Tag: fitness

2016 Deer Creek Open Water Swim

Hi! I’m excited to tell you another open water swim is in the books! This is my 11th swim and unfortunately my only race for 2016. I was hoping to get 2 in this year but with my travels it just didn’t work out. Hopefully next year will get a few more in.

I will be honest with you I felt a little under-prepared for this race and like I always do I got very nervous this whole week before the race. What if this is the swim that I can’t finish? I feel like it is eventually going to happen one of these days but so far it hasn’t. As I got my Dad and drove up to the race I felt nauseous and began to wonder ‘why do I put myself through this?’. Even as I got in the cold water (it seemed colder than last year) I wondered if I could do it.

But then I start swimming. I got about a 1/4 mile and I really was doubting my abilities. The 1/2 mile marker seemed like a million miles away. It seemed impossible I would ever get there. But I divided it up into small amounts, 100 strokes, 50 strokes, even 25 strokes and I kept going. Finally I made the 1/2 mile marker and wished the race was over but I had to keep on going.

I did several 100 lap batches and at the 3/4 mark there were a lot of boats so the waves get large and difficult to manage (especially when you are tired from swimming for nearly an hour). But I just kept going. My friend Etsuko was my paddler and she helped encourage me and boost my spirits. When I finally saw the finish line I knew it was almost over. I had almost done it and I could feel the adrenaline sink in. I gave one more push and hit that buoy with conviction! Wahoo!

So I am a finisher! My 11th race is done and it was an amazing experience. My Dad also finished which is an awesome accomplishment especially for someone who can’t swim freestyle.

In the end, it was an amazing experience and I’m so proud of my medal. I know it is an Olympic medal and I was one of the last ones to finish our little race but it feels good to watch these Olympians and know I did something physically hard today too.

I am a finisher!!

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Deer Creek Open Water Swim 2015- 10th Race

DSCF8062Today my friends I am a finisher, 10 times over!  Yes, I finished my 10th open water swim at Deer Creek and I couldn’t be more thrilled (and tired!).  If you’ve been a follower of mine on the blog you might recall my very first race back in 2011.  In fact, after my first open water swim at the clinic that year I posted “Yesterday was the best day of my life!” I hope that everyone is able to find something they love like that in their life.  Once was all it took to get me hooked!

What a journey it has been since that first attempt. 10 races have come and gone and they all are treasured memories.

deer creek5Like always today’s race had its fair share of challenges.  I went in to the race feeling pretty confident.  I felt strong at Bear Lake and then did a practice swim on Thursday that went very well.  My plan was to break up the swim into sets of 100 strokes and then do 25 strokes of breaststroke.  The problem was for some reason my asthma was bothering me and I felt pretty wheezy.  It didn’t seem like I could get enough air which was causing me to get a lot of water up my nose and in my mouth.  This is not the ideal way to swim by any measure.  But I kept going…

DSCF8036This race was really neat because my Dad swam it with me.  Typically my family and I don’t share a ton of common interests and so it was really neat to share this experience with him! He did the entire race alternating between breaststroke, backstroke and sidestroke but finished and did very well!  It’s been a cool month for me with the swim with my Dad and doing the book videos with my Mom.  Both meant a lot to me.

DSCF8060It’s the weirdest thing when you are swimming open water because it feels like you are on a swim treadmill.  No matter how fast you go it feels like you aren’t making any progress and you will never reach the darn buoy.  Then you do and it is so exhilarating! You would think after 10 races it would get less exciting but it is still such a thrill.

DSCF8044My time wasn’t good on the race but the important thing was I finished.  I’m very proud of that as I am for all of my finishes.

DSCF8048I’d like to thank my paddler Michelle for taking time out of her busy schedule to help me achieve my goals.  She couldn’t have been more encouraging and wonderful.  It was so great to catch up as she isn’t my trainer at the moment since I left that gym.

deer creek2I also want to say thank you to Jim Hubbard and everyone at Salt Lake Open Water for being such a wonderful community that nurtures all types of swimmers.  I couldn’t be more grateful that I am accepted and cheered on at every race.

Thank you and on to 10 more!!

Here is my youtube update on the race.

GSL 2014

Another amazing open water swim race has come and gone.  Honestly I’m so exhausted I don’t know how much I can write but I will do my best.

