Thursday, March 7, 2013

Friends Who Inspire Me: Bernadette Ryan

One of the things I love about Facebook, is how it connects us to everyone. It gives us access to amazing stories and inspiring lives. It offers us a place to share our own journeys and beliefs. It can be a real exercise in tolerance and patience sometimes and like with everything, should be used with restraint, moderation and certainly not when you've had one too many with boys at the local.

I've been fortunate enough to have a really great group of very talented and inspiring Facebook friends and acquaintances. These folks run the gamut of being artists to just “ordinary” folks reaching for extraordinary goals. Each of their stories and accomplishments help to push me forward on my own journey in life.

One such Facebook friend is Bernadette Ryan. About two years ago, she started on this amazing journey into fitness, setting her sights on competing in figure competitions. I have watched her progress and cheered her on ever since she first appeared on my newsfeed with a motivational quote. What makes her so inspiring to me is that she is just a “regular” mom of three, with all that comes with being a mom. She has the same stresses and pressures that most of us face every day and yet she had the courage not just to start this amazing journey, but to continue on in it.

Me: Children? How many?

BR: I have three children. 21, 18 and 15

Me: Are we allowed to ask, “How old are you?”

BR: 39. I'll be 40 in April.

Me: Brothers and sisters?

BR: One of each. Lol.

Me: What are currently listening to on your iPod?

BR: Wow, so many different songs. But if I train, I usually have HUGE ear phones on. Headphones on; world off)

Me: What is your favourite track and why?

BR: “PlayHard” by David Guetta. It gives me *woema and brings out the beast in me … LOL
*woema is a South African expression meaning something akin to “oomph” or “pumped” or “drive” LOVE that she used it!

Me: What inspires you?

BR: I inspire me. Many things and people will you down and disappoint and hurt you, but you will never let yourself down.

Me: Any favourite movies or books?

BR: Favourite movie is 21 Jumpstreet. Favourite book is a journal about how a women can look after themselves.

Me: How did you get started in fitness?

BR: I moved into a new home where my bedroom is just mirrors. Being single, I was all I could see. All the fat, the bulges … everything!

Me: Did you need a trainer?

BR: At first I lost a lot of my weight so I did cardio for about six months. Only then did I get a trainer.

Me: How many times do you meet with your trainer?

BR: I started with six times a week but we have cut it down to four. So we can do different muscle groups on different days.

Me: Is it hard sticking to the dietary requirements?

BR: Yes, it is difficult. You need to buy the right foods, which can be expensive, especially if you 're doing this alone and your family still eats “normal” food in front of you. I could never stick to a proper plan, so instead I eat my food out of a small dessert bowl. That's the size of your stomach. So if  you eat in small portions you give your body the chance to digest. It's easier. For example: at dinner divide it into three. Eat one portion, wait an hour, eat the next portion. Third portion, give to the dogs! They'll love it.

Me: What is your most favourite part of your dietrary plan and what is your least favourite?

BR: There is no favourite or least favourite. In fitness it's “either/or”. There's no in-between. Just know what goes in must be used and used properly. If it's junk food, your body will have no use for it and will just store it.

Me: What does a typical work out day look like?

BR: I train in the mornings from 5am to 6am. I row on the Concept 2 machine. Then I do abs classes and some legs. Leave at 7am. Afternoons: 4:30pm I train for an hour with my trainer and I do killer abs classes. I train from Monday morning until Friday morning, then I rest the weekend.

Me: What exercises do you enjoy doing most?

BR: All exercises. I choose what I enjoy and give it my all.

Me: What exercises do you not enjoy doing?

BR: Lunges, but that is the best for bums.

Me: Do you ever have days when you feel, “Ugh! I just don't don't feel like working out today!”

BR: Yes, some afternoons, I do, but knowing my trainer is waiting for me and I lose my session, makes me put on my *takkies and just go for it!
*Takkies = a South Africanism for sneakers or trainers

Me: How do you keep yourself motivated and focused EVERYDAY?

BR: I have joined so many fitness pages on Facebook. So when I open up Facebook, it's all about fitness. Most groups are American, so when I wake up, they have come back from their evening work out and are all amped and ready to take over the world. LOL!! So, I thrive on their motivation.

Me: What has been the highlight of your journey so far?

BR: The respect I have earned. The confidence I can so easily carry. And the ability to jump up a wall or run after my children. I have the ability to play again.

Me: What have you learnt about yourself you didn't know before starting this journey?

BR: That stress we have in life is actually all imaginary. Most of it, we can't change. (In other words, if you can't change it, why stress over it) But walk in the gym, look at a weight that says “pick me up” or the row machine that says, “row me for one hour,” that's REAL stress. That is the stress we can change. When you experience that stress you will realise life is actually quite easy.

Me: Every great feat accomplished by a person, has been achieved because there are people who are encouraging and cheering the person on. Who has that been for you? And how important has that been for you through this process?

