Friday, June 28, 2013

On Bait and Switch Trainers and Elephant Tails

BEAST Mode Day 13

Do you remember the last time I wrote about my visit to The Training Zone in Costa Mesa? Do you remember how I walked away feeling so empowered, ready to take on the world? Well, let’s just say that this week I was lucky just to be able to walk out of there!

I had been looking forward to it all week; every day doing my exercises with the band that Sean had let me take home. I practiced my lunges, did my squat warm-ups, and made sure to suck in my stomach when doing the couch sit-ups. “You need to remember to breathe,” was what kept me from passing out as I would often hold my breath while doing the sit-ups (even though they are done on a couch…lol).

The appointment time was set for Wednesday at noon. I know how important it is to be prompt so I left my house 45 minutes early to try to avoid traffic. This ensured that I arrived on time for my appointment with Sean. Sean. Sean. Where was Sean?

Joe was on the treadmill when I walked in and he was as excited to see me as I was to be there ready to sweat. I am not sure if he thought I wasn’t going to show up—maybe, just maybe he thought that last week’s workout scared me away. He leads me over to the treadmill machines and says to me, “Listen, Sean is not able to make it today but I thought that if I told you ahead of time, you may have wanted to reschedule and I really wanted you to get in here.” Ok, no problem. In my head this just means that I can be on the treadmill for an hour and still get my walking in. No harm. No foul.

Except that wasn’t Joe’s plan for me. Attached to his iphone 5, on a little blue Post-it note of death, he listed the exercises that HE would be having me do in Sean’s absence. “So I think that Sean took it a little easy on you last week and I won’t be that easy. I think he was trying to see what you can do and I know you can do a little more,” was the next sentence that came out of his mouth. There were three doors open in the gym: one directly in front of me, another directly behind me, and lastly, one in the treadmill room. Don’t get me wrong, I seriously thought about running.

From a logistical standpoint, had I been Jason Bourne, the escape would have been simple; I would have thrown an object into the air, pointed to it, and by the time it fell on the ground I would have been in my car pulling in reverse. However, the issue is that I’m a tad bit too slow (and bulky) to pull a stealth move like that. Plus, the door in the treadmill room was not easy for me to get to, and the door behind me was semi-blocked by another one of the trainers, Trevor, who was busy in a session with a client.

After a few minutes of explanation on what we were going to do and how it was going to be timed, I was confident that the workout was not going to be something so outlandish that I would be crying throughout it.

Jumping isn’t difficult. Lie. Jumping is more complex than it sounds. Truth. “Put your hands up in the air like this,” as he demonstrates by putting his hands straight up towards the ceiling, “and just jump up with both feet at the same time.” I couldn’t help but laugh at myself as my pants were beginning to fall off of me. Down go my hands to save my pants from reaching my knees. This is so not my shining moment.

Next there was the line in the carpet that we used to switch off feet. One foot forward, then switch and bring the other forward. This went on for thirty seconds on then thirty seconds off. Here we are with the jumping again and me wearing my inappropriate pants. AKWARD. Then I begin to sweat like I had already been working out for two hours when in actuality it had been about two minutes. My body was seriously reacting to being put in motion!

What happened next shocked me. I watched Joe walk over to the corner of the gym and grab what to me looked like a small platform. Ok, so I will stand on top of it and do some of my Fandango moves (even though I brought the wrong shoes) is what I thought. But somehow I didn’t think that dancing on the box was the goal for the day. The exercise involved me stepping one foot at a time on the box, and one foot at a time off the box, and whichever was the last foot to step off the box would lead the next round. I know this sounds really confusing. I usually write pretty clearly, but if after 24 hours it still is not very clear what I did on that box, it’s safe to say that I probably wouldn’t be able to do it again even if Elmer Fudd was standing in front of me with his rifle confusing me for Bugs Bunny while saying, “Do it, you darn wabbit!”

Every time an exercise would be over, Joe would refer to that little blue Post-it note of death for whatever was next on the list. I never got the opportunity to look at that list. If I did, I am pretty sure that all it said on there was the following:

1)      Let her know Sean won’t be there

2)      Get her walking (faster than Sean would) on the treadmill

3)      Make her sweat

4)      Make her jump

5)      Make her swear

6)      Make it so she hates me in the morning

7)      Get the box and test her coordination

8)      Kettle bells

9)      Make her sweat

10)   Use resistance bands the width of an elephant’s tail

11)   Remind her that it’s ok to sweat. A lot.

12)   Tell her she needs to come back tomorrow when Sean is here

Maybe I should ask him to send me a picture of it just to cross-reference his list with mine. Mine is pretty accurate. Yep. It is.

When my workout was over, I was pretty sure that I had lost at least a pound in sweat. I could not believe the way my body felt (alive!) and that it was capable of actually doing what he kept asking me to do. In the back of my mind I kept hope alive that Sean would come flying through that door with a red cape and say, “I thought you said you were going to take it easy on her!” But he never flew through. Perhaps he doesn’t even own a red cape.

How did I feel when I woke up this morning? I thought you would never ask. I felt like I wanted to scream. I felt like I wanted to cut my arms and legs off and just roll around using the body parts that didn’t hurt…but then that would only leave me with my head and my heart. Because you see, my head was very clear. My head knew why my body was sore and my heart was thankful for it.

My head knew the value of friendship and what Joe did for me yesterday even though he probably had a million other things that he could have been doing. My heart overflowed with gratitude that despite the sweat falling, and my pants falling, and my lack of coordination, never once did he let me stop believing that I could finish the exercises he asked me to do. And that, my friends and blog readers, is worth MORE than its weight in platinum.

Before we left he asked me if I could come back the following day (today) to do a session with Sean, the original trainer. I jumped on the opportunity and told him that I would make it happen. The little voice inside my head was silently thanking the stars for bringing Sean back; he was much easier on me the week before and my pants didn’t fall with the exercises he made me do.

