What I Did On My Summer Vacation

What I Did On My Summer Vacation.

At the beginning of every school year, I remember teachers instructing us to take out our newly sharpened #2 wooden pencils, open up to a blank page in our black and white marbled composition book, and write on that prompt.

Did you go to the pool everyday?  Tell me about that.

Did you go on a trip to Disneyland?  Tell me about that.

Did you play video games from morning to night?  Tell me about that.

Well, what I did on my summer vacation was none of the above, but is definitely an event worth writing about on this blog.

I competed in a supertotal meet.

The two words, “super” and “total”, already feel larger-than-thou, grand, and just plain intimidating.  A total of what?  What’s so super about it?

For those that don’t know, I like to lift weights.  Not just randomly going to the gym, hopping on some machines and calling it a day, but I love picking up a barbell from the floor and pulling it straight overhead or placing it on my back and squatting down so that my hamstrings touch my calves.  I like to lift weights.  I initially started learning how to snatch and clean and jerk (aka the Olympic lifts that you see done remarkably well by Europeans and the Chinese at the actual Olympics), and then dabbled in powerlifting for a few months (squatting, benching, and deadlifting). I eventually shifted my focus back to weightlifting at the start of this year and became more serious about it when I bought my own barbell.  Anyhow, most meets will be either only Olympic lifts (2 total) OR powerlifting lifts (3 total).  A supertotal has all 5 lifts.  In a day.  Three attempts per lift.  The athlete hefts around a loaded barbell 15 times in a span of 6 hours to see how much weight she can lift.

Dang, it’s exhausting.

But that is what I did yesterday.  And while the experience was certainly memorable, there are a few golden nuggets I am taking away from this experience.

  1.  I love food.  Like, really, really love food.  I struggled with anorexia for a good part of my young adulthood, and now at 38 years young, I can say with assurance, I love food and it loves me.  I cut to the 97# weight class for this meet, and while I walk around between 101-103#, losing that much water weight and having to be stringent on the amount of salt, liquid, etc. I was taking in prior to the meet made me, well, pretty irritable.  I wanted to just eat ice cream because it was SO DARN HOT.  I wanted to eat my kid’s pizza but needed to watch my fat intake.  When I mentioned to a friend that I was cutting, a look of concern broached her face.  “Are you sure you’re going to be ok?  Even if the weigh-in is only for that day…do you feel tempted?  To, you know, be that weight?”  I love that she asked me that.  Why?  Because it showed she cared.  But also, because it was a sign, a landmark of sorts, because my response was instantaneous:  NO.  NO WAY AM I TEMPTED.  I FEEL TOO SMALL.  I CAN’T IMAGINE WALKING AROUND AT THIS WEIGHT FOREVER.  IT IS MADNESS.  And let me tell you, that first meal after weigh-ins was magical.  I ate without guilt.  Sushi?  Sure!  Frozen yogurt with chocolate toppings?  Yes, please!  Some cookies my husband bought?  Bring it!  This meet solidified that my worth is no longer tied to a number on the scale.  Emotions like guilt and fear are not linked to whether or not I had a bite of mac and cheese.  I love food.  And I have already started my journey to massing up to lift in the 49kg (107.8#) weight class.
  2. Be smart.  On the final lift of the day, the deadlift, I had the opportunity to break an American record.  I had already set a squat and bench record, and now, the deadlift.  Do I try?  Do I do it?  Do I go for it?  Surprisingly (as competitive of a person as I am), I didn’t.  I pulled three deadlifts that were pretty conservative (my nice way of saying “easy”).  Why?  Why not go for the gold?  There were multiple reasons.  I was already pretty exhausted and I knew my form would be less than stellar.  I was already at a low body weight so my physiology was further compromised.  I hadn’t trained conventional deadlifts much, let alone pulling the weight that would have had me setting the record.  I am a weightlifter, not a powerlifter, and I am starting a new weightlifting training cycle on Monday. Why compromise myself, injure myself, just for one lift?  Is hitting that arbitrary deadlift number really that important to me in the long run?  Uh, no, it’s not that important.  So I listened to my body and completed the meet uninjured.  That’s a win in my book, no matter what the weight was on the bar.
  3. Just have fun with it.  I met a new friend too.  It was her first meet.  She had just picked up weightlifting two months ago.  She arrived alone (her family, boyfriend and coach eventually came to the event), and while we waited to warm-up, we started talking.  And you know what?  She made the meet fun.  I loved sharing stories about work, lifting, and sports with her, but more importantly, seeing her take that step of faith to “just do it” (I know, corny corny corny) and jump into a competition was inspiring.  Meets are stressful, anxiety producing experiences, and yet, she did it all with a smile on her face.  This new lifting friend reminded me that while hitting certain numbers is a grand goal to have, ultimately the joy of the sport is not contingent on the amount of medals won.  It comes from that feeling of euphoria one gets when pulling a weight from the ground she didn’t think was possible.  It comes from the rush of adrenaline flowing through a person’s veins right before stepping up to the barbell.  It’s that energy, the excitement, of pushing oneself past just being comfortable and trying something new and challenging.