I’ve often said I race partly for my swim family, partly for nature, partly for fitness but mostly for life.  Every swim teaches me something profound about life and this was no exception.

Here I am before the race:

before raceI was really nervous as I always am.  Great Salt Lake is so unpredictable and my last 2 years have been very tough for me, even 2012 when I was so well prepared was a beast. Both of those years there was wind advisories and the races were nearly cancelled.  I was praying so hard that we would get smooth water for once…

And my prayer was answered. Smooth water!

When you enter the Great Salt Lake it is like no other experience I can describe.  Your whole body screams with all the salt.  Your tongue swells up, your nose burns, and any soft skin let’s you know quickly it doesn’t like it.  All this adds to the challenge.

But luckily I decided to go for it and this year my friend Anna came with and she did amazing! A lot of my other friends weren’t in town or didn’t swim for one reason or another.  In fact, it looked like over half the swimmers were new to GSL.  There was one group from California that flew in for the race.  They go to races as friends all over the country.  How fun is that!

So they started the race in an odd way.  We had to climb over all these rocks and I had flip-flop sandles on.  I felt like I was going to slip and break my ankle.  It was kind of nuts.

Here I am trying to get down to the start:

DSCF5601Then the race started and within the first 5 minutes all the sudden my whole right side cramped up.  I felt like I could hardly move.  It seemed like I would have to pull out with that much pain so early on.

Luckily there was an awesome kayaker who helped me calm down and encouraged me to try another stroke so breaststroke it was. It seemed to strain my side less and after about 3 sets of 100 the cramp was mostly gone. (I count strokes in batches of 100)

I was still doing a lot of breaststroke but then worked in 100s of freestyle and even got a 150 in.  It was so shallow that it was hard to do a freestyle stroke for a lot of the race.

There’s me in all that water. Surrounded by nature and all that water.  It will never get old.  So beautiful!:

S0015609See how close the kayaker was?  He was a lifesaver and was so encouraging.

I also decided to not worry about sighting and just swim.  The current was very light so I didn’t have to worry about getting pulled inward like I did last year. I was confident enough in the kayaker that I knew I could just swim.  With my lazy eye sighting is not my strength but it’s especially hard at GSL because there are no trees or big objects to sight on so it’s sort of a fruitless enterprise.  I’m glad I abandoned it all together.

So, I kept going in batches of 100 strokes.  Another one and then rest 20 seconds, and another.  Finally I got to the spot to run in and it was probably 200 yards.  I actually speed walked because I was worried about turning my ankle on that type of rocky/sandy beach. (Plus I was exhausted).

Eat your heart out Bo Derek! 🙂

DSCF5621Here’s the crazy thing- cramp, stops, breaststroke and all I finished in 1 hr 4 minutes.  Last year it took me 1 hr 23 minutes!  Almost 20 minute faster this year!  I still can’t believe that!

It just goes to show a lot of obstacles can be in your way at the beginning of your goal but if you keep going, do 100 more, and then another, and another, you will finish.  Like I said, swimming teaches me about life. And what a perfect lesson to learn this week starting a new job for new company, doing something new!

I will never forget crossing the line and knowing I did it!  Cramp and all I did it! Please take my story and set a bold goal.  People of all shapes and sizes can do awesome things.

Thank you to the organizers, kayakers and my friends for cheering me on both at the race and away. I might not have done the race at all if it wasn’t for all the wonderful encouragement.

It feels good to be Rachel today!

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A brick of salt for a salty race. Love this photo
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My awesome kayaker. Such great support
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Anna did amazing. 35 minutes first GSL/open water race!
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We did it! I love my open water family

Heroism and Weight Loss

fat-supermanI’ve been thinking about writing this post for some time.  Everyone who reads this blog is probably aware of my distaste for weight loss in the media.  I know many find shows like the Biggest Loser to be encouraging but for me they are the opposite.

What bothers me is they paint fat people as bad, and reformed fatties as good and that just isn’t true.   As I often say,  ‘a lot of people lose weight in prison’… Losing weight is hard enough without having these types of morality judgments thrown in our face.

So that’s media but this post is a slightly different take.  I would like to talk about how we as a culture often couch weight loss in heroic terms and how this is almost never helpful.

Just the other day I was watching a show and the reporter asked the man how he had ‘overcome his heroic battle with weight loss’.  This is not uncommon phraseology for our average conversation. All of us, including myself, have used such phrases when talking about weight loss.

