fathletics

Fathletics 109: Pummeling Possums

There’s an Abilify commercial in which the patient’s depression is represented by a bathrobe that follows her around. The fuzzy blue robe has weird Garfield eyes and lurks in the corners of the patient’s life, always just past the edge of the frame.

I hate that goddamn commercial.

As someone who lives with major depressive disorder, I want to note that my depression is not a fucking fuzzy bathrobe. I actually own a giant fuzzy bathrobe (and it’s black, which gives it way more angst cred than the robe in the commercial), and that robe makes me happy, goddammit. It’s warm and cozy and it has pockets filled with useful things like hair elastics and tubes of store-brand lip balm, and it’s covered in cat hair because Minerva likes to snuggle when I wear it. When I put on my fuzzy bathrobe, I’m settling down to watch TV or read after a long day in the academic salt mines. Abilify is slandering bathrobes everywhere, and I won’t stand for it.

No, my depression isn’t a bathrobe. Samuel Johnson described his depression as a black dog, and Winston Churchill co-opted it; that gets me a little closer, but I like dogs and don’t want to smear their good name. No, my depression is a mean-ass mutant black possum that crawled up out of the depths of hell for the sole purpose of following me around and trying to destroy my life. It has three rows of nasty teeth and a prehensile tail that it uses to trip me, and obviously, it has rabies. Time to get out of bed and go to work? Nope, the possum is lurking by my slippers. Big weekend plans? Sorry, can’t leave the house, I’ve got a damn possum blocking the doorway. Need to be a functional adult who can go to the grocery store without weeping? Fat chance! The possum’s made itself a little nest in my reusable shopping bags, and my damn cat is too busy snoozing on the radiator cover to deal with it.

I haven’t been neglecting my blog out of laziness. I’ve been battling the possum, which thrives in the wet greyness of February and March in Boston, and it’s only within the last few days that I’ve managed to knock it out with my Battering Ram O’ Paxil and throw it over the fence at the rear of my condo complex. Hopefully, it’ll terrorize my weirdo neighbors for a while before coming back.

And it always comes back.

Look, I don’t try to hide my mental illness from anyone. I’m not delusional; I take my medication every day, and I’m not so bullheaded as to believe I can triumph over it through sheer will. I’ve accepted that I will live with this for the rest of my life, and I thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for generic medications and the excellent health insurance that comes with my job. I just don’t see it as being any different from other chronic conditions, like asthma or type-1 diabetes. I know that I have a hereditary serotonin imbalance that’s resulted in a severe mood disorder, and I know what needs to be done in order to deal with it. I lead a relatively normal life – I have a career, a home, friends, hobbies, and the same crippling addiction to mobile devices and broadband internet that characterizes my peer group. And just as a diabetic takes insulin, I start my day with 60 milligrams of the drug that enables me to stare down that possum and knock it out of my way at least 80 percent of the time.

In short, I’m not ashamed of my depression, or my anxiety, or the associated phobias and mental vagaries that accompany it. And if you have your own nasty rabid marsupials to fight – well, you shouldn’t be ashamed, either.

Now that I don’t have a goddamn possum sitting on my keyboard, I can resume writing again. (Sometimes, writing makes me feel better, but the final product is usually mood-killing navel-gazing that’s of little interest to anyone who’s not me and I like you all too much to subject you to that.) And boy-howdy, do I have some fun tidbits for you today!

I’m down 85 pounds overall, and 19 pounds since I started Weight Watchers on January 2.

(The sock bun makes an appearance! These jeans came from Walmart and I am gradually becoming okay with the fact that my body type will always be more Big Box than Boutique.)

I have to say, Weight Watchers isn’t as hard as I thought it would be going in. Don’t get me wrong; losing weight and getting fit is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, so it’s not exactly on the level of “ordering shoes on the internet” or “chewing the shit out of a pen cap,” both of which I am doing at this very moment. But I thought Weight Watchers was going to be like summiting Everest, and it’s really more like taking a guided hike up Mount Washington in the summertime with a bunch of nice people who share climbing tips and energy drinks. The meetings honestly remind me a lot of group therapy, but we’re allowed to make jokes and they don’t take up nearly as much of my time. It helps to have that weekly accountability at my weigh-in, and it feels like we’re all in this together, dammit, and we’re going to get to that weather observatory at the top through hard work and counting Points and going to the gym even when we don’t feel like it.

