29 06 2011

One of the things we’ve been learning about is regressive coping versus transformational coping.  Regressive coping with problems includes isolation, treating the event as catastrophic, or acting out with fear or violence.  Transformational coping includes looking at the bigger picture, deepening our understanding of the problem, and taking decisive action.  Further, these types of coping traits are linked to ontological guilt or ontological anxiety.  Ontological guilt is harmful to our health and represents choosing the past (think decisions that are safe or comfortable), while ontological anxiety produces learning and growth, and represents choosing the future (striking out and/or choosing a new direction).  Why am I describing this?  Because I want people to think I’m smart and know big words.  Okay, and also this information is helpful. 

For example, once in a while (always) I will treat a stressful event as catastrophic.  An innocent thing such as a phone call not returned will lead me on a magical path of self- destruction.  Are they mad at me?  Am I getting fired?  What if they got fired?  What if they got in an accident?  Sugar! Sugar! Wine! Wine! Before I know it, I’ve convinced myself that the entire world is about to explode and the end is near. 

This type of activity is very dangerous to our health.  Sapolsky (2004) tells us that when we are stressed, we turn on the same biological response as we did millions of years ago when being chased by wild animals.  You may recognize the term “fight or flight”.  Well guess what?  Sitting in rush hour traffic pissed about the guy cutting in front of you does the exact same thing to your body as if a tiger were about to eat you.  The good news?  If you turn on the response for the right reason, it is beneficial to you.  Like when we exercise.

Oh exercise, my BFF and my worst enemy.  It seems like I’ve lost my momentum.  Now that I can’t run, I don’t get the same enjoyment from a good workout anymore.  I still dig the weight lifting but can’t seem to find anything for cardio that I enjoy as much.  I was walking on the treadmill with my pack and weight on a steep incline most days.  Then I went to the massage therapist for another hip check.  She told me my hip looked great but that my neck was a hot mess.  Actually what she said was, “What the hell have you been carrying on your shoulders?”  When I told her a backpack with 40 pounds, she got a little irritated with me and said “I can’t fix this in one hour.”   Um, okay, I guess that means take it easy on the pack for a while.

And one last item.  Because this whole thing called life hasn’t been quite too hard for me the last few months, I’ve decided to make things even more interesting.  Starting July 5 (remember, I’m human), no more alcohol or sugar until I climb the mountain.  Stop it.  I’m serious.  What will I eat you ask?  Staff and family most likely.



20 06 2011

Saturday a few of us from class took a hike. The last time we did this route, I had about 10 pounds in my pack. It was kind of tough but beautiful and very worth the effort. The total loop is around 8 miles and about 1,000 feet of elevation gain. When I told my husband I was going to do it again, he basically told me to man up and put the exact amount of weight in my pack that I would be expected to haul on our climb. While I will never admit it to his face, he’s usually right about stuff, so I stuffed my pack with about 40 pounds and got ready to hit the trail in the pouring rain. Lori and Charlie appeared to be very impressed with my goal, and both offered to take some of the weight if it got too hard for me. Um, yeah, it was not pleasant. First of all, I don’t believe the pack is the right size. I couldn’t get it to sit on my hips right so I felt constant shoulder pain. This could be due to the fact that it is a women’s small when the “expert” at REI told me I need a men’s large. Whatever. On the way up I brought out some swear words I haven’t used in a while and used them as a sort of whispered chant as I went up the trail, with only one time of explosive outburst so that the others could hear. My heart rate monitor wouldn’t work, probably due to the rain, but I think it’s safe to assume I was not in the target zone. We stopped to rest a couple of times and Charlie kept getting his phone out pretending to take pictures, although I’m pretty sure he was pre-dialing 911. There was some great conversation that I listened to since I couldn’t multitask by breathing and talking simultaneously; and Lori and Charlie discussed a class motto. I’m down with whatever but my personal motto has become “meaning through suffering”. I like it because it is adaptable to almost any situation in my life and can be both funny and true in most instances. Seriously, like I have it so tough, poor little baby Alissa had to hike up a hill in the middle of a beautiful forest! Please. So while it was very difficult for me, I totally appreciate the fact that it was not real suffering in the context of what others have to deal with in life.

