TransActive Fitness: If Not Now, When?

  1. Most of us start going to the gym to shape our bodies and our health. 

  2. Then we go there because we recognize that it feels good, once it is done feeling bad. 

  3. Then we go there because we experience change. While the change may be physical, it is never only that. Mentally, emotionally, and some would stay spiritually, our cells reconfigure with the muscle fibers to contribute to a new way of being, a new sense of self. We get to know aspects of ourselves that have not had the opportunity to express themselves fully as they have never been challenged in quite the same way. Sometimes this feels like a gift, other times it feels impossible to be with ourselves. At our best, we are able to find our stride here, and step 3 continues to be a long term relationship with lasts until the finish line. 

Other times we stop going. Maybe we have eaten poorly, maybe we haven’t kept up with our outside physical homework, maybe it feels too hard. Maybe we have gotten “too busy” and reprioritized our time, maybe we are injured. Take heart, for most who make it to step 3, it seems to be only a matter of time before returning to step 1.

We return to step 1 because it becomes a matter of life or death - our health, our self-esteem. We remember what it felt like to feel step 2 good, and we become desperate for a step 3 change.

I have learned that it doesn’t matter how many time we rinse and repeat through the cycle, we always come out cleaner on the other side with a deeper understanding of ourselves, closer to balance and consistency then we are when we start.

If you hear this as an invitation to be slack in your dedication, let me be totally clear - lasting change only comes through diligence and mindful attention in an ongoing dedicated practice. If you hear this as an invitation to be kind with yourself, and to get back on the horse as many times as it takes, then you are feelin’ me - take my extended hand. Mike keeps offering me his, it is the least I can do.

The Funk

After my marathon and show highs. I returned to life as I know it. Just one day after another going through the motions. Hitting the gym but with no goals athletically there wasn’t a sense of urgency to do well or anything special. I ate what and when I wanted (although there was always a sense of what I *should* eat in the back of my mind). I started to slip into the thick dark pool of depression.

Here is the “fun” thing about depression, it isn’t really sadness that you feel. It’s apathy. Just a complete lack of feelings. As if inside your body there is just static; a blurry, frantic, nothingness. For me it was like I was split in two. I could see this was happening but I had no drive to do anything. I went weeks before I said anything to my husband. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was at first. Saying it out loud made it more real. I was depressed. Was it the cloudy skies? The sudden loss of a personal goal after three years of something to train for? I had plenty to be happy and thankful for; a husband who helps me, two amazing children, my health is pretty good, I have a good job, I have a roof over my head and a full fridge. Why am I “complaining”? It really doesn’t matter how good you have it, depression doesn’t discriminate.

I didn’t feel like I was quite ready to go to the doctor but I didn’t want to continue this way. I purchased a daylight lamp to start light therapy. I started to make sure I was drinking enough water and getting plenty of sleep at night. Typically, exercise can also help with depression. For me, at least at this point, I was feeling overwhelmed and needed to do a little more of a reboot on self care. A few weeks and I was starting to feel better. The static was quieting inside and I was starting to have feelings again. I talked to my husband and he encouraged doing another show. He thought it might help to have a goal again.

At first I resisted. A show is a lot of commitment and restraint. It’s diligence in measuring and tracking your meals. It’s deciding whether you have the willpower to say no to drinks and bar food if you decide to go out with friends. It’s packing your food so you stay on goal. It’s always planning ahead. It’s time poured into the training; the gym, the heels, the smiling, the sass. It’s ignoring others passing judgement.

All the possible negatives there are there is also a great payoff. I have been told countless times how proud people (the ones who matter) are of me. Of my diligence, restraint, commitment and perseverance. How I have inspired fellow friends to see that they can get fit too. Hearing that I can be an inspiration to others is incredibly uplifting and by far my favorite. But let’s not forget the other pro’s, an amazingly sparkly suit and the shot of bringing home trophies and tiaras.

I jumped and made the commitment. I am doing another show. I am freshly out of my funk and feeling better. This is not the fix for everyone. If I was still struggling at this point I would be in my doctor’s office. You can’t always fix things on your own and that is OK. You are not wrong or broken if you have depression. Sometimes we just need a little a help. Saying it out loud can be scary but I promise I will listen to you.

TransActive Fitness: Measuring Up

Size doesn’t matter, or does it?

There are many ways to measure our physical progress, depending on goals. Weight, size measurements, BMI, amount of weight that we can lift, number of times we can lift it, how long can we hold a posture, how balanced can we be, the list goes on. They key is finding the measures that work in a way that gives us quantitative feedback AND motivates us, as opposed to missing important data and crushing our self-esteem.

For trans folks, standard measures are differently complicated and can be dysphoria inducing. FOr example  the BMI scale (which is controversial in and of itself)  is gendered. Since hormones greatly affect fat distribution, it is hard to know which scale to use for a binary trans person, nevermind someone who is not. It can be greatly distressing to be assessed by the scale of a gender we do not identify with, especially if we are not even sure that it is offering useful information.

Weight is not gendered as a measure itself, but social norms of heavy and light, big and small, play into what weight we feel comfortable with for our gender. Some of these weights are unattainable in a way that is  healthy in the frame we are given.

So what are healthy aspirations and measures? As any good trainer and trainee know, it is different for each unique body.