I ran my first-even 10K race this weekend! And I was quite literally the last person to finish!

(Me and my personal bike escort… last place for speed, but first place for style! It was cold and windy, so I had to cover my pink argyle Sweatyband with an ear warmer. BOO.)

I knew going into this race that I was going to be last – I checked out the 2012 results, and my fastest six-mile time was more than 20 minutes slower than the final finisher that year. That actually took off quite a bit of pressure, and once the starting horn blared, I treated the course like any other training run – headphones on, Pandora set to ‘80s Cardio, and I even moved to the sidewalk for good measure.

If you’ve never run a race – or if you’ve never been at the absolute back of the pack – the local police who block the intersections for the runners tend to focus on the first wave of athletes and forget the rest. I mean, I don’t blame them – I’m very short and I’d be hard to miss if I weren’t wearing bright pink – but it does get a bit worrisome when you come up on intersections and aren’t quite sure where to turn.

This time, however, I had my own bike escort! I was super-embarrassed for about five minutes – ugh, seriously, I’m so much slower than everyone else that they had to send someone out to make sure I didn’t get lost and end up in New Hampshire or something – but I remembered that I was out on a cold Saturday morning in March running 6.2 miles, dammit, and my bike escort was extremely nice and encouraging. It was like having my own support team on the course, complete with cheers when I finally made it up the hill between miles four and five.

Of course, I really did have a support team at the finish line in the form of my dad, who came down for a few days to help me paint my living room and make my condo look like an adult woman with a job and decent color sense lives there. Now, both of my parents are so supportive that I often feel emotionally spoiled (which I am, sorry I’m not sorry), but my dad is definitely the more exuberant one. When I was a high-school field-hockey player, he had to watch my games from the top of the hill above the field because he got a little too excitable on the sidelines; now, he meets me at the end of the race course and cheers loudly as I kick into my final sprint.

Saturday, however, was the first time he ever started running alongside me.

Here’s the thing. My dad can definitely hold his own alongside his slow, chubby daughter – that’s not in question. HOWEVER, he’s at least a year overdue for hip replacement surgery, since one bone is grinding against another bone and he keeps putting it off. (I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because he can’t bring his cat to the hospital with him or something.) He finally made a doctor’s appointment to start talking about his options, but that does not mean his hip magically got better. I’ll be happy to go running with him once he has the surgery and goes through three months of physical therapy, but merely calling New England Orthopedics does not a new hip make.

With two blocks to go, I had a vision of my poor dad falling over in Malden Square, cops swarming the scene, an ambulance showing up, emergency surgery – and me not finishing this goddamn race because of it.

I was pretty winded at this point – I picked up my pace as soon as I saw the six-mile sign come into view – but I reached down, and with my last remaining breath, managed to scream:

“STOP THAT RIGHT NOW! YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE GETTING YOUR HIP REPLACED! MOM IS GOING TO KILL US BOTH!”

(This is not strictly true. She’d kill him. I’d probably be okay.)

This threat worked, and I made it across the finish line in 1:25:00 exactly – a six-mile personal best for me, and a pretty awesome 13:41 pace overall.

So then I yelled at my dad about his damn hip some more and got French toast and took a nap with my cat and reveled in how nice my living room looks now that it’s a tasteful khaki rather than the shiny peach it was earlier. It was awesome. So was the runners’ swag bag, which included a long-sleeved tech shirt, gloves, coffee, a canvas tote, and – for unknown reasons – French rolls from Piantedosi’s. Easily the best swag bag I’ve gotten so far, and totally worth the $20 entry fee.

My next race is – eep – the UnitedHealthcare Half-Marathon on May 12 in Providence, and yes, I’m already nervous as hell.