I went back today. However, my arms are about ready to fall off and you will have to wait until this weekend when I can function normally again.

I learned a very important lesson today: be careful what you ask for. Part two, which shall be appropriately titled, “The awakening of Sean,” will be coming very soon!

Life is good…sore butt, sore arms, sore thighs and all!
Is it just me, or are those resistance bands as thick as an elephant's tail?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On Expletives, Death Threats, and JOGGING!

BEAST Mode Day 12...but this post is about BEAST Mode Day 10.

Supposedly it was just going to be me and my sissy Claudia who were able to make it to our first Sunday training.  We had committed to Ray last week that we would train every Sunday so there was really no way to back out. But I thought about it. Boy, did I think about it. I sent him a text to let him know that we should re-schedule because I didn’t want to waste his time with only two of us.

I explained to him everyone else’s justifications for not being able to join us, halfway hoping that he would have said, “Ok, I will see you guys next week.” Alas, there was no reprieve for me because within seconds his response was, “Ok….I’ll see the two of you tonight at 6:30pm.” I immediately began to sweat and it was only 10:44 in the morning!

As luck would have it, my sissy and I would not need to embark on this adventure alone. Suddenly, Linda was able to join us and she was bringing her daughter, Bri, along with us. Then, Alexandria (my daughter) decided to join us as well.

Everyone met at my house so we could carpool there. Linda was the first one there and she was already nervous. “He better not make us run, Lori, because I haven’t jogged in a long time,” she said.

“Don’t worry. He knows our fitness level and he is starting us off slowly; he’s going to teach us how to warm up, walk at a good pace, and cool down,” I said—trying to convince the two of us at the same time. Because if I were to be totally honest, at that point I had no idea what to expect and I was seriously hoping that we would just be sitting around some lake sharing stories about our motivation for joining this team.

A few minutes later my sissy, Claudia, arrived. After the hugs and kisses were exchanged, the first words out of her mouth were, “He better not make us run, Lor!” I could not believe that these ladies were so afraid of the workout, yet they arrived promptly in full workout gear and chilled water. Was it reverse psychology and they were using this fear to pump themselves (and me) up?

Nothing was going to hold us back…no fear of running was great enough to stop us from getting in the car and driving to meet Ray. Our walking army had reached 6 with the addition of Alexandria’s friend, Katie.

And we were off…This is where the fun began!

There were four of us in one car and my daughter was closely behind us with Katie as her passenger. As soon as we entered the freeway I knew that we had hit the point of no return; the next time the car would stop we would all be getting out beginning the first stage of our training. This is also the point where nerves kicked into overdrive.

What happened as we got off the freeway still has me laughing. First Linda begins to shout at me from the back seat how much she hates me. To be exact, her words were, “Lori, I can’t believe you f*cking got me into this mess. I hate you.” I laughed.

Then it was my sister’s turn. “Yeah, Lor, what the f**k were you thinking calling us out on Facebook?” I just kept laughing.

“If he makes us run, Lori, I am going to f*cking kill you,” strikes Linda. All the while I am cracking up and trying to keep my eyes on the road.

I had two grown women in the car threatening to kill me at the mere thought of having to run at the park on a lazy Sunday afternoon. My plan worked! I never wanted to do this alone and so I knew that I would have to call on my CORE to accompany me on this journey. I had no idea if we were going to jog, run, walk, or spit. All I knew was that I WAS NOT ALONE and these girls hated me for it. But still I laughed because there was nothing in the world that was going to stop us from meeting our goal that day!

We arrived at El Dorado Park and saw Ray standing off to the side; his cheeks were already pink from having put in a good run before we got there. I guess in hindsight he must have known that the workout he was going to guide us through was barely going to cause him to sweat.

Ray was surprised to see so many of us because he was only expecting my sissy and I to be there. He had pre-written some inspirational quotes/sayings to read to us along our path and after giving us a good old-fashioned warm up, he read us our first quote. He had these girls (and I, of course) at “hello.”

And then we were off like little ducks in a row. We walked by some beautiful scenery. There was a lake, some greenery that looked like wheat (but it surely was not), and a few parties scattered.

What must we have looked like to them? Let’s think about it…one man giving quiet orders on when to change walking leaders, five out-of-shape walkers who began to sweat before they even began to walk, and teenager who looked like she had no business hanging out with the rest of us because she is 93 pounds when her hair is freshly washed.

As a matter of fact, there was a song going on in my head as I was walking. Do you remember that song from Sesame Street that goes, “One of these things is not like the others, One of these things just doesn’t belong, Can you tell which thing is not like the others by the time I finish my song?” Bri must have been what inspired this song many years ago even though she was not yet born.

Then I heard Ray’s voice say, “Ok, ladies, you see this straightaway? We are going to do a very light jog at your own pace to about…” I don’t even know what else he said because one look at Linda and Claudia and I knew I was dead. What the heck was Ray thinking? Didn’t he see us already huffing and puffing? Was the sweat rolling down our backs and onto the grass not enough of an indication that none of us came prepared to push ourselves to the point of yelling “mercy” at the last curve?

I put one foot in front of the other. I jogged. I jogged. I JOGGED! He never left my side. Ray was beside me the entire time and kept reminding me that I didn’t need to jog fast. He slowed me down when I tried to go faster by saying, “Slow down. Slow and steady.”

I jogged the entire length he had asked us to do! It was emotionally overwhelming. Oh, the possibilities that just opened up! I felt like I was flying. I know that in reality I was probably doing more of a shuffle, but he never made me believe that I was going too slowly to keep up with the rest of the girls.

We surprised ourselves when our bodies reacted to the jog. No one passed out. No one’s legs gave out. No one had a heart attack. There was a certain sense of badassedness that came along with the trot, one that can only be felt by achieving the insurmountable. And for this group of ill-prepared guerilleras, the thought of a jog was insurmountable in our minds.