BR: My family. My friends. The people at the gym. I walk in and people, I have never seen before, take time to say, “hi!” That shows me they respect me.

Me: What do you hope to achieve in this journey?

BR: I hope to take it all the way. I want to show the world NOTHING in life has the ability to kill you but YOU, yourself.

Me: When is your first competition?

BR: I was hoping this year, but I think next year. I don't want to take steroids or growth hormones to help me get there. I will rather train for longer and do it naturally. I know people say it's impossible to win a competition if you're not on stuff but then again, when I was 28, the doctors told me I had cancer and wouldn't make it to 34!

Me: What advice would you have for folks who may want to start doing this. How should they go about it?

BR: I would say, start walking at first. At least *3kms a day. As you progress with walking, then you can start running from one lamp post to the next. Walk the next one and run the following, and so it goes. I would also recommend crunches. 4 sets of 20 reps.
*3km converts to 1.86 miles

I'd like to end this with a comment Bernadette posted the other day that really spoke to me.

“Your Body is your best friend. Your body will never let you down where everybody else might. All you got to do is be good back to your body. Feed it with good food and use your body as much as possible. After all, that's what it was given to us for. Use it.”

I wish you everything of the best in your endeavors, Bernadette. Thanks for proving that you are never too old, or been through too much to start something positive and new in your life!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Lessons in Fear

Ever seem to have a recurring "theme" show up in your life.  They stay for a while, until you've accomplished/learned what it is you've needed to and then the next "theme" starts.  Almost like selecting "random" on your screen saver settings.  You just never know what image or pattern is going to emerge next!

It seems the theme for me at the moment is, "Fear: Facing It, Acknowledging It, Pushing Past It".  Notice, I didn't have an "overcoming" part in there.  In my mind, "Overcome" conjures images of great battles that are fought and then won.  The enemy defeated and rendered powerless.  I cannot say that of myself in relation to fear.

I use to think of fear as being something that should be "overcome".  My many attempts to overcome fear left me feeling even more powerless and weak.  Each failure cementing the fear more solidly within my heart and mind.  Like a big old playground bully, it would taunt me, shame me, pester me.  Mercilessly shouting out lists of things that I could never accomplish, be or do.  Like many who are bullied, I accepted It's daily appearance in my life and simply saw it as "Life According to Me."  Then something changed.  Nothing really big, just something small.  I found myself questioning the taunting tirades.  Not all at once, but simple, small statements.  One at a time. As I have written at length, it started with taking horseback riding lessons as an adult.  There was lots to push past.  I was very obese when I started.  When was the last time you saw a rotund rider jumping fences or doing dressage?  I was almost forty years of age.  My forty year old, substantial body found the optimal rider position very unnatural and would scream it's protest after every lesson.  The first lesson was the most mortifying.  Five minutes into it, my thighs were VISIBLY shaking!  I could see the instructor question the wisdom of her decision to let me take lessons.  I chose to ignore, what in my opinion, was a disapproving look and surprised her by showing up the following week for my second lesson.  Wanting to get my legs stronger and my body in better shape, I had started exercising three times a week.  A month later, my legs were much stronger, I had lost a fair amount of weight and was generally beginning to feel better about myself.  There was just this little problem with my heels.  You see in riding, it's very important to keep your heels down.  Once again, my body started rebelling, and my right ankle in particular.  It would begin hurting and sometimes be so stiff it was almost impossible to get my heels down.  My trainer spoke to me about my exercise routine and as she continued speaking, it began to feel to me like she was trying to discourage my exercise routine.  I was saddened.  Discouraged.  Normally at this point, I would let Fear's argument win out.  You're too old to be doing this.  And exercising is messing up your riding.  You're never going to be good enough and never going to succeed!  You're making a fool of yourself!   Instead, I decided to continue with both my exercise routine and my riding.  I found exercises that would help increase the flexibility in my ankles and added them to my little circuit.  My ankles still would hurt every now and then, but they were staying down, and I was getting stronger.  Then winter came with it's icy wind that froze your marrow and hurt your teeth? Huh?  That can't be right?!  I did what every mature adult does in situations like those.  I ignored the pain.  Tried to keep my mouth closed on cold morning riding lessons or hacks and hoped it would get better.  It didn't.  So finally, I had to face my next fear and head off to the dentist.  God was kind to me and had the perfect "set-up" arranged.  The young lady that use to babysit for me was working as a dental assistant for a local dentist in town.  When I had mentioned in a FB status that my mouth was hurting, she immediately responded with a "Come see us!"  I "uhmmed" and "aaaahed" and finally gave in.  The initial consult revealed things were far worse than I had imagined.  I would need a crown and a couple of fillings.  All I heard was ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching interspersed with screams and cries echoing from a medieval torture chamber.  I squared my shoulders and took it one little step and alteration at a time.  My courage was rewarded by discovering my friend's employer to be a very competent, knowledgeable and gentle dentist!  Visits to dentist have become something I look forward to now and not something I run away from. And no, I did not end up in unspeakable pain, mouth forever ruined and me relegated to hide from all polite society.  I also did not embarrass myself by screaming like a banshee either!

