Second (Or Third, or Fourth) Chances

It was just a little thing, poking up out of my arm. I had finished my half hour cardio workout, given my body a good stretch, and moved into the weight training part of my routine.

I was straddling the seat of the machine, straining to bring those weights up one more time. Don’t get the wrong idea. I have no desire to look like a female wrestler. I’m just going for tone and definition. I use light weights, but after several reps my arms were worked and weary just the same.

“One more,” I said to myself, “you can do it.” My arms cried out in protest, and then I noticed that thing – that odd bump – out of the corner of my eye.

I finished the drill, then examined the arm more closely, curious. The thing had not been an adrenaline-induced product of my imagination. There, underneath the padding of my arms, was a small but well-defined and rather rock-solid muscle.

I noticed more of the little creatures in my thighs as I went through my leg routine. And the day only got weirder from there. At work, I ran into a colleague I haven’t seen in the month since I’ve been back in the gym. It is summertime, and he had taken an extended vacation.

The first thing he said to me after our hellos was “you look like you’re losing weight.” Then, not realizing he’d just bought himself at least a week of sending me emails full of emergencies of his own making without me calling him a wanker, he went on about his day.

This past Friday marked our one-month anniversary in the new gym. We’ve been going religiously, four to five times per week. I do cardio and weights each time. At least 2 times a week, we take an additional trip just to treat ourselves to an evening hot tub, steam room and swim before bed. It does wonders for helping my insomniac brain settle down for a night of uninterrupted rest. We’ve been eating healthier too. More chicken and fish, less burgers and hot dogs. More salads and fresh veggies, and no fries.

That is all to the good, and I am proud of us. But it has only been 30 days. I’ve been down this road before. Lee and I went to the gym for almost two years straight, and transformed our “little extra to love” into leaner, stronger bodies. Then we got lazy, and I got re-addicted to writing and traded 5 am workouts for extra hours of time in front of a computer. My word counts grew, and so did my ass.

If you don’t use it, you lose it, they say. And judging by the return of some extra padding, we lost it.

Or did we?

I recall Round 1 of our Great Fitness Initiative like it was yesterday. I remember how I felt after a month in the gym. I was still tired and scrambling to fit everything I needed to do into my days on top of work and all the time in the gym. My muscles ached as I tried out new routines and found what worked. My cardio workouts were still an exercise in sweaty, winded torture.

At the end of that first Month 1, I was proud of myself for sticking to it. I was starting to build a little bit of stamina. But I still felt fat. I certainly wasn’t noticing any muscle definition poking its way up through the padding of my arms and thighs. And no one in my circle looked at me that early on and asked if I was losing weight.

This time around feels so much easier. I have miles to go, but things seems to be happening faster. It seems the muscle tone and definition I built last time didn’t go away so much as get buried under some extra layers. The first time, I had to build them pretty much from scratch, while simultaneously working to remove a lot of extra fluff. This time, they’re already there, and aren’t quite as many fluff-layers to peel away before they can be seen.

The muscles aren’t back out in full force yet, but they’re waking up and poking out long enough to say “Hello. Yeah, I’m still here. Now get this extra crap off of me so we can get on with it, huh?”

There’s a lesson there for me, and anyone else who has worked to achieve a goal and fallen off the wagon. Even if you didn’t quite meet your mark, your efforts were not wasted. You made progress. You built foundations that are most likely still there waiting for you when you are ready to dig through all the other layers of life and get back to them.

My Life List Club goals center on fitness and writing. The value of my previous work in the fitness arena has been evident as I pick up where I left off. The value of my previous writing initiatives has been harder to see. In that area, it is much easier to kick myself in the butt for all the unfinished work and wasted years. But if I really think about it, I can see that my younger years as a writer did give me some building blocks and make this go-round a little easier.

– I know the enemy that is writer’s block, and how debilitating it can be. I battled it before, and lost. This time around, I can sense it while it is still snoozing but threatening to wake up. I have learned how to recharge my batteries, refocus, and lure that monster back to sleep.

– I know the concentration that is required to write successfully. Before, my busy life and work-weariness not giving me the time or energy I needed to write beat me down. This time, I fight back. Woe to any circumstances that will not give me my “me time” to chase my dream. I no longer see that as a privilege, but a right.  If my job or life stressors try to take that right away from me, I will smack their sorry asses.

And this time around, I’ve got the muscle to do just that, even if it is buried another an extra layer or two.

Your efforts are never wasted, even if you left them under years of dust. All that you learned and all that you became in your earlier attempts will guide you in your next go-round. Instead of beating yourself up over abandoning your efforts before, take time to notice how the progress you DID make is helping you get even further this time around.

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About hawleywood40

Writer, Steelers Fan in Baltimore, Frequent Visitor to the Shot Fairy
This entry was posted in Exercise, Fitness and Weight Loss, Goal-Setting, The Life List Club, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Second (Or Third, or Fourth) Chances

  1. Catie Rhodes says:

    You know, I completely agree. I spent a lot of years lamenting how I’d wasted my whole life. I haven’t, though, not really. I’ve learned a lot of things. I’ve had a lot of heartache. It’s turned me into the Catie who can do what I’m doing right now, though. It wasn’t all a wash, and it wasn’t all for naught. The rocky roads led me to right here, the best place I’ve ever been.

