Over the Christmas holiday I went to visit my brother and sister-in-law in St. George. Three of my favorite nephews live there and it's warm when everywhere else is cold and after the wacko year that was 2012, I was very much in need of the high dose of family and chaos I always find there. Christopher cooks things that you can't imagine and takes me on bike rides, Tasha teaches me how to do my hair and dares me to wear things I don't think I can and the boys are goofy and crazy and they make their Aunt Katie WORK to impress them. I love it there.
The first day I went to hot yoga with my sister-in-law. I hadn't been to yoga in awhile. When we got to the end of class and we laid on the floor and did a supine twist I was grateful that the sweat on my face covered up the tears that the twist was wringing out of me. It had been an incredible year but it had also been an incredibly hard year and as is often that case after a Games, I come home and spend months trying to figure out if I have another one in me. Tasha said, "do more yoga, the yogis love you. It will help you."
We did more the next day. And then the next day I met my tall, handsome friend Lex for a 6 am class because who doesn't want to get out of bed at 5:30 in the morning for peace, balance and sweaty, shirtless guys in great shape? We did yoga every single day I was there. I drove up to Salt Lake and found a yoga studio that was open on Christmas Eve and it chased away that creeping dread I have been feeling the last few years as more kids drop into our family that I'm the old maid crashing someone else's holiday.
I got plenty of sleep and family time in Utah. The yoga though, the yoga flipped some switch I'd been looking for. I bought a pass at the studio near my house and put yoga into my regular life.
I went on a business trip to New York in February and over dinner my friend Lindsey and I were discussing our hectic schedules and lack of sleep. She told me to go to bed earlier. I rolled my eyes. "What are you even doing after 10:30 on a weeknight? Just go to bed! You'll feel so much better, " she said. I have a sheet of paper from my doctor next to my bed that says "go to bed by 10:30." I have looked at it and laughed at it a million times because who goes to bed at 10:30. And then over table side guacamole, Lindsey, who is fun and cool and brave and interesting says "just go to bed".
And I tried it. And I felt better. And life didn't get less fun.
I had come home from Christmas to my company opening a gym on the second floor of our building. A gym with a studio and towel service and soap in the showers. On the second floor of the place I go every day. The gym practically takes your hand and leads you to it. My friend at work started really working out seriously. She wanted to do the Insanity videos and needed a partner. I never liked working out at lunch. Packing a gym bag, bringing snacks, taking two showers every day. Laundry. How do you do your hair after you sweat like a pig for an hour? And things are busy and I don't even take lunch most days. But I packed a bag. And we did a week. And then we did two, three, four. I went to LA for work and we did spin classes and drank cold pressed juices. I came home and we did the entire two month Insanity cycle. I didn't miss a day. I didn't make excuses. Some days I didn't want to go and Lisa made me. Some days I made her. My new afternoon hairdo became the top knot. We got a weight training routine and I learned my way around the free weights. I did squats. I saw muscles appear I had never seen on my body before. Someone made a comment one day about my "guns" and I almost fainted.
I felt better. I got just as much work done. I stopped staying late.
I was sleeping. I was working out. I was eating way, way too much junk. My friend Jennise was raving about this cleansing system she uses and one day in a fit of frustration after too many nights of fast food I texted her. What is this cleanse? Will you help me?
So I bought it. It wasn't cheap. But it seemed like a good investment given the enormous time and energy commitment I had already made to being healthier.
It was nine days. Five days of shakes and four days of fasting. I eat handfuls of M&M's at 2:00 in the afternoon and make nachos while I'm downloading music at midnight. Shakes and fasts and salads in a jar are not my lifestyle. But I spent a lot of money and I made a committment to a friend so I tried it.
Day 1 was not hard at all. Day 2 my friend Jess and I organized a girl's night that started at Buffalo Wild Wings and ended in movie popcorn. I was tempted. Wings and movie popcorn are two of my happy places. I didn't eat any wings. I sat next to popcorn and was grateful that Melissa McCarthy kept me laughing and forgetting and I survived.
The fasting was a little harder but something happened in the second day of the fast-I wasn't craving Chipotle or grocery store frosting cupcakes (I know, I know, I'm disgusting), I wanted salads. I wanted a chicken breast. And I wanted to keep wearing all the clothes that had gotten a little (lot) snug since the days last summer when they were hanging off my stressed out Olympic body.
I went to parties for the 4th of July, I baked a cake I didn't eat. I went on dates. I didn't cheat. The 8th day I went to the Farmer's Market and the direct from the ranch store and I filled my fridge with good things. I made soups and quinoa and homemade hummus. I didn't plan out the first Diet Coke I wanted to have when it was over, I didn't put a cupcake in the freezer for the next day. And when it was time to be done, I made a shake for breakfast in my shiny new Vitamix. And I had a salad for lunch. And chicken and asparagus for dinner. The cleanse didn't solve all my problems but it made me mindful of when and why I was eating things. It felt good to feel some control. I bought another kit, for later, when I forget. When it's hard again.
I have had this fantasy for about two years about getting into really good shape. I don't have any kids, no one lives in my house asking me to make time for him so there is no reason I shouldn't have time to work out and cook meals and go to bed on time. But it takes work to do those things. It takes discipline. It takes not worrying about your hair after 1. It means sometimes you miss a house show because you listen to your tired. It means you don't have to always eat the cake at the going away party. And it means that you change your life, you change your choices, you commit. These are all things I am not great at. I like to fill up my life with too much-people and music and treats and caffeine. I love to say yes. I hate to say no. I said no for a long time out of fear and out of worry and then for a long time I only said yes. And now it's time to balance.
It's not revolutionary to figure out that true change is really hard. It's so easy to do what you've always done because it's comfortable and it's a known entity and also it's not very hard. But then you are 36 all of the sudden and you realize you don't want to give in to soft middles and sensible haircuts. I don't want any "glory days", I want every year of my life to be better and richer than the ones before. So if 2013 is the first time I have strong deltoids and can do a headstand, then I feel like that is far better than remembering the distant past when I used to be fit. So I pack the gym bag, and I make a week's worth of salads on Sunday night. And I get up for yoga on Saturday instead of sleeping in.
I feel better physically than I have in a long time. But the secret is that all this changing and growing has less to do with zipping up my skinny jeans without laying on the ground and holding my breathe-although that is marvelous. Especially when my 36 year old skinny jeans are skinnier than my 26 year old pair. It's way more satisfying to know that real change is possible at any stage of your life. I have a heart stopping fear of getting stuck-in a job, in a relationship, in a city-and the big lesson of the last few months is that I'm the one who chooses that. I get only get as stuck as I let myself. My job, my friends, my church-none of those things are in control, I am. And if I feel too tired or too stressed or too chubby-those are all places I can get out of when I decide to. The only barriers in our lives for most of us are the ones we choose to put up ourselves. Mine come from fear and worry and sometimes sheer laziness. But I am tired of them and kissing some of them goodbye is just what the yogis will tell you to do. "They love you. It will help you," Tasha said.
So I did. And they do. And it does.