We finished the last lap as the park was closing up. Parties were packing up their coolers, cars were beginning to pass us up on their way out, and we could see our final destination right around the bend. Everyone thought we were done once we saw our cars, but Ray threw us for a loop when he asked me to lead the final jog to a faraway sign. And guess what? Our group did it. We finished our task and ended our workout at the highest peak one could imagine…together.

As each one of us did our final stretches before leaving the park, a man drives towards us and stops when he reaches us. He had two golden retrievers in his car and his windows rolled down. Here it comes, I thought. Here is the first heckler who comes by to laugh at us. I was so wrong. Instead, he says to us, “Hey everyone, great job. Keep up the good work!” And there go my tears creeping up on me. This man who owed us nothing, who could have just kept going along his merry way believed enough in our success and our journey to stop and motivate us.

This was a very defining moment for me personally. Every now and then on this journey I am met with signs that tell me I am on the right path. They usually happen when I am alone and I sometimes think that I am imagining them. But this time the sign was to be shared with the rest of the army. And if we had any doubt in our ability to succeed alone or collectively, it went out the window as those words of motivation were so selflessly shared with us.

The ride home was much different than the ride to our workout. Gone were the expletives threatening my existence for signing them up for this 10k. I heard positive remarks. I heard laughter. I heard “Thank you for inviting me today.” I heard the collective sigh as we quickly reflected on the fact that we were still alive after having endured a challenge that no one believed they were ready for.

This army is growing daily.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the support system that team L@s Muert@s would achieve. I am both honored and humbled with the motivational messages that we receive daily from our families and from our Facebook friends.

I’m still in awe at the fact that this healthy movement revolution began because my pride wouldn’t allow me turn down a challenge—even though I knew that accepting it would throw me into unchartered and frightening territory.

 Life is good. Join our thing and see how good you will feel after you do!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

On Reunions and Rubber Bands

Beast Mode Day 6 was something that I had been looking forward to for two days. No, 6 is not my lucky number, nor was I expecting confetti this day. Nope, Day 6 was worthy of more than confetti, and it certainly did not have anything to do with luck. Allow me to explain…

On Monday (Day 4) I get a text from my drill sergeant, AKA Joe Rose, in the evening with the most simple sentence, “1 foot in front of the other.” How did he know that at that precise moment I needed it more than ever? That began a texting session about exercise, diet, and rest days. Everything he began texting to me made so much sense that I found myself chuckling a few times thinking, “Duh, what is wrong with me that I don’t think about this already?” Then I saw the meet-up suggestion pop up on my screen and I froze.




Look, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind walking around my neighborhood; I see it as a punishment to my neighbors for not saying “hi” to me for the last 10 months I have lived here. But this was unchartered territory that he was asking me to swim in. I froze—not gonna lie. My first response to him was that I had a graduation to go to on Wednesday night and that this week was very busy for me, but that I would be very happy to get together next week. Why did I say this? What would change in a week that would make me braver than this week? UGH!

His response was clear and I got the message…he told me that we could do a lunchtime session or wait until next week. It was my choice, he said. My initial reaction was to respond with ‘next week’ as the best possible time to meet up. However, that is not what my fingers typed. I agreed to a lunchtime session because my brain was telling me not to make excuses because excuses don’t get results! We booked our workout and all I knew was that he needed a line in the ground to work me to death for 30 minutes.

Have you ever had a line in the ground consume your thoughts for 36 hours? That was all I could think about! “Ok, I am sure he’s not going to kill me,” I thought. “Maybe something will come up and he won’t be able to make it,” I hoped for. “I don’t have the right shoes, plus, what am I going to wear?” I asked myself. “What the heck is a ‘curve ball’ that he is referring to, and why why why did I agree to this?”  Every time I looked down and focused on the crack in the sidewalk, I would wonder what I was going to be doing with a line in the ground.

Then Day 5 (my “rest” day) a text arrives that tells me that our plans had changed. Wooo freakin’ hooo! Uhm, I celebrated too quickly before reading the rest of the text that told me that only the location had changed. Instead of meeting at a park, I was to meet him at The Training Zone in Costa Mesa. A gym? Me, step foot in a gym? This guy has his fools mixed up if he thinks that I am going to be strutting my stuff in a gym…in front of a mirror? Rewind, he never said there would be a mirror, but I see all those FB posts people put up when they work out in gyms and there are mirrors in the background. No way. This was not going to end well!

I didn’t want to stress about it too much on Day 5 because I really just wanted to focus on what I was eating, what time I was eating it, and how my body continued to react to this new schedule and these new food combinations. On the horizon, however, was the pending doom of going to the gym with someone I haven’t seen in 25 years.

Beast Mode Day 6 arrived (did I think I could stop it from coming?). Fear. Paralyzing fear. Have you ever felt it? It wasn’t like I thought something could possibly go wrong, it’s just that I despise the unfamiliar, and a gym is very unfamiliar. I took Lola to an appointment we had scheduled for her summer school enrollment and all I could think of was that in two hours I would be working out in front of a huge mirror. Wait, what was that I was feeling near my sideburn? Sweat? I was sitting in an air conditioned office and the mere thought of sweating in front of a mirror made me begin to sweat.

I didn’t need a gym…I needed a psychiatrist!

