Monday, August 15, 2011

Angie, My Fit and Wonderful Wife

Fitness began for me around 8th grade when my muffin top started to pop. I was always an active, energetic kid, but when it became less and less cool to run around pretending to be a horse, I slipped toward the sedentary. Things like junior high cheerleading helped, but by the time I hit high school I was learning that I couldn’t eat just anything. I LOVED ranch salad dressing...and not the kind that’s made from mayo and buttermilk, it was Hidden Valley Ranch...the kind that’s filled with hydrogenated oils. Other favorites included Arby’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, and the occasional 7 Eleven Slurpee and nacho tray. My mom would cook meals, but they were often boxed foods and if we were eating fruit it was the canned stuff from syrup. She tried, but she was working a lot and the quick, industrialized foods were easier AND we loved them. I don't blame her for not fighting it much.

During my senior year of high school my best friend and I started to work on our lifestyles. Gym class was mandatory at school, but during our summer break before college we would meet up and work out, go for runs around our favorite pond or head to the mountains near Denver for long hikes, plus we made more effort to eat a little better. At first I could only run about 8 minutes and I would do run/walks, but I worked on building from there.

College was a difficult season for me where I went too far the opposite way and I got a little obsessive about cutting calories and working out. I had some buried emotional stuff that I hadn’t dealt with and I found I was taking it out on myself and instead of gaining “the freshman fifteen,” I lost fifteen pounds. I had no energy, my hair lost its shine and my face became sunken in. My friends and family were really worried about me, and I got into some therapy and worked through residual issues that I had from growing up with elements of dysfunction in my family.

During the latter part of my college years I found a more balanced, healthy approach. I am constantly growing and learning new things, but my general philosophy now is to be kind and respectful to my body. I started running 5K races, and trained up for the Portland Marathon, which I ran in 2004. It was so incredible to see how my hard work could allow me to accomplish something like that.

It’s such an input/output process: you are what you eat. I love to live in a body that is strong and has great lung capacity. I love variety, so I mix running, yoga, plyometrics, all sorts of cardio machines, swimming and biking (it comes and goes, but I love them all) and I follow free training videos that I can find online: stuff like the Tone it Up ladies, Tracy Anderson, and BodyRock is my very favorite. If you search them on you can keep your workouts challenging and fresh. MUSCLE CONFUSION! I’m a mommy and I work full time, so I sneak my workouts in during my lunch breaks: they’re usually 20 minutes of cardio and 20 minutes of intense bursts of interval training: burpees, lunges, hundreds of squats each week, push ups, ‘manmakers’ (seriously, find a video of them online!), that kind of thing. Variety is the name of the game. On weekends I tend to get my longer runs in (usually 3-6 miles). I typically work out 6 days a week, but I’m not spending 2 hours at the gym working my left shoulder muscle, I’m working my whole body and living my life and I’m ready at any given moment for an impromptu game of football, volleyball matches at family reunions, or to jump into an ultimate Frisbee game without popping a lung.

My philosophy with food is to eat the real stuff – I always keep a bowl full of fruit on the counter and I LOVE steamed veggies with a little butter or olive oil and all kinds of seasonings. I eat lots of nuts, sushi, and a fair amount of dairy: cheese, yogurt, and milk. I ascribe to the small, frequent meals and I try to earn my carbs with tough workouts. Don’t get me wrong...I follow my cravings and eat dark chocolate, ice cream, fudge, and we love dinners like pizza, burgers, tacos, pasta or chicken with yummy alfredo sauces, but we always make or meals from scratch. I have done my best to eliminate hydrogenated oils, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrups from my diet. I make small, minor improvements like when I stopped drinking Diet Cokes last year and I was reluctant to give up Taco Bell bean burritos but yes: I have. I limit my alcohol intake on week nights to one glass of wine or beer with dinner, and on weekends I allow a little more consumption, but not much more than that.

I think my biggest success story was when I was pregnant with and delivered my son. I went into it expecting to have a normal hospital birth, hooked up to an epidural, but when I watched a movie called The Business of Being Born I really explored the option of natural childbirth. We asked if I had that option with my initial gynecologist and was told, “you’ll have your child according to protocol: you’ll be strapped to the bed and you won’t be able to move around.” The thought of birthing a child when I couldn’t even have the force of gravity on my side made me feel claustrophobic and powerless, so we did a little research and found a birthing center that would accept my insurance and I could labor naturally. They wouldn't induce me. The epidural wasn't really an option. I got to go through the whole process in the caring hands of the midwives at Sutter Davis. The doctors and hospital were there, so I knew if things went really wrong they wouldn't hesitate to escalate it. 

I had a delightful pregnancy: largely, I believe, because my body is used to rising to the occasion when extra blood volume and oxygen is in demand. I would feel my best when I worked out like normal. Less puffy, invigorated, flushed with endorphins.  I jogged regularly well into my 8th month, which drew some comments. I didn't like to run on my own out in the neighborhood, so I would often just trot along on the treadmill at the gym. "What if you fall?" people would say. Or, "my friend is a doctor and he 's worried you're hurting your baby." I had educated myself about the many benefits of active pregnancy (lowered risk for pre-term labor and gestational diabetes, etc.) and would still do the elliptical, walk my dogs, and I would do light weight training and gentle yoga right up to the day I went into labor. I got to shuffle around my delivery room and I labored for hours in a hot shower...I finally pushed over pillows on the bathroom floor.

I had gained 40 pounds while pregnant, and 5 days after I had my little guy I was walking on the treadmill again. At my 6 week appointment I was down 20 pounds, but I still cried during the drive home. I think the hardest part about pregnancy in terms of body image is when you’re still stretched out. I had never walked and felt my belly wobble. I would lose a couple pounds each week and finally after about 7 months I got back to where I like to be. I’m lucky to have married a man who encourages me toward a more fit, healthy lifestyle and I think we establish that as a standard for our kiddo. It has nothing to do with wanting perfection, striving to look like someone in a magazine (I know Photoshop work when I see it), and I’m most likely not the skinniest girl in the room at any given time, but I operate from a calm, confident place AND I like my butt. I like myself. 


  1. Amazing Article! Thanks for writing! I shall definitely share this with my friends whom have just had little ones for inspiration!

  2. Please do! This blog as far as wide as you'd like! And if you'd like to contribute yourself, being the biker you are and all....

  3. Very well done.... An inspiration to all - anything is possible with a bit of determination and small changes!