So that, THAT supertotal meet, is what I did on my summer vacation.  Who knew I could learn so much from spending a day with a barbell?

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I’m Going Where?!

“I’m going to yoga tomorrow morning.  Want to go with me?”

The words are foreign.

There was a time in my life, like, 12 years ago, when “yoga” and “Lauren” were synonymous with one another.  Purple sticky mat and lithe little Lauren were one and the same.

I had my certain spot in the yoga room I veered to whenever I opened up the mirrored doors.

I had my select yoga gear (it was actually just a handful of ratty shirts and long pants that I reserved for asanas) that got more mileage than my beat-up Corolla.

I had my favorite postures, namely camel and forward fold, and felt a ridiculous amount of giddiness whenever approaching these movements.

Yoga was my life.  And that is no simplification.  I was a posture, the posture was me.  Funny how today when my friend and I attended a class in the wee early hours of 9am (My body creaked!  My joints cracked!), it was the first time I set foot into a studio in, oh, hmm, maybe, was it 6 months?  8 months?  My daily attendance has dwindled to a bi-annually event.

What happened?

I could say that I gave up my yoga mat because I was getting tired of doing the same postures over and over again.  I was a Bikram and Ashtanga devotee, and those of you who know those two styles of asana can attest to the fact that there is always a set flow to each practice.   Every time.  No deviation.

Part of that is true, that the rigidity of going from pranayama to half moon to backward bend and so on was making me feel complacent.  But in reality, the expectations of being a yogi were getting to me.  Seriously getting to me.  And not just physically, but mentally as well.

Some background:  I was a long distance runner for as long as I can remember and took up Bikram yoga because I needed my body to heal from all the pounding and abuse I racked up from the miles on the road.  After my first sweaty class I was hooked because I realized I was a natural yogini.  Shorter legs, longer torso, extremely flexible–I could already do the splits without much prompting and in a heated room I could do even more.  Being the perfectionist and goal-oriented person I am, I continued my yoga journey in hopes of creating THE PERFECT ASANAS EVER.  When teachers proclaimed to “let your body guide you, only do what you can do today,” I internally scoffed.  No, I was going to push the limits of my flexibility.  I wanted to mimic the Chinese contortionists fellow yogis claimed I looked like.

After five years of continuous classes, hitting the hot studio once or twice daily, I was close to achieving the “I have no bones in my body” ideal.  Full camel.  Standing splits.  Full backward bends.  Guillotine.  Nothing was off limits.  But for what?  My joints ached because I was actually over stretching the ligaments.  I was constantly thirsty because I wasn’t drinking enough water to hydrate after being inside a 100 degree room for 90 minutes everyday.  Physically, I was tired.  My body was crying out for me to stop.

Mentally, my brain was also crying out for me to stop.  My identity was wrapped around how flexible I was, how “cool” it was that I could do splits on command.  Yeah, it’s a fun trick once in awhile, but the pressure to be “that uber flexible and so amazing yogi gal” was mounting.  I didn’t know who I was apart from my purple mat.

So I just stopped.  I threw away my yoga clothes.  I cut up my yoga mats.  I cried.  And cried.  And Cried.  It felt like I was discarding a part of myself.  It was cathartic and necessary, yes, but also very similar to the purging process alcoholics go through when weaning off the bottle.  For many months after I was an emotional wreck trying to figure out what my next sports mission would be.

