The fear of water

26154995_1582172691873309_7902964687652782080_n(1)Water is my nemesis.

My mom put Grant and I in swimming lessons when we were kids. She had a lifetime of regret for not learning to swim, so she made sure her kids learned to swim. (BTW, my mom did eventually learn to swim as an adult. More on this later.)

As a kid, I learned breast stroke and stopped there. It was good enough. In any event, I didn’t love swimming. I didn’t love anything that required practice. Like the piano. Anyway, Grant and I probably spent more time splashing around than actually swimming. All this took place in a swimming pool at a fancy health club where my dad had a membership. I did enjoy the cool water on hot summer days, and ate countless sandwiches at the poolside restaurant.

For the next 10-12 years, I was never required to swim. Since I didn’t love it, I don’t tend to want to go swimming.

I’ll spare you the details on how I almost drowned in a lake when I was 20, because, you know, my mom will read this and freak out.

My fear of water kept me away from water for the next 20 years. I could swim laps (with badly done breast stroke) in a pool if I know I can reach out and grab the edge of the pool and be able to see the bottom. But I never went swimming. Why would I? The fear-induced shiver each time I get in the water is just too much for me to handle.

I decided that this needs to change.

I was inspired by a small human–Josh. It’s not just his capability of swimming that inspires me; it’s his comfort level in the water. When we went swimming with whale sharks in the middle of the ocean in Mexico, he jumped into the water without hesitation. When his mask/snorkel fell off and he sucked in some water, he was not fazed at all. He got the guide to help put his mask/snorkel back on, blew the water out of his nose, and just went on his merry way to see the whale sharks.

Pride oozed out of my pores, and I was so inspired to be more like him.

I was inspired by another person–my mom. As a child, she was traumatized by old school jackass gym teachers and never learned to swim properly. When she saw Grant and I learn to swim, she was inspired to learn as well. So in her 40’s, she took lessons and learned to swim, and swam a lot in the following years.

I was also inspired by a bunch of strangers. When I did that duathlon race (run-bike-run) last summer, I longingly looked into the swimming pool at the athletes who were on the swimming leg of the triathlon. I was envious of their abilities, even if they were slow swimmers. I thought to myself, maybe one day. Maybe one day I will overcome the impossible, and learn to swim. Maybe one day I will be able to swim well enough to participate in a triathlon. Maybe one day.

The one day started last week. I signed up for 5 private lessons, and committed to going for 5 swims on my own. In 5 weeks (10 times in the water), if I make absolutely no improvement, I will concede defeat and remain a land animal forever. I am really hoping that I will make some improvements, regardless of how slight.

I’ll report back in 5 weeks on how I’m doing. Fingers crossed!

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A moment in time

*Warning: very long post with many bad selfies*

About a year and a half ago, I set out to lose 15 lbs. I had no desire to be skinny; I just wanted to be less chubby. I figured 15 lbs is do-able.

 

Somewhere in this process, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I can learn a new trick. I learned that it’s not just about the weight. I learned that I will always be learning. And I learned that health and fitness is a journey, not a destination.

Fat Angela

I have so few photos of myself, so I stole this from Sherry. This is taken in June 2016 when we were in Morocco. It was after this trip that I decided I needed a change.

Fat Angela 2

I was having the time of my life. The kids were growing bigger, my career was stable, I was having fun traveling and skiing. It’s not like I looked myself in the mirror everyday and hated my life.

I can learn a new trick

For 15 months, I kept a detailed record of everything I ate and every exercise I performed. I weighed how many grams of chicken breast I was eating, and used a heart rate monitor for every workout for an accurate count of calories burnt. I used a combination of Garmin Connect and My Fitness Pal app to help me track everything. Everyday I aimed for a caloric deficit. I had to do this. You know how people say, “Listen to your body”? I can’t. I can’t listen to my body, because I can’t hear it.

I remember years ago, one time I had lunch with my BFF Karen. She ordered a burger, as did I. (Karen, I think that may have been the first and last time I saw you eat a burger!) I wolfed my burger down whole, barely listening to what she was saying. By the time I looked up to take a breath, she had set half her burger down. She was done. No longer hungry. She left half her burger and never ate the rest of it.