My support crew (my mom, my dad, and my Aunt Patty) will be down there cheering me on, and I’m following my training plan about 75 percent of the time, and I know I can walk through the water stops and I’m just aiming for finishing and there will be plenty of other people running in the 13:00-14:00 pace group because it’s thirteen effing miles, seriously, but now that my final prep race is done, the Half-Mary is definitely looming large on my calendar. It’s also looming large in my cubicle, where I tacked up the course map when I registered months ago so that I wouldn’t wuss out.

No missing this. (Yes, I have a mirror in here. Yes, that is the corner of a giant Rosie the Riveter poster in the reflection.)

A year ago, I would have laughed my ass straight off if you told me I’d be prepping for a half-marathon. It would have seemed insurmountable.

But do you know what I like best about running?

The possum can’t catch me.

(I hate you. Turning your tail magenta doesn’t endear you to me one bit, you awful creature of the night.)

2

Three hours, twenty-two minutes, and fifty-four seconds after I started the Providence Half-Marathon on Sunday, I finished the damn thing.

I’m going to write up a full race recap later this weekend, but the professional photos just came out and I am so very, very proud of myself for smiling at the camera and accidentally pulling a Strutting Leo.

Your Fathlete, folks.

Fathletics 111: A Change of Pace

Did you know that if you start running for the very first time EVER in August and complete a half-marathon in May, your body gets kind of cranky?

While the mind is willing and the muscles are strong, the bones need some more time to get used to the pounding, and they have made their displeasure known. For a few weeks now, my runs have been interrupted by serious shin pain, numb feet, and weird twinges in places I never twinged before. I finally caved and made an appointment with an orthopedist, and while it turns out that I’m not suffering from anything serious, I’m not hallucinating after all – my bones are mad at me.

So! Your Fathlete is on Day 1 of THREE STRAIGHT WEEKS of no running. Doctor’s orders! I’ve got a tibial stress reaction happening in both legs and a cranky IT band nagging my left hip, so it’s time for resting and rehabbing. I know I need to follow directions, but I can already tell that I’m going to be climbing the walls by, like, tomorrow.

Artist’s Interpretation of the Fathletics Household, June 2013

So it’s time to buy a bike!

I’ve been cleared to bike and swim, and while I’m a professional pool lounger, I don’t have access to a lap pool at the moment. Everyone in this city bikes – I’m constantly looking out for them in the right lane while I drive to and from work like the lazy person I am – and a lot of my friends use their bikes as their main mode of transport, so Boston’s got plenty of resources for cyclists and honestly, it can’t be that hard. I used to cycle all the time as a kid! It’s got to be just like… well, you know.

I don’t see myself becoming a bike commuter – I carry so much stuff with me that I’d end up listing to port and falling off the Prison Point Bridge – but there are plenty of bike paths right next to my home and my office. I also spend a lot of time at my parents’ place in WMass, and one of the great things about WMass is that it’s full of nice hippies who pedal everywhere.

While I regularly hop on the recumbent bike at the gym, I haven’t actually owned a bike of my own since the days when riding a multicolored Huffy was cool. Turns out that there have been some serious technological advances in cycling since this time, including:

  • Bikes with more speeds than I have purses
  • Bikes that look old but are actually new, like VW Bugs or metal lunchboxes with Scooby-Doo on them
  • Bikes with seats that do not force your cervix up around your ribcage
  • Bike helmets with little escape hatches for ponytails
  • Bikes with something called “adjustable stems,” which I read as “adjustable FOR stems” and thought the bike company was being cute and using old-timey Raymond Chandler spy-novel language to talk about legs but no, it’s something technical

As a runner, I’m used to thinking about crash pads and compression gear; this is a totally different language for me. I’m thinking a hybrid/comfort bike would be my best bet, since I’m going to be a total newb, and I am obviously SUPER EXCITED to buy an obnoxiously bright helmet that I will wear all the time because I like my brain exactly where it is, thankyouverymuch, but I’m actively soliciting recommendations!

I’ll report back later on the results of this latest excuse for a shopping trip. Until then, you can catch me on the recumbent bike at GymIt on Comm Ave, where I’ll be huffing and puffing and reading as many library books as I can check out at one time on my Kindle.