I tried other activities.  I saw a CrossFit video and thought Fran seemed easy, so I tried doing a pull-up and realized all I could do was just hang there.  I tried rolling around in a jiu-jitsu gi and became dizzy after warm-ups.  I felt like I was failing, failing in being a powerhouse in some other kind of sport.

That was when God showed me this:  Is my body really just for sport?  To receive medals and acolades for?  Or is my body meant for more–to honor Him, to do His will, to do His work?

It was a total paradigm shift.  Yoga was not my life.  Sport was not my life.  Jesus was my life.

So I approached new activities with no expectations, no restraints, no labels.  And you know what?  I HAD FUN.  I didn’t have to be “that super strong girl” or “the girl that runs really far and really fast.”  I could just be me.  I laughed with my husband as he tried to teach me how to put on gloves and box.  I jumped around with excitement when I was able to do 10 push-ups in a row.  I cheered with friends when I finally achieved a 1.5x bodyweight squat.  I was having fun because I didn’t need to have my sense of worth, who I am, wrapped up in a certain number, asana, or label.

And by bi-annual yoga class today?  All I can say is, it was fun.  My friend and I ended up being the only two in the room with the teacher.  We laughed during the last savasana (I know you’re not supposed to, but whatever!), we breathed into alignment with the postures, and after, we had a great lunch together and enjoyed one another’s company.

It was fun.  It was grand.  I got to hang out with a friend, work on my spinal alignment, and basically spend some time just being me.  Have I already signed up for my next 90 minute asana session?  No.  I have no idea when I’m going to another class.  Maybe next week?  Maybe next month?  Either way, I’m entering that room with no expectations and no asana bar I have to reach.  It will just be fun.  Pure fun.

I am dense.

I am dense.  Really, I am.

 

My husband likes to joke that public school kids have more common sense than private school graduates (that’s up for debate, by the way), but I truly am dense.

 

Sad to say, but no amount of great college prepatory education could make me any more aware, any more knowledgeable about Jesus and His plan for my life.  I love learning.  I love being informed.  And yet, there is one area of my life—my walk with God—where I am truly dense.

 

I try my hardest to “undense” myself.

 

I pray every day to hear from God.

 

“God!  Show me what you want me to do!!!  What is Your will?!?!”

 

Crickets.  Silence.

 

Or so I think.

 

Could it really be that God is truly speaking to me, but I just don’t hear (or am unwilling) to hear Him?

 

Many times, it takes a big whack on the head or some kind of major upset for me to then realize “OOOHHHHH, that was God all along.”

 

For example, my broken left wrist.  Way back when Misha was a little toddler, still running around with chubby little legs and drooling over mashed peas, I decided to enter the Honolulu Triathlon.  What propelled me to do it?  Well, Kyle was going to do the race and my competitive spirit was lit.  I hadn’t rode a bike in well over a few years, I rarely swam, and was much more invested in my work as a yoga instructor and personal trainer.

 

And yet, I wanted to enter.

 

Sadly, the biggest (and only) reason I decided to pay the $100-something dollars and dust off my black biking tights was to prove to my husband (and myself) that I “still had it”, whatever that “it” really was.  I was trying to force my identity from one steeped in God’s presence to one wrapped up in medals and athletic accolades.

 

I had completed a few sprint and Olympic distance tris in years past, but after burning myself out on the sport, God showed me that that type of endurance activity was NOT what He wanted for my life.  At the time, I was too obsessed over running a certain amount of miles, getting in a swim xxxx amount of times a week, and practicing my biking technique since I was still very new to the art of balancing on two wheels.  Instead, He wanted me to find my self-worth in Him and not my split-times or age group distinctions.  So I gave up the sport and felt pretty at ease with it.  Until the Honolulu Triathlon reared its’ ugly head, and with it, my competitive and self-absorbed ego.  I felt God urging me not to do it.  For what?  Why?