I was amazed. How does she do that? If there’s food on my plate, I finish it. That’s just how it is. But this woman did not finish her food!!!!

The difference is, Karen listened to her body. I, on the other hand, only know to eat whatever is put in front of me, and eat it quickly. She controlled her food. My food controlled me.

Anyway, Garmin Connect and My Fitness Pal app tell me how many calories I have left for the day. The more I exercised, the more I could eat. Otherwise, 1200 calories is all I get for the day. I did not have to “listen to my body”, since I could not hear it anyway.

After diligently tracking everything I ate for 15 months, I was finally getting the hang of it. I was starting to get a feel of what I should eat and how much. I was finally starting to hear a whisper of a voice when I am satiated. I learned that I can be trained to listen to my body.

Less Fat Angela

Doing the P90X3 agility workout in November 2016. 6 am everyday was my “me time” in the gym. 20 lbs down.

It’s not just about the weight

I started with a goal to lose weight. I was 40, and have a less-than-perfect family health history of diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular conditions, cancer, etc. My heart valve doesn’t close completely. I sit on my butt all day at a stressful job. It’s only a matter of time before shitty health problems took over my life.

I look at these two small human beings that I am beyond blessed to have, and damn, I want to be here for a good long time to embarrass them and watch them grow.

The first thing I did was increase my running volume, and starting spin classes at a studio. I often run early in the morning, and come home as the kids are just waking up. Savanna got savvy quickly to check if I was sweaty before she would give me a morning kiss. I loved that the first thing they see in the morning is mommy coming home from a run.

Then I started following some workouts from Beachbody, streamed over the internet. The kids sometimes watched me go through Fix Extreme or P90X3. Then one day, they joined me during my workout. Now if I work out at home, I’m bound to have one of them jump in with me.

When I bought a road bike and started cycling more, Josh told me he is crazy about cycling and he wanted to ride everyday with me. He is always asking how many kilometres we have done, so he can do just a bit more to beat his last record.

I learned that it’s not all just about losing weight. It’s about influencing my kids through action to live an active life, and do better than yesterday.

Josh working out

Josh doing Fix Extreme workout with me.

Josh cycling

One of many bike rides with Josh.

back

May 2017. 25 lbs down. Lots of strength training in the gym, before the cycling addiction started.

The learning never stops

When I first started with working out regularly, I ate a very high protein, low fat, and low carb diet. I cut out all rice, bread, pasta, and noodles. The only carbs I would eat is a small amount of fruit, and baked sweet potato. Mostly I ate a lot of chicken breast and low fat cottage cheese. No avocado, no nuts, very little cooking oil–the fat content scared me.

That worked, along with the workouts. Weight came off. I was happy.

Then I started cycling. Then I was told to eat carbs on long rides.

Wait, what? Carbs? Isn’t that bad for me?

I learned that on a long ride, I need carbs that will quickly convert to energy. If all I eat is protein, I won’t be able to handle a long ride. Well, damn, ok, I’ll eat some carbs.

That worked. I was still losing weight.

I read 6 different books on sports nutrition, from one end of the spectrum (body building) to the other end (vegan Ironman racing). I got 6 difference sets of advice.

I learned that the sport you train for may dictate some of what you eat. I learned that I need to eat a balanced diet to keep the rest of me happy. Mostly, I learned that I will never stop learning about the theories and sciences of what works and what does not.

Books

How much of what am I eating today?

Angela running

September 2017. Going for a run while on a business trip.

It’s a journey

When I lost the 15 lbs I set out to lose, I was happy. I was having so much fun with my workout routine, I just continued.

Today, I don’t feel like “I’m done”. I feel like I am just beginning to learn certain sports, and there are so many other things I want to learn. I took a cycling clinic last summer, and met some incredible women who inspire me to ride more, ride faster, run, and try different sports. I joined a bunch of rides with a local bike shop and met some kickass ladies who eats hills for breakfast and run at speeds I can only dream of. I just signed up for swimming again, because damn it, I’m gonna learn this!