Did I mention that my appointment at The Training Zone was at noon? I took Lola home at 11:00 and ran in with her to get dressed into appropriate attire. I didn’t even know what to wear. I felt like such a freak for even making such a big deal about it. Should I wear black pants or navy pants? Should I wear my Pumas or my Chucks? What am I wearing as a top? I don’t have anything “gym worthy” to wear, that is, until I found a t-shirt with the tag still on it at the back of my closet. I must have been saving it for a special occasion because I bought it before I graduated from CSULB. I didn’t think it would fit me so I always shoved it in the back of the closet. Today it fit (after I stretched it out as I walked around the house—let’s keep this real!) and it was as close as I was going to get to “gym casual” for my session.
It turns 11:15 and I run out the front door. The gps was set on my phone and I was well on my way to The Training Zone. I am about ready to exit the freeway but I am stuck in traffic. I hear my phone go off, indicating to me that I have a text message. I don’t typically check my texts when I drive, but I was still holding on to the hope that Joe would change his mind and have to cancel on me. The text read, “Behind the pancake house.” Of course my fat eyes only read pancake house and I thought it was an offer for lunch. Upon closer inspection of my phone (making sure I wasn’t putting anyone in danger by viewing it) I realized that it was his way of giving me directions on how to get to the gym. Nope, no luck on reaching a cancelation verdict.

Joe 1
Lorena 0

I saw the pancake house. It’s a good thing I never smelled it, or what comes next in this blog would be a restaurant review in which I discuss the creamy goodness of buttermilk pancakes and the sweet, warm, syrups that were on the menu. But I didn’t have any pancakes. So if you are reading this, you will be treated to a story of my first training session with Sean Canova…

I walked in and Joe immediately greeted me with the most genuinely happy greeting I had heard in a long time. We hug (this was a 25-year reunion, after all) and he proceeds to introduce me to the owners of the gym, Sean Canova and Trevor Duncan. They were very friendly and welcoming. It almost made me forget to look around and notice that one wall was a big, huge mirror. My worst dream had come true! But I was on a mission to learn from everyone and I knew that I had to push past this mental breakdown I was about to have because of the mirror.

Disclaimer: I am not typically this awkward in social situations. I feel as comfortable in a bounce house with my kids as I do at a draq queen/king show. For some reason, the mirrors kept getting my goat and I was determined to get past it. I was taken to a room that had several treadmills in it and I stepped on it while the buttons and levels were set for me.

Cake. Walking on this machine was fun—it didn’t seem like I was going to have to work too hard. Then the first bit of evidence appeared. Slowly, but quickly enough for me not to be able to react to it, my temple and nose became very sweaty. I couldn’t believe it! I was walking at a slow pace in an air-conditioned room. What was wrong with me? From the outside looking in (did I mention that I was walking in front of a huge window that anyone could have stood in front of to watch what I was doing?) one would have thought I was walking across hot coals with the amount of sweat that was falling down my face. “It’s ok, you should be sweating. Go ahead and jump off. Let’s go,” Said Sean as Joe was finishing up his trot on the treadmill next to me.

We stepped out onto the main floor. I was half-expecting to watch some sort of video to be shown how to work out, or maybe even be asked what type of exercise I had done in the past, but I had to remind myself that I was in a gym, not in my doctor’s office; this was serious business…run by serious men…and I am seriously preparing myself for a 10k in October.

And so we got down to business.

The first exercise Sean had me do required the coordination of Lynn Swann. I had to lunge forward with one leg and twist my upper body back towards the leg that was behind me. Sounds easy? Probably. Was it easy? Absolutely not by any stretch of the imagination. I couldn’t get it right. The goal is to twist your upper body towards the side of the leg that is in front of me, and that, ladies and gentlemen, requires coordination. I lack coordination, obviously, because I had to keep starting over until I got it right.

We moved on to using a stick for some stretching. This seemed easy enough, however, the stretch that I felt with these exercises was significant enough for me to know that I would be feeling it the next day also. But the show must go on and after five repetitions of each stretch I was ready to move on to the next move; Sean called it the ‘walking knee flex’ while I call it the ‘Baloo-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other’ move.

Are you the least bit curious as to why I called it by this name? So you know Baloo and his now-famous song ‘Bare Necessities’ when? Well, I did the next exercise with this song going full blast in my head. Did I mention that there was a huge mirror staring at me? Ok, picture this…I was supposed to start with one leg and bring my knee up as far as I could while my arms held it up. Then, when I finished holding this one up, I would continue one step forward and bring my other knee up and hold the pose. Was this a real exercise, I wondered. Wait, have I already mentioned the big mirror? I was laughing at myself internally because I couldn’t find my balance despite my feet being larger than average.

When we moved on to doing different exercises with the band, I took it as kids’ play. A band? Are you kidding me? I’m supposed to put this band under my feet and act like I’m lifting barbells? Did I mention I was STARING at myself in a huge mirror? And then there was the rowing with the band, the curls, the side twists…I never had any idea that this contraption could be used to aid in the training process, but I was hooked! I began to get a little more comfortable with Sean (and a little sweatier) as the exercises were explained in detail and I was able to learn from watching him do them first. I was actually happy about the way my body felt after doing each drill.

That is…until he had me do couch sit ups. Sit ups? Was this guy crazy, or something? The last time I did sit ups was in high school and Ms. Sperry kept making me do them over because I could never get a full one in. No way no how I was going to do a sit up in front of Joe or a mirror or any other strangers. I knew what my face was going to look like. But the command was delivered clearly, “Put your chin close to your chest. Come up slowly, tighten the tummy area, and remember to breathe as you are doing these,” stated Sean. Sure, easy for him to say as he stands there while I give my final breath. But I did what he asked and I was proud of myself for having accomplished what I didn’t think I could do.

Sean had me rest for a few minutes while we discussed nutrition (this is where I lose my damn head) and Joe came over to join us. I realize that there is so much to learn about basic nutrition and timing of my meals, so I listen attentively as my master and my drill sergeant are speaking to me about this. It’s as though my brain is opening a cavity wide enough to store this jargon; glycemic index, resting heart rate, core body temperature, etc. Then I dared to make a statement about how I have been consumed with what to eat, when to eat it, and how to go about my day while maintaining my metabolism going. This is when the quote of the day rained from the heavens…

I was warned that the quote I was about to hear was so overused that it was almost a cliché. I still listened as though the Dalai Lama was about to impart invaluable wisdom to me and only me. “HE WHO FAILS TO PLAN, PLANS TO FAIL.” There. Simple. One sentence that told me very clearly that I had to lay out the foundation for my nutrition. I was responsible for planning out meals that contain fiber (because it keeps my body working to break it down), that are not highly processed, that don’t spike my blood sugars and bring me down crashing quickly. It was almost too much to bear, until Sean said to me, “Ok, so Wednesday is our day and I will see you back next week.”