    Thanks for sharing, Pam. Good luck on your fitness goals. Find a way to make them work for you. 😀

    • hawleywood40 says:

      That’s so true Catie – so many of the experiences we have along the way make us who we are, which we in turn put into what we write … I may wish I’d done some things sooner but I’m glad I’m doing them now with a lot of living under my belt : )!

  2. Pam, I find that taking the time out to exercise my body, helps exercise my writer’s brain. I may have slightly less time to hammer out my blog posts or respond to other bloggers, but the creative juices just flow better when my muscles have been taken out for a test drive.

    Bravo for fitting it all in long enough to see the results. Keep up the excellent work!

    • hawleywood40 says:

      So true Lorna – exercise really does spark the mind as well as the body. I’m noticing that although I have a lot less time to write, when I do get word-time in the end results are sharper, flow more quickly, and are all-around more inspired. I’m noticing (as I did the last time around too) that I’m more patient with things at work that normally drive me bonkers, too : )>

  3. Stacy Green says:

    I’ve spent a lot of time wallowing in regret, thinking I’ve wasted a lot of time. I still have those days, but I also know that I’ve learned some things. I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff and to work for what I want. And not to take anything for granted.

    Great post.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Those are both lessons I’ve learned over the years too. Sweating the small stuff wastes energy better spent on the good stuff. And there’s no worse regret than realizing you didn’t appreciate someone or something you had once it is gone.

  4. Shelly says:

    I had to give up hard cardio stints and weight training for a yoga mat, walking, and biking. Adrenal fatigue. I’ve been dealing with it since December 2010. Of course, I eat healthy.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      I’ve never done yoga, but walking is one of the best exercises in the world. I especially love wandering trails at the park near my house or even just around my neighborhood in the fall and spring.

  5. akamonsoon says:

    This is great Pam! I love the analogy you use between your efforts in writing and exercising. This really got me to think about where I have stopped on things only to continue years later. One area has been fitness. Each try seems to get better and better. Another thing your post got me to remember is that when I was 19 I dropped out of college. I really wasn’t all that motivated but I really beat myself up over it at the time. Years later, while in my early 30s, I went back. Not only did I graduate but I graduated within the top 10 in my class. Maybe we need past failures to bring us to our successes.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Sounds like college for you was a lot like writing to me, Monsoon! I’ve always wanted to do it – I just wasn’t ready for whatever reason. I think the life experiences we have between our first tries and our second make us appreciate our goals and what they could do for our lives that much more, and that helps us work harder at them. Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  6. tsonoda148 says:

    Wow, I’m sitting just a little bit taller after having read this wonderful, motivating and insightful post! I’ve been going through a lot of life changes lately, and I’ve let them get in the way of my writing and my health. I need to take your example and take back my time. Very good post. Thanks so much for sharing this. I think many of us will glean plenty from it.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Take it back just little bits at a time – I know with all that you are doing now with work and school, that’s crazy hard to do! But I also know you can. You inspire me too. For all I’m doing now, I have to admit that I was never able to successfully combine work and school. I wanted to go on for a master’s degree, but needed to start working a “real job” right after getting my bachelors. I’ve tried 3X to go to graduate school at night or online. All 3X, I aced my classes but didn’t register for the next semester because I was sick of my life being just working and studying. Now I realize that’s because I was in programs that really didn’t foster my goals – I was working to advance in a career that wasn’t my passion in the first place. But still, I know how hard it is to do what you’re doing, and I so admire you for it!

  7. Slow and steady wins the race, and if you have moral and ACTUAL support in your efforts, it’s even better. I lost 50 pounds over a period of three years and have kept it off with a combination of abandoning a few old treats, not having seconds at dinner, walking, and doing yoga.

    Keep up the good work! There is loads of great advice in this post! First time here, will be back. Amy Barlow Liberatore

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Thanks SLP! You’re so right about “slow and steady.” I never truly diet. I make myself eat healthier and cut out certain things, but also listen to my cravings and let myself have what I want in smaller portions so the whole thing is more “painless.” That way, I stick with it over the long haul and it becomes a real lifestyle change rather than a temporary fix.

  8. Marcia says:

    Congrats on your progress! I’ve noticed, too, that after a brief respite from working out coming back is easier. I can pick up where I left off rather than starting from scratch. Great post, Pam.

  9. Aurora says:

    Well, no matter your exercising your other muscles into shape, Hawley, one thing is always confirmed when I read your posts: Your “writing muscle” is always in fantastic shape!!! Thanks again for another good, encouraging read and congrats on your “muscle building” 🙂

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Thanks! I had a really lousy writing weekend this weekend – or, more accurately, I didn’t spend enough time trying to write and am now feeling guilty about it – so I needed a pick-me-up : )!

  10. starzyia says:

    yay for progress! I am glad to hear you are eating healthier in general as well. You can be a writer and be healthy and have an awesome body.

  11. Shonnie says:

    First I wanted to say WTG Hawely!!!

    Yea YOU! I love the shape and form of muscles. What you experienced is called muscle memory. Love that stuff. I have been noticing them popping up over the past week for me too. Feels good doesn’t it? 🙂

    I know I haven’t visted enough, but I am very glad that I found you through CCClub. I wish that I could say that I have written as faithfully as you have, even with your dumps you put me to shame. Thanks for sharing ….Shonnie

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Thanks Shonnie! I’m so far behind on visiting my favorite blogs too – I need to hide for a day and just play catch up. And I’ve really struggled to find ANY writing time for about the last week … one day at a time, though, right : ). Yes, lovin’ the muscle memory. Glad they didn’t forget all that hard work even if I did!

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