How I’m seeking refuge in self-care while maintaining my fitness regimen, activist work and personal work without guilt.
On Friday, my therapist loaded me with homework: Choose a day to be versus do. This was inspired by my obsession with writing out lists and decorating my workspace and entire home with post it notes filled with tasks in every room. Admittedly I’ve grown mildly addicted to writing out my workout routines on neon 5X7 Post It Notes, meticulously scribing out a well-blended strength, calisthenics and cardiovascular routine. This act serves as one of many ways of how I’ve been keeping my mind occupied while coping with the harsh realities of several burning fires throughout 2020. Obviously, Rona trickled her ass onto Luther Vandross’ remixed 2020 but so many other negative things followed suit. After feeling invigorated about Stacey Abrams’ nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, I felt numb after reading about a Black 9-year-old Black girl that was assaulted with mace by the Rochester Police Department because they found her to be uncooperative. Without going into graphic detail, I am sick and tired of reading comments from people that justify heinous crimes, particularly ones done on Black, Brown and Indigenous folks. This level of hurt and rage frequently crosses into my fitness routines and at times, heightens me to such a degree that I don’t feel safe going for a run or leisurely riding my bike outside. Conversely, I’ve thrown myself into mini strength work and cross training exercise regimens and feel guilt when I cannot knock them out. If there’s ever a day that my workload is on overkill, I criticize my lack of time management to essentially do it all. Acknowledging this harsh self-assessment with the help of a therapist, I am using this month to find my balance to be passionate about everything with room to recover and welcome spontaneity.
Restructure your outlook of what "outside" looks like and maybe we can start having some fun again.
Some of the quarantine memes are funny and restrictions definitely suck but did the outdoors really close? Perhaps the rules just changed a bit. If you're not living near Central Park, Union Square or Prospect Park in New York City, your playgrounds are possibly chained up. In my neighborhood, the NYC Parks Department took an extra measure by removing the basketball hoop across from my home several weeks ago. But let's be frank for a few minutes: If you're living in the United States, the outside never closed but it's doing a great job limiting our options on how we play on our free times, particularly in the fitness community. It might be safe to say that you're tired of this quarantine life because it's been at least six weeks. We've groaned, threw tantrums, experienced depression and mourned the loss of loved ones and things -- but when are we going to go back outside and possibly do something else?
Some of your fitspos may not be as inspiring if they elected to be fully transparent about their reasons for movement during a pandemic.
Every morning for 34 days, I woke up and made up my bed. The sheets aren't always perfectly tucked into the corners and the pillows are unkempt. Despite the imperfections, my bed is always made before I brush my teeth, use the bathroom or turn off the lamp in my son's bedroom. COVID-19 stripped practically every norm that's in my routine and I've been trying to make peace with the obtrusive disruption placed in all of our lives.
Living in the heart of New York City doesn't make it easy for me to be an adventurer at this moment. I've followed indoor training plans from my coach and at times, deviate to create my own workouts. Many watched and gave me endless kudos. "Great work." "Powerhouse." "Outstanding." "Incredible work ethic." I've heard every compliment extended under the sun and at times, they're accompanied with questions or those seeking guidance on how I power through. I kindly remind people to do what they can and not to compare their motion to their counterparts, including me. It's hard to dissect my logic but your admiration might be of someone openly grieving and on auto pilot-- actually I am one of those people.
COVID-19 can make you a bit paranoid and of course, sick. Race cancellations and a wave of paranoia might have you questioning your athleticism or reasons why you move. Remain resilient during this pandemic by revising your goals.
