A Long Post About Small Changes

I have this yoga teacher who is really great about giving us about 3 minutes of wisdom and then starting class with a “let’s dive into it, shall we?” While I sometimes love to listen to teachers talk a little more about the philosophy, I also appreciate the propensity to dive in and get moving.

In that vein, I acknowledge that I’ve been either actually absent from this blog lately or mentally absent, and I’m pretty sure that while I’ve gone through this a million times (and probably will again), I’m genuinely ready to recommit. Except, I still ended up writing a lot; so feel free to skip to the bottom for the TLDR (too long, didn’t read) version of this post.

My stress levels have been a bit high since the fall, and I lost a lot of good habits. Although that stress has somewhat dissipated over the last month, I haven’t really been able to get things back on track. I felt overwhelmed, like I had to tackle it all at once, and so in essence, I watched a lot of Parenthood instead.

This is real life, people, and it felt hard. I consider myself to be ultra motivated toward health, wellness, and balance. Well, that kind went all out the window. I’m pretty sure I already talked about it. But I thought it would come back easily, and um, it hasn’t. It turns out, my healthy habits were replaced with habits of mindless snacking, emotional eating, and halfhearted workouts.  I didn’t journal, I was sick of cooking, and my meditation practice died a swift death. Oops!

I’m not beating myself up about it because I figure I just needed a break so I could get some perspective and reconnect. So last week, I was all ready to recommit and get going.

Then last Sunday, I woke up with a megacough and congestion and nausea and basically a monster cold. The kind of sick where you take a four-hour nap and still sleep through the day. Thank goodness we don’t have kids. Sick moms and dads out there, you are the tops. Mad props to you.

Today, nine days later, I’m finally feeling human. You know what healthy habits happened last week? Um, none, but I did catch up to the current season of Parenthood, so there’s that.

All during that low time and the sick time, I still got my homework done and connected with friends, family, and Alex and made sure I bathed and kept the house from turning into a total disaster. So all in all, I was productive enough, but I knew and know that I am capable of more.

So today, on my first day actually being motivated I decided that instead of completely overhauling my life, I’d take a few little steps toward better habits:

  • I woke up early to put together a healthy lunch for Alex and I
    • I’ve been throwing things together during the day when I’m home, but today I got up early so that it would be done around lunchtime. Usually, I’m exercising in the morning but I’m taking it easy because of my cold so I used that time to cook instead. (It was a great recipe from the Oh She Glows cookbook – I’ll post a review next week!)
  • I chose to eat mindfully
    • Ever since I was a kid, I have loved to read and eat at the same time. I used to read the cereal box. But today, I made a conscious effort during both breakfast and lunch to just eat. It was legitimately uncomfortable, and I kept having the urge to reach for my phone or a book or magazine, but I did it.
  • I got active on my study breaks
    • During one study break I did 5 sun salutations and during another, I took a walk around the block. Bonus dose of Vitamin D for the day. Moving my body really helps me stay focused on my work when I am sitting down.
  • I set a timer for working/studying
    • Setting a timer for 50 – 60 minutes of work and then taking a 5-minute break really helps me stay on task. I don’t check my email or the news or Instagram in that time because I know I’ll have 5 minutes to do it at the end of the chunk.
  • I wrote this post
    • I want to write more. Leo from Zen Habits recently had a post on writing and his advice? Write every damn day. Know that some of it will suck. That’s scary, but here I am, doing it.

These small changes made a huge difference today, and I’m really confident that I’ll be able to continue carrying them forward and adding on to them to get back to a place where I feel like I’m rocking life. Because that’s what I want to do, as often as I can.

Here’s the TLDR version of this post:

In a slump? Don’t beat yourself up about it. That doesn’t help.Accept that for whatever reason, you needed a break and you took it. I wasted a lot of time being mad at myself.

  • Think of one small change you can make and make it today.
    • Walk around the block. Replace the chips in your lunch with fruit. Watch one episode of your favorite show instead of marathoning 5 (been there).
  • Once you have a good thing going with that small change, make another.
    • Build on your habits but go slow. Give yourself time to adjust.
  • Recognize yourself for making changes
    • It’s easy to dismiss small changes as not good enough. Don’t do it. It doesn’t help. They ARE good enough.