 

But I ignored His voice, and I did it.  I dusted off the old Huffy (I didn’t even have a road bike—my husband was using the only one available), ran a few laps around the neighborhood before the race, schlepped myself to the pool a few times, and deemed myself ready.  Obviously, God was speaking to me.  Loud.  And.  Clear.  It was a small voice at first, that voice that seems like one’s conscience saying, “Uh, maybe you shouldn’t do this race.  What for?!  Do you really need to?”  As the date of the event came closer, that voice got louder and with it, this uncomfortable, unsettling pit of fear grew in my stomach.

 

“It’s just pre-race jitters.”

 

But then the day of, I knew, I felt it in my core, that I should just hang up my shoes, not jump in the ocean, and sit out.  God was speaking to me, and my hands were literally shaking because I knew the right decision to make—not do the race—but was too scared to back out.

 

What would people say if I didn’t compete?  What would my husband say?  I would be a failure.  A.  Failure.

 

And so to make an already long story short, I jumped into the freezing cold ocean water, swam my 800 meters, hopped onto the Huffy, and started down the street for the next few miles.  It was during the bike portion, however, when I made a sudden turn because SURPRISE!!! I was going the wrong way on the course, that I fell off my bike, breaking my wrist in two areas.

 

God spoke to me that day not to do the race.  He spoke to me the days before when I looked at my bike and thought, “Darn, hope I don’t fall off during the race.”  He spoke to me weeks before that when I’d stare at the rubber wheels and ruminate over how I am very inept at riding.  He spoke to me when I signed the waiver to register for the race, my eyes glazing over the fine print that “one could get seriously injured from the event.”  But I didn’t listen, and so God had to majorly intervene and do SOMETHING to grab my attention.

 

Back then, I was dense.  It usually took a big sign to make me realize what I was doing and what God wanted me to do were not always in agreement.  But slowly, surely, with each passing day that I’m journaling and meditating on His word, I am becoming more sensitive to His spirit.  I have been praying for revelation, for His will to be made manifest in my life, and you know what?  He hasn’t let me down yet.  What is His speaking to me like?  It’s a nudge.  A feeling of peace.  The calmness that invades my spirit.  I’m learning more and more to trust Him, which is challenging because like I mentioned in other posts, I am a creature of habit and control.  But I’m tired of being dense, and I’m tired of breaking bones.  It’s turning my “I AM dense” to an “I WAS dense.”  I love that I can hear the soft nudge of His voice, recognize it as His, and follow through.

 

It’s liberating.

 

It’s freeing.

 

It’s living a life of faith.

 

Freeing faith.

I. Did. It.

I did a thing.

Yes, I did a thing.

I like to say that it was “for fun”, but not many people would imagine donning an unattractive black singlet and lifting weights over one’s head while a crowd of onlookers stare as “fun”.

But that is what I did.  Two days ago I competed in my first weightlifting meet.

I am no stranger to competitions–yoga asana, powerlifting, musical performances, I have participated in a range of sweat-producing, anxiety-creating events.  But this was the first time I ever weightlifted in front of a crowd.

For those who don’t know, weightlifting, aka Olympic lifting, consists of two different movements:  the snatch (barbell goes from ground to directly overhead) and the clean and jerk (barbell goes from ground to shoulders and then shoulders to overhead).  Watch actual professional-types do these lifts (like the wonderful Alyssa Ritchey, Morghan King, or Sarah Robles), and it is fluid, graceful, elegant, and, well, just plain awesome.

Watch me do these lifts?  Ahem.  It’s obvious I need some more practice.

But you know what?  I don’t mind saying that although I am nowhere near the caliber of those grand athletes, I am pretty darn proud of what I did do.  It feels odd to say that, as my total was nothing of extreme noteworthiness.  I weighed in at 46.4kg and did a 33kg snatch and 41 kg clean and jerk for a total of 74kg.  Some lifters in my 48kg weight class clean and jerk what I totaled.  Eek.  But I had fun, and that is what I am the most excited about.

Don’t get me wrong.  The flury of butterflies in the stomach warming up for the day were having a grand ole party, and my hands shook a little as I went to chalk them for my first attempts, but all I thought in the midst of stepping onto the platform and grabbing the barbell was “Thank you, Jesus for this awesome opportunity.  Thank you.”  Because in reality, I am still learning the ropes, I am growing in my understanding of what it means to participate in a weight class sport, and I am seeing the beauty in unfurling the mysteries of the first, second, and third pull.

