Unpopular Opinion: I’m Not Doing This to Lose Weight

I had approximately three minutes to leave work, unlock my bike, walk to the bus stop, and board the express bus to meet my friend in a first-rung suburb for some much needed foot papering. In my hustle and bustle, I ran into one of the building engineers outside.

“Oh you’re riding your bike now? Pretty soon, I’m not going to recognize you!”

“Oh?” I was genuinely confused. “Why is that?”

“Because you’ll lose so much weight!”




Look, I’m not going to pretend that this genuine gentleman meant well, because he assuredly did. However, I’ve been riding my bike to work in the summer months, training for triathlons, and generally being a bad-ass endurance athlete for a couple of years now, and I gotta tell you: I usually don’t lose any weight.

When I first started running in 2012, I gradually built up the ability to run, without stopping, for 60 minutes straight (something, honestly, I haven’t been able to do since; I generally do run/walk intervals now). And yet, I quit for a time because I didn’t lose any weight. I gained definition in my body. I built self-confidence in my ability to try new things and do hard stuff. But I quit because I didn’t do the thing I was supposed to do. I was supposed to be thinner.

If you peek under the hood of fitness/wellness culture, all the instagram posts and Buzzfeed articles, you will find a seedy underbelly; increased activity doesn’t necessarily translate to weight loss. There’s a lot of factors that influence your weight, and activity is just one of them. If it were a silver bullet, all the weight-loss pills and fad diets would go up in smoke.

But what if, WHAT IF, being active was a worthy goal all by itself? What if I wasn’t on my bike to lose weight? What if I was on my bike because I like biking? That it’s a rad way to get from point A to point B. That I like the feel of the wind in my hair and the rain on my skin. That I like being able to stop and talk to my neighbor without craning through a car window. The powerful feeling of propelling myself across the city I love, or a city I’m new to. Or if you want to be a real radical, because I’m trying to fight global warming, reduce my carbon footprint, save money on gas, etc.

Look, I’m not going to stand here and say that I don’t want to lose any weight; the complex and difficult truth is that I’d love to lose several dozen pounds. However, I also think that being active is a worthy goal regardless of the number on the scale, and that the more we equate being active with losing weight (rather than how it makes us feel), the more we miss the point. I don’t have to wait until I’ve lost the several dozen pounds to feel good. I can feel good after my commute to work (what a nice way to start your day!) I can feel good after a quick walk around the block on my lunch break. I can feel powerful, energized, and free right now.

I don’t know about you, but that’s way more compelling to me than waiting to be given permission by a scale.

What’s your favorite way to move? How does it make you feel?

“…like running a marathon.”

It’s a cliche for a reason; because it’s true. Most people are familiar with marathons, a 26.2-mile race, in a metaphorical sense. They are a very long event that takes a lot of preparation and mental fortitude yadda yadda yadda. And yet, they are among the best examples that a consistent amount of effort, applied over a significant amount of time, can lead to great things.

In addition to training for endurance events, spending time with family, having a large social circle, and dabbling in various fiber-related hobbies, I am also going to school. I happen to work in an office where the majority of people roughly my age have their masters. 10+ years out of high school, and I am working on my final class to finish my AA. I am lucky enough that I get some tuition reimbursement, so the fact that I am going to school inevitably comes up from time to time. “Oh! Where are you going to school?” is the excited response. Their face falls slightly when I say that I’m going to the local community college. “Oh.., well… um… good for you!”

It’s whatever. I know the truth. I know that I started out at that same community college right out of high school. I was in college more-or-less because I was “college-aged”. I didn’t know why I was in school or what I wanted to study.  And although I could manage the coursework, I often prioritized my coffee-shop job and my social life ahead of my classes, struggling through my first few semesters. At one point, I actually registered for a full load of classes, and then didn’t show up once. It was just too hard to make it to 8 am classes when I wasn’t getting home from work until midnight the night before. After that semester, I finally called a spade a spade and withdrew from school.  Conveniently, about the same time, I was promoted at my coffee-shop job.  My hard work paid off, just not where I expected.