How Moving is Like Running

I’m really terrible at telling people news. When we got engaged, I was so awkward about it. People I hadn’t seen in a while would ask, “so how are things?” and I would say “Oh, they’re good, how are you?” and then 15 minutes into the conversation I would clumsily interject “oh and we got engaged!” Or someone would notice my ring and ask, which is somehow worse, like I was trying to keep it a secret! This happens when I make travel plans or when I’ve quit jobs or when I’ve found new jobs! I’m just bad at it because I’m always more interested in hearing what other folks are up to. For this, I am thankful for Facebook – now I’m just weird online.

Clearly, this is a quirk that goes along with my general awkward nature but this whole lead in is to say that I have big news – I got into graduate school! And we’re moving to Seattle! Whoa! (That was still pretty awkward).

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We’re not actually moving for another 6 months, so there’s enough time to say “see ya later” to my beloved family, friends, and beloved San Francisco. I’m already brainstorming a bucket list that includes a lot of visits to my favorite restaurants. I’ll share it here once its done so we can adventure together.  It’s a little weird to have so much time knowing that we’re moving, without actually moving, but I’m thankful for it.

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Wanting to make the most of every moment left in SF, I went on an 8 mile solo run this weekend and was able to glimpse both bridges and hit up the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market for a post run juice and a few things for lunch.IMG_3709

Actually getting out the door took considerable motivation, and the first few miles were rough. But I was finally able to settle into my rhythm. I guess that’s what moving will be like, too. It’ll be hard to get out the door of our home in San Francisco, and rough to transition to a new city and new school, but eventually we’ll settle in and find our rhythm, no doubt with the help of the awesome friends we have there. Plus, there’s so much good food and a chocolate factory. I don’t really think it can be bad.

Cheers to adventure and exploring new places!

Any Seattle-ites out there have tips for me? What would be on your Bay Area bucket list? 

The Perks of Taking Running Less Seriously

Although I’m not a particularly fast runner, I’ve always prided myself on being able to follow a training schedule and knockout a variety of workouts while training for a race. When not training for a race, I can be a sporadic runner, but usually with something on the calendar, I’m focused and dedicated.

But I’ve been struggling lately with my running mojo, and even having a race on the calendar in April isn’t really kicking me into gear. It’s really getting out the door that’s the tough part; once I’m running, I usually enjoy it just fine. But it’s been taking a lot of mental energy to get my shoes on lately, and I just didn’t have it in me this weekend. So instead of beating myself up about what it meant to be a real runner, we got on our bikes and rode to Sausalito.

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Now, my biking experience is pretty limited.  I bike at Burning Man, generally either in the blazing sun or white out dust storms. And I’ve gone on two epically long mountain bike rides with Alex’s Austrian family, neither of which I was prepared for – have you ever ridden fifty miles on a borrowed bike without bike shorts? I don’t recommend it, even if the view is beautiful. In the city, I biked two miles to the train station every day to commute to work for a year and a half, but that had been my only city biking experience.

While biking trails and biking in the desert have their own challenges, I decided this weekend that biking in San Francisco is a special kind of mindfulness meditation. Nowhere more so than on the Golden Gate Bridge, where you have a mix of tourists on rented bikes going slow and stopping to check out the view, and serious cyclists trying to speed by as fast as they can. It was slightly terrifying, but now I can say I’ve run, driven and biked the bridge!

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We got to Sausalito and the weather was beautiful and we got burgers and sweet potato fries and admired the homes on the waterfront and watched a dog play in the water. Eventually, we took the ferry back and got to watch Sausalito fade and enter the bustle of San Francisco once again.

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It was nice to take a break from my current mental gymnastics around running and move my body in a new and really fun way. I know a lot of people that run more than I do – I really can’t do more than three times a week – so it’s easy to get into the comparison game and feeling like my training isn’t good enough. And maybe it isn’t if I wanted to be super fast or do an ultramarathon or run something that’s crazy hilly. But today when I hopped on the treadmill, I felt strong and happy to be there, so I’m really happy I chose to take a break.