When I signed up for the 122 km Whistler fondo 7 months ago, I thought to myself, “If I can do this, I can do anything.” That’s how huge and unreachable the fondo was to me. And guess what? I did it.

So what else is so huge and unreachable for me today? Maybe I can do that a few months from now. Who knows?

Angela dressed

November 2017. 32 lbs down.

Today is just a moment in time in my journey. I wanted to document these thoughts, because some days are harder than others to be motivated. Like this morning when I had to get my butt out of bed for a run–that was brutal. But then tomorrow morning I scheduled myself to ride my bike on the rollers, which I am really looking forward to!

 

 

 

 

Jumping into 2018

2017 was awesome. The kids are growing like weeds. They are doing more (biking, skiing, swimming), and they wipe their own butts. Big win.

I have ran and pedal biked more than I ever have in my life. Towards the end of the year, Cliff also got into cycling. We changed our family eating habits to incorporate more whole foods and less processed crap. Another big win.

I have no plans to make 2018 “better”, because I don’t think of a year in terms of good or bad. I am fortunate enough to have my family, my health and my career, so I already feel like a million bucks right out the gate. I do plan to have as much fun as I can fit into 24 hours a day.

In keeping with the same tradition of the past 5 years, we spent a week in Whistler to end 2017 and welcome 2018. And of course that means jumping from the dresser to the king size bed for photos. Back when the kids were little, Cliff would toss them onto the bed. But now that they are both heavier and bigger, they get to use their own legs to jump.

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Josh turns seven

Seven years ago today, I was freaking out inside about this baby who was about to become my responsibility. I was scared. I was scared of messing up, and raising a serial killer. I was scared of never riding my motorcycle again, like most of my biker chic friends who had babies.

When I woke up this morning, seven years later, I smiled like an idiot because this little baby who turned my life upside down in the most incredible way is having his seventh birthday.

I am grateful for the many lessons Josh has taught me. He is just the opposite of me. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He is not afraid to show his feelings. He doesn’t care about what other thinks of him. He thinks he is smart, but he is not cocky. He is athletic. He is forgiving. He is not afraid to try things. He is generous.

Josh is my skiing and cycling buddy. He took up skiing 2 years ago, and he was bombing down tree runs at the end of last season. Being the chicken shit that I am, I am afraid of tree runs. He would go ahead of me, and encourage me while he stops to wait for me. “Don’t be scared, Mommy. Just look forward.” He also loves cycling with me, always pushing for another extra kilometer so he can have a new record.

Josh is an incredible swimmer. He can do laps in the pool, and dive to the bottom of the deep end to retrieve things. When we went to Cancun this summer, he did not hesitate jumping into the ocean and swim next to the whale sharks, turtles, and barracudas. When his snorkel mask fell off, he calmly put it back on, blew the water out of his snorkel, and kept swimming. My heart swells with pride when I see all this, because, you know, I cry when water gets in my eyes.

Josh loves to cook. He makes great burgers from scratch and grill them on the BBQ. He also loves helping out when we bake or make smoothies. Recently we have drastically changed our diet to incorporate more whole foods. He has really taken to grinding up sesame seeds to put on anything he eats, and uses sunflower butter on this sprouted grain bread. I still have to disguise fruits and vegetables in smoothies and soups, but it helps me feel like I still contribute to his well-being.

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Savanna turns five

Me: “Savanna, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Savanna: “A teenager.”

*****

Five years ago, I was so worried about adding another kid into the already crazy mix. Josh was just starting potty training, and reliably sleeping through the night. Now another baby is going to join our family. I could not imagine loving anyone more than I loved Josh.

Then bam. This little girl showed up. All of a sudden, my heart threw a few sizes. There was just no doubt in my mind the moment I saw her. I’d do anything for this little being.

*****

Savanna and I are very similar, and therefore we butted heads a lot. From the moment she can speak a single word, she contradicted me. But if Cliff jumped in to the conversation, she immediately softens and listens to him.

Then we went to Morocco. It changed our relationship. It was the first time we had each other to ourselves. I began to appreciate her patience, her adventurous spirit, her tenacity, and her adaptability. She began to see I’m sometimes right. This year, we went to Costa Rica. I messed up the GPS direction, and turned a 2-hour drive into a 5-hour drive. She did not complain or whine or make a peep. She sang silly songs, played with her toys, munched on snacks, and took a nap in the backseat while I sweated it out driving the mountainous roads in a downpour.