What’s wrong with that you ask? I mean losing weight is really hard.  Why is that not heroic?

Well, let’s start with some definitions-

Over on about.philosophy.com author Kendra Cherry asked her readers How Do You Define Heroism?  Pretty much every response is something like this:

“A hero is a person who would risk life and limb just to save people or a person. these people standout as brave intelligent and loving. these people need to be recognized”

So what are the elements of being a hero:

1. They are brave

2. They are worthy of recognition

3.  They are loving

4. They risk their own safety to help other people

It is this last aspect that is the most common thread in all the responses.  Another reader says:

“Heroism is when you act out of the kindness of your heart. Whether you’re helping someone on homework, or helping someone who got hurt, the main thing is that your helping someone who is having a hard time”

So, heroism clearly involves being unselfish and serving your fellow men and women especially when doing so is difficult.

indexHow does weight loss fit such a description?  I can’t think of any other change of appearance that is lauded in such ways.  For example, if someone gets a face lift they are often derided, criticized but I’ve rarely heard that when gastric bypass is done.  Why is one surgical enhanced change heroic and another isn’t?

You could say that gastric bypass is required where a face lift is not? Well, the research from the Health at Every Size movement would strongly disagree with that assertion, but even if you accept that gastric bypass is necessary I don’t see how it is heroic?  If I break my leg and have surgery on said leg (essentially fixing a problem in my body like GB) does that make me a hero?  No, it makes me a person with a broken leg that was fixed.

I can see no part of weight loss that involves risk to help other people. You can help people get in shape or encourage them to enter a race, but that’s not really the weight loss, that’s your service in the community and amongst your loved ones.  Anyone should be lauded who serves others no matter their size.  That is worthy of the hero label.

What about athletes? Who are they serving and we call them ‘sports heroes’?  One could argue such a term is misapplied to professional athletes but I would counter that most athletes are participating in a team or cause greater than just themselves.

For example, an Olympian is certainly worthy of individual applause but also their gift of performance on behalf of their country makes it worthy of the hero label.

There are a few sports like golf that are truly individual events and then I would say they aren’t really heroes but simply exceptional.  We like them because they are good at something and we are not. Nothing wrong with that!

But I hear you saying ‘Rachel it’s so hard.  Shouldn’t we be encouraging?’.  My answer is ‘of course, we should’.  However, there are lots of hard things we do in life that aren’t really heroic.  If I am a PHD candidate and I complete my thesis am I lauded as a hero? I’m encouraged, congratulated, cheered but unless there’s a disability or something extraordinary I rarely hear the kind of language we apply to weight loss for any other ‘hard thing’ in life.

Why? Because the diet industry in America is a 20 billion dollar industry.  They want you to spend money and what better way to get someone to spend money than to either make them feel really good or really bad about themselves.  A tepid, lukewarm person never bought anything.  They have a vested interest in convincing us that we need to change and that if we make said change we can be the hero.

Now, you might suggest that I am focusing on mere semantics and poor word choice.  I would argue back that according to the Huffington Post the average American woman has dieted 61 times by the time they are 45 and that’s starting at 16 (I would start much younger- 81% of little girls in America have dieted before the age of 10).

Assuming some marginal success in most of those diets, the average woman has been the hero 61 times,  and then fallen sometimes quite speedily off of her pedestal.  Then to make matters worse 35% of women gain more than they lost on said diet.

So, now we aren’t really a weight loss villain (to use the cannon of terms) that is probably reserved for sinful foods and the companies who pedal them but we are something even worse- the fallen hero.  I mean think about what that means.  61 times the average woman not only feels let down with her own frailties but is no longer the inspirational tool for her family and friends.  I’ve felt it and I bet most of you have too.  It is devastating.

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I actually remember one time my sister telling me ‘you can’t gain the weight back because then you wouldn’t be this person that we admire’.  She was very little and didn’t mean to hurt my feelings but is that not what all of us go through on the roller coaster of weight loss? 2012 I was at my peak of fitness and weight loss, then I had a personal crisis, chronic pain and a herniated disk in my back.  Things changed and so did my body.