Until later, my dears, and please feel free to send me any biking tips you might have!

To the cute gentleman I saw while running today.

We locked eyes on the Esplanade side of the Silber Way footbridge. You were wearing an Elizabeth Warren for Senate t-shirt with a sweatband over your curly brown hair, and you were laughing with your equally cute friend. I was wearing a pink t-shirt that said “RUNNING SUCKS” and a white headband over my long, sweaty brown hair that would be curly if I didn’t iron it into submission.

In case that doesn’t ring any bells, I was the one dry-heaving in front of the sign that tells everyone not to feed the ducks because they’ll get fat and lazy.

Let me assure you that the sight of attractive men does not make me barf. Usually, I just go very silent and back away slowly until I’m somewhere with an internet connection and water to help scarf down my Xanax. However, I’d just finished running 9.6 miles, and even though I made a few pit-stops to refill my water bottle, my body wasn’t thrilled that I sprinted the last half-mile of that route.

I believe in leaving it all on the field – or the scenic running path, as the case may be – and truly, I did so today.

I can tell we have so much in common! We’re both runners, and we both like Elizabeth Warren. Personally, I love Elizabeth Warren (I met her once and she hugged me and we talked about food), but I don’t want you to feel like I’m asking too much. I promise that I usually present myself a bit better than I did today – I look pretty nice when I’m not sweating, I do not generally dry-heave in public, and I’m sure that giant zit on my chin will go away eventually – and once I’ve had a few glasses of wine, I’m usually good for a few monologues about the intersection of race and feminism or a really enthusiastic recap of something I watched on TV. Do you like Game of Thrones? I just finished mainlining the whole series and I have a lot of thoughts about it that I’m sure you’d find fascinating, because I am fucking delightful.

If you get this message, I can be found trotting along the river three to four times a week. Just look for the snazzy headband.

Fathletics 110: Owwwwwwww

My half-marathon plan had me doing an 8-mile long run this week, because I’m beginning to hit that point in training where slacking off isn’t an option and I’m realizing what the hell I signed up for.

On Monday night, I set out from my office, determined to take a new route to mix things up a little and knock out my eight miles early on in the week.

I didn’t even make it to the Leif Erikkson statue before it started pouring.

I kept going, because you’ve got to keep going with four weeks until race day, and it was miserable and awful and cold and I was only wearing a t-shirt because I’m an idiot and by the time I made it to the State House, I was clammy, out of breath, and exhausted from the effort expended to keep myself from slipping. I made it down Cambridge Street and over the Longfellow, and the rain had stopped by the time I hit the Mass Ave bridge, but it was about 20 degrees colder than when I started and the wind had picked up like a big dumb asshole.

“Fuck. This,” I said through gritted teeth, and wogged my way back to the easternmost building on the BU campus, where I became truly lazy and hopped the shuttle back to my office. It had been 4.5 slow, crappy miles, and that colored the rest of my week.

I didn’t run on Tuesday, because I needed to give my calves a break; I went to the gym instead & started yet another Agatha Christie novel while gasping my way through Staimaster intervals.

I didn’t run on Wednesday, because my house was a mess and I had to clean it before my internal Anxiety Bomb went off and detonated into tears.

I didn’t run on Thursday, since I’m now spending my Thursday nights in Southie as the least-skilled member of an indoor field hockey team made up of very nice ladies who all clearly paid attention while learning the fundamentals of the sport as kids instead of volunteering to train as a goalie because stick work was too hard.

So when Friday evening rolled around, I changed into my gear, stretched the everloving crap out of every possible muscle while my coworkers ate leftover pizza, and headed west on the Esplanade. The sun was out and I remembered to wear sleeves, and I threw my CharlieCard in the zip pocket of my water bottle in case things went south as rapidly as they did on Monday.

Two hours and change later, I screwed up every available molecule of energy I had left and sprinted from Kenmore back to mid-campus.

It took me two hours, five minutes, and three seconds, but I ran eight and a half miles last night. The extra half-mile came about as I frantically ran around the MIT campus in search of a water fountain and a bathroom — so I suppose I really did two four-plus-mile runs with a short break in between, but I’m counting it.