Sunday I got up and was ready to put the pack back on and hike up a mile-long hill by our house. I lugged the pack out of my car and asked my husband to load it on my back. A series of profanity and screaming like nothing I’ve ever heard came out of nowhere. My son raced around on his bike yelling “Mommy said the F word, the S word, the GD word and the H word!” In between screaming that I was dying and hopping around and falling over, my husband finally decided to ask what my problem was. I yelled at him that my shoulders were broken. He took the pack off, pulled my shirt over, looked at my shoulders and told me to toughen up. It’s really irritating that it is so damn hard to get any sympathy in my household. I swear to God if I have to hear about his lugging dead deer out of a forest on his shoulders and living with no electricity or water for over a year one more time as an example of real strength in the face of adversity, I think I might puke. Apparently the neighbors heard me too, since a few came over later in the day and asked if we had heard a weird sounding coyote howling that morning. So instead of another hike, I dusted off my mountain bike and went for a ride. Amazingly, what I used to consider an extremely difficult ride is now not even a challenge. It was a letdown and a proud moment all at once. Too bad I can’t sit or move my upper half without looking like a freak today….


15 06 2011

Remember when your mom used to say if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all? I’ve been thinking about this lately because it appears that I can’t find anything funny to say this week. So I hesitated to even make a post because I don’t want to let anyone down. But at the same time, this will forever be a record of what was happening in my life as I trained to climb a mountain. So for the sake of history, I should probably record my struggles. Here goes:

1. One of my hips has decided not to climb the mountain. As much as I try to bargain, beg and plead, it is having none of it. This has affected my ability to train on the cardiovascular side of things. I haven’t run in two weeks and I’m pretty much freaking out. What I have done instead is get on the treadmill, crank the incline way up and generally make my workout as difficult as possible without running. I hate it, I don’t look forward to it and I feel like I’m falling behind. I’ve gotten a couple of good hikes in with my pack and will continue to do this but I’ve got to figure out the gym situation.

2. There is a lot of stress happening in my life. So much so that I find myself wanting to plummet straight to my “comfort” stress behaviors. Like sugar and isolation. By this I mean not finding someone to talk to, retreating into TV or books at home, disengaging from my family. Luckily, I know this is not good for me so I am consciously seeking opportunities to use hardi-coping. Amazingly, I do feel a lot better when I just talk things through. I’m such an internal analyzer that this is not easy for me. But I’m finding that I’m much better equipped to handle life when I have someone to talk to. Amazingly, people care. What a concept. I caught up with a friend today and by the time I had thrown out everything going on in my life, we were both laughing so hard that I really realized how important the little things are for getting us through tough times.

That’s about it. I’ll try to do something really dumb and inappropriate by this time next week so there will be better things to report.

Order up!

6 06 2011

Our guide Scott Martin (a.k.a. Poor Bastard Has No Idea What Kind Of Train Wreck Is Meeting Him At The Mountain) got us the gear list this week.  The list is divided into personal items, group items, and food.  It was very overwhelming, but of course I was very interested in the food part.  After checking it out for a while, I had a discussion with the spouse.

Me:  “Good news, it doesn’t look like I have to worry too much about packing food for the trip.”

MR (Mr. Reality, see prior post):  “Why would that be?”

Me:  “Well, it looks like I’ll just be able to buy a lot of the stuff there.”

MR:  “Reeeaaalllyy?”

Me:  “Yeah, we eat at the Lunch Counter a lot.”

MR:  “No need to ask, really, but I’m assuming you are under the impression that the Lunch Counter is a deli?”

Me:  “Why else would they call it the Lunch Counter?  OOOH, do you think they sell wine?”

