Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

The Goal is to Fail

In Fitness, Thoughts on February 24, 2012 at 9:08 am

I’ve always had the mindset that I should try, try, try again until I succeed. Failure is not an option, and definitely not something that should be embraced! Today, however, I got taught otherwise.

As I was attempting to obey the commands of my new trainer, Sarah, by lying on a mat and reaching my hand toward my opposite foot (making sure to raise my shoulder blades off the mat) I whined, “It feels like I’m failing… not okay.” I had said these words without realization and with zero intention of receiving Sarah’s response that followed, “but that’s the goal.”


I was confused, and the silly little grin on her face told me she was amused by my puzzlement. “The goal is to push yourself to failure; to push your muscles to failure.” I paused, laying on my back, staring at the ceiling and considered that for a moment. “The goal is to fail,” I repeated silently, lightly entertaining the idea before shrugging it off as ridiculous. The silence was broken by a shout of encouragement masked in imitation rage, “Go! Don’t just lay there! Keep moving!” I groaned as I lifted my right arm toward my left foot and found the two miles away from touching one another. “That’s okay. Keep going,” Sarah prompted, seeing my frustration.

As I continued, she explained. As I continued, I got worse. As I continued, I understood. It’s hard for me to admit I’m wrong, so I won’t… but I will admit she was right.

The goal is to fail. Who knew?

After heavy consideration, it makes sense, really. The goal is to compete with yourself, and push your muscles to the point of failure, because until you’ve failed you haven’t pushed yourself hard enough. If you want to get better at something you have to push yourself to your limit in an attempt to surpass it, which will 9 times out of 10 result in failure. The goal is to fail without being disappointed and when you finally succeed accept your success gracefully, but with all the enthusiasm appropriate for the occasion! And here’s the key, if the goal is failure, and you fail from pushing yourself to the breaking point, then you’ve succeeded. So 10 times out of 10, if you try, you will succeed.

It’s so hard for me, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, to accept failure as a step in the right direction and ultimately a success. It’s humbling for me to recognize my pride is a great deal of what keeps me from succeeding. What do I have to be prideful over? Absolutely nothing. So I’ll take Sarah’s urging to “Go! Keep moving!” and embrace failure, and ultimately humility, as the goal.


Five Rice Crispy Treats Later

In Experiences, Thoughts on March 28, 2011 at 2:39 pm

If you feed your appetite (be it for sweets, clothes, sex or attention) is it forever satisfied?

The other day I was convinced I deserved a homemade rice crispy treat. Perhaps I did (after all, I’d been eating well and working out regularly). The first bite reassured me that my decision to break healthy-diet-protocol was worth every calorie. But as I swallowed the last bite and licked the sticky marshmallow off my fingers I found myself immediately wishing I could have another one. So I did. Then I felt guilty enough that I managed to make it about 30 or 40 minutes before the sugar crash brought me sulking back to the container of rice crispy treats for another fix. Five rice crispy treats later the container was empty and I wasn’t any happier than I’d been at the start of this dietary glitch.

We often fail to recognize that our appetite will never be filled and that only in the moment of the act (while tasting the candy and experiencing the following sugar-high, while kissing your lover, or while being applauded by an overwhelming audience) are we satisfied. Satisfaction is temporary, in this sense.

(On a side note, I’d argue that there is a place that you can find true joy and everlasting satisfaction… read Phillipians and you’ll know what I mean.)

But for this moment, I just wanted to share my revelation that working out has lasting results and eating badly has lasting results. The lasting results of the former are wonderful (energy and fabulous physique) and the lasting results of the later are discouraging (gaining weight and feeling sluggish). That doesn’t mean that the later doesn’t have a great moment of satisfaction when you’re taking a bite of a krispy kreme donut and enjoying its light and airy, warm, sugary goodness. But it does mean that I’ve decided the momentary pain and frustration that goes into sweating at the gym for 45 minutes is well worth the following results, whereas the 45 seconds of bliss found in a cupcake are not really worth the guilt and dissatisfaction that inevitably follows the last bite.

I may very well have deserved a rice crispy treat the other day, but no one (surprising as this may be to a few of you) deserves five.