Mind blown. Was this the plan? I believe that I walked into this gym for my curve ball, and that is exactly what I walked out with. Wait, I should mention that I also walked out with a bungee rope and an exercise list that will take me through next Wednesday.

It is three thirty the morning after and I still can’t stop thinking about how cool I am that I have a list of exercises to perform daily.

If you would have told me a week ago that I would have agreed to do a 10k, I would laugh at you.
If you would have told me a week ago that I would be walking into The Training Zone and staring at myself grimace in a mirror, I would tell you to check your medication.
If you would have told me a week ago that the proposition I placed on FB would turn into a “THING” with a mind of its own, I would have said to you, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

But the fact is…I did agree to do a 10k. I did walk into The Training Zone and stare at myself grimacing into a mirror. This has turned into a “THING” with a mind of its own…and I do got time for that!

Life is good…and I don’t plan to fail.

Monday, June 17, 2013

On Sidewalk Hazards and Playgrounds Sans Swings

Today is BEAST Mode Day 3. The fact that you are reading this is a pretty clear indication that I am still alive, despite how many times in the last two days I thought I was going to die. Let me rewind…

On Day 1 Linda and her daughter Bri came over so I could help her make her Tahitian costume. We began to talk about my experience walking that morning. Linda said, “Oh, you better be prepared for everything to hurt tomorrow morning.” I said, “What? No, all I did was walk. I didn’t work out or run.” She responded, “Yeah, but you will see how everything will hurt you because it was a workout!”
Beast Mode Day 2: I woke up hating Linda. I could not believe incredible the amount of soreness that overcame my body that morning! I did not want to get out of bed. Who would notice that I didn’t? Is anyone even keeping track of me? I didn’t think anyone would notice and I knew no one was keeping track of me, so I hit the snooze button and let my body go back to rest mode.
Then it happened. You know that dream where you are falling and you wake up right before you hit the ground? Well, I wasn’t exactly falling; I was in bed because my legs wouldn’t work anymore and even though I wanted to get up, I couldn’t. I woke up with this immense fear that if I didn’t get up to walk right in that instant, my dream would come true and I would no longer have the ability to walk. I got dressed quickly into my walking clothes (please don’t ask what this consists of!), and began to walk out the door front door. One. Step. At. A. Time.  

Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer was the first song that came on. It was the second minute of my walk and the song seemed very appropriate since I knew I would be praying for the next 58 minutes. I changed my route from the day before. It was the opposite side of the neighborhood but it was an uneventful walk. For the sake of space and brevity, I will skip to today…
BEAST Mode Day 3; just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. I woke up even worse than Day 2. How could this be possible? It was 7:00 a.m. and the only thing I could imagine was hitting the snooze button on my phone. Then I began to come up with a bunch of excuses as to why I didn’t have to get up and go on a walk:

·         It’s Father’s Day

·         My body ached like I was in a car accident

·         I was super tired from hosting a bbq the previous day

Then the best excuse of all suddenly hit me…there was no way I was going to be able to continue this schedule when I go back to work tomorrow. I have to be at work by eight and I have to drop off Azcal to school by seven thirty, so my mind rationalized beginning a new schedule of evening walks. And so it was settled (in my mind) that I would do my walk during the evening. After all, today is about Juanito and Father’s Day, right?
Truth be told, I felt very guilty. I had this voice in my head that kept telling me to just go walk and keep up with the commitment. “DEAL. DEAL. DEAL,” is what the voice kept telling me. Then, at 12:30 when we were sitting in the living room catching up on E! gossip, it hit me like a ton of bricks…BEAST Mode Day 3 has to happen NOW!

Turning to Juanito I said, “I’m sorry, but I have to go for a walk. If I don’t go right now, I am afraid that I am going to make an excuse to not go tonight.” There, I said it. He encouraged me to go and after getting dressed and picking my Pandora station, I found myself walking out the door at 1:00 in the afternoon. In the dead of the heat. On Father’s Day. In my Pumas…again.

Have you ever taken a walk around your neighborhood and noticed how many hazards there are in your path? Raised sidewalks were aplenty on today’s walk, and I only noticed each one after I almost tripped over each of them. I guess it was partly my fault. I wasn’t really paying attention to where I was going, because I was too busy singing songs by Journey, Stevie Nicks, Bon Jovi, Guns N Roses, and other sounds of the ‘80s. My neighbors must have thought I was crazy. I was singing off key because I know of no other way to sing. I only remembered half of the lyrics so I would make up my own. And the huffing and puffing in between lyrics—that was the best!


Forget about the singing (or my interpretation of singing) because it only lasted for the first half hour. At the 32 minute mark, I looked over at something that caught my attention in the street. As I walked closer to it, I began to laugh uncontrollably. It was a doll in the middle of the street lying face down. What a perfect metaphor for the way I was feeling in that moment! The doll looked like it was defeated, like it was just so tired that it went to rest in the street. Right at that moment I felt the same way. I wanted to just plop down right there and let my body rest. Nope, I had to keep keepin’ on! And that is exactly what I did.

Today’s route was different in that I chose to venture outside of the neighborhood. I walked to the end of the street and out onto Springdale Street. This was so scary! The brick wall seemed like it was never going to end, like I would never be allowed to get back into my neighborhood and I was going to die of heat exhaustion out there for all the motorists to see. Have I mentioned yet how much I was sweating? Just when I thought I couldn’t focus on anything else other than the sweat beads rolling into my eyes, I saw the break in the wall and began to walk back into the neighborhood. Yes!I was back in my comfort zone and well on my way to the neighborhood park!