Jesus has given me the opportunity to make wonderful friends through the sport, and He is also revealing how weightlifting is a lot like life:  commitment, patience, perseverance are all needed to become the best athlete possible.  Rock-star status doesn’t emerge overnight.  And much like life, there are ups and downs, but one must have faith in the process, faith in her coach and support from teammates to overcome the rough times.  How wonderful it is that Jesus is enabling me to learn these lessons through weightlifting.

So yes, I had fun.  I got a medal.  I made new friends.  I picked up the barbell six times and got green lights for all six attempts.  I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning.  Now to look forward to the next time I get to don that ugly black singlet…

I Missed that Freeing Faith

When I initially started up this blog last year, I did so with the intention of documenting my journey to a healthier body, mind, and spirit.  Cliched and corny?  Yeah, a bit.  But I was at a very deep low.  I had just seen a picture of myself at a friend’s wedding, and the site of my sinewy legs, thin arms, and sallow cheeks made me cringe.

 

 

Granted, I wasn’t as emaciated as when I was in the depths of anorexia recovery, trying to claw my way out from being 88 pounds.  But I was definitely too small, too fragile, not ENOUGH to support the training I was doing and stress I had with family and work.  So I asked God to help me.  To help me gain the weight I desperately needed.  To help me cut down on the amount of exercise I was doing.  To help me seek Him first and His plan for my life.

 

And I felt free.

 

The ability to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted felt inviting and like a gift.  It was almost as if God gave me a wonderfully wrapped present, and every day I awoke I literally tore open the bright wrapping and thought to myself, “Yum!!!  What will I eat today!!!  Pancakes?  Bacon?  Yum!!!”

 

Life was surely grand.  I ate.  I rested.  I ate more.  I rested.  Rinse and repeat.

 

But sure enough, I started to fall back into my old ways, my old habits.

 

I dug out the Renaissance Periodization diet templates I bought from long ago, and rationalized that I needed to gain weight, but in a “healthy” manner so as not to gain too much fat.

 

I upped the intensity of my training (reps and sets and poundage all went up) because in order to “get swole”, I needed to also train for hypertrophy.  If not, all the food I ate would immediately turn to fat.

 

I traded rest days for active rest days and strapped on running shoes to put in a few short miles on the dreadmill (that’s not a typo, by the way.  Dread.  Mill).

 

And the freedom I initially experienced, the wonderfully wrapped gift God had for me, started to diminish, the ribbon on the present wilting and falling apart.

 

There were moments when the light of God’s love and His renewing faith shone through the mess of macronutrients, number of repetitions of bench press, and grocery lists for the week.

 

I meditated on Psalm 23 for seven days straight, three times a day, and felt the warm touch and embrace of my Father–but as soon as I stopped seeking His word for healing, I turned to my RP template to give me comfort (controlling my food=controlling my life).

 

I listened to wonderful speakers during our school’s Christian Emphasis Week and left the daily chapels empowered and motivated to seek God’s love.  And then I’d head to the gym for an extra body-building type session and forget (well, more like ignore) the things He was calling me to do (and let me tell you, He wasn’t telling me to do 5 sets of 20 of tricep extensions).

 

Eventually I recognized these issues, the avoidance, the fact that I was falling back into old routines that were unhealthy both for my body, mind, and spirit.  But what happened then?  Was I able to find that freeing faith again?  If so, how did it happen?  What about now?  Am I still lured by the call of my RP template and barbell training? So many questions to answer, and so rather than make this post a 15 page book, I’ll share more about this on my next post.   🙂

POP! POP!

I feel like Britney.

Oops. I did it again.

Pulled my rib, that is.

Is this a sign that I am getting old? That my body is slowly starting to fall apart?

I am reminded of our school’s alma mater whenever I picture myself growing white hair (which I have none of, thank you very much) or wrinkles around my eyes (those I do have, sigh):

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength
They shall mount up with wings as eagles
They shall run and not be weary
They shall walk and not faint
Teach us Lord, teach us Lord to wait.”