*****

Savanna discovered this year that she can live off of mangoes alone. She loves arts, crafts, pottery, and dance. She does not like playing sports or swimming. She can ride her 2-wheel bike about 10 meters unassisted. She is capable of riding down a green run at Whistler without help.

She has little interest in building a Lego structure, but she’ll play with the figures for hours on end. Her dream of having a real cat was realized earlier this year when we adopted Jewels.

Despite her small stature, she walked into Kindergarten and was not shy about giving everyone else commands at clean-up time. We opened up her piggy bank the other night, and she put a large portion of her savings into the “investment” jar, immediately earning 10% interest from the bank of mom-and-dad. My prediction is that she is going to be a CFO one day.

*****

Savanna teaches me to savour my food, enjoy my surroundings, and not live my life for the expectations of others. She is the most incredible 5-year-old I have ever met.

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A real medal

I have a few “finisher medals” stashed away in a drawer, for having enough grit to finish a sporting event. Even then, I don’t have many of those, since I have spent most of my life “not into sports”. Translation: I am too slow and discouraged to participate in competitive events.

However, I have never had a REAL medal for placing top 3 in anything. Until last week.

A padded envelope showed up in our mailbox from Mountain Equipment Co-op. It was a third place finish medal from the duathlon I did back in August! I was third in my age group. I had no idea, but hey I’ll take it!

Back in 2001, when I was 25, I did the Crescent Beach duathlon. Even with my missed mileage, my time was:

5 km run: 47:48

20 km bike: 1:06:58

5 km run: 58:19

Total: 2:52:44

As you can see from above–this is not very good. At all. Most people can walk 5 km in 1 hour, and that was pretty much my running speed. Almost 3 hours of agony, with the officials closing the course right behind me.

16 years later, I quietly signed up for the MEC Langley Duathlon. I really didn’t tell very many people about it. Knowing my history of how slow I was in 2001, I was not going to advertise my slowness again.

The difference this time, is that I actually have been training pretty consistently, following a schedule. Also, I’m now a few pounds lighter. That always helps.

My time for the MEC duathlon was:

5 km run: 27:27

20 km bike: 44:48

5 km run: 28:34

Total: 1:40:49

I shaved almost 72 minutes off my 2001 time. 72 minutes!! Yeehaw!

I was very happy with the results. Just knowing that I did better than 16 years ago was a huge victory for me. I didn’t really care about how it compared to other people. These kind of victories are pretty private for me to savour. I am happy that I am stronger and faster as I age, and being an example to my kids for being active and loving it.

Then to get this 3rd place medal in the mail, it’s just icing on the cake.

My mom happened to be in town visiting, so I dragged her to the race with me. That was the best part for me. I will forever remember her cheering for me loudly every time I looped back to the transition area, holding her phone in front of her face to take pictures of me. She is so cute and she just warms my heart.

Look, Mom, we got a medal!

 

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Savanna goes to Kindergarten

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I swear that one minute she was just a little baby, and next minute she chooses what she wants to wear for her first day of school. How did this happen?

The night before school, Savanna told me, “I’m going to be too shy tomorrow.” I said that’s fine, I’m shy too, but sometimes I pretend that I’m not shy. She said, “I don’t want to pretend.” I said, that’s fine too. You don’t have to pretend.

When I went to Kindergarten, I clearly remember refusing to nap next to the other kids. The principal eventually caved, and let me sleep on the couch in the office. Out of the entire school, I was the only one who got to sleep on the office couch, while the other kids napped on the floor. And look how I turned out? I’m 41 and still a socially awkward introvert. But hey, I manage. So what if Savanna decides she’s gonna be too shy? Oh well. Who am I to judge?

According to Cliff, though, Savanna was shy the first day when I went with her. Starting the next day, she had no problems talking to the teacher or the other kids. Apparently this week she is initiating to help the teacher in the classroom. This kid is going to do so much better than her mother.