MR (patting me on the head):  “Do you think you could show me where we keep the life insurance papers?”

Guys, WARNING!  IT IS NOT A DELI!  The Lunch Counter is what some sick, twisted individual named base camp.  I Googled it.  And base camp?  No picnic.  Amenities include howling winds and sharp rocks.  A couple websites said sleeping through the wind is not likely.  That’s just great, because you know, I really need a challenge.  Oh wait, that is what the climbing part is about.  Throw in no sleep and no wine and we might have ourselves a little situation.

Good thing I took a hardiness quiz.  Previously I mentioned that the 3 C’s of hardiness are commitment, control, and challenge, and that a balance of the three is needed to effectively cope with stressful situations and turn them into opportunities.  Well I found myself a little quiz online that appears to be legitimate.  After answering the questions and determining the score I felt pretty good about myself. Until I realized one of my answers was a negative four instead of a positive four.  I haven’t been in math class for a while but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a situation where I could take the absolute value of the answer.  Normally I would get all panicked and think that I might be weird.  Good news, now that I know how to cope with stressful situations a little bit better, I instead downed a box of Hot Tamales while pondering the fact that exercise might feel a bit better.  Now that’s progress.


Kick Me

3 06 2011

During my unfortunate experience at REI getting fitted for a bike, the sales associate also mentioned that if I ever backpacked, I’d probably need a men’s size large backpack.  Because I was disassociating and repressing the situation in that moment, it did not occur to me that I had already agreed to purchase a women’s small backpack from a friend.  As I am about a week behind on training with a pack and weight, I decided to try on the pack this morning before work.  First of all, kudos to my friend Michelle, she only gets top of the line stuff.  She had purchased the pack during a prior relationship and never used it; which is not weird and completely normal if you are a friend of mine.  And she delivered the backpack to me full of unused goodies.  There was a sleep pad, bear spray, a bear bell, a really cool razor that folds up (smooth legs are of ultimate priority on the mountain), and a poop shovel.  My kids were very excited with all the stuff and my littlest one ran around the room screaming “Poop shovel! Poop shovel!” for about 10 minutes.  Because at 4 years-old, what is cooler than a poop shovel?  It’s a shovel.  For poop!  I unload all the gear and put the pack on.   Then I had a conversation with my completely adorable husband who supports me in everything that I do and never, ever makes fun of me:

Husband:  “What is wrong with you?”

Me: “Huh?”

Husband: “That is how you are going to climb a mountain?  Don’t you think you might need some air at some point?”

Knowing I was completely confused (as usual) he walked over and pulled the clipped strap that was apparently supposed to be at chest level.  The issue – it was actually around my neck.  Now we had a problem. 

Me:  “Um, that’s a problem.”

Husband:  “You think? You are NOT buying a new backpack!”

So he monkeyed around with it for a few minutes and we got it to just above chest level.  He says it will have to do and I’ll be fine.  I tend to disagree.

Mr. Reality, as we are now going to call dear husband, then proceeds to ask this question:

“What are you wearing on your feet when you hike?”

Me:  “Shoes?”

MR: “No. I know what will happen.  You will go buy a brand new pair of expensive hiking boots the day you drive to the mountain and then you will be in miserable pain the whole time.”

Me (silently): “He’s such a downer.  Why does he always know exactly what I’m going to do?  Is he reading my diary?  Oh wait, that was my mom when I was in 8th grade.”

Me (aloud):  “No!  I would never do that!  I’m not stupid you know.”

So now I’m on the hunt for proper footing as well.  I guess we can rent boots at REI but that seems kind of gross.  I guess we’ll see how it goes once I start pricing them.  I’d rather not spend $300 on shoes I’ll only wear once.  That is what Manolo Blahnick’s are for.

Anyway, I really, really did not want to go into the gym and put weight in my pack and get on the treadmill, but I did it.  It was hard.  And I only had a 10 pound dumbbell in my pack (at a 15 incline on the treadmill).  When I got home, the spouse asked how it went. 