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On our bike ride over to Sausalito, we stopped at our favorite running store so I could pick up new kicks, which may be a motivating factor to hit the pavement more. Alex, awesome guy that he is, carried the shoes in the backpack for the rest of the ride! Here he is, lookin’ a little boxy: 

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I’ve been getting tons of blisters lately (I’ll spare you the photos), so I really wanted a wider shoe that would hopefully take care of the problem. Although I’ve gone to the same store for the last three years for running shoes, the sales guy sized me at a full size higher than my last pair, in wide width. I went from a 9.5 standard to a 10.5 wide, and when I ran today, it felt so much better! The only thing is, they’re REALLY pink…I like pink, but they’re just so….bright.

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I feel the same way about them as I feel about bright yellow running shirts which I’ve gotten at two races – why? Are they cheaper? That must be it. Anyway, I’m going to rock them because they are so comfortable that I didn’t want to wait and order another size! I ran in them today and loved them, so maybe I’ll post more thoughts in a few weeks when I’ve had time to break them in a bit. 

Have you ever blown off a long run for an adventure? What’s your favorite running shoe? 

Links Worth Sharing: Commonplace Books, Yoga and Relationships, and Procrastination

How and Why To Keep a “Commonplace Book”

I am SO into this idea. I really want to start one. “A commonplace book is a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits. The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking or whatever it is that you do.”

A Side of Feminism with Your Food?

A friend asked me this week about the feminist implications of bringing baked goods to your coworkers, which I’d never considered. The intersectionality between food and feminism (and lots of other issues!) is huge. “No matter how progressive we think we are, we continue to be bogged down in gender roles. Women put daily food on the table. They make meals. Men, however, cook professionally. They make works of art.”

Yoga and the Garden of Relationships

I’m also really exploring how to bring yoga to my relationships – and how awesome and sometimes hard that can be. “I believe that yoga is a profound spiritual practice, one that I have devoted many years to and will continue to invest in for my entire life. However, I am realizing now that another spiritual practice is taking center stage as the most sacred path for my personal evolution. This is the practice of relationships…Relationships come in many forms: intimate connections, friendships, broken relationships, acquaintances, co-workers, and so on.”

When You Change

Truth. “Be aware, when you change, evolve or try something new you will make people very uncomfortable for 2 reasons.”

Procrastination is a Mindfulness Problem

This post totally resonated with me and it made me think of more effective ways to tackle my tendency to procrastinate. “You can’t step back to clarify what your Most Important Tasks are unless you realize you’re procrastinating in the first place. You can’t break a task into small steps unless you realize you’re dreading the task. You can’t clear away distractions unless you realize you’ve been following the urge to go to these distractions.”

Changing Plans

Man, I needed to read this. “Lately I’ve been thinking about the power of being flexible. Of living life in the moment, and being open to possibility, rather than having rigid expectations about how things will play out. How often are you able to surrender to the moment rather than freaking out when something unexpected comes along?”

NF: Dumbell Division – Lessons Learned & Future Plans

So despite being overwhelmed, I did manage to mostly finish the last two weeks of the Nerd Fitness Dumbbell Division plan. My last two weeks probably weren’t as strong as my first four, simply because I wasn’t as focused and I wasn’t as diligent about my nutrition. Here are my major takeaways: 

  1. Nutrition/sleep are vital components of consistent heavy lifting. On the days were I hadn’t eaten enough or hadn’t slept enough, I didn’t do nearly as well. Similarly, drinking water while doing my workout 
  2. I don’t like lifting heavy three days per week. Because lifting isn’t my only form of activity (and there are pros and cons to that), it’s just too much.
  3. Simplicity in a lifting plan is really nice (and occasionally boring). On the whole, I liked it because I didn’t have to think about it, but there were a few times that it got a little old. 
  4. Simplicity does get results. I admit to being skeptical that a few exercises were going to make me stronger, but I definitely saw progress! 

What’re my next steps? 

  1. I’m going to go back to heavy lifts twice per week, and experimenting with fun bodyweight exercises once a week. 
  2. I like following a plan so I’m going to attempt the barbell plan from Nerd Fitness. I did single rep sets today at the gym and pretty much felt like a badass! 
  3. I want to get and read Starting Strength by Mark Ripptoe which has been recommended several times to me. 
  4. I won’t blog about it here weekly, but I’ll be talking about it in terms of my general fitness goals. 

Thanks for following along! I’m also getting more into training for this ten mile race we are doing in April, so I’m sure I’ll be posting more about running as well! 