I stretched a little before hopping in my car, which by this point smelled like the leftover pizza I’d filched (what, like I was going to IGNORE free food?), and drove home with a plan: stretch, shower, pizza pizza pizza while watching an episode of that thrones and dragons show on HBO that everyone is super-into, and sleeps.

This was a great plan until I attempted to get out of the car.

“MOTHER OF GOD,” my hips yelled. “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING? WE’RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE.”

“YEAH,” my calves joined in. They’re always looking for a reason to be shitty to me. “IF YOU TRY TO MAKE IT TO THAT FRONT DOOR, YOU’RE GONNA BE SORRY.”

“Stop acting like playground bullies, muscles,” I grumbled, fully aware of the fact that it was 8:30 on a Friday night and I was crouched outside my car muttering to myself. “We’re going inside. Pizza, you guys. Pizza. And bed.”

“Pizza? We’ll cooperate,” my thighs said in acquiescence, because they’re big greedy jerks who knew exactly where that pizza would be headed.

With a mighty lurch, I stood up, unloaded my crap from the car, stumbled up the walkway and the stairs to my second-floor condo, kicked a package inside (shopping compulsion, remember? There’s always a package waiting for me), and fell onto the couch.

“Owwwwww,” I said pathetically to my cat, who quite reasonably assumed that me collapsing in pain meant her salmon treats would be delayed. “I’m stupid. Running is stupid. Everything is the worst and I hate it.”

“Meow,” Minerva replied, nonplussed and hungry.

“You’re right. Treats, then foam roller.”

Once the beast was appeased, I grabbed my trusty foam roller and gingerly settled myself on it, left hip first. It hurt like hell, but a few minutes later, the tightness was gone and only dull soreness remained. Right hip, repeat, this time noticing the giant colony of dust bunnies growing beneath my nightstand with little regard for my allergies or Wednesday’s cleaning efforts. Calves — I won’t lie, I definitely yelped in pain while rolling those out — and lower back, reminding me that maybe I should spend more time doing core strengthening so I can hold myself more upright.

That shower was A. Maz. Ing. The pizza was delicious, my bed was soft, the ibuprofen went down smoothly, and I was out cold by 10:30 on a Friday night because I am an old weirdo who has taken up running to extend her lifespan and cut down on therapy bills.

I woke up about an hour ago — my nine-pound furry companion likes her breakfast on time — and while I’m definitely sore, I’m not nearly as stiff and achy as I was when I crawled out of the car last night. I’m going to need another dose of extra-strength ibuprofen today before setting out to find my new kitchen at Ikea, and tomorrow’s run is going to be short and easy by necessity, but I don’t want to die in my bed right now.

I forgot the cardinal rule, kids — stretch BEFORE you sit for an extended period of time. It doesn’t matter how dumb I look doing it in public; I need to get those stretches in before spending half an hour in my (adorable) compact car.

Learn from my mistakes, and from my hallucinatory dialogue with muscle groups and a housecat: never, ever, EVER underestimate the importance of stretching. And get a good foam roller.

This has been a public service announcement from the Fathlete.

Fathletics 108: Recapping My Run

I’ve mentioned that I’m going to be running the UnitedHealthcare Half Marathon in Providence this May. I signed up in the fall, a few weeks after finishing my first 5K, because I am a noted crazy person who can’t resist a discounted rate on anything. I knew that going from 3.1 to 13.1 would be a challenge for anyone, much less someone who used to whine that her office was too far from the bathroom and she didn’t want to walk that far to pee, so I knew that my training plan was going to have to be very progressive and very gentle.

I learned that the hardest jump is going from short to middle distance, so I spent the fall gradually increasing my long runs from 3 miles to 5.5 miles in anticipation for a 10K on New Year’s Day. I was knocked out of contention with some sort of horrible cold/flu combination that grossed out everyone at Christmas (“Jingle bells, Batman smells, but Suzie can’t tell because she just sneezed into her mashed potatoes and now she needs a nap”), but once I was back on my feet, I decided to get into training for the half in earnest. I took Hal Higdon’s 12-week Novice 1 half-marathon training program and have stretched it out over 18 weeks, giving myself time to ease into the longer distances and providing a buffer in case of illness or injury.