Admittedly, I have trust issues with my entire calendar at this moment. Several races were cancelled and I've been playing it by ear with the swimming facility that I use. As of this morning, I lost 4 paid gigs and nervous about booking any flights until the dates are closer -- and who knows if I'll have the money to finance it by these dates. At the moment, COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on the entire world and people have justified reasons to be nervous. Watching how organized events start to unravel over the course of a few weeks, my feelings shifted from disappointed to numbness. Within a month, a great chunk of my scheduled races are gone: Tokyo Marathon, New York City Half Marathon, a change of date for The Love Run and my Hot Chocolate 15K in Philadelphia is officially a virtual run. With the exception of the Tokyo Marathon, I feel like all of these places handled it the best way that they possibly could -- I'll be kind and reserve my feelings since we're kinda going through a pandemic.
Surely people are hurt from the change in events and this goes well beyond running. New York City feels eerie from the lack of people populating the gym or local pool. Restaurants are thinning particularly Asian establishments -- thanks xenophobia. Pictures of Times Square surfacing the internet are being compared to every horror movie or crazy book known to man. And because I'm a fitness aficionado, I am loaded with questions about what I will do to press forward. After all, fitness is not just something that I do for fun. I am a freelancer who uses her platform to speak about these adventures -- which requires for you to be around people. At this moment, my social media accounts are bogged down with concerns about their training going to the wayside to questioning how will people maintain their marbles as the world goes COVID-19 crazy.
If no forms of social or mainstream media existed, I think we wouldn't look for imagery of an athlete; we would just be one.
I haven't left my home since the NYRR 60K. Yesterday, I managed to get dressed for the gym, walked to my front door and turned back around. I curled up with a bowl of cereal, watched a video and felt like a failure. After two anxiety attacks between 6PM and 6AM, I practiced a failed attempt of corpse pose without yoga until 10AM -- thank you freelancing. Every time I go through an episode, I remind myself to question what triggered the anxiety. This time I allowed a bunch of insecure fuckers to make me question if I have what it takes to be an athlete. Typically I don't dwell on those things but I do acknowledge when the noise grows. I can usually link it to a source; this incident stemmed from my last two posts since returning back to this space. A few minutes ago, I made myself a glass of shut the fuck up to go with my coffee and thought out loud: What exactly is an athlete. If you can tolerate some non politically correct commentary, grab a bottle of Tequila and take a shot with me.
How to Gracefully DNF Races
Most people sign up for races with a 90 percent certainty that they will finish; I'm not most people.
If it feels like it's been a long time since I've wrote anything consistent here, that would be painfully accurate. There's not one particular reason that I can give you but I can throw out a few:
Through one on one interactions with people in the running community and with loved ones reminded me about the reasons why I constructed this crazy website Running Fat Chef and it damn sure wasn't for internet fame. I truly love blurbing about the highs, lows, unstable moments and adventure that comes with fitness, particularly running. By having a honest heart to heart with myself, I buried myself under a blanket, wrote down a list with my insecurities, rolled it into a shape of a blunt and decided to say "fuck all of that shit-- I'm writing again."
With that said, let's talk about my 2019 highs and lows before the year is out -- and let's start with my DNFs.
Newbie Again: Pre-NYC Duathlon
My first duathlon is tomorrow and first raw open powerlifting competition is in a week -- no pressure?
Tomorrow morning, I will be in Central Park like most of my races but this one will be different. I'm doing my first duathlon. Maybe you think that I said TRIATHLON; nope -- duathlon. For anyone who isn't familiar with the term, a duathlon is a multi sport event that's typically comprised of running and cycling. Despite my loving pseudonym Running Fat Chef, I am a neurotic little adventurer who enjoys a good athletic challenge that makes my uncoordinated rhythmless nation body twinkle. And if I didn't give myself enough pressure, I quite literally woke up one morning and expressed interest in power lifting "one day" to a power lifting bad ass by the name of Morit Summers. Within a few days, I woke up freshly signed up for the Iron Maiden's Raw Open with only seven weeks to train versus most people's ten to fourteen weeks. Maybe I forgot to mention that these events are literally six days apart AND I have about 10 - 20 road and trail running events left on my calendar. I think it's safe to say that I'm a bit impulsive and extreme. This admirable quality has me shitting bricks as I nurse myself in Vicks Vapor Rub and a bunch of CBD based products from iKOR Labs because I'm sick. It's only been a week since I finished the Hood to Coast Relay. No pressure -- no pressure at all kids. Since I'll be limited in my fitness after Sunday, I'll blurb about my ridiculous anxieties about power lifting on another day.