One of the goals of today’s walk was to walk through the neighborhood park, get on the swing, and keep on going. The playground became visible as I turned the corner. I became as excited as I would have been to see the ice cream truck in my path, and that’s pretty darn excited. However, as I got closer to the playground, I noticed that the playground didn’t have any swings. Huh? Que? How does a City Planner put a park in a neighborhood without putting in swings? But wait, this is the same park I take my kids to all the time. I begin to wonder why I never noticed that the park didn’t have swings. The whole time I was thinking about it, I didn’t notice that I began to walk in the opposite direction from home. That is, until I almost stepped in the dog poop that someone left on the sidewalk…another hazard. Ugh!

It was easier to recover from almost stepping on poop than it was to see that there weren’t any swings in my neighborhood park. But I took it like a champ and kept on walking. My motivation was that I would soon be home and into a cold shower. But it was then that I hit a brick wall…not a real brick wall, but a metaphorical brick wall. My legs were tired, I was sweating uncontrollably, and I had to keep reminding myself to relax my shoulders. Did I mention that my legs were tired? My left leg was saying, “I was only designed to get you to the couch,” while my right leg was shouting, “I was only designed to carry you to your car!” This is serious now, it was me against my legs and I was not about to let them win. I figured that there would be many more days like this and it is much, much too early to throw in the towel.
And again, I knew I had to keep on keepin’ on. That is exactly what I did. I walked and walked and walked and walked, until I saw the familiar street sign that indicated I was home. I could have cheated and made an immediate turn—this would have let me get home much quicker than the route I actually chose. I ended up crossing the street to walk my entire cul-de-sac before going home. It was then that I ran into a neighbor who had never once turned around to greet me or even acknowledge me when I walk by her house. But today was different. There was something in the air today and it was in my favor. As I was walking by her I made eye contact and said “Hi there” to her. She said, “You’re pretty brave walking outside in this heat.” She spoke to me! I stopped and said, “I know it is really hot, but today is my Day 3 and I am afraid that if I didn’t get out and walk right now, I would not get out at all today. Then my journey would end with Day 2.” Without skipping a beat, she said, “Then it was the right thing for you to do. I am so proud of you for doing this. And please don’t think that if you sweat it means that you are overdoing it. It is simply a reaction that your body gives off in reaction to the exertion that you are putting out.”

This was a sign. I thanked her for her advice and practically ran the rest of the way home. I was content. I almost gave up before I even began my walk. I almost gave up when I didn’t see the swings in the park. I almost gave up when my legs didn’t want to give me any more. It’s a good thing that almost only counts in horse shoes, hand grenades, and teenage sex, otherwise, I would have to admit that BEAST Mode was all a façade.

We got this, ladies and gentlemen. One day at a time…one foot in front of the other. Life is good.

Friday, June 14, 2013

On Chasing Wolves and Awaiting My Chariot

I chased a wolf today. Actually, I chased three wolves today. True story. But it’s an incomplete story and you know how I love to be thorough.

I couldn’t fall asleep last night. I had a million thoughts running through my head and I was so afraid that I wasn’t going to hear my alarm. I guess I secretly was hoping that it would magically be 6:00 a.m. and I would walk outside and begin my walk. But as luck would have it, the Sandman came to visit me at 2:00 a.m. and I drifted towards my bedroom to get a little bit of rest before BEAST mode officially would begin.

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The sound of my alarm never sounded less enticing than it did at that very moment. I opened one eye and noticed it was still dark in my room. What was I thinking? Why did I say I would get up at this hour and begin walking? Wait, was someone going to be outside making sure that I really got up to begin my walk on time? Paranoia, my friends, is a terrible thing. Then I suddenly remembered that I had to get Azcal to school and I was afraid that I would not be back from my walk on time in order to shower, get her ready, and walk her to school. So I compromised: I would get her off to school and begin my walk then. Deal? Deal!

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The sound of my alarm didn’t sound any more enticing at 7:00 a.m. than it did at 6:00 a.m., but a deal is a deal. I woke up and brushed my grill, woke up Azcal and got her ready to go to school, and laced up my Puma indoor soccer shoes to hit the pavement. The irony of this situation can be found in that I was using indoor soccer shoes to walk outdoors and that I wore Pumas when I in no way felt like one! The best part of getting ready was pulling my BEAST Athletics hoodie out of the closet and slipping it over my head. Not that it was going to give me any super powers. Not that it had a cape attached that would help me along my walk. Not that anyone would even know that I was starting BEAST mode by wearing this hoodie…but I knew. Somehow, this was enough for me to put one foot in front of the other.

When we walked outside together, I asked Azcal to take a picture of me. She chuckled a little and reminded me that I was usually the one taking pictures of me. I told her that I needed a “start” picture as I begin my journey towards this 10k. I explained to her about my public acceptance of the challenge. I gave her names of people who are standing behind me and of those who will walk/run beside me. She never said a word. She stayed quiet, focusing on the road to her school. We heard a honk and looked up; it was her teacher hanging out the window of her car waving at us with the most inviting smile on her face. We love, love, love Azcal’s first grade teacher. This sighting threw us off and we began talking about other things.

When we arrived to Azcal’s school her teacher told me how happy she was to see me walking Azcal to school. I thanked her and Azcal said, “My mom walked me today because she is a beast.” I died. WHAT DID SHE JUST SAY????? The teacher looked at me and asked, “Oh, one of those mornings?” I died a second time. I then proceeded to explain to her that it was day 1 of BEAST mode (which should in no way be interpreted as me being a beast, please). I gave Mrs. Martinez a quick rundown of “the thing” that has begun and the name of our team. She didn’t laugh. She didn’t seem skeptical or cynical. She did, however, express interest in JOINING THE TEAM! She said that she has been looking for something like this to do and would love the information so she can consider joining us. Halleluja! I knew I was off to a good start!