 

When Something Little Turns Into Something BIG

I’ve returned to the land of the living. For the past month or two or so I have been in, let’s say, a state of overwhelm (this is a generously positive description of my behavior and feelings). The last three weeks or so have been particularly juicily stressful. The details aren’t important but it was around an exam for a class that I was putting a ton of pressure on myself about; suffice to say I’m very thankful I took the test last Friday so that I can be fully engaged in my life again.

Willpower is a finite resource and I was putting so much energy into studying for the exam, that I found I didn’t have a ton of time or energy for a lot of other things. At first, I was beating myself about the copious amounts of chocolate, the lack luster workouts, the crying at yoga, the naps, the lack of blogging, the dust bunnies under the couch, and the occasional TV binge. And then I was beating myself up about beating myself up, because I know that I have a pretty great life. It felt like a lot of things were out of control all at the same time, and that’s not a great feeling.

But at some point, I accepted my energy was going into this test and that’s just how it was going to be. Once I got into acceptance, there was no huge magical shift where everything falls into place (I confess I hoped it might happen); I was still eating a lot of chocolate, suffering through every run, and alternating hours of studying with long hours of staring vacantly at the TV. But! Acceptance did free up more energy for (more) studying, time with friends, cooking good food slightly more often, and spending time with Alex. All of these self-care activities got me through the days, and finally through the test.

Ultimately, the experience was a great lesson for me in three ways:

  1. Sometimes things are out of control and you do your best to get through it. I have to build up my healthy habits again – my running fitness has tanked and I’m out of the rhythm of cooking – but I can do that. I’ve done it before so I know how to tackle it.
  2. My people have my back. I can’t thank my friends, family and Alex enough for the support they gave me; whether it was a text or a phone call or cleaning up and making dinner, they were all so awesome.
  3. I let this test get in my head. I have taken lots of tests. Some of them I have been ready for, others not so much. It’s always turned out okay. I don’t know why this test in particular got to me. This test was like that muscle twinge in your neck you ignore and ignore and ignore even though it hurts and then suddenly it’s a raging muscle spasm and you suddenly realize you haven’t been able to look to the right in months. I didn’t notice how much I’d let it affect me until the end. Now, I’ll be on the lookout for signs that I’m heading into the overwhelm and try to back out quietly before it happens.

Overall, I’m excited to be done with the test and feel motivated to do other things again! I’m going to share on Wednesday my final thoughts on the Nerd Fitness dumbbell training program and my next strength training plan. And I’ll have links up for you on Friday. Hoping to get some recipes to you next week! 

Links Worth Sharing, 1/24: Self Doubt, Overconfidence, Running Mistakes, and more!

37 Inspirational Quotes on Creativity
These are great! I think I’ll print some out and post them somewhere. “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen. -Jonh Steinbeck”

When You’re Feeling Self-Doubt & a Lack of Motivation
Leo at Zen Habits always seems to post exactly what I need to hear. This post really resonated with me and the idea that our identity is wrapped up in what we do and how much we accomplish rings very true to me. “We all have this picture of ourselves, this idea of what kind of person we are. When this idea gets threatened, we can react very defensively. “

7 Things I Learned From A Year Of Overconfidence
This post was super inspirational for me – I  think I just need to step up to the plate more and just go for it. “…[I]f I wanted to stop my constant cycles of self-doubt and self-loathing, I work on loving and believing in myself as if it were a professional project. So I did. My steps were small, but important.”

Meditation Routine Improving San Francisco’s Most Unruly Schools
Meditation is powerful stuff. “In the first year of Quiet Time, the number of suspensions fell by 45 percent. Within four years, the suspension rate was among the lowest in the city. Daily attendance rates climbed to 98 percent, well above the citywide average.”

Revisiting the Thigh Gap: Thin Body Shaming Isn’t Okay Either
No one should be body shamed; we all have different shapes and we all have different stories. “So body-shaming is not okay in either direction or for any reason at all–there are all sorts of ways to body-shame that have nothing to do with size.”

4 Running Mistakes that Keep You Stuck and Frustrated
I definitely needed to read this as I start running seriously again! “Almost every runner’s frustrations are the result of the same small handful of mental mistakes.”