Mr. Reality:  “Well?”

Me: “It was terrible.  Everything I hate happened.”

Mr. Reality: “Let me guess.  People looked at you, and then they talked to you with enthusiasm and curiosity.”

Me (shuddering):  “Exactly.”

This weekend I start climbing the hill behind our house, which will be my substitute for running bleachers.  We are supposed to do 18 million steps up and 18 million steps down.  I think it is really 1,890 but anything over 10 is infinity when climbing at this point.  Mr. Reality thinks that should be about 3 trips up and down the hill. His resting heart rate is about 40 and medical professionals always ask him if he is a marathon runner (not) and he can’t climb the dang thing once without stopping.  I’m dead.

Next week I will need to get back on track with scholarly blog posts.  This week a paper is due so there is no way I can try to be smart in two different mediums.

Here’s a picture of my pack and the sign I took to the gym.

Size Matters

31 05 2011

I’ve grown a little weary of all this running, which will shock most of you since I have a reputation for being very athletic and coordinated.  And a liar.  Anyway, I am good at cycling and while my trainer insists it is not the same as far as conditioning goes, I need something different to keep me motivated.  Last week we learned that wine and sugar are not appropriate motivators, so biking was my next option.  I have a sweet mountain bike that I purchased about 20 years ago that I absolutely love, but it is pretty old and it is not very fun to ride a mountain bike on the road.  Therefore, inspired by the opportunity to spend money I don’t have, I headed over to REI to check out their bike selection.

First, let me start by saying that this was a somewhat spontaneous visit so I was wearing work attire.  When I meandered over to the bike section, a very nice worker asked if I needed help.  I explained that I needed a road bike but don’t know anything about them.  She offered to fit me for a bike so that I would know the right size to get.  I figured this was a splendid plan so I followed her over to the service desk.  The worker, let’s call her Margaret, got out a tape measure and some weird looking sticks.  The first task, she told me, was to straddle a springy stick with a seat attached to it.  I got all prepared to do such when she asked me if I was sure I wanted to go through with it.  I asked why and she pointed out that I was wearing a skirt and there were about 20 people hanging around.  I informed her that it was no problem since I was wearing shorts under my skirt.  Now we are back to the lying part because in reality, while it may have looked like shorts, it was actually a Spanx, and I rarely leave home without one.  I’m pretty sure she figured it out because her face was beet red for the next five minutes.  Next, she measured my arms and some other stuff and told me she needed to “do some math” real quick.  I politely waited for her to put her numbers together and then this is the conversation that occurred:

Margaret:  “That is so cool.”

Me:  “What’s that?”

Margaret:  “Oh nothing….It’s just that I’ve figured out your measurement and you size out for a men’s large bike.”

Me:  “Sorry?”

Margaret:  “A men’s large is the size of bike you need to get.”

Me:  “No.”

Margaret: “Well it’s no big deal; it’s actually really cool, I’ve never sized a woman for a men’s large before.”

Me: “No.”

Awkward silence.

Me: “I’m 5’4” with tree trunk legs.”

Margaret: “The size is not determined by leg length, it has more to do with torso and arms.”

Me: “No.”

Margaret: “Er, well, let’s just go try one and see how it feels.”

So we trudged over to the bikes and I straddled a couple of men’s large frames (in a skirt).  They actually didn’t feel too bad.  But I’m still going to get a second opinion.

It Depends

25 05 2011

Last week I forgot to mention the third component of training for mountain climbing – nutrition.  Soon, we will have accountability partners reviewing our nutrition choices for the week and calling us out as they see fit when we are ingesting unhealthy items.  You know guys, I can take a lot in life, but mess with my sugar and I WILL CUT YOU!  I feel like I lead a pretty stressful existence, what with being a human and everything, so when a girl needs her Sour Patch Kids, why judge?  And when she needs to drown those candies with a bottle of red wine, well hey, even better.  You see, red wine has lots of things in it that are good for you, like alcohol.  Oh, and antioxidants and resveratrol, whatever those are. 