Today’s Matchup: Percent vs. Pound

In Experiences, Thoughts on March 21, 2011 at 4:34 pm

“You can either be a skinny-fat girl, or a hot girl,” she said matter-of-factly, “which would you rather be?” After a stubborn pause of frustration I muttered unconvincingly, “A hot girl.”

Moments ago I had reminded my trainer that today was “measurement day” (after every 8 sessions or so he measures my weight and body fat). I already knew from the scale at home that I’d gained weight and I was dreading the opportunity to let my trainer in on my little secret.

“First up: the scale,” he stated with far too much enthusiasm. -Dun, dun, dun- I took a deep breath and turned my head away; too embarrassed to watch as he slid the weights around assuming at first that he’d made a mistake. Nope, you were right… I’ve gained weight. Probably because he was completely aware of my impending reaction, my trainer noted the weight and said absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, we had to wait for another trainer to finish calibrating her clients body fat, giving me the chance to glance at the weight my trainer had noted: 130 pounds. (It may even have been 131 pounds and I’m just in denial about that last pound, I’m not sure at this point… but I hated the number either way.) My goal coming into the gym was to weigh 120 pounds (preferably less for wiggle room) and I now weigh 130 pounds!? I started training at 127 pounds and I now weigh 130 pounds!? How much was I paying this guy to help me gain weight!? (Heck, I could do that at home for free; just give me a half gallon of ice cream, a spoon and five minutes!) I stood casually, but my clenched jaw gave me away. “You’re frustrated,” my trainer confirmed under his breath as we took residence in the fat-calibration-cubicle.

After bending that way, turning my palms this way, lifting this, holding that, being pinched, and being prodded my trainer smiled as he took down the numbers he’d calibrated and calculated my body fat percentage. I knew I came in to training at 23% body fat and had lost 4% in the first four weeks… so I was hoping that I hadn’t gained too much of it back during the last four weeks. I glanced at the number he was writing down and leaned closer to make sure it really did say… 17%. There had to be a mistake… I had gained 3 or 4 pounds, so logically I should have gained body fat, right? Anticipating my thoughts, my trainer started into a mini-lecture reminding me that muscle mass weighs more than fat and I had gained muscle and lost fat… hence, I had gained weight, but lost body fat (and inches… my clothes were fitting much better, I was buying size ‘small’ again, I’d lost half a shoe size (that one stumped my trainer as he said, “well that’s a first”), and I’d been measured for a bridesmaid’s dress at 32″bust 24″waist 34″hip; a perfect size zero). Still… I didn’t look convinced.

With an agitated, “Come on,” my trainer motioned for me to follow him toward the front of the gym and stopped a female trainer asking her what she thought of my numbers. She looked over the sheet silently and finally said, “so what’s the problem?” I rolled my eyes, already aware of the trap they were setting. “There isn’t a problem, the numbers look good right?” and he proceeded to explain my dislike for the weight gain and my desire to weigh 120 pounds.

That’s when the female trainer got frustrated… Read the rest of this entry »

Cheater Cheater

In Experiences, Thoughts on March 9, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Three times in one day? I may be on the right track, but I am on the wrong train!

I was doing quite well with the “No Caffeine” kick until last Friday and Saturday rolled around. I had the best excuses ever to cheat: Friday I was setting up for a wedding I was in charge of planning and Saturday was the wedding.

In that 48 hour span I regretfully admit that I visited my local Starbucks 4 times. The first time on Friday when the rehearsal was about to begin and I recognized I needed to be up until midnight if I was going to complete things (and what better way to stay up than via Starbucks). Saturday morning I treated myself to my usual, but I think secretly I’d been planning to cheat on the day of the wedding all along. Saturday afternoon my side-kick requested Starbucks while I was on a last minute run to the store and I couldn’t help but get myself something as well… (in my defense, I was dumb enough to get a frap and it melted before I had more than two sips and then someone threw it away without asking). After the wedding was over, the reception had wrapped up, and we’d finished cleaning the church I drove to Starbucks to meet some friends and got a Grande of my usual because: A) I was exhausted B) Someone else was buying and C) I knew the cheating during my “No Caffeine” kick had to come to an end that night.

