Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ash Wednesday is approaching, and new adventures in fitness to combat the winter blues...

ooooo, Ash Wednesday is almost here! I have to say, despite Lent being a penitential season, I look forward to it every year. It's a time for contemplation and reflection, a time to refresh and grow. It also means that it's at least midish February (sometimes early March) and so spring is not so far off in the future. Lent causes me to truly appreciate the sacredness of Holy Week, the poignancy of the Triduum, the breathtaking awe of the Easter vigil, and the sweet relief of Easter morning. I love it.

Lent also usually falls right near my birthday. As the years go by, birthdays have become more a reason for inner reflection and appreciation, rather than any outward celebration. I do miss my days of birthday parties in my parents' basement, the pictures inevitably featuring a pigtailed, glasses-wearing Yours Truly, with lots of games and homemade cake. Now, I see my birthday as a time to be grateful for how far I've come from that happy, but very insecure little girl, and to appreciate my adorable husband and kids. It's a time to be grateful to be alive. It really does tie in nicely with Lent. :0

This Lent, I am aiming to keep it simple, but meaningful. My item that I will give up is alcohol. Indeed, it is a bad habit to rely upon that as a way of winding down after work, and so this is a sacrifice that has been a long time coming. 😳 As well, I have the Magnificat Lenten Companion downloaded for Henry and I to share each evening, and the January/February/March issue of Our Daily Bread for myself to reflect on in the mornings. And therein lies the entirety of my plan.

In the past, I had more grandiose ideas, and inevitably, I'm not able to keep up with it all for the entirety of Lent. Then I feel like a failure, and by Holy Week, I'm castigating myself for yet again, being the Worst Catholic in the Known Universe. This year, I'm keeping it a little simpler. I'm curious to see how it will all turn out by the time Holy Week rolls around.

And frankly, I could use a Lenten boost, because the winter blues have hit me with a vengeance this year. I normally love the winter, but for whatever reason, this year it's affecting me differently. When the new semester approached, I assumed that, given my lovely holiday break, I would be a little down, but that I'd get back into the routine soon enough. Miss Type A over here tends to thrive in routine. Not this year.

We're on the third week of the semester, and my malaise has not let up. I dread coming to work, and I'm emotional and teary at home in the evenings. Not necessarily about work, just about...everything. It's like I don't totally understand why I feel so sad and cannot shake it. I'm normally a very upbeat person, and so this was a huge red flag for me. There is only one other time I remember feeling this way, like I couldn't control the depth of my emotions, and that was right after I had my kids. Postpartum depression. I'm obviously not postpartum now, but the basic physiology in my brain is the same: Depression. I'm thinking it's seasonal, but I suppose I don't totally know for sure. I just know that it's very unusual for me.

I decided to be proactive and get myself moving a bit more, because I know that there is a connection between physical exercise and mental health. I'm certainly not an inactive person - I go to 3 dance classes per week right now, and I take 30 minute walks at lunch when I can. But I know that dance technique classes, for all of their many benefits, are not cardiovascular or strength training exercise, so I decided to step it up. I'm participating in a free fitness class for staff here at work on Tuesdays, and in the big step I did something that I've never done before: I joined a gym.

The free class at work is called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and as evidenced by the fact that I can hardly walk the next day, I suppose it's "working." To be honest, I don't really love it, because I have a weak knee that I don't want to risk injuring, and the intervals are extremely fast paced and involve lots of getting up and down. But I've tried to modify things as best I can to accommodate for that, and I adore the second half of the class, which is more traditional strength training with hand weights, working our way through specific muscle groups. Afterwards, this type of exercise makes me feel an endorphine rush, and like I could climb Mt. Everest. This is what got me thinking about a gym.

I dance for reasons other than physical health, ironically. It's a creative outlet for me. Besides short walks, and now the HIIT class, I don't really dedicate time to fitness. I decided to check out the free trial at a local Crunch gym that I drive right past on my way home from work.

Gyms intimidate me, just keeping it real. They are generally filled with people in extremely good shape, who take fitness very seriously. I know squat about fitness. After 5 minutes of discreet frowning and head scratching, I can figure out how to turn the treadmill on, but that's about the size of it for me. Those weight machines? Looking at any one of them, I can barely figure out how you would even sit on the thing, let alone what it's supposed to DO for a specific part of your body? Nefariously, some of them you DON'T EVEN SIT ON; you hang, lean or otherwise contort around them, and trying to figure that all out without getting in some other gymgoer's way makes me break into a cold sweat. Let's not even get started on the free weight area. I would rather get a root canal that go over there and deal with all the unspoken social interactions involved in that Pit of Potential Awkwardness.

So I went for my free trial. I donned my gym clothes and naturally, made my way over to the treadmill area. It did take me 5 full minutes to figure it out, don't judge :0, but I got it going, and managed a 30 minute slightly inclined walk. While I was doing so, I gym watched: how did the People In The Know use the scary torture machines? Ooooo, you put your legs THERE. Oh, oh, what are they doing now?! Ahhhh, that's a cleaner bottle thingy to wipe the machine down, good idea. That seems particularly smart for the winter. Oh I see, that's a machine to do abdominal crunches on. For reasons I cannot explain given how uncomfortable it looks, that seems like a very popular one.

