Judy

Dave

I’m having lunch today with friends from high school, Dave and Judy. We meet at Aroma’s for a late lunch at 1:30 and still can’t get a table, so we sit on the couches and eat off the low sofa table in front of us. I’m craving eggs. I already had a soft boiled egg for breakfast. I order a scrambled egg wrap for lunch. Dave, as usual, is eating a bowl of soup, and Judy has the “chicken salad salad,” which makes us laugh.

I’m in the same agitated mood I’ve been in for the last two weeks. Mom says it’s the change of weather, the rain and the way it’s neither one season nor the other. Dave and Judy each have outrageous stories about their relatives; suicides, accidents, in-fighting. I don’t envy their situations, but I can’t think of a single story.

Today when I weighed myself, I was 135! That’s ten pounds over my racing weight last year, and it has me plenty worried. I don’t talk about this. Everyone has weight problems, and it’s a downer. Moreover, after the last two 5Ks, it’s beginning to look like I’m about to plateau for the season around the same race times I got the last two years. Even after this whole ambitious 12-week program! At least I got a nice 10K out of the season, and a lot more “speed-endurance” if not speed.

Back in early June, I was still at an off-season weight in the upper 120s, and I started strength training pretty hard. By July, my weight began creeping up a pound or two each month. Guys who work out think and talk about muscle gain as real weight gain — real pounds on the scale — and as a desirable thing, but women aren’t prepared for it. I finally looked up stories and pictures of Hillary Swank, who, amazingly, gained nineteen pounds of muscle in ninety days on her tiny hundred-and-ten-pound frame, to play the female boxer in “Million Dollar Baby.” (And that means she was up to 129 pounds; none of that magical “replacing fat with muscle” people talk about!) I figure if she could gain nineteen pounds in three months of intensive training, I might have gained a third that much in six. I’m still wearing all the same clothes, the same skinny jeans. I can’t tell if they’re tighter. Six or seven pounds of fat would be tighter!

Mom keeps insisting it’s muscle. “You look great,” she says, but she’s my mom. “You finally have a butt! You didn’t have any butt before at all — it was completely flat.”

She cranes her neck to look at my new butt.

“That’s five pounds right there!” she says.

I had loose skin, too, after losing weight from running. Not like the Biggest Loser magnitude of loose skin, but some skin on my arms and stomach and back that just didn’t want to retract. I figured it was age and gravity; but it looked flabby and old. After gaining muscle, that skin is smooth again. All the appearance changes are feminine and positive. Funny to think now, there was a time I prioritized strength training above everything else.

Still, ten extra pounds equals one minute slower in a 5K — muscle or fat! And I still have ten or more pounds of fat I could lose. Elite female runners are, impossibly, under 12% bodyfat.

Back in 2008, a hypnotherapist I saw to lose the last irritating bit of weight had agreed readily to my goal of 130, but balked at a goal of 120 for my height. He joked about whether I thought I needed to be “an underwear model.” He then very seriously told me that 130 was controllable with good habits, but that 120 means being vigilant, counting every calorie, losing freedom and possibly lowering the quality of life. Did I want that?

I’m beginning to realize it isn’t going to be nearly as easy as I thought to move up from Regional to National Class in running through dedicated training alone. I need to monitor my weight, my bodyfat, and every single thing that goes into my mouth. Have you ever heard someone like Lance Armstrong describe his training? The focus is singleminded, exclusionary, and exact. For the part-time athlete, it can become another job! And this year, I terribly missed the fall hiking, the mountain biking, the outdoor things I couldn’t even do because I was running so much. I’m worried about everything I love about it falling away. It was so fun at first! I’m not sure yet if these sacrifices are what I want.