So, here I am headed to Starbucks to do my homework and meet a friend and I’m not sure what I can have that isn’t caffeinated and won’t stain my teeth besides water. Sad day. But, I seem to be holding up without unexpectedly breaking down into tears at random moments during the week. Can lack-of-caffeine do that to you? I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

If it isn’t caffeinated, it’s just staining your teeth

In Experiences, Quotations, Thoughts on February 28, 2011 at 3:06 pm

A grande soy awake tea latte with vanilla? Yes, please.

While I’m not a fan of black coffee (but I commend those of you who can enjoy the false advertisement of warm, rich aroma accompanied with an unattractively strong flavor & bitter aftertaste), I can enjoy an excessively sweetened coffee with the best of them. (Try a Starbucks raspberry white chocolate mocha sometime! It may put some weight on the hips, but it tastes like a liquid truffle. a.k.a. Heaven.)
On the other hand, I love tea. I like nearly all flavors of tea. I like tea with lemon and honey when I’m feeling under the weather. I like tea with sweetener at anytime of the day. I like chai tea. I like herbal tea. I like hot tea. I like iced tea. (By the way, in my head I’m rambling like Vince Vaughn in Wedding Crashers when he’s talking about maple syrup, “I know everything there is to know about maple syrup… I put a little in my hair, what do you think holds it up, slick?”) There are few things better than pulling your knees to your chest with a warm cup of tea between the palms of your hands and taking a deep breath over the steaming liquid.
That’s why it was so devastating for me to discover… wait for it… I’m addicted to caffeine!

Yes, it’s true; I’m reliant upon my Starbucks caffeine fix these days! I realized this the other day when I went without my usual tea latte for the first half of the day and got a massive headache that nothing seemed to satisfy… aside from another tea latte. Yep, the moment I swung into Starbucks and walked up to the counter (I don’t even have to order, they just ask what size I’m feeling today) and had that Soy Awake Tea Latte with Vanilla in my hands, the headache began to recede. At that instant I froze in a fleeting moment of terror as I realized I had a caffeine addiction I probably needed to break. It isn’t like I don’t have multiple reasons for eliminating Starbucks from my life (I mean, I’m a gold member for a reason! I spend WAY too much money on that little bit of energy, supposedly addiction free.) but I knew from previous experience (in the diet soda department) this was going to be rough.

So, as of recent, I am caffeine free. I went through about two days of terrible headaches and I’ve had an energy lull every day since I gave it up (last Thursday), but I’m convinced it’s in my best interest. Not only will my hips and trainer thank me… my bank account will be fat and happy, as well. (About $3.00 per drink, about 5 drinks per week, about 2 pastries per week, about $3.00 per pastry, comes out to about about $21 dollars a week. And that’s being lenient with the actuality of my addiction, considering the last time I reloaded my card I skipped the usual $20 I previously limited myself to each week and put $50 on it. I should’ve known right then and there that I had a problem. That, or the day that I purchased a pastry and the guy said, “I’ll see you in an hour.” Wow.)

“Why not go decaf?”, you might ask. Because I’m convinced that if it isn’t caffeinated, it’s just staining my teeth.

Hi. My name is Jennifer and I’m a caffeine addict… about to undergo intense cravings & painful with-drawls.

Wish me luck!

Getting that High

In Thoughts on February 18, 2011 at 10:24 am

“You satisfy me more than the richest of foods.” Psalm 63:5 (NLT)

This makes me smile, because the first thing I want to sarcastically spout out is, “Well, maybe not ice cream.” But, aside from sarcasm, there really is nothing that satisfies me more fully than the Lord. When people say they see something different about me… it’s this fully satisfied soul they’re witnessing. Spending time reading the bible and drinking tea at my favorite coffee shop instead of watching television on the couch and eating whatever I can get my hands on has proven to satisfy my hunger for love, acceptance, happiness, understanding, joy, patience, peace, etc. in entirety (far more than anything I’ll find in the refrigerator can ever accomplish).

