptied my mom’s house on Thursdays. Sometimes I go for a hike in the foothills by myself. Or I do errands, and by errands I mean stuff like the fabric store, the scrapbook store, maybe a stop at Macy’s for a little something pretty (no objects I need, I mean, but these activities at least give me the temporary illusion of the self-care I need).

Today, I drove up to Salt Lake City and met Becky for a run. On a sacred Thursday! We went on a portion of the Jordan River Pathway, and it was a thing my psyche also needed. We talked and laughed (as much as you can laugh while you’re running), we figured out absolutely nothing but felt heard and validated by each other. Plus, it was just so pretty this morning. Cool-ish, not cold but also not hot. Everything green—I love this kind of path, a swath of green through suburbia, a little ribbon of wilderness, or at least, of the appearance of wilderness. We saw four pelicans floating on the river—pelicans? In Utah? I had to stop and take a photo of them; it’s not very good, and two of them had already floated behind the reeds before I got there, but I’m glad I have it anyway. On our way back we took a little detour and there was a young deer in the shadow of a tree. There were ducks, quail, black-billed magpies.

When we were almost finished stretching after our run, a woman came down the trail and stopped at the benches where we were stretching. (Becky had her yoga mat, which used to be my mom’s, so we could both also stretch our backs.) She asked if we’d seen the pelicans and then told us she’d been coming to the river for a few weeks, hoping to spot them, and today we finally had. She told us about their migratory patterns—they stop on the Jordan River for a little while, and then fly south to Utah Lake to feed when the carp spawn, and then they go to the ocean. She told us that the bulge on their beaks means they are in breeding season.

I didn’t know any of this about pelicans. Honestly, I didn’t know they ever even came to Utah. I’m glad we met up with this woman and that she shared her knowledge with us because it made me understand what a gift that was, just happening to see the pelicans.

After running, we went to the fabric store, and then I drove home.

The rest of the day was just a day—I finished all the cutting I need to do and started organizing. I went to Costco with Kendell and we picked Kaleb up from his cousin’s house on the way home. I made chicken and rice for dinner, except Kaleb didn’t want it so he made himself a sandwich. (Cue my usual frustration over dinner, but if he makes his alternate meal, that is just fine.) Kendell and I watched some TV, I read my book a little (I don’t want it to end so I’m finishing it slowly), we went to bed. When Jake came home he startled me and it gave me a charley horse in my foot so he rubbed it out for me. Then I remembered I hadn't blogged so I got up and wrote this post.

Just a Thursday.

I miss my sacred Thursdays. I don’t even talk about them very often anymore because I get filled up with anger and frustration and annoyance (I am filled with it now as I write this). But there is also a little voice telling me to hold on, to appreciate the now, because things always change. So I will continue looking for different ways to spend my Thursdays, even if they aren’t sacred anymore. Even if they aren’t exactly what I need.

Week in the Life Day 4: The Weepy Day

This line I read this morning made me, sitting there at my kitchen counter eating breakfast, start weeping. In the novel, Meet me at The Museum, one of the protagonists (this is a story told by two people) is pondering his adult daughter’s decision, and he writes (it is an epistolary novel)

I am like a man standing on a shore watching people he loves rowing a boat. As long as they are safe in the boat, nothing else is so important.

I woke up feeling sad and less-than and like I have wasted my life. Like I have failed all of the people I love the most. Like I have also failed myself. I’m not really sure why I felt this way, except for a conversation I had with my sister yesterday, and an argument (discussion?) I had with Kendell last night, and maybe because of a poem I read yesterday (This over the./One of the rules for writing the poems of a lonely person) and maybe because it rained all day yesterday, off and on, and my mood needed to match the world’s melancholy. Because I was thinking, strangely enough (but not so strange if you are Mormon), of my wedding, and how while I loved my dress and I appreciated all of my mom’s and sisters’ hard work in making my reception both beautiful and delicious, I wish I would’ve known then to follow my own impulses and do what I wanted instead of following all of the cultural expectations, and why does that even matter now, 27 years later, except for the fact that thinking about my wedding day fills me with a sort of sadness that I can’t help but carry all of my life, similar to the fact that I didn’t go to prom, because it feels like I missed something that most people get, and then I realize that not only do I feel sad and less-than and like I failed, but I also feel…abnormal. And yes: like all the people I love are always in a boat rowing somewhere, but I’m just standing on the shore, and I do only want them to be safe but I also still want to not have this feeling. Except, who would I be without this feeling?