My daughter had her own little face off with fear the other day.  She was having her little riding lesson. She was doing well until, while practising a jump, she lost her stirrup.  I could see the I want to get off and never do this again look flash briefly across her little face.  I walked over to her, to make sure she was okay, and to make sure she knew how very proud I was that she had not lost her seat on her pony during all that.  I encouraged her to give it another go.  She looked at me and her trainer doubtfully, but urged her pony forward and redid the jump.  This time she looked like a pro!  On the way home we were talking about her lesson.  She told me that she had been scared, but when she got it right the next time over, she felt so proud of herself.  I explained to her that being brave doesn't mean you're not scared.  It means you are scared, but you choose to push past that feeling and complete the task regardless.

I've used these little lessons in Fear to help me in other aspects in my life.  I've decided not to focus on "overcoming" fear.  I choose instead, to push past it and work through it.  I am still aware of it's taunts.  I still feel it's presence depending on the situation, but I look it squarely in the eye and then push past it.  No longer do I allow it to immobilize me.  Or silence me.  I choose not to allow it to dismiss me or minimize me.  I see it.  I feel it, and then I move through it.

There will be many more battles fought against this bully, but as long as I continue to move on, it's ability to get the better of me, diminishes.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The End of Award Season

I have to confess to being an "Award Season" junkie.  I love watching the various award shows and do try to see at least a couple of the pictures up for "Best Motion Picture".  It's also the time of year I re-order and add to my Netflix movie queue.  Of course, most of the movies that have nominees won't be out on DVD for a while yet, which makes the suspense all the more delectable.

It's hard to say which ceremony is my absolute favorite.  Each one offers a little something different.  For example:  The Golden Globes has TV and movie stars all in one room.  It's a overall, more relaxed affair, and this year was memorable thanks, in part, to the wonderful job of hosting accomplished by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.   I suspect it's this "mixing" of big and little screen genres which has led to more and more movie stars showing up in television series.  Not being an actor myself, I cannot say for sure, but I have often wondered if TV actors were slightly looked down on by their Silver Screen counterparts.  If they were, I suspect that this prejudice has diminished as more and more Big Screen stars migrate to the the little screen.  There was Keira Sedgwick in The Closer, Kevin Bacon in "The Following", Alfred Molina and Ving Rhames in Monday Mornings to mention just a few.  I also suspect that it's this coming together that has begun to change how our entertainment is being delivered.  Netflix has recently started producing it's own "TV series" which it releases all at once and it's subscribers can decide if they want to watch it in marathon fashion or in installments.  Their recent offering, "House of Cards" based on an English production that ran in the '90's (I think), is riveting and stars Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey.  Well worth watching!  But I digress!

The next award show following the Golden Globes, is usually the SAG awards.  What makes this award so special to the actors is that your fellow actors vote for you.  Who doesn't like being recognized by their industry peers?!  To my mind, the SAGs are a lovely mix of the Golden Globes informality but slightly tempered by Oscar-like formality.  In between there are all the music industry award shows too.  Which brings us to the culmination of award season in the Oscars.

I have to admit to just LOVING the Oscars.  And the Red Carpet (or gauntlet) in particular.  It's those cheesy red carpet interviews that give us a glimpse into the real person behind all the wonderful characters that you have come to love and drool over in the past year (or decades).  This year was no exception.  Kristin Chenoweth's interviews were so engaging.  Choosing to steer away from the usual "what are you wearing" questions, she opted for fun and irreverent, which I think, better drew out the star's true personalities.

Seth Macfarlane did a great job of hosting and the show itself had some wonderful surprises.  I loved that the theme for this year was Celebrating the Musical.  It seems only fitting to pay homage to something that has been so integral in movies since the very beginning!  I would like to add, that I just loved the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers-esque dance number performed by Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum.  Totally dreamy!  That's not to mention the wonderful music numbers from Chicago, Dreamgirls and my new favorite musical on the silver screen, Les Meserables.  This girl was swooning and crying.  I was so inspired, I almost broke out into my "dancing elephant" routine.  It's when in my head, I am moving as gracefully as Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire but in reality, I look like a Elephant in a tutu.  Sadly, all the magic of the award season is at an end now, and it seems that the entertainment world in general, is recovering from the  swath of parties and dinners and parties and soirees and parties .... and did I mention parties.  That's the only explanation I have for the sudden run of re-runs on almost all the television networks this past week.  I know it will be pointed out that in actual fact, we are gearing up for "sweeps" weeks.  However, I stand by my belief that it is networks recovering from really big hangovers from the indulgent glitz and glamor that makes up the magical award season.

A huge congratulations to all the winners!  Thanks for making 2012 a really memorable year at the movies!