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians
10:31 (NIV)

How does what I do each day glorify the Lord? This is a question I constantly have to remind myself to consider. Am I working out to satisfy my craving for a Victoria Secret model’s figure or am I doing it, in some fashion, for the glory of God? If the answer is the former, what changes should I be making? My purpose in life is to to glorify God, and whether I’m sitting through church, drinking tea in a coffee shop, sneaking M&Ms for a snack, or working out with my trainer, it needs to be done with God in mind; How is what I’m doing, how is this decision, how is this moment, how is this conversation bringing glory to God?

“Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some
value, but spiritual exercise is much more important for it promises a reward in both this life
and the next.  This is true and everyone should accept it.” 1 Timothy 4:7-9 (NLT)

Just as physical fitness takes daily effort and commitment, spiritual fitness takes persistent action, as well. I’ve noticed that while working out makes me attractive to the world and gives me a “high” for an hour or so afterward, spending time in the word and worshiping God in the morning gives me a “high” for the day and makes me attractive, through the genuine joy I exude, to everyone around me without them even knowing why they’re drawn to me.


Today I woke up at 6:00am, grabbed a soy-tea-latte-with-vanilla, went to Young Life Campaigners and worshiped the Lord at 7:00am, stretched and ate a yummy breakfast of oatmeal (with peanut butter), beef sausage and a fried egg at 8:30am and began work around 9:00am.

Today is going to be a great day!

Deciphering Compliments from Female Flattery

In Thoughts on February 7, 2011 at 1:28 pm

It’s like a guy telling you he really cares about you for the first time… you either know somewhere deep within that he’s telling the honest truth or you have a nagging reservation that he’s telling you what you want to hear (maybe even need to hear) in order to get on your good side.

There are compliments and then there’s flattery. Compliments are an expression of praise, accommodation or admiration. Flattery, on the other hand, is excessive or insincere praise, accommodation or admiration. Figuring out which one we’re a victim to is often an almost impossible task.

So, while I was prepping myself for a cocktail party in the locker room last week, no less than 3 ladies turned to me and said, “Oh my gosh, I love your dress!”. It was then up to me to determine whether I believed all (if any) of these ladies’ compliments or questioned their sincerity.

The trouble with knowing whether to believe a comment is compliment or flattery is that we’re all familiar with using flattery in the guise of a compliment and it forces us to wonder how often others do the same thing back to us! It’s like lying by omission. When I put on my disco-ball stilettos and heard, “I love your shoes!” I wondered whether it was truth or her lying by omitting the latter half of her thought, “I love your shoes… because they’re so out of control you look like a fool, which makes me look even better standing next to you.” When a guy tells you, “You’re beautiful.” you have to wonder whether he thinks you’re beautiful, period… or whether he thinks your beautiful when he thinks you might sleep with him.

Perhaps one of my most recent run-ins with a compliment that may have been flattery in sheeps-skin was that of a girl who said a string of things throughout the evening ending with, “You’re the prettiest girl in the room.” Seriously, what do you do with that?! Who says that!?

When I’m in the locker room I tell people when I like their shoes. I tell girls when I think they’re beautiful (and it usually catches them really off guard). I try my best not to keep a compliment inside because I’m shy or wishing they’d compliment me first.

It didn’t take me long to realize that girls who don’t talk to me will do so if I take the initiative to compliment them first. Tell a girl you think her hair is cute (and mean it) and she’ll be your best friend for the next hour. (The implications of that statement on the power men have over us is scary, but that’s another conversation in itself.)

I went into the locker room the other day to change into a cocktail dress and intense red lipstick for a party and didn’t get the reaction I’d expected. More girls spoke to me during that hour of preparation than the entire two hours I usually spend at the gym! Were they sincere compliments? Were they filling me with bullshit comments because I was the person to get close to at the moment? I don’t know… but I do know that I refuse to put myself in a situation where people would question whether what I say is true. I don’t want to flatter people to their face and gossip behind their back, slowly becoming insincere in everyone’s eyes but my own.

Social Suicide in One Fell Swoop

In Experiences, Thoughts on February 1, 2011 at 12:23 pm

This wouldn’t be all that embarrassing if there was a party at the gym (do they host parties for their members?).

This wouldn’t be far from plausible if it was a formal gym (how cool would that be?).