I told Mike where I wanted to go, and that is where we are putting our focus. The BMIs and weight measurements give him points of reference to dial in some strategies to attain those goals, and those numbers are not what interests me, I don’t even really ask. He does not attempt to force me into making them MY measure.

What is YOUR measure of your progress? Be kind to yourself and understand that one size does not fit all when it comes to measuring success. None of the standardized measures were made with trans people in mind. Work with the trainers that are interested in expanding their toolbox, rather than putting us into a box. We are worth it.

My Marathon Experience

I am baaaacckkkk!!! Has everyone missed me and my charming personality? I knew you did! 

I took a long hiatus after my debut into the world of a bikini competitor. I had other goals to complete that required a lot of time. I had a marathon to finish! No not Netflix but a real life, grueling 26.2 mile type of marathon.

I joined a group of like minded individuals to endure the Beat the Blerch marathon this last September in Carnation Washington. This race completes me on a soul deep level as the aid stations actually have tasty snacks like Nutella sandwiches and cake. One of the stations had potato chips! Banana’s be damned!

I put a lot of hours and miles into my marathon training. Two to three days during the week were spent running “short” distances and every weekend a loooong run. I would then spend the other days of the week in the gym cross training or in the pool to give my joints a break. Towards the end of my marathon training the only thing I wanted more than anything was to be done. I had spent so much time doing *something*. I had to be running and before that in the gym or I would not get the results that I wanted. If I didn’t run in the days prior to the race then race day would not be successful. I was tired. I was painful. I was ready to be done.

So, race weekend appears and my mom and I load up the car and drive up to Carnation. It was a fun trip up and we reserved a yurt right on the race course so commute would be quick. It was relatively dry the day before as we tucked into our carb load and then to bed. Nerves and an increasingly loud squeaky mattress kept me up for a while before I was able to drift off into sleep. Race day my eyes pop open and what do my ears hear? Rain. Goody. I get out of bed with hopes it’s my imagination (it’s not) and start dressing in my running gear. Happy that my overpacking nature is serving me well today. I apply my anti-chafing cream (weird with another person in the room by the way), get my rain jacket and lace up my sneakers. It’s time to run.

Like every race, the excitement from the pack mentality is exhilarating! We listen to the opening speech (the monologue from Independence Day) catch some marshmallows that were hurled from the platform and we are off. The rain is still falling but after half a mile I am HOT. So I am now committed to running with a jacket tied around my waste for 26 miles. I really had a difficult time finding my stride for a bit but after a few miles I am able to space out and get into my groove.

Mile 17 arrives and I hate seeing it. Mentally calculating how much further I have to go. If we stopped at 18 I could do this but the thought of 8 MORE miles almost breaks my brain. After 18 I start to fall apart. My body is getting increasingly painful, my feet are soaked and I am so very tired. But I slog on. Once I hit mile 20 I conceded to walking. My knee hurts when I run but my hip hurts when I walk, I find blood and realize I am bleeding on my stomach. That’s what happens after 20 miles of a shirt barely touching moles, they bleed. I have rocks in my shoes and I am an eyelash width away from tears at the thought of 6 more miles. I shuffled and despaired for 4 miles and saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I started to run more. I wasn’t going to make my goal of under 5 hours but I WOULD make it over the finish line under my own power, damn it. I can see the finish line now. I put on the biggest burst of speed I could muster, I had to pass that couple walking after all.


I did it! I completed 26.2 miles under my own will power. It took 5 hours and 37 minutes of shambling, shuffling, and determination to make it across that finish line. The endorphin dump and victorious feeling eased my aching joints and raw skin. Would I do it again? Oh gawd NO! Am I happy that I did it? Absolutely! And I plan on bragging about it forever (sorry not sorry).

TransActive Fitness - Diastasis Recti

So I had a baby. A 10 pound, 23 inch baby who has grown in a man who is 180lbs and 6”8”. I gained 40 pounds when I had him, and lost 28lb was gone with him  in the first two weeks. It was a big stretch. My abdomen has never been the same. It caused a condition called Diastasis Recti, which is a separation of the abdominal muscles that causes a visual “pooch” of the belly, amongst other potential challenges I have lived with this for 22 years, and still not made peace with it.

Medical transition does not make this situation better, both in regards to taking testosterone and top surgery. I no longer have breasts that protrude further than my belly, and the fat distribution in a testosterone dominant person centers more on the belly, rather than in the hips and  hips and butt. There are deviations and various combinations of this, of course. I was one of these deviations - carrying weight almost exclusively in the front of my body - from the get-go.

So Mike and I are working on abs in addition to upper body. He shared with me that we are working on the neural connection to the abs and core, specifically developing one. For me, it is easy to see where I have avoided this connection, there is trauma there. We may all have hidden disconnections in our relationships with our bodies, it is important to have a safe space to explore them, to reconnect, to heal.

Bird dogs with kettlebells, yoga ball work, and…

“Grab the bars, steady yourself on the straps, hand and lift your legs to tap the pad in front of you.”

I look up and the bars that perhaps a 6” man could easy each, and say “Ya think?”

“Yes I do. You can use my hand.”

I grab his hand and grab the bars above my head. My feet in these straps are almost a split distance apart, and the stretch feels really good.

Hanging there, improving my grip by holding my body weight, I breathe and focus, not using any momentum but my full on core strength.  I tap the pad in front of me...1...2...3...4...5...6...7...8..who knew? I am done. We rest.

“ more set!...”

I got this.