(Run-on sentences written deliberately.)

So I sat there crying over my third-favorite mug and I looked at my kitchen. I thought about how many hours I have spent in this small space, making dinner, doing dishes. I bathed my babies in the kitchen sink for the first months of their lives. I’ve baked cookies and boiled cream and sugar into caramel. Many times more than I just this morning I have cried there. I thought about my mother-in-law’s kitchen, and how it was a sort of synecdoche. Maybe my kitchen is for me, too. If I died tomorrow the sink, the pale pink tiles I picked, the battered countertop would all still be there. Witl 2019 kitchen

Why am I writing this down, in this context? This is a part of my life. This wondering, this feeling. Does everyone do this? Does everyone question their life and their decisions, their place in the world? Or is it just my overthinking brain overthinking again? I don’t know. But that is how my Wednesday started.

The day continued to be weepy. I watched a few news reports about yesterday's school shootings in Colorado and cried.

I watched the vote over whether or not to hold Barr in contempt and I cried. (Our country is just so messed up right now.)

I messaged Becky and I cried. (But I didn't tell her I was crying.)

My friend Wendy, obviously inspired, also messaged me, and for whatever reason her cheery hello helped me to stop crying.

So then I just kept working on my cutting project. I am getting really close and am already looking forward to organizing all of the squares I've cut. Kendell keeps looking at me in dubious ways, but even though it is a complete fabric whirlwind right now, this really is progress. Once all those random scraps are cut into useful squares, I'll be able to make projects much faster, and it will be less bulky to store it all.

I did some laundry—towels and sheets. I haven't switched my bed over to regular cotton's almost too warm for flannel, but I always have a hard time giving it up. One more round before I pull out the cotton sheets. I'm looking even more forward to going to bed tonight than I usually do, because that first night on just-washed sheets is heaven.

My knees had finally stopped twinging from hiking last weekend, so I decided to go for a run in between laundry loads. Kendell's schedule had cleared up a little bit, so he went with me. We went to the canyon, where there's a paved path by the river (one of my favorite parts of living where I do is this path; ten minutes from my house and I can be running under trees next to swift running water). Since he can't run, we decide on the time we'll turn around. Today I told him we'd turn around at 19 minutes and he thought I was insane and insisted on 20. I was feeling a little bit faster than I expected, and so close to two miles than I went to 21 before I turned around. So, four miles today! Witl 2019 running on the PRT

Six and a half minutes into our run (I only know because I looked at my watch) it started raining. Not pouring, but not a light drizzle either. At seven minutes, Kendell called me and asked if we should turn around. I said "Oh, hell no! Running in the rain is the best! Plus, it's Utah. It could stop at any second. Let's keep going." I think he might've been surprised at my response, but really: I probably won't start a run in the rain, but if it starts raining while I'm running, I almost never stop. When we met back up, I told him he's joined the bad ass runner's club. Bad asses keep going in the rain! (It stopped about halfway through anyway. Spring in Utah!)

While I was stretching after running, I thought about two different things. First, I thought about how much better I felt emotionally after getting out on the trail. This is what I meant when I told that orthopedist last year that I don't know how to live without running. Not for the "runner's high" as he suggested. It's not about euphoria (or, at isn't always) but evenness. It calms my high-strung emotions while lifting me up to a level emotional field. I love it for the physicality of it...but I love it more for the emotional health it gives me.

