Thursday, February 24, 2011

Discovering my inner jock

I have never been a jock.  Growing up, I was the nerdy little girl whose nose was always stuck in a book--you know, the annoying one who sat on the front row, always knew the answer to any question the teacher asked, and never,ever turned her homework in late.  Looking back, I'm astonished that I had any friends at all.

 Not too surprisingly, I was ALWAYS the last person chosen for any team sport.  I can still see the athletic kid the PE teacher had named as a team captain sighing and saying, "I guessthat means we get Rene'."  I can't say I blame them.  I couldn't hit, I couldn't throw, and I screamed in panic if I was supposed to catch a ball.  

In 12 years of public education, in 4 years of college, in 3 1/2 years of seminary, I received exactly one C--spring semester of my sophomore year in college, in physical education.  The class was Basketball and Softball.  I signed up for it because it fit into my schedule and I had to have a PE credit.  No one told me that the class doubled as practice time for the girls' basketball and softball teams--and that little ole non-jock me would be judged by their jock standards.  I'm probably lucky that I didn't fail--it was a mercy C.

So I've never thought of myself as athletic.  Despite working out pretty consistently over the last 11 years and hiking vacations in Rocky Mountain National Park, inside I was still that awkward girl that nobody wanted on their team.   

But training for El Camino is putting me in touch with my inner jock.  I still don't think of myself as athletic and probably never will, but I am beginning to think of myself as  I feel fit.  I still can't catch a ball or make a basket, I still would justifiably be chosen last in any sport that involved coordination, but I  It's a new feeling, one I am still getting used to, but I have to say I like it.  I like feeling that I can ask my body to do something challenging (like walk 500 miles!) and trusting my body to rise to the challenge.  

Feeling fit doesn't have much to do with weight loss.  The scale remains stubbornly stuck where it was 3 weeks ago, though I do think everything jiggly is a little less jiggly.  But I'm discovering that feeling fit isn't about a number on a scale or my pants size.  It's about how I feel in my body.  No, that's not exactly right.  It's about feeling like my body and I are no longer uneasy companions occupying the same physcial space--that we really are a team.  So I guess there is one team I can be a member of, even captain of.  Team Me.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Helpful video about El Camino

This is a helpful explanatory video about El Camino, put together by a pilgrim who walked it this past year.

Hold hands and stick together

I've always loved the wise advice of Robert Fulghum's "All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" since a clipping of it landed on my desk more than 20 years ago.  (Remember the olden days when you got a clipping instead of an email forward?)  Lately I've been thinking about thinking a lot about this bit of wisdom from the essay:  No matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, hold hands and stick together.  I keep coming back to this thought because in so many ways I am holding onto others' hands as I prepare for El Camino.
 I've been "holding hands" with my friend Kimberly as we work out together each weekday morning, stumbling into the Y for our 5:30 am classes.  On mornings when I'm tempted to go back to sleep, my commitment to Kimberly gets me out of bed.  And now that I'm a part of Shape Up Omaha, I also have a team that I'm accountable to.  

I've been "holding hands" with the cyber community of the two El Camino forums that I'm a member of.  The wisdom of experienced peregrinos is invaluable.  How do you get from Santiago to Sarria?  What kind of pack should I get?  How do you train during a Nebraska winter?  What's a special "extra" that you took along that you were glad to had?  Discussions on the spirituality of walking El Camino, best and worst pilgrim refugios, and endless threads on foot care, boots and socks (peregrinos are obsessed with their feet!).  Through these forums I have been holding hands with folks from across North America, Europe, and from as far away as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.  I don't know their real names or what they look like, but they have become an important community to me. I have never reached out with a question or concern that someone (often many someones) didn't reach back.

This blog itself is a way of "holding hands" with friends and family, sharing with those I care about and who care about me, my hopes and dreams and fear.  Your comments, both online and in person, remind me that I am part of a caring community who is rooting me on.
 This is what communities do.  They help, they support, they hold one another accountable, they root us on and hold us up.  How blessed I am to have so many hands to hold!

While the need to hold hands is true every day, I think a heightened awareness and appreciation of it is important spiritual preparation for El Camino.  On my trek, I will be meeting new people everyday, looking to them for help and advice and companionship.  And some may be looking to me for the same things.  We will all be stronger if we remember to hold hands and stick together. 


Friday, February 11, 2011

Shape Up Rene'

I've been obsessing over every ounce that I will take in my pack for El Camino.  One extra pair of pants or two?  Two extra shirts or just one? Is there anyway that I can include a teeny-weeny container of blush and a tube of mascara, weighing less than 2 oz each?

I realized that it didn't make a lot of sense to fret about every ounce that will go in my pack and totally ignore all the extra pounds I'm carrying around on my hips and thighs.
This realization came about the same time as I had my annual physical and learned that my cholesterol level had gone from barely acceptable to "you're going to have to do something about this."  (Note to self: Do not have cholesterol test in December after six weeks of eating cookies, pies, candy, and other goodies.)  If I can't get my cholesterol down by diet, I'll have to go on medication. I do not want to go on medication.

So when I saw the Shape Up Omaha sign in the Y, I was interested.  Modeled on The  Biggest Loser, participants are on a team that work with a personal trainer and dietician to get in shape and lose weight.  While I've been feeling pretty good about my workouts, I have such a hard time eating healthily on a consistent basis.  I need a mommy to yell at me and tell me to eat my vegetables. Shape Up Omaha sounded like it might just be the thing--and was delighted to find out that my friend Kimberly had already signed up.

So starting this past Monday, every weekday morning we drag ourselves out of bed before 5:00 AM so we can make it to the Y by 5:30 AM.  I try to get in a 2-hour workout most days--have to work on stamina for those long days of walking! 
Meanwhile, I've been writing down every morsel that goes into my mouth.  It's so annoying, but keeping a food diary really does make a difference.  Did you know that those mini-corn muffins at Jason's Deli are 105 calories EACH?  They're miniscule--and I used to eat 3 or 4 of them! I'm still in sticker shock from that unpleasant little discovery--as well as a few others.  
 First weekly weigh in next Monday.  Thank heavens this is BEFORE Valentine's dinner splurge.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


I gather, from the reading I've done, that some people blithely start El Camino having done little or no training.  Though I have been working out pretty regularly for more than 10 years, I am neither that confident nor that foolish.  And since I am both anal-retentive and very anxious, I started my training early, kicking up my exercise regiment last spring.  Not only did I start taking long walks (obviously) when possible, I added the stepmill at the Y.

The stepmill is a revolving set of stairs.  Think of a hamster on his little wheel, only not as much fun.  Just endlessly trudging up one step after another and never getting anywhere.

And clearly, it was invented by a sadist.

I hate the stepmill with every fiber of my being.  But I keep thinking about the Pyrenees and that 4800 foot elevation gain right out of the gate.  There are no 4800 elevation gains to practice on in Omaha, so I keep going on the stepmill.  When I started I could only do 15 minutes, but I can do 45 to 60 minutes now.  Of course, when I'm done, I look like this,

but I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment.  If I weren't so exhausted, I would punch my arms in the air like Rocky after he climbs the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum.

As I said, I've been working out fairly regularly for more than ten years.  But it is amazing what a difference having a concrete goal has made to my workout.  Without my fear of the Pyrenees, I don't think I could ever workout so diligently on that wretched stepmill.  I used to sort of coast through a lot of my workouts--take a relaxed ride on the recumbent bike or coast through my strength training.  No more--every intense minute of working out is a little bit of insurance that I will be able to successfully make it all 500 miles.