I hit a new distance high last night – 6 miles, which is exactly where I’m supposed to be at this point in my half-marathon training! (Don’t snicker, Real Athletes. Sometimes, I find getting out of my bed to be totally exhausting. Running 6 miles is like conquering Everest for me.) I wanted to finish in less than 90 minutes, and I managed 1:28:38, not counting traffic stops and dodging tourists. I’ll never be fast, but I’m growing more confident in my ability to cover longer distances.

Check it out! I started at BU and ran past the yuppies walking their purse dogs on Beacon before plodding over the Fiedler Footbridge. Running through the Back Bay reminds me of my freshman year of college, when I used to go on long walks through the city with my CD player on Sunday afternoons in late winter/early spring because my brain wouldn’t turn off and I wasn’t on Paxil yet. I’m an atmosphere junkie, so I love running by the brownstones and the statues along the Commonwealth Mall. I’m also an irony junkie, so I love running towards the Public Garden and thinking about how one of the city’s snootiest neighborhoods is built on a reclaimed swamp that doubled as a convenient trash dump for 250 years. 

Big props to the Division of Urban Parks for keeping the Esplanade and Memorial paths almost completely clear of snow and ice. I only had to delicately pick my way around two or three dangerous-looking patches, which isn’t too bad over 6 miles of Massachusetts footpaths in February. My street in Malden – about four miles north of Boston proper – still looks like the ice planet Hoth, so I’m especially impressed by the DCR’s commitment to pedestrians. The city of Malden isn’t even committed to seeing pavement before June, despite my numerous efforts to annoy Mayor Gary and his new dental veneers via Twitter and Facebook.

Now that sunlight is starting to return to the snow-ravaged lands north of the 42nd parallel, I actually managed to finish more than half my run before dark. New distances and new routes mean new views!

External image

I’m one of those lazy jerk Boston motorists who doesn’t believe in walking anywhere as long as I have confidence in my ability to locate and squeeze into a parking space, but I’ll admit that you just don’t get this kind of vista while sitting in traffic on Land Boulevard.

DOGS THAT PASSED ME: 3.

JOGGING STROLLERS THAT PASSED ME: 1 (only because it was too cold out for all the other babies; I assume the baby inside that stroller was pretty hardcore).

PANDORA STATION OF CHOICE: 80s Cardio Radio (humming “oh Mickey you’re so fine you’re so fine you blow my mind hey Mickey” got me through a particularly boring stretch of Memorial Drive between miles 4 and 5).

GEAR OF NOTE: I overheat quickly, so I just went out in running tights, a tank top, a long-sleeved thermal, an earband, and gloves. My winter running must-haves include Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves in Neon Pink; Amphipod Hydraform Handheld Thermal-Lite 20 oz. Water Bottle; and some excellent capacitive touch knit gloves that my mother found online – similar to these, although mine have a clearly-not-sanctioned-at-all Apple logo on the wristband.

Until next time, my little Fathlettes!

Fathletics 107: The Fart Doctor Is In The House

I like to think of myself as a fairly sophisticated* woman. I have two graduate degrees, one in American history and the other in educational administration; I can discuss the finer points of Keynesian economics with tenured university professors; I can argue the superiority of Balenciaga over Dior; and every once in a while, I read books that don’t involve dead bodies and British sleuths.

So naturally, I’m going to use my blog to talk about farts.

It’s not really that big of a leap to make. I wrote half of my American history graduate thesis on the toilet. (It was 2006 and I was totally enthralled by the WiFi connection in my apartment. I don’t even think I needed to be on the toilet for most of it. The novelty of connecting to JSTOR from my bathroom was just that strong.) As an infant, I once belched so loudly that my parents thought a truck had backfired in the driveway. Even in high school, when girls traditionally pretend that they don’t even know what a toilet is because being a delicate flower who meets a suitable hotness threshold is more important than evacuating your bowels in a normal fashion, I could always be counted on to have a stash of pads and tampons in my locker that could put the feminine products aisle at CVS to shame. I may have been an unpleasant teenager, but let it be said that I never once denied Tampax to anyone in need.