I begin to walk away from Azcal’s school on my mission. It was 7:32 a.m. I walked the opposite way of home because my neighborhood is completely foreign to me although we have been here for almost a year. I had never been on that side of the neighborhood and that made the walk very interesting.

There are a lot of walkers in my neighborhood in the morning. Each time I walked past someone, I would say “good morning” and I would get one back. I felt like I was already accepted as a “walker” because people were so friendly. Then I encountered a runner. I straightened up, walked a little faster, and began to smile as we were approaching each other. I was about to say something to her when I noticed she had ear buds in as she swooshed by me, leaving me behind in her dust. Rude. I wonder if she knew it was day 1 for me. I wonder if anyone said hello to her on her day 1. I wanted to catch up to her to tell her, “Hey, it’s my day 1. Throw me a bone or something!” Then I laughed loudly at myself for even thinking that my journey would be important to her. She was on her own journey and I feel that our paths will cross again someday.

I felt like I had walked for three days when I take out my cell phone to see what time it was. My phone said 7:59. No way! I was walking fast (for me) and sweating like I was wearing Saran Wrap when in fact I was wearing cotton and had only walked for half an hour. It was then that I looked up and saw the name of the street: Chalet. I lost my mind. I was beginning to envision a horse-drawn carriage coming to pick me up because I was too tired to make it the rest of the way home. I heard a car behind me and swore it was Juanito. How did he know? Did I send him a telepathic message that I wanted to give up? The car sped by. It wasn’t Juanito. There was no horse-drawn carriage. Do you want to know why? Do you? Do you?

In my state of delirium, I mistook the name of Chalet for Chariot and thought that my knight in shining armor would pick me up and save me from this challenge. LMFAO that I couldn’t even speak English anymore. I took a sip of water and laughed uncontrollably for about a minute before I realized that I had to keep walking…and walking…and walking.

Did I tell you guys that my neighborhood is full of cul-de-sacs? Almost every street ends with CIR. All roads lead to nowhere and I had no idea where to walk or which cul-de-sac to enter to lengthen my journey, so I just went ahead and walked down each one. That’s when it hit me: an overwhelming amount of cars and trucks were emblazoned with a San Diego Chargers sticker! The first one I noticed was on a truck that I would have to take a running start to be able to jump into (so maybe he was visiting his girlfriend from the 909). The second and third and fourth and one hundredth were on sedans and mini vans. I could not believe it. I thought it was only Linck who flew the Chargers flag!

8:08 and I began to recognize my path. I walked by the opposite side of Azcal’s school and could hear that the Pledge of Allegiance was being said over the loud speaker. I didn’t stop. Did that make me un-American? I began to pray. I know this makes no sense but I was starting to lose feeling in my legs (not really, but I was suffering in my head) and I said to la Virgencita, “Madrecita, if you didn’t want me to walk, then why do I have legs? If you didn’t want me to accept this challenge, then why was I made so stubborn? If I, If I, If I…” I was so busy asking these philosophical questions that I didn’t notice that I was walking straight towards a rogue sprinkler. That is, until I felt the cool water on my face. It felt so good and when I tasted it on my tongue it had just the right amount of ocean air mixed into it to make it salty. No, wait, that was the CLEAN sprinkler water mixing with my uncontrollable sweat and all of a sudden I felt like I needed to run. (Don’t worry, this isn’t the beginning of a story where I suddenly break out into a trot and run past the finish line in a picture-perfect victory!)

It was then that I saw them: the wolves. They are not wolves. They are big huge dogs that look like wolves, but in my mind I know they want to eat me. Their owners are a young couple with a baby boy. They walk these wolves around the neighborhood twice a day. They are so stealth that one night I was coming home and the crap was scared out of me when I noticed them walking behind my car.

The wolves and their owners were about three hundred feet in front of me; when I was entering the cul-de-sac they were already making the turn to come back out. My mission became to catch up to the wolves and scare them like they scare me. But it seemed like the steps I took with two feet were not enough to catch up to the ones they took with four (paws)! Ugh. My chase was futile because just when I was almost going to catch up to them, the owners crossed the street and walked into their backyard. WHY? WHY did these elusive wolves have to disappear so quickly?

Could I be any more delirious? Oh yes, it gets better. It is now 8:21 and I am beginning to greet garden signs. One was a frog that said “Keep off the grass,” but it was in a lump of dirt. “Yeah, grow some grass first and then I’ll keep off of it” was what I said to the frog! I then said “hello” to the little old lady with the pitchfork (don’t worry, she wasn’t real. Or wait, maybe you should worry because she wasn’t real.) Next thing I knew I was beginning to wonder what kind of neighbors I had that felt the need to say things to me from their gardens. I had lost my mind at about fifteen minutes into my walk, so you can imagine what I was like 55 minutes into it. HA!

I looked up. There it was ; sweet home Ridgeview Circle. I could hear the bells going off in my head and secretly I hoped that there would be confetti being released from the heavens as I approached my house. There was a gardener in my path who said “Buenos dias” to me. One of my neighbors who NEVER even looked in my direction was waving at me like we were best friends and our families partied together. And lastly, I could hear the familiar birds of my neighbor as I approached my front door. I knew I was home.
I opened the front door slowly. It was still dark inside. No one was making any noise. Did this mean there wasn’t going to be any confetti? Did this mean that TMZ wasn’t hiding somewhere with a microphone ready to jump up and ask me how my walk went? Did this mean that the world did not take notice that I just walked to Brazil and back and a chariot did not rescue me? All it meant was that I was home. And I was thankful that in the many moments that I wanted to cut my walk short, I thought of the word that I typed in all caps DEAL. I thought of my hermana, Veronica, and her struggle while on her journey and know that she wouldn’t give up.