I teach at a local Baptist school, so if the refrain sounds familiar, it’s because it’s from Isaiah 40, one of my favorite chapters in the Old Testament. There’s something grand and breathtaking about these lines.  To me, it’s reassuring that during those moments of weakness and fatigue, God is there. AND He’s not just “there” to watch us to be a cheerleader with His megaphone and poms-poms proclaiming, “Wow, that’s tough. Keep on going!” He’s actually there to endure with us, to lift us up out of the ashes, and to give us, well, LIFE.

But our victory is contingent on the fact that we must wait. We must be patient.

And that is a lesson I am still learning.

To back track a bit, I pulled my rib on Tuesday night, exactly a week ago. Previous to this, I was in a semi-I’ll-take-a-break-from-lifting-and-exercising phase. Why? Well, I’ll probably write about that later, but basically, my body was saying to me STOP. STOP. STOP. In all capitals. And in bold. And italicized.  So with the zeal of the Holy Spirit behind me, I said to myself, yes, I will take a break and let my muscles heal, let my systems reconnect, let the peace of the Lord wash over me.

And…that lasted about three days.  No, actually two and a half.

Lack of patience?  Lack of waiting on God to make things right?  Yup.  But why?  If I know Jesus to be Lord, to be the maker of all good things, why could I not listen and wait on Him to heal my body?

Selfishness.

Because as a person obsessed with exercising, training, wanting to be better, faster, stronger, I couldn’t resist the lure of the barbell.  I craved the instant gratification of sweating dripping down my face after doing hypertrophic squats gave.  I wanted the feeling that I was accomplishing SOMETHING by setting up to bench.  I needed to feel validated, that I was working hard to attain some lofty powerlifting goal.

So I went to train on Tuesday night and on the board were squats and deadlifts.  About an hour into training, I bent over to get a grip on the bar for my umpteenth deadlift.  I took my breath, sat back, and POP.  It wasn’t audible, but I sure as heck felt something like a bubble explode on my side.

Yikes.

Oddly enough there was no pain–well, no pain until later that night when I couldn’t lie down or sleep because taking a breath, rolling over, basically moving hurt.  So I took the day off.  No, actually, I didn’t take the day off, as I had “things to do” and “places to go”.  School was starting on Thursday, so I had to get everything set for my classes and my kids needed mommy to run around with them.  Also, I had to go to training, because, well, you know, lifting weights is LIFE (that was sarcastic, by the way).  And so I went to train on Thursday (I know, CRINGE!!!!), but prior to getting to the powerlifting facility, I said a short prayer.

Lord, protect me.  Let me know what you want me to do.  I am not sure that I should be training, so please make it clear if I should go to the gym or stay at home.

And wouldn’t you know, the coach was locked out.  He was there.  We were there.  But we couldn’t get in.

Kismet.

Flashforward to Friday, and miraculously, the pain started to dissipate and I could move around fairly easily without discomfort.

Winning.

And so I started thinking about what I could do for training.  What movements could I work to help with my weak deadlift form?  Could I bench?  As all of these thoughts ran through my head, I bent down to pick up my shoe and POP.

Again.  I pulled my rib.

This time the pain was immediate and in the front.  I couldn’t stand up straight or take a breath without excruciating pain.

Many thoughts raced through my mind as I sat down, doubled over with fear and the feeling of stabbing needles radiating through my body.  I had to teach.  Could I even give the English lesson for the day?  I didn’t think I broke anything because there was no traumatic accident this time, just a feeling of something shifting.  Would the pain lessen if I tried maneuvering the rib back into place?  Should I go to urgent care?

It was at that time that I sent up this prayer.  Lord, I am sorry.  I am sorry for not listening to you.  I know you want me to rest, and I couldn’t listen to you.  I was so focused on myself and what I wanted, that I was blind to the fact that you are giving me this time to draw closer to you and seek you for healing–inside and out.

So here I am, four days later, and after a good chiropractic and acupuncture session, I am feeling better.  Still not perfect, but at least I can move around without needles shooting through my side.  And even better, I hear God very clearly right now:

REST.  REST.  REST.

I told Him I would, and honestly, it is HARD.  I am not sure how long I will be away from the barbell and weights for, but slooooowly, God is revealing more to me about WHY I want to even be in the gym in the first place (more on that in another upcoming post).