(Oh, stop recoiling in horror. You do it, too. I bet you’re reading this in the bathroom right now. It’s okay! This blog is all about normalizing things people – especially women – don’t want to talk about, like fat rolls and chafing and farts. I poop and fart and bleed and burp and you do, too!)

My lack of inhibition about bodily functions can probably be attributed to three main factors:

  • A conscious rejection of the shame the Catholic Church teaches its adherents**
  • Watching Mel Brooks films at an early age and developing an appreciation for well-executed toilet humor
  • My maternal grandmother, who taught us several rude songs about beans***

However, no matter how comfortable you are with your body and the noises it makes, there’s always some apprehension when those noises happen in public. My old roommates and I may have had rating systems for belches and farts, but rating some of your best friends’ beer burps and passing gas among strangers aren’t even remotely the same thing.

And that, my friends, is another great thing about exercising: Farting, along with other indelicate bodily functions, is de rigueur at the gym, the yoga studio, and the track. It’s amazing! It’s like a fellowship of grossness, and I love it. Not out of prurience, but because of what it means for how women relate to their bodies.

Let me get a little abstract on you for a minute. In the public sphere, certain things are expected of women. We’re expected to be well turned-out – not just clean and scrubbed, but made-up, blow-dried, manicured, ironed, and heeled. We’re expected to take up as little space as possible – which is why fat women are the epitome of appalling, but men routinely take up two subway seats just by spreading their legs and airing out their testes and no one says anything. If we argue or express opinions loudly or have the nerve to disagree with the status quo, we’re bitches; if we proclaim freedom over our bodies, we’re sluts; if we adopt traditionally masculine behaviors and intonations to get our points across, we’re bulldykes or nonwomen. If you’re female or female-presenting, you know exactly what I mean; if you’re male or male-presenting, you never will. Even when you recognize the gender dichotomy, call bullshit on it, and do your best to break it down, you still have to live with it. I’m an intersectional progressive feminist who does her best to call out harmful behaviors and educate people about equality and justice, but hell, I still won’t leave the house without putting on mascara.

Which is precisely why it’s so refreshing to fart without abandon in yoga class. In that moment, I’m not performing femininity; I’m strengthening my body and letting it do what it needs to do, and that includes passing gas after “anchoring my pelvic floor.” (If you don’t take yoga or Pilates, “anchoring your pelvic floor” is basically code for doing a prolonged Kegel. It took me a few classes to make that connection.)

Okay, I’ll cut the theory and get down to brass tacks.

A GUIDE TO WORKOUT FARTS

Yoga/Pilates

This is where you’re most likely to encounter farts, both your own and those of others. (My friend Meara and I used to do Wai Lana yoga in our living room, and the first time we did this, no sooner did the little Asian lady on the tape say that “this exercise is good for releasing abdominal gas” than I farted so loudly I scared both the cats. Meara, to her credit, neither hissed nor ran under the bed to hide until kibbles were offered.) There are maybe three yoga poses that don’t end in me ripping one, and downward dog is not among them. The yoga and Pilates classes I attend at Fit Lifestyle Studios in Melrose are big on downward dog, for obvious reasons; it’s fundamental to core strengthening and balance. However, it also involves sticking your ass straight up in the air like you’re the American flag and the yoga mat is Iwo Jima. Something about going from every other yoga position possible into downward dog makes me fart, and there’s no way to muffle that.

The great thing about yoga farting is that every other person in that room is also going to rip one at some point before your hour’s up. Think about it – you’re working on your core muscles, you’re rolling all around into weird poses that put your butt in different configurations, there’s relaxing music in the background, and some lady is talking about centering yourself. It’s basically a perfect recipe for a mélange of flatulence. And that’s okay! If you’ve never taken yoga or Pilates, let me assure you that you will fart, and it will be normal. And please remember – if someone else farts, that’s not a cue for you to laugh (or to rate it on a scale from one to ten).