Even looking over at the free weight area required courage I didn't know that I possessed. Herein lies the people with gigantic muscular arms, who carefully watch their form in the mirror as they lift weights that they selected ever so carefully. There are people hanging from things and tugging on pulleys, and I cannot foresee that me and my stick arms will ever be able to do any of these things with a straight face. But I suppose our God is a God of miracles. :0

All of that being said, I did enjoy my trial. When I'm there, I'm focused on doing something healthy for my physical and mental well being. I'm in The Zone. I push myself much more than if I was taking a quick walk during my lunch break. Importantly, Crunch has a $9.95 per month option, and does not require you to sign an annual commitment. I went for it.

This is only my second week, and my big Adventurous Move was to move from the treadmill to an elliptical machine and pick a random track rather than simply setting a speed. But hey, I'm getting there! I do want to try the weight machines, and they have a 30 minute circuit that I'm itching to attempt. I feel very self-conscious because I don't know how to use anything and I don't want to be a nuisance to anybody else and/or be in their way. But I'm working my way up to it.

I actually look forward to stopping there on my way home from work a few days per week, so I'm optimistic that this will have a long term benefit for me. I'll keep you posted on how things go with my trying new things there. 😨

All right, today is Fat Tuesday, and I'm trying to perk. I'm dancing with my troupe tonight at a benefit for the SPCA, which is fun, but it's going to be a long day. I'm looking forward to Ash Wednesday tomorrow, and navigating Lent beside all of you. *heart* Starting tomorrow, I'll begin The Thief  in anticipation of our first book club post next week!

How are you prepping for Ash Wednesday? I'd love to hear from you!


  1. CLEARLY, you are the worst Catholic ever...*insert all the sarcasm* We got a Lenten kids "devotional" type thing from church--I'm not thrilled with it, but it'll do. I didn't buy one because I couldn't make a decision *facepalm* As for me, I think I'm going with the closet purging for Lent, and we got an adult devotional that's more to my liking. I read the Little Black Book last year, which my mom got for me...and I totally forgot about it, so I don't have it this year...pretty much life these day, my mind has been misplaced and I can't find it.

    1. oooooo, excited to hear your thoughts about both devotionals as we get into Lent!

  2. Blahs in libraryland must be A Thing this winter, I'm feeling it, too, Tiffany--and also trying to incorporate more regular exercise, among other things. Hope it helps for both of us! I *may* try the weights at my gym sometime, too...I mainly stick to the elliptical. In terms of prepping for Ash Wednesday, I've done nothing. Perhaps this Lent will be about me remembering it's ok to depend on God, and not have everything under my control (an illusion I am dearly, dearly attached to).

    1. Anne! I love your comment, thanks so much for writing in! Well, I'm sorry you're feeling this way too, but I suppose misery loves company - it's nice to know that we are not alone! I do like the elliptical. If you can believe it, I'd never been on an elliptical machine before in my life until last week. :0 I like how it's easy on your knees, and I find it so much smoother and more enjoyable than the treadmill. I feel like a hamster in a wheel when I'm on a treadmill, hee. I am going to challenge myself to try the weight machines, I am. I hope. I want to. I'll report in. :0

  3. Great plan for Lent. Simple is good. I'll also be reading the Magnificat Lenten Companion app - I'm just hoping that I'll be able to stick with it. Also giving up pop/soda (Dr. Pepper is my biggest vice). Can't wait to get started on "The Thief" too!

    Quick question - where do you stand on whether Sundays count for Lenten sacrifices?

    1. Hi Kevin! Yay, I'm glad we united in Magnificat Lenten Solidarity. *fist bump* I've given up Diet Coke for Lent in the past, because YEAH. I love it, and it's truly a sacrifice to give it up!

      So, on your question...my understanding is that Sundays are not technically part of Lent. They're solemnities. That being said, when I've given something up, I feel like it packs more of a punch to actually deprive yourself until Easter. So I've gone that route in the past. This year though, well, my birthday is this weekend, and I do plan to have a glass of wine when we're out to dinner. It's Saturday night, the vigil of Sunday, yes? :0 I'll likely allow myself a glass on Sundays. Then I can compare my experience with the way I've done it in the past, and fully be able to get a feel for both!

  4. Good for you on joining the gym. It sounds intimidating for all the reason you said plus I just don't like exercise. I'm planning to read a chapter from the Bible each day and I'm going to do the notice things more idea that I mentioned before. I'm also giving up chocolate. I think I'm going to make exceptions for the few celebration events that I know are planned for Lent. It is more giving up having a chocolate stash that I can eat whenever I want. Plus I have done this before and know it is doable. It is also something I can mention when talking about what I gave up for Lent. The notice things more idea is harder to explain and I don't want to mention it people who I see often because it my mind it is more a thing to do than a thing to talk about.

    1. Melanie, good plan! A moderate approach is a good one, I think. I know what you mean about the stash; it's like eliminating the worst source of the temptation is what we're really trying to get at. Love your Bible plan too! When do you plan to read it, morning or evenings?

    2. I'm planing on mornings but it may depend on my work schedule. I may need to shift some days to evenings because I work earlier and it likely isn't going to happen on those mornings. I read Genesis lately (sometime in 2017) so Exodus is up next.


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