Consistency is like the "fluffer" on a porn set and motivation is the star who gets all of the credit.
For the record, I hate the word motivation 5 out of the 7 days of the week.
"What keeps you motivated?"
"I'm inspired to be an athlete but I don't have motivation like you do."
Fuck motivation; be consistent. And when you cannot be consistent, reflect. In the running community and beyond, people toss around motivation like its something you can buy at the corner store from Papi. Go ahead-- pick up that can of fleeting motivation next to the Skittles and Starbursts but tell me how that scam works. If I could buy it on the shelf tomorrow, I'd return that can of shit back and ask for a refund. Just like anything you want in life, you have to earn it and the road to success is not a straight line.
My inbox is typically filled with questions about marathon training but I traded them off for 'WTF is an ultra marathon and who would want to do such a terrible thing' -- I do but maybe I'm nuts.
How many of you found yourself sucked into the world of marathon training because someone said something like "if you can do XX, you can be a marathoner?" Yep -- that's definitely how I got sucked into this vortex called marathon training. I have to admit that I cannot blame anyone for engulfing into ultra marathons. While training for my first NYC Marathon in 2015 - second marathon to the Rock n Roll DC - I started going taper crazy and signed up for the New York Road Runners' 60K that took place two weeks later. In hindsight, I realized I must've lost my fucking mind and purged all of my happy pill after mile 29 inside of a port-a-potty somewhere around loop 6. You have no idea how much you hate life, happy spectators enabling your neurotic addiction to medals and how broth tastes like unicorn tears after experiencing sodium deficiency until you do one of these things. Long story short, I made it across that finish line that day. I came in at 9 hours, 47 minutes and 22 seconds and vowed to never touch one of these things again in life. Like all endurance runners, we're full of shit when we're not letting it off into the wilderness or some random café. Most people know about marathons but what the hell is an ultra marathon -- and why would I even want to do it?
I never know what kind of day it'll be. Living with a chronic illness and choosing an intense sport like running requires a lot of pep talks, especially when your body is screaming at you to quit.
My mind and body has kept me captive for the last week. Every time I try to escape this sedentary state, I'm back on my sofa or working on my computer for hours for assignments. For the last week, I gave myself a full blown pep talk of what I'm going to do and how I'm going to do it. One morning I forgot to set my alarm and it was already 9AM - which is ridiculously late for me - and another day, I woke up at 5AM with clothes laid out but greeted to brutal temperatures and an aching body. It feels as if the world is giving me an assortment of excuses to not leave my house. I have the Humana Rock n Roll New Orleans in a few weeks, just purchased my tickets and I don't feel prepared at all.
Somehow I managed to not kill off an entire population or get thrown over Trump's wall to date when I miss Monday workouts. I wonder what will happen if I miss all of the Mondays on the calendar.
Fortunately for all of Brooklyn, I found my way to the gym and after I type this post, I'll be running through some rain for a few miles because it's another day of the week --not because it's fucking Monday. If I allowed the fitness gods to peek into my already over-sharable life beyond what I show on social media, I might be offered as some cult sacrifice to the Reading Rainbow coalition. I've heard everything from not allowing your knees to cross your toes - yep, that's officially bullshit and you can Google check that - to not being considered a runner if you fall under a certain pace. Frankly, all of these rules can sit and rotate. This never missing a Monday logic makes me want to drink a Shake it Baby tea because of course, we know how well senna and laxatives work on the body.
Latoya Shauntay Snell
For my pretentious ass bio, check out the about me page but for anyone interested in who I really am, make me a good meal at your house and I'll tell you a dope ass story.
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