I’m not making excuses.  That’s just what happened.  I felt guilty for a long time.  Like I’d let everyone down, which is insane when you really think about it.  What had changed was something in my body.  My other actions were exactly the same.  I still swam my races, I still blogged.  I still worked.  I still held book club and spent time with my friends.  I still traveled.  All of it.  I can’t think of one thing for other people I could do in 2012 and couldn’t or didn’t do in 2013.  So why did I seemingly let them down?

Because I wasn’t the hero anymore. 

That’s why this language about our bodies is so important.  It can have devastating repercussions that can make us feel like failures, and we already feel that way because of the way we look.  The language just piles on. And sometimes it is not just language.  I have friends who’s parents were vocally disappointed in them for their weight loss struggles. Instead of sympathy and encouragement they received pity and disgust.  (Luckily my parets have always been pretty good about letting me live my own life)

What worries me most is if being the fallen weight loss hero is hard for adults, imagine what it must feel like for a child who has so little control over his or her bodies in the first place?  That I do know.  I remember vividly the feeling of disappointment after diet, after diet, not only frustrated at not looking the way I wanted to, which is hard enough for a young girl, but letting everyone down in the process.  For goodness sakes, now these kids are even letting down the President.

So, in a perfect world where everyone took all of my advice what would I suggest? How would I encourage others in this hard thing called weight loss? I would treat it like the accomplishment of any other worthy goal.  ‘that’s great’, ‘I can see you worked very hard’, ‘great job’, ‘congrats’, ‘I’d love to go jogging with you’, or any number of responses without vaulting the person up as a hero because of the way they look.

What do you guys think? Have you felt like you were letting down people when you gain weight or fail to lose?  Do you think the hero narrative is helpful or hurtful?  Please share your experience, as this is just what makes sense to me.  Love you all!

heroes03capamericapostyo8

 

 

Exercise and Weight Loss Success

Many of you know I believe in a healthy lifestyle or the Health at Every Size Movement http://www.haescommunity.org/. 

How do you determine the success of a health regiment or diet? I would wager that 90% of you would answer “weight loss”  or if you didn’t you probably would be thinking ‘weight loss’ in your head but saying something more socially acceptable.

Here’s the thing- THAT IS WRONG!!

Every day there seems to be more evidence that the link between weight, even obesity, and actual health is not as strong as we once thought.  This defies the logic of the ‘war on obesity’, Michele Obama, scores of trainers/dieticians but that doesn’t mean it is not true.

Read this book.  It will BLOW YOUR MIND

health at every sizeThink it is just one woman’s crazy enabling antics?  No.  The book has 7 pages of detailed recommendations from doctors, leaders, scientists etc.  (see articles for more back up

US News World Report 

New York Times, and New York Times

The Today Show

To start the book Dr Bacon (I know ironic last name) shares her testimonial.  Here it is directly from the book:

health at every size 2This quote might lead you to believe the book is merely anecdotal but its not.  There is real science to back up what she says about eating healthy, being happy and not worrying about weight.  She leaves no stone unturned answering questions about diabetes, cholesterol, heart disease, bone density, and even has the most brilliant defense against gastric bypass I’ve ever read. I’m telling you it will change the way anyone, not just the obese, look at eating, health and exercise. Here is my favorite (this is also quoted in Amy Farrell’s brilliant book Fat Stigma):

UC Davis.

“In this study, a group of fat women was divided into 2 groups, one receiving coaching in restrictive eating (diet) and exercise, the other being encouraged to eat a healthy diet, listen to their bodies cues, to foster ways to engage in fun exercise and take part in a fat acceptance discussion group.

Significantly group 1- the traditional diet/exercise group- initially lost weight, but by the end half had dropped out; most had regained weight; blood pressure, cholesterol, and other metabolic measures had not improved and self-esteem levels had dropped.

In contrast, group 2 hadn’t lost any weight, but most stayed with the 2 year program; their blood pressure, cholesterol, and other metabolic measures had improved dramatically; their self-esteem levels increased substantially; and they exercised regularly.  Encouraged to pay attention to their bodies, to stop restricting calories, to fight the discrimination they experienced as fat people, and to enjoy their bodies through physical movement and eating well- the non-dieters showed significant health improvements.  But, and this is the key point, they never became thin.”

Doesn’t that blow your mind?