And while I know that this is only Day 1, I already feel like a champion. I walked. I pushed myself into territory (mental, physical, and spatial) that I didn’t think I was capable of traversing. Despite discovering that I live in Charger Nation, despite chasing wolves and never catching them, and despite the fact that my chariot never arrived to save me from myself, my mission has just begun. I can see clearly that I will be successful. One day at a time.
Life is good, and so was my walk!

Here is my "after" picture that I took as I was expecting the confetti to fall from the heavens:


Thursday, June 13, 2013

On Public Challenges, Sand In My Shoes, And Single Parents…

What do the three things in the title of this blog actually have anything to do with each other? In this case, they have EVERYTHING to do with each other!

Joe Rose called me out on Facebook.
I’m registering for a 10k that runs along PCH.
The registration fee benefits Project Self Sufficiency.

This would be the end of the story if this wasn’t a blog. But as luck would have it, I feel the need to explain how I got myself into accepting a public challenge that ends in me freaking out. And crying. And turning on a holy candle. And taking a shot of Patron. And praying to la Virgencita. And freaking out again. (It’s a vicious cycle to be a Catholic!)

On Tuesday evening I attended my monthly Project Self Sufficiency Foundation meeting. This program was the key to helping me succeed when I found myself at the lowest point in my life. The program helped me get through school and life by providing me tools to be successful and to believe in myself again. When I graduated from CSULB last year, I was invited to join the Foundation as an alumni member. I was honored to join this group of supporters who believed in the success of the program and its clients.

One of the items on the agenda was the biggest fundraiser we have this year, which is the Surf City 10k. We talked about different ways we could get the word out there about the fundraiser, how to recruit runners, and how the Foundation will benefit from setting up a team. Set up a team? Suffice it to say that most of us probably freaked out at the thought of forming a team. Our Foundation isn’t exactly made up of people I would peg as runners—with the exception of one who travels the world looking for opportunities to run. So when Janeen Laudenbeck challenged each of us to start a team with a goal of raising $1000, I immediately thought she lost her mind. She must have seen the look on my face because she quickly threw in the disclaimer that we didn’t have to sign up as a runner to form a team. I had never been challenged to raise $1000 before, but raising $1000 seemed a heck of a lot easier than running a 10k. Challenge accepted.

Facebook; my best friend/my worst enemy.
On Tuesday night after I settled the kids in bed and sat down to the computer, I set up the page for my team. I didn’t really know what to call it because I had no interest in really forming a team. What I really wanted to do was set up a page, ask people to support it, and meet the fundraising goal. That sounds easy enough, right? It was actually very easy. The hardest task was choosing the name of the team. I decided on L@s Muert@s. I had this idea that since it was the weekend before dia de los muertos, I would ask people to join the team and I would support the runners by having a dia de los muertos themed party at my house that evening. How fun does that sound? Me on the sidelines cheering on the runners with my cool t-shirt and my face painted. The use of the @ sign in the name (for those of you not familiar with the gender struggle) is used to represent both male and female runners.

The site was set up. The status update was official. My disclaimer that I would not be able to run it but would support anyone participating was very clear. But no, someone had to come along and ruin my perfect plan. His name is Joe Rose. He is the reason this blog is being updated after a one-month hiatus. He is the reason why I now have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. He is also the reason why today is the day my life will change…for F O R E V E R.

This is how it began:

Joseph Rose I smell a challenge!! You can TOTALLY do a 10K by October!! Come on Lori!! Do it!! I will donate to your fundraiser. $20.00/per Kilometer. Deal?

Lorena Ortega The last time I ran was in high school when I was forced in PE. (Oh, and when I chase after Wolfie)

How would a 1k even be possible, let alone a 10k?

Oh man, now I'm

Joseph Rose CALL TO LORI'S FRIENDS: Who thinks she can do a 10K by October?? Baby steps BABY!!

Lorena Ortega Officially freaking out. I have been challenged, and I realize that in order to ask for support, I should at least attempt to do this...

Joseph Rose It's in writing!! Now...time to train. When do you wanna start?


This challenge is insane. The run is on October 27th and that is only four months away. I figure that by normal standards, this is going to be impossible to achieve. I’m scared. I’m shocked. I thought of the many different excuses to not do this even though I accepted the challenge:

·         I’m too fat

·         I’m out of shape

·         I’m too busy

·         I have no running shoes

·         I have no idea how much it costs to even enter the run (and can I afford it?)

·         I’m too fat

·         I have no extra time

·         I don’t like making a fool of myself

·         I might hurt myself

·         I don’t think I can commit to changing my lifestyle

·         I’m too fat
Then I realized that my list was all about ME. This run should not be about ME, rather, it should be about who it is going to help. I should be thinking about the Project Self Sufficiency clients and their children. I should be thinking about the opportunities that will be provided to these clients as a result of this fundraiser. 

I am smart enough to know that I cannot dream of doing this on my own. This is when I knew it was time to call upon my core! I tagged my bridesmaids and challenged them to join the team. I tagged my close friend who runs marathons, Ray Medina, to ask for support. I tagged my other friend who works at a running shop and runs marathons also, Luigi Guereca, to remind myself that he has always supported me in everything.

And this is how Joe Rose, a friend who I have not seen since 1988, started the “thing” I am calling a Running Revolution. My life will change (I have no doubt of that) drastically. I am committing to not only entering and completing this 10k, but in order to get there, I have to commit to changing my relationship with food and with exercise. And I’m already dying thinking about it.
Tomorrow morning Beast Mode will begin. “Baby steps,” he said. “Just keep on putting…..’One foot in front of the other,” the other one said. And so tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m. I will not hit the snooze button: I will get up and get ready to walk out the front door. I will take baby steps. I will put one foot in front of the other. Who knows where this will take me, but something tells me by the time I am done with this journey, there will be plenty of sand in my shoes!

Are you willing to take this journey with me? Grab your shoes and put one foot in front of the other. Let’s meet in the middle!
Life IS good!