So here I am, praying for Jesus to renew my strength and help me to soar on wings like eagles.  More importantly, I am praying for the patience to listen to Him and wait for Him because our fallible, fragile bodies are only made powerful and whole by the hands of the great Creator.

Ramblings and Revelations

I can blame it on genetics, since my mother weighed less than 100 pounds on her wedding day and my father entered the army after high school measuring in at a hefty 115 pounds. I can say that I have a small boned frame as I am half Japanese and half Okinawan. I can also claim that my body is just made to be “small”, as even when pregnant I never weighed more than a whopping 125 pounds. But the fact of the matter is, I am still in need of putting on some pounds.

This is not a crazy revelation to anyone that has been around me, oh, for the past year or two. After giving birth to my son in July 2015, the act of nursing plus working full time plus being a mommy to my daughter plus keeping the house in somewhat clean shape whittled my weight down to a whopping 100 pounds. During this time I was still hitting the platform to clean and jerk and snatch, and while I could heft my bodyweight (and even a little more) overhead, I wanted to add more plates to the barbell. I saw Mattie Rodgers’ biceps bulging while maintaining her wide-armed front rack position, and I ogled Morghan King’s meaty thighs as she exploded out of her high bar squats. Basically, I wanted to be stronger, more thick, just MORE. But in order to do so, I needed to gain weight.

So I tried doing a variety of options—I went back to seeing my old eating disorder dietitian but that didn’t work out. I enrolled in our gym’s Transformation Challenge (muscle gain category, mind you) in order to keep myself accountable to gaining weight, and sure enough, I saw the scale move up five pounds in a span of 12 weeks. I felt victorious, as weighing 105 pounds awarded me first place in the female muscle gain category, yet fast forward a few months, and I was once again back down to 100 pounds. Well, more like 102. Regardless, I was not where I needed to be. I knew I needed some kind of eating regimen to follow, and Paul Salter with Renaissance Periodization gave me a wonderful template. He started me off on maintenance, meaning I first needed to just get used to eating regularly throughout the day a certain amount of fats, carbs, and proteins. Maintenance agreed with me, and I was soon heading off into massing land.

This is where the rubber met the road, and where I am still struggling. I would gain a pound or two or three, and then internally freak out. Why should my heart be filled with fear when what I wanted was to get stronger and the only way to do so was to gain weight? Paul is great in that he basically told me that by not following the template he provided, I was throwing my money down the drain. His statement was true, and so every time I was faced with having to eat another bite of peanut butter or chicken, I thought about my hard earned paycheck, and how NOT scooping myself another mound of rice was akin to a check being chewed up by the garbage disposal.

And yet, I cut corners. I would save up my allotted fat and carb servings for the end of the day because I was fearful that I’d crave them at night and then overeat. But by the time my bedtime snack was ready to be eaten, I felt physically full and couldn’t stomach the thought of adding cereal or nuts to my already dense mound of casein pudding with peanut butter, almonds, and banana (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). Every Monday and Thursday when I’d report to Paul on my eating consistency and weight, I’d feel this huge letdown—I imagined him opening up my email, already expecting to see that I was missing a fat serving on my food log and stagnating in weight gain. I felt like a failure on multiple levels.

During this time I was still lifting weights, and in fact competed in a powerlifting meet where I weighed in at 45kg. My daily training was taxing as heavy deadlifts and squats will take its toll on the nervous system, especially on a system that is being under nourished. I still looked forward to putting on my knee sleeves for leg workouts or wrapping up my wrists to bench, but I was beginning to feel a sense of monotony. I can’t quite explain it, but I felt stagnant, in my lifts and in my mind and spirit. I’d bench up to 100#, and then feel like that was it. I had no more to give. I’d squat 135#, and anything above that felt like arduous work.