Ten years later, I was back in school at the same local community college. It took me about 5 years to figure out what I wanted to study; why I was in school; how it could help me instead of just going through the motions. It took me another 5 years to figure out how to get there. And since I work full time, am an endurance athlete, and have a full social calendar, I know I only have it in me to take 1-2 classes per semester. Slow and steady, just like my running. How fitting.

Slow and steady. My mantra. My MO. I will do the thing, but it will take me some time. But in the end, it will be done, so does it really matter? Is an AA done in 10 years of classes worth less than one done in 2? Is a marathon in 10 hours really less of an achievement than one done in 2? I would argue no. In fact, I may even argue that it’s harder in some ways. If you can manage a 10 minute/mile pace for a marathon, you’d still be done under 5 hours. When I did my first marathon, it was a walking marathon.  I knew I would be out there for over 8 hours, covering the miles step-by-step.  What awaited me was a cold, drizzly, windy day to battle through rural Minnesota for my medal.  I wanted to quit so many times; honestly, if I hadn’t done the event with my best friend, I probably would have.  Just under ten hours later, we finally crossed the finish line.  I’ve never been so ecstatic to be done with something.  “I never need to do that again.” I said.  And I meant it, at the time.

A few short weeks later, I dreamed up my Deconstructed Iron Triathlon: three events (2.4-mile swim, 100-mile bike ride, and a walking marathon) to be completed over the course of a summer.  (Because I am a glutton for punishment.)  These events together are meant to replicate an Ironman Triathlon, an event that is hallowed by triathletes. I am not at that level yet, but these are the steps I can take now, in the body I am in today.

And really that’s what it’s all about.  A marathon can be a metaphor for life, but training for one will teach you about life.  About the immeasurable power of taking consistent action, no matter how small, over time.  And the magic that unleashes.

So here’s to all the marathons we run in life.  May they pave paths to richer experiences, and personal growth, and all that other good stuff.

When you get to meet your heroes / Mirna Valerio

Confession: I struggle with crowds. I struggle with small talk. When I meet someone I admire, I struggle to find the words to adequately convey just how thrilled I am/in awe of them I am/how awesome this moment is. As excited as I was to go to an event at the Bloomington REI to see Mirna Valerio, I was not looking forward to engaging with these obstacles. But I knew the benefits would outweigh the demands, so I put on my big girl panties and marched through those doors.

Mirna, y’all. She is just as warm, kind, engaging, and kick-ass as you would expect from a woman who does ultras for fun. Her message, that there is so much power in visibility because seeing is believing, well, it spoke to me, resonated deeply with me. Because that’s why I am here, right? Both to be seen, and to see others who inspire me that I can do those things too.

I’ll be perfectly honest, I didn’t really know that it was also going to be a listening session about improving activewear options for “plus-size” women. (Timeout: can we just talk about how TERRIBLE that term is? If approximately 70% of women wear a size 14+, how “plus-sized” are we really? And I’m not necessarily advocating for similar “cutesy” synonyms, like “queen” or “luxury”. I am a woman. I wear clothes. It’s my size. there’s no need to separate us out into a separate section or make us feel different. They’re just clothes/ it’s just a number. /rant). It was so lovely to talk with others about what we loved from our activewear, and what we were missing (spoiler: POCKETS). REI and Columbia seemed truly concerned and wanted to know from us so that they could do better to serve this growing market.  I look forward to their collections in the future.

And the icing on the cake? Meeting my InstaFriend! Tracy is a Bad Ass Mother Runner, and it was so lovely to put a face with an avatar. True story: We had both mentioned we would be there, but hadn’t met before. I kinda knew what she looked like, and then I happened to sit right down next to her without even realizing it.  What a wonderful case of serendipity!

This day gave me so much energy and lift for so long after; it still lights me up when I think about it.  We are powerful.  And there is power in visibility.  So get out there and be seen, doing that thing you love, no matter what the haters say!

