Have you ever been stuck in a rut? I know I have. Like the literal ruts formed on the farm when you have to haul water to the animals in the back pasture on a muddy day, they are easy to create and get into but often hard to get out of.
Personally my ruts usually come from having a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it in. Between teaching a full load, other responsibilities at school, running a large student organization that takes up a lot of time outside of school, serving on multiple boards and committees for organizations that I’m passionate about, being present at the farm so the animals stay healthy, taking care of my dogs, and spending time with my husband, there just are not enough hours in the day.
Something has to give, right? Usually it’s my personal wellness. I eat more and more sugar because it gives me comfort, and I move less and less because I’m tired.
Over the years I’ve tried different things that I have loved, but none gave me the satisfaction I was looking for. I grew up dancing so moving meditations like yoga are great, but it’s hard to fit in a class with my schedule and even when I went to yoga every day I didn’t really see/feel much change. I used to love to cook healthy food, but our small house with no dishwasher wasn’t inspiring.
Then two years ago the headaches came. Horrible headaches that were with me more days than not and would put me out of commission whenever I didn’t absolutely have to do anything. I couldn’t do many of the things I wanted to and was taking pain relievers way more often than I knew was good for me.
This fall I decided I’d had enough. We bought a dishwasher. And in the words of Marie Kondo, boy does it “spark joy” to be able to have my dishes cleaned so I can cook to my heart’s content without feeling guilty about leaving the kitchen messy afterwards when I want to move on to something else.
I made an appointment with the doctor. Through elimination diets and activity tracking I had narrowed the headaches down to sinus irritation, even though I wasn’t actually sick. The doctor confirmed that I have very sensitive sinuses and we are working on the issue. The headaches aren’t gone for good, but when I get one I know what to do to relieve it quicker.
That still left my physical wellness. I had been talking to a good friend about feeling in a rut, and she knew exactly what I was talking about. She is also a big woman who had really changed her fitness level in the last couple years. I told her I admired her success but couldn’t imagine doing it myself. She told me I should totally join a gym. I didn’t believe her.
I hate doing cardio. I have tried running and ellipticals over the years with little success. I used to love cross country skiing when we lived in Norway, but I was way more in shape and had easy access to well-groomed trails back then(plus Norwegian winters were a much steadier 25 degrees which is pleasant ski weather, Wisconsin seems nearly incapable of that). I told my friend that I really did not want to join a gym and be told to spend 30 min on the cardio machines, no matter how good it was for me. Her reply floored me.
“I don’t do cardio.” What!? How could she have gotten great results without cardio? She told me the answer was powerlifting. She had found it very empowering and had changed her life. I didn’t understand what was so great about hanging around the gym with some grunting guys, that seemed very intimidating to me. Then because we are nerds we spent a bunch of time talking about the science of it and how it can actually be cardio but you feel totally different because you are always pushing your body to lift heavier.
So I thought and thought and thought. And read and read and read. And then I took the plunge and joined a gym. I downloaded an app with a powerlifting program on it. And I followed the program to a T for all of January, and I can’t wait to go to the gym later today.
I can’t believe the changes I have made in a month. No, I don’t look or weigh much different, nor do I care about those things. But I can lift a heck of a lot more and am more useful on the farm. And it is empowering and I feel better. I look forward to going to the gym. It is a moving meditation, just very different from those I’ve done before. I only go three times a week; rest is necessary. Sleep is considered a good thing, not being lazy. I drink way more water and way less junk. I get more tasks done more effectively because I am taking better care of myself.
And as for food? Well even with the dishwasher I still wasn’t eating healthily, I was mainly baking a lot. The ridiculous thing is that I raise meat for a living and have several freezers full of meat in my house, but I was barely eating any of it because my unhealthy habits just led me to eat more and more carbs. Now that I am pushing my muscles to grow, I crave protein so much more and feel so much better with a protein-rich diet. And I’m so lucky to have access to such great, healthy meat.
I won’t say that I’m out of my rut for good. I know better than that. It’s a lifelong process and there are weak spots always looking to form a rut at the first rainfall. The way to prevent ruts on the farm is to put down a solid foundation of gravel. That’s what I have to do in life as well, so the ride can be smoother and the landscape stays healthy.