Second, I thought about stretching. I really love stretching, but I know not everyone wants to spend the time. I've been thinking about doing a weekly series on my IG about different stretches, how they help, how to do them properly, and why stretching is entirely worth the extra time. But I'm also sure there are one million people already doing this, most of them more qualified than I am. Would I seem like a ridiculous IG poser if I did this? Do people still use the word "poser" like that? And besides...I am ridiculous on video. So maybe not.

After running, I raced back home to shower and get ready for work. I cut it really close so I didn't eat anything. Which, even if I just ran four miles was a bad idea. I totally crashed once i sat down at my desk (luckily I was in the office for a little while). Like...I struggled to stay awake. And then I went and filled up my Hydro with soda, even though I really don't like drinking soda calories, just so I could have some caffeine to keep me going. Didn't help that I ate some pasta, too...carb coma!

While at work today, I texted back and forth with Kendell and Kaleb. I was just feeling really sad (sad again!) because Kaleb had a choir concert I didn't know about and I couldn't get off at the last minute. So I missed it. Kendell went, of course, so he had a parent there. But I wanted to listen to him sing. Sadness.

One funny library story. We have a beautiful sculpture near the reference desk of a crouching man (please note: despite many people’s opinions, this is not Rodin’s The Thinker; sure, it’s an unclothed male statue but the likeness ends there, hashtag art history). A woman was letting her daughter climb on it tonight, so I asked her to please not climb the statue. The mom said “Oh, it’s OK. I took a picture of her when she was five sitting on top of it, and I just want to recreate it.” Ummmm…not ok three or four years ago, not OK now. It’s a sculpture, not a jungle gym. I insisted she not let her daughter climb onto the shoulders.

Finally, I just want to say how grateful I am for my two sisters, Becky and Suzette. They both talked me through my over-the-top emotions today. What would I do without them?

The Boston Marathon Makes Me Insecure

There were two topics yesterday that were all over my social media feeds: the fire at Notre Dame and the running of the Boston marathon. (I’m actually fairly surprised at the depth of my reaction to the fire; I am still trying to find words.)

The Boston marathon is THE marathon. The one that proves something. You can say you’ve run a marathon, or several marathons, but unless you’ve run Boston, well, have you really run a marathon? Everyone wants to run it, and you have to have a qualifying time to even try to get in. The faster your qualifying time, the better chance you have of getting in. (If you are twenty minutes faster than your age group’s qualifying time, you get to register first.)

Every year I read about other runners’ experiences, both friends and strangers. I read about the bad weather almost every year, and about how hard the course is. And I think everyone thinks this is an awesome race but it sounds horrible.

But honestly, I think that with envy.

Because the truth is, even when I was still young, when all my joints were happy and my energy levels were higher—even then, I wasn’t fast enough to qualify for Boston.

So every year, I read the stories of runners who are fast enough—many who are older than me—and, I confess:

I feel a little bit substandard.

It’s the same thing I find myself doing with my body, lately. I’ll catch myself drying off in the mirror after a shower, and sometimes I think “I don’t look too bad for an almost-50 woman.” Other times I think “OH MY GOD what happened to me? When did I get so chubby, when did I get so soft, my body looks like a deflated balloon!” and those thoughts can come within the same day. Or even in the time it takes for me to finish drying and just cover up the flabbiness.

The Boston marathon makes me doubt myself.

When I’m not seeing this reminder of my running mediocrity, I’m able to think “I’m doing OK. Not the fastest, but at least I’m still running. I’ve been running for almost twenty years now. I’m staying on top of it! I’m a real runner!” Not to mention taking confidence in the belief that unless you’re on a cross-country team or training for the Olympics, running is an individual sport. I’m only competing with myself. I’m only doing this because it brings me happiness.

But then all of the Boston Marathon photos start showing up. And I start questioning myself.

Am I slow because I’m not dedicated enough?

Are my knees messed up because I didn’t stay strong enough? or because I weigh too much?

Am I really even a REAL RUNNER if I know I have zero chance of ever running Boston?

Why am I even trying?