Oh, and if the class is really crowded, please try to avoid actually farting in someone’s face. There’s being comfortable with your body and accepting what it needs to do, and then there’s being a horrible human being. Accidents happen, but dude, try to nip that in the bud before it happens, okay? Butts towards walls in that situation, folks.

Cardio equipment and running

You know how people like to complain that headphones and personal music players and smartphones and blah blah blah are wreaking havoc on our ability to communicate with each other? I call bullshit. First of all, I’m a natural introvert****, and being able to put on headphones and ignore everyone else is a fucking delight. Second of all, now that everyone brings their iPods to the gym with them, no one can hear anything that’s going on around them. Now, this is probably not great if you’re looking to avoid being eaten by a tiger or hit by a meteor, but in the relatively safe confines of the gym, it’s fantastic. You can fart to your heart’s delight and no one’s going to hear a damn thing, except for the people who work at the gym and who are more used to this than you realize. This is also one of the reasons I love running outside – on the Paul Dudley White Bike Path, no one can hear you fart.

Also of note: exercises that require you to simulate running or stair-climbing are going to make you poop. If you’re planning any kind of prolonged cardio session, it’s okay to hit the bathroom halfway through. If you’re an outdoor runner like me, it’s a good idea to know where the most accessible public bathrooms are – I live and work in the greater Boston area, so I just keep an eye out for the telltale pink and orange of Dunkin’ Donuts. Don’t ask me why this intestinal biz happens – I’m not a scientist or an exercise physiologist. Maybe it’s magic, what the hell do I know?

Strength equipment and core exercises

Much like yoga and Pilates, these exercises sometimes involve a lot of squatting, bending, lunging, and farting. If you’re tackling something like the 100 Squats A Day challenge, get ready to break some wind – and try to clear out your system beforehand, because if you’re doing weighted squats with a 50-pound barbell on your shoulders, the last thing you want to feel is the urge to actually poop.

I’ve noticed that people using free weights at the gym are split pretty evenly between those who wear headphones and those who don’t. Farts, while common, will reach more ears here than in the cardio area. However, most of the users of the strength area at my gym are men, which is shitty for gender equality but great for me when I need to pass gas. Men who lift weights tend to respond to strength, so if I feel a fart coming on, I stare defiantly forward and continue with my tricep dips as if daring someone to say something. Much as gorillas establish dominance by intimidation, I establish dominance by farting unapologetically. I’m probably not going to meet my future husband in the freeweight area of GymIt, but hey, that’s not why I’m there!

As for the core exercises (planks, crunches, leg raises, etc.), it’s much like yoga – when you focus on your midsection and lower abdominals, farting is just a fact of life. If you’re particularly self-conscious about it, just make sure your hindquarters are facing the wall. If you’re really paranoid, feel free to cover up your farts with some Neanderthal-style grunts. Most people will think this is odder than just farting, but hey, it’s the gym. You do you.

I think that about covers it for this edition of Suzanne Brown, Fart Doctor. I’ll be back next time with more personal anecdotes that should probably embarrass me but don’t! (Mom, did you have my shame glands amputated at birth or something? I know we couldn’t have anticipated blogging way back in 1985, but I don’t know how wise of a decision that was.)

* – for ages, I’ve been called a snob and an elitist. You know, being a snobby elitist isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For starters, no one ever expects you to write a blog post about farts. The element of surprise!

** – I grew up with a father who turned practically atheist after being sent to Catholic reform school in the 1960s and a mother who dragged me out of mass as a child after proclaiming that she wouldn’t support an organization that sheltered perverts. Subverting Church teachings was not only allowed, but encouraged. This is probably why I got booted from catechism classes in the ninth grade and had to finish my religious education at a very nice lady’s kitchen table, where we made cookies and talked about prison reform.

*** – they are, after all, the American fruit. The more you eat, the more you poop. The more you poop, the better you feel, and now you’re ready for another meal!

**** – not shy, let me remind you. I am fucking delightful at parties, once I’ve had my Xanax. I just need to spend the following 12 hours on my couch with my cat, mentally recovering. My batteries need an extended recharge.