Zumba AKA Why I Have a Gym Membership

One of the strongest and most common arguments I see for running is that You. Can. Do. It. Anywhere!  In theory, this is great.  You can run in your neighborhood*, you can run down Waikiki beach while you are on vacation**, you can run at your local high-school’s track.  These are all truly great reasons (and places) to start running.

For me, though, all these great options are missing one thing: accountability.

I started running in 2012 and have done it off and on, waxing and waning between serious and casual, low these many (six-ish) years.  I have gone running with a partner? exactly once that I recall (Thanks Dustin!)

(If there were others I have forgotten, please find it in your heart to forgive me.  And call me!  Let’s go for a run soon! Walks/bike rides/swims are good too!)

Enter Zumba, and my membership at the YWCA.

Let’s be real here; I was firmly opposed to getting a gym membership for a long time, mostly because I had a poor track record.  I belonged to the Y for a number of years in my early adulthood where I went maybe once a month.  I then finally cancelled my Y membership and instead enrolled in the inexpensive gym at my work; shortly thereafter, I lost my job there.  (I think it took me another six months to cancel my membership at the gym I could now no longer attend since my badge was deactivated. Yikes.)  Times I actually visited that gym? I think once, for the initial assessment (I would talk myself out of going because it felt weird to have all my co-workers walk by while I was sweating it out on the treadmill.) (I’m sure none of them would have given it a second thought) (Hello, insecurity).

After that, I took a break from gyms (and exercise, truthfully), and it was a few years before I repeated my mistakes.  My husband and I joined one of those inexpensive 24-hour gyms with no frills.  We belonged for at least a year before I finally gave up and cancelled our membership.  Total times we attended? Once, and it wasn’t even me (Gold star, hubby).

This all goes back to my main point: I. Need. Accountability.  None of these solutions was inherently wrong.  They may have worked wonders for other individuals.  We are all an experiment of one!  But, I have found that if I’m going to show up on a regular basis, I need some structure.  Telling me I can come anytime I want, generally means no specific time; therefore, never.

Zumba has neatly solved this issue for me.

Now I understand Zumba is not for everyone.  If weight-lifting classes, water aerobics, or Insanity classes light you up, please feel free to substitute your favorite group class.  Because I think they all have the same thing in common: accountability and camaraderie.

Zumba gets me to the gym at least twice a week, because if I want to go, I have to be at the gym with my dancing shoes on at either 6:15p on Tuesdays or 9:30a on Saturdays.  Y’all, do you even know how early that is on a Saturday for me?  If it weren’t for Zumba, I can assure you, I’d be laying in bed with my cat sitting serenely on my head.  Zumba has also given me some half-way decent dance moves to use the next time the spirit moves me (read: likely never, but you never know?). But most of all, it has given me great friends who have supported me through job changes and cranky days, car accidents and apartment moves.

It’s true that having exterior accountability is a huge motivator for me.  #obliger  But aside from that, it’s just plain fun!  It’s changed how I view gym visits from drudgery to the highlight of my week, which in turn has encouraged me to try out other activities while I am there, like spin class, weightlifting, and kettlebells.

But most of all, my Zumba class has made me insanely loyal to my Y.  Here’s an example: I picked my gym mostly because my best friend belonged there, and she was going frequently (especially to Zumba), so I figured I could ride her coattails until I got my gym-going legs beneath me.  But I also joined because it was on my way to and home from work.  Some months later, the YMCA (not affiliated, surprisingly) renovated their location and made it even closer to my work.  In another life?  I would have been all over the new-shiny.  But I have not even gone in to check it out.  Why?  Because no matter how pretty/state-of-the-art/convenient it is?  It does not include my Zumba crew <3

So folks?  If you’re looking to make your workout habit stick, whether it’s running,  cross-fit, or Zumba, consider taking a peek out of your newbie-athlete turtle shell and introduce yourself.  Sweat-friends make the best friends.


*Assuming you feel safe, which could (and likely will be) a post unto itself.

**Who would do such a crazy thing? Me.