“Runner” is a huge part of my identity. So large that I am constantly trying to prove to myself that I still qualify. Those strong, fast women who qualify for Boston, and then run Boston, even in the rain, even in the snow, even in high, hot humidity: they certainly qualify. They put in the work to get there. Even if they never ran a step in their lives again, they ran Boston.

I will never run Boston.

Logically, I know this doesn’t matter. I’ve run other marathons. I’ve run one of the hardest legs of the Wasatch Back Ragnar three times, once with a wicked sprained ankle held together by athletic tape and grit. I’d have to stop and count to tell you how many half marathons I’ve run. I trained for and completed a marathon with whooping cough.

Logically, I know I’m a runner.

Logically I know none of those races make me a runner. It’s not races—it’s just running. Running makes you a runner.

But I suspect I will always doubt myself a bit. Will question my authenticity not, perhaps, as a real runner but as a strong runner. A good runner, an accomplished runner. A Boston-strong runner.

I’m happy for and proud of my running friends who run Boston.

There’s just this little part of me that wishes I, too, were badass enough to run Boston with them.

Ten Thoughts in 3.5 Miles

  1. My warm up time is almost over. Yay! Time to run. Let’s move!
  2. Holy cow. I feel like I’ve never done this before. Have I ever even run a step in my life? How did I ever do this for hours? I think I’m going to die! My lungs are going to explode! I. can’t. keep….oh, wait, OK. Here we go. I’m ok. Lungs are catching up, heart is keeping time with my pace. I’m OK.

(I’m firmly convinced that learning to push through the initial pain is one of the keys to being a life-long runner. It always feels like I’m dying when I first start. But I’ve done this enough to know it will get better. Beginning runners (and hikers, too) often stop right at this point, but if you learn to keep going, you discover it stops being so hard.)

Running on the PRT

  1. Oh my goodness. Why don’t I do this every single day? This makes me so happy. I’m so happy right now.
  2. That six minutes went fast! Time to take a walking break. Should I be embarrassed that I have to take walking breaks? Or ashamed? Am I still a real runner if I do walking breaks for the rest of my life? Will I ever be able to run without walking breaks? Does it matter? Two minutes are even faster than six. Let’s go!
  3. My knee hurts. My other knee hurts. My knee hurts. My other knee hurts. It’s not excruciating. It’s just a little bit…twingy. It’s a little bit grinding. A little bit like stuff touching that shouldn’t touch. I’m really NOT HAPPY about that knee pain. Oh, OK. It’s subsiding. OK. I’m ok. My knees are OK. Not perfect. But OK. Wait! Was that my ankle? Did my ankle twinge? What the hell…I want my 20-something joints back.
  4. Time to turn around! How am I already halfway done? Why does this go by so fast? Thirty more seconds. OK, 30 more. Should I go for four instead of 3 ½? No, better turn around. Turning now.
  5. Wow. WOW! It’s a totally different experience running into the light like this. The sky is amazing! The trees are beautiful! How did I not notice the trees are just starting to bud! Look how green they are? Oh I love this canyon, this trail, this river. This body, this life, this world. Running is the best. Being alive is the best.
  6. I hope no skateboarders are on this part of the path, it’s so narrow. Oh, crap, skateboarders. Surely that one is going to get on her side of the trail. Going to get over. Any minute now…oh, damn. OK. Guess I will go off in the weeds. REALLY hoping there was no dog poop there. Thanks girl!
  7. Oh no—why did I put this song on my running playlist? I love the Indigo Girls but this is not a running song. Skip! And no, this next one is too slow, I thought when I bought it it would be great but, gah. Too slow, Cage the Elephant. Skip! Skip! Skip! Wait, do I even have any good songs on this running list?
  8. Just a bit less than half a mile left. Feeling strong. I’m so glad I got out today. The sun on my shoulders is perfect. The breeze in my hair is heavenly. I’m so grateful I get to do this. Oh, there’s the turn off! There’s the bridge! There’s Kendell! I hope I can do this tomorrow. Running is the best.