One of Dr.  Bacon’s patients describes her battle and realization of her own worth so beautifully:

health at every size 3

I recently have become aware of the activist Jeanette DePatie, otherwise known as The Fat Chick.  She gets it.  I wish someone had explained this to me when I started exercising (instead I went into it expecting to lose 100 lbs in the first year. Sigh…)

I am happy most of the time. I love  my life most of the time.  I have times when I’m more fit than others but I’ve basically looked the same since I was 17 years old and I was always ashamed by that, like it was this big failure I could never overcome.  Now I just make sure I have clothes that fit me in lots of sizes and work out at least 3 times a week.  Would I like to be skinny?  Yes, but I’m finally not convinced I’d be any happier if I was (or healthier).  The guilt is for the most part gone.

I hope this encourages all of you.  I started my journey saying I was the Only Happy Fat Woman in America and I had friends who fought me on it.  They thought I was just being patronizing or disingenuous but it was true then and today it is still true (I really had someone argue with me saying I was basically full of crap.  Not true).  TV will make you believe you have to be miserable if you are fat (biggest loser sorry)  but its a lie! Be healthy, be happy, be human, have bad days, eat cake and then work out for an hour the next day, find stuff you love, therapies that work and live the best life you can.

Every time Tanya and I swim together people look and have a surprised expression.  I know they think ‘I’ve never seen a girl that looks like do what they are doing’ and that makes me so happy.  It may be my greatest legacy of all.

So thats what I have to say on that.  Get active.  Be happy.  Love life and Follow God.

And just keep at it.
And just keep at it.
Do something you never thought you could do.  I love MMA (kick boxing) and I'm not too bad at it!
Do something you never thought you could do. I love MMA (kick boxing) and I’m not too bad at it!
Do a fashion show when you find a cute pair of jeans.  Who cares!
Do a fashion show when you find a cute pair of jeans. Who cares!
Find something you love.  Even after all the swims I've done it still makes me smile
Find something you love. Even after all the swims I’ve done it still makes me smile
My trainer who has stood by me for 4 years. She is why I go to treehouse and she is one of my rocks.  I really love her.
My trainer who has stood by me for 4 years. She is why I go to treehouse and she is one of my rocks. I really love her.

I would also just add that my times in the water when I’m at my thinnest and best trained is about 3 minutes faster than when I’m not.  My recovery is much better but my time really isn’t.  Funny. It just goes to show what your definition of success makes such a difference in achieving it.  If I was only focused on times I’d never be successful.

Deer Creek Clinic 2013

After I got home from the temple I went with my friend Tania to the Deer Creek Open Water Clinic which is held every year before the Deer Creek Open Water Marathon Swim that I am participating in for the 3rd year next week!  Last year I did the 5k but have less training and am doing the 1 mile this year.

For some reason there was a small turnout so basically Goody, Josh and Gordon put on the clinic for Tania and I, which was super nice.  They could have cancelled seeing it was just the 2 of us but they went ahead anyway and I was grateful (aren’t open water swimmers the nicest?). It was Tania’s first time swimming outside of Blackridge pond in Herriman and she was pretty nervous, but she did great!

I felt pretty good but my stamina is nowhere near what it was last year. 😦  However, I swam about 800 yards and it was good practice for Saturday.  Thanks to Josh and his boys for kayaking as I swam.  That was super nice.

I was thinking the other day- Doesn’t it seem like I’ve been open water swimming my whole life?  Its hard to imagine my life without it, and yet its only been 3 summers.  I first heard about it in July of 2011 and my friend Jim Hubbard took me to the Deer Creek Clinic and I was nervous just like Tania was and look how far I’ve come.  Pretty cool! https://smilingldsgirl.com/2011/08/05/deer-creek-clinic/

If you look at that post from my first swim it says it all:

“I did it! I did it! I did it! I swam in open water for a mile and held my own with people who had all done it before without a wetsuit. This is the best day of my life!”

I think Tania was feeling some of that as we left.  That’s what makes open water swimming or anything worth doing in life.  Its the people.  I know so many great people.  I always said I must have helped an old lady across the street in the pre-earth life because I don’t know what I did to deserve such great people in my life.  I watched my friends help Tania and was truly moved and thought of my long journey over 3 years and how great it has been.

Great people=A Great Life

Tania and me.
Tania and me.
Tania ready for her first big swim!
Tania ready for her first big swim!
Josh, Goody, Gordon
Josh, Goody, Gordon