A few weeks ago I was prompted by D’Lissa to meditate on scripture like it was medicine, so I opened up Psalm 23 multiple times throughout the day. Reading about Jesus as the shepherd opened my eyes, yet it was a recent conversation I had with a friend in California when God spoke loudly and clearly. The morning started out like any other, as I had just gone through Psalm 23 during my quiet time. The one line about walking through the valley of the shadow of death, however, leaped out from the page. Mind you, I am nowhere near dying, as my heart is beating well and I can function at work and home. But there are signs that my spirit is ill. How do I know that is so? It’s because I feel gray. My heart bursts with unspeakable joy when I see Shogun smile or hear Misha sing, but I don’t have the capacity to connect the joy in my heart to the joy I know I am missing in my spirit. My emotional mothering side can feel, but my spirit side cannot. The passage reaffirmed this revelation, and so I mentioned this to my California friend immediately after putting down my Bible. I described to her that it is like when I have a cold and my head feels disconnected to my body. That is my situation from when I wake up to the moment my head hits the pillow at night–fuzzy, unclear, and BLAH. My California pal said that I should pray on it more, but that maybe separating the identity I have in God from my athletic achievements will clear the fogginess.

My identity in Christ? What? Don’t I already know what that is?

I like to think that I do, but in fact, I am still grappling with it. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, considering I just talked about identity at one of our school’s Christian Emphasis Week seminars. But I am falling back into relying on a title more than Jesus to define who I am.

Remember when I said I was always small? Being the “small but strong girl” is a title that I didn’t realize I clung to until I sat down this morning after my conversation with my California friend. I like other people recognizing that I am slight of build but can move around weights that are massive in comparison to my size. Since I look for that athletic validation from friends (“Wow!!! You lifted that? How much do you weigh again?”), there is fear in what will happen when I do gain weight. What if my squats still feel heavy and I don’t add on weight to my bench? What if friends and family make comments about my suddenly burgeoning stomach, legs, and arms? I know what I can do as a 102# lifter, and it actually is pretty remarkable to be able to handle the weights I currently do given the stressful schedule I have as a mother, wife, and teacher.

But what can I do at a higher weight? It’s unknown, and that lack of knowledge leaves fear in my spirit. My coach and Paul say that at a higher body weight my lifts will definitely improve, which is somewhat comforting. Heck, even my husband who has no experience in powerlifting says the same thing. Yet I’m still fearful because gaining weight will make me lose my title. What title will I then have?

I know I can title myself as a “child of God” or “a person made in God’s image.” But that is hard to describe and feel. I am very right-brained, so I want the facts and figures, the numbers and black and white outline, to tell me what my title is. But in reality, do I even NEED a title??? Why do I feel the desire to have to label myself? Is it so that I can get validation from other people so that immediately upon seeing my title, they will accept and “know me”?

Maybe. I am still praying through all of this, so excuse this long-winded post, as it’s basically everything that’s in my head erupting on the computer. I definitely need more time to process this all, as even thinking about being made in God’s image is mystifying. God is so many things: a Father, a lover of my soul, a comforter, a provided, a healer, a king. The list goes on and on, so how do I even begin to come to terms that I am made in that image?? It literally leaves me in awestruck wonder. I will return to this blog and document more about my processing of this identity issue.

The challenging part about processing is being bombarded with images on Instagram and Facebook. I see powerlifters, short gals with thick thighs, tall women with lanky legs, and I compare. And so for a week, yes, just a week, I am challenging myself not to add to those barrage of pictures and videos of deadlifting females. Instead, I am refraining from putting up any athletic-centered posts. This challenge may not seem grand to the normal person, but my husband (and many of my friends and family) know that I put up a lot of lifting shots on my IG page. A. LOT. I love going on Instagram to zone out on pictures (Look! A cute dog! Look! Food!), but if all my feed produces are videos of my squatting, benching, and deadlifting, then something is amiss because the Big 3 are not my life. God is. My family is. My friends are.

Anyway, that is the plan for now. Refrain from posting on social media all of my normal gym stuff. That, and really following the plan Paul has set for me TO THE TEE. I don’t need an accountability partner, as that is what I am enlisting Paul’s help for and I am an adult who knows what I need to do. But I need to just take that leap of faith. Become bigger, not just so that I can lift heavier weights, but to break the title, the label, that says I am the “small girl.” Because in reality, didn’t God make me for a wondrous and glorious purpose, and NOT just to be looked at as “the tiny girl who benchs a lot”?

If you lasted this long reading this post, thank you. ☺ I will surely update you all on the new revelations God is giving.