This would appear to be normal behavior if it was New Years Eve (because everyone goes to black-tie affairs just like movie characters on New Years Eve, right?).

This IS social suicide among the female ranks.

And yet (I’m embarrassed to admit that) today I plan to walk out of the gym in shocking red lipstick, disco-ball 4″ stilettos (as my sister-in-law so dubbed them when, against her better judgment, I wore them in her wedding) and a short, flirty cocktail dress.

I’m happy to announce that my roommate got engaged this past weekend and one of our girlfriends has decided to host an all-girl cocktail party in her honor. I’m so excited! I’ve been holding on to this little teal cocktail dress for the past year, just waiting for a moment like this to come along and justify my whimsical purchase. So when’s the party? Tonight? Perfect, it’s the same night that I have personal training. But, what time am I supposed to show up to the party? Oh, 7pm? Perfect, I finish my training at a late 6:30pm and it usually takes me the next half an hour to tame the sweat I’ve accumulated and gather my locker into a bag I can then barely manage to carry to my car (both due to its weight and my sore muscles informing me the workout ended half an hour ago, honey). So how in the world am I going to make this happen?

I expressed my concerns with my trainer (mostly because I wanted to judge his reaction to my considering getting ready at the gym and walking out in a cocktail dress – needless to say he was embarrassed for me, but probably secretly crossing his fingers that I’d do it). That’s the problem with this situation. It isn’t that I don’t have time, because my trainer changed our session from 5:30pm to start at 5pm, thereby giving me a solid hour in which I can shower, put on make-up and do my hair (and furthering my suspicion that he wanted me to go through with it). The problem with this situation is that by walking out of that gym looking like I don’t sweat and my make-up doesn’t smear girls avoid eye-contact and don’t smile at me. The problem is that by walking out in street clothes (which for me include a cute pair of stilettos, designer jeans and a pea coat… I can’t help it if I love style) I get glares that could do more damage than the comments they’re suppressing in their head. The problem is that if I can get evil glares from the clothes I wear normally, from sweaty make-up (it’s bare minerals by the way and it doesn’t even come off when I swim if I don’t rub my face!), and from a confident strut (for the record, I practiced hard to learn to walk like that in stilettos)… then what kind of verbal reprimands, audible scoffs and future invisibility shields will they throw at me when I walk through the gym in cocktail attire? Dear God, please save me!

I have enough trouble making girlfriends as it is, the last thing I need is everyone hating me for what is, quite honestly, a pretty good reason.

Why are the girls locker rooms as far form the front door as possible!?

Maybe I’ll hide my short skirt under a long jacket…

My Conversation with an Opinionated (& Wise) Old Lady at the Pool

In Experiences, Quotations, Thoughts on January 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm

When you’re squeezing yourself into a speedo you tend to discover parts of your body you didn’t know you disliked five minutes ago.

I had just finished tucking my body into the black spandex one piece suit I’d purchased earlier that day (By the way, those things are way too expensive for how unflattering they are!) when an elderly woman a few lockers away began to speak. Her voice was darling and had a thick accent (was it Dutch?).

“You have beautiful color,” she stated with a smile as she motioned to my legs.

“She can’t be serious,” I thought, but there’s something to be said about children and mature adults; they rarely lie to you about what they think (maybe what they’ve done, but not what they think). “Thank you,” I managed and politely made eye contact.

“You don’t…” she paused as she fumbled for her words, presumably trying to translate her thoughts into English, “… you don’t use those tan beds, do you?”

I smiled secretly thanking her for knowing exactly what to say to subside my discomfort and momentarily boost my self-confidence. “No, I don’t,” I half-lied (reasoning with myself that it doesn’t count when you can’t remember the last time you were in one) and then continued, “My family is Portuguese, so we’re just this color.” There was no pride in my statement, it was simply a polite, factual (okay, semi-factual) response to her inquiry.

“That’s good,” she interjected (It’s good that I’m Portuguese?), “because those tan beds are bad and you can get cancer.” (Ahhh… it’s good that I don’t tan.) As if knowing I probably hadn’t fully believed her the first time she said it again for good measure, “Beautiful color.”

I turned the corner and smiled to myself, casually sauntering toward the pool sporting a speedo with new found confidence.