Therefore, in the spirit of being adventurous, I decided to try to alter my schedule a bit.  This week, I checked out Main Market in downtown Spokane.  I’ve heard rumors from people who know healthy people that this is a good place to eat lunch.  When I parked my giant SUV in the parking lot, I immediately got hate stares from two people with dreadlocks.  Whatever, don’t be hating on the girl who lives in the middle of nowhere in a snow belt.  As I continued into the store, I saw a lot of organic, athletically dressed people, mostly with yoga mats.  I personally had a lot of meetings that day and was dressed in typical attire, black suit, heels, lots of face paint.  I made my way to the deli counter and tried to place my order.  It sounded a lot like this: “Um, I’ll have the brown stuff in that bowl with the green things” and “I’ll try those things cut into shapes.” It turns out I ordered broccoli quinoa salad and fruit.  Because I was attracting a lot of attention at that point, I decided to take my lunch back to the office to eat.  Apparently, the attention was due to two events that I was completely oblivious to: 1) I had just cut in front of three people in line, and 2) I was parked in an “Electric Cars Only” parking spot.  So much for that adventure.  The food turned out to be amazing though, and due to Main Market’s close location to my work, it is totally possible to change into my workout clothes and walk there at lunch. You know, all incognito.

Our class discussions this week centered on how fear can cripple leadership performance.  A couple of quotes stood out to me in the book we are reading, High Altitude Leadership (2009).  First, “High altitude leaders tame fear in themselves, their teams, and their organizational cultures by taking decisive action” (p. 7); and “Anything I’ve ever done that ultimately was worthwhile…..initially scared me to death.”  I particularly love that second quote, as I seem to get myself into lots of situations by taking the jump into something that is very scary, sometimes just for the thrill of it.  But then I become paralyzed once the leap is made and decisive action tends to disappear.  I am then reduced to the “fight or flight” mentality, with mostly flight occurring.  For example, I will sometimes sign up for things that I think will challenge me socially (severe introverts in the room, holla!), and I will show up alone just to prove I can do it.  But then I find a safe place in the room or a safe person and I anchor myself to them for the rest of the event rather than purposefully attempting to network and meet new people.  Or I leave.  So I’m good with taking the leap, just not so good with the landing.

Speaking of fear, a note about the exercise.  I hadn’t seen my personal trainer for almost two weeks so I printed out the training schedule from class to show him.  Here’s how that conversation went down:

Me:  “Here’s my work out schedule.”

Kirk: ……sneer

That’s right, no words, just a sneer.  When awkwardness ensues, I tend to start filling up gaping holes with mindless chatter.  So I’m all like, “Mmmkay, well I’m sure we’re already covering all this so here just give that back and we’ll get started!”  Then Kirk goes, “It’s the same workout just more sets added each week.”  And I go, “Uh huh, but the point is to focus on your core so you can be really steady on the mountain.”  Then he just points at the leg press machine (which is not on the schedule of course).  I sit down and he puts the weight on and I say “That’s more than my husband weighs.”  And he says, ever so sweetly, “Do you want to have strong legs?”  Of course I’m thinking of something really sarcastic to say here so there is a pause and then out of nowhere “DO YOU WANT TO HAVE STRONG LEGS?!”  “Yes”, I whisper.  And here is where I believe America is completely lacking in an invention.  Because as I started to push those 220 lbs with my legs, I had a terrible moment of apprehension where I thought maybe I might pee my pants.  And the only thing that could possibly help me in that moment was Exercise Depends.  Just think of it, catchy jingle (like weights dropping on the floor and lots of groaning)…”Exercise Depends, for those awkward gym moments where your trainer is yelling in your face, you are dripping in sweat, and you have no choice but to pee your pants a little as you lift that last set of reps.” Am I right or AM I RIGHT!?