What had changed? What did I have to be confident over in this moment that I didn’t have five minutes before I met this woman? Nothing. I found myself struck by the thought that perhaps confidence was attainable after all. I mean, here I am working out trying to change my body and gain confidence and she’s sitting there completely confident in her speedo swimsuit, at least 40 years older than myself, honestly probably wondering why I look so distressed at my 25-year-old reflection in the mirror.

My epiphany was simple: perhaps we look for confidence in the wrong places. After all, if confidence could only be found in the attainment of an ideal body, then not only would we be grasping at straws but there would come the day when gravity rips our confidence out from underneath us. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t work out, treat our bodies well and try to be the best person we can, but perhaps our five minute warm-up would be best spent reminding ourselves of the reasons we’re lucky, the reasons we’re loved, the parts of ourselves others like and we should too. Why was I not looking in that mirror thanking God that I’m tanner naturally than the average Oregonian after a week of sleeping at the tanning salon? Why was I focused on the way the swimsuit cut into my butt instead of being thankful I have a butt? I think the old lady in the locker room would argue that what we see in the mirror is rarely a reflection of our physical self, but rather a reflection of what we think of ourselves.

Seriously, the wisdom elderly people have to impart upon us is amazing… if only we take the time to listen.

Awaiting Assignment

In Thoughts on January 21, 2011 at 9:55 am

I never thought the day would come when I’d say, “Hopefully my workout’s filled with cardio.” without any sarcastic undertones.

Yesterday was my second personal training session. I learned to use a squat rack, did some more yoga ball body bridges, learned to properly do a bar curl, used the lat pull down machine and the rowing machine, completed a few sets of those squeeze-your-glutes-and-thighs things, wobbled my way through raised split squats and finished up with some terrible up-downs and in-outs. Somewhere in there he made a rule, “Every time you roll your eyes at me I’m adding a rep.” I did many an extra rep for my unintentional eye-rolling reflex to many of his comments and requests. I was absolutely exhausted when I was done and went to get a sip a water.

I’ve decided that in the future, when I’m at the gym, I will bring water with me. It’s really annoying to have to wait in line for the water fountain (brings me back to elementary school, when the water fountain was like the water-cooler of today’s offices) and it’s very awkward to try to drink while others are waiting on you.

When Nick had satisfactorily built up the lactic acid in my system (he spent a great deal of time explaining why that’s a good thing at the gym, but a bad thing for endurance sports) we sat at his desk and I handed over my food “journal” for the last two days. He was impressed that I’d logged it all without his request and, like a young child, I was proud to have impressed him. I also handed over a page I now wish I’d photo-copied so I could tell you exactly what it said, but in essence it was my fitness goals. After exchanging “thank you”s and “good-bye”s he introduced himself to his new 7:00pm client and I took off in my little SUV for home.

I’d barely gotten on the freeway when my iPhone rang and a number I didn’t recognize flashed across the screen. Curious who would be calling at 6:45pm on a Thursday I answered, “Hello?” “Hi, is this Jen?” inquired a guy on the other end of the line. “Yeah. Nick?” I wasn’t near as surprised as I should have sounded. “You recognized my voice… You’ve already left, haven’t you.” he stated in a factual way (but I hinted disappointment in his voice) “Yeah, sorry.” (Why was I apologizing?) Nick started in about how he didn’t know whether it was my genetics or metabolism keeping me in such good shape, but we were going to have to change what I was eating. (I got the impression before when I told him I ate pizza and candy that he didn’t take me seriously, but apparently journaling my food for just two days had done the trick.) Nick paused, as if scanning what I’d written and then, “You crack me up.” slipped into the silence. He proceeded to ask me whether I check my email and then told me he would email me a weekend workout and we could discuss it in person or however I’d like. Thinking to myself, “What have I gotten myself into?” I thanked him politely and we said farewell for the second time that evening.

So, now I am anticipating an email from my personal trainer telling me how I will be spending my time working out this weekend. Hopefully it’s filled with cardio and I get a rest on all those lifts and lunges he’s been pushing me through.

Thus far, I believe getting a trainer was a fabulous decision.