TWIR #80 (!!!): Getting Back to It

I just had a moment when I realized that somehow I’ve been doing training weeks in review for 80 weeks. That’s more than a year and a half. It’s cliche to ask where does the time go, but seriously, where does the time go? Okay, that’s enough existential questioning for a Friday afternoon. Let’s get on to workouts. This week was a marked improvement over last week’s shameful cake consumption and relative lack of legitimate workouts. Here’s what I accomplished:

Activity: outdoor workout (!) + walking
Relevant Stats: 45 min. mixed running and strength + 15 km walking
Observations: I love, love, love having a legit track by our house. Saturday morning, with only half a cup of coffee in my belly, we hit the local park for a mix of running laps and various strength exercises. Nothing is cooler than doing walking lunges, walking side lunges, hip bridges, push ups and step ups, among other things, while all the other people running or walking the track stare at you. We then walked a collective 12 km running errands and generally taking advantage of a rain-free day. I felt really good about the day’s activities, until we went for a six-course meal with wine pairings at Hawksworth, the richness of which most definitely counteracted whatever benefit we gained through exercise.  The meal was absolutely worth it.

Activity: walking
Relevant Stats: 12.6 km
Observations: I keep telling you walking isn’t a real workout and then I keep listing it as my workout. It was too nice a day to waste at the gym, and since I’d already run on Saturday there was no way to do an outdoor workout near the house. Walking was the answer, and trust me when I say it felt like we walked way farther than 12.6 km. At times, it seemed like our walk was never ending, and my legs were tired as hell.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: After being in a hotel gym and out of town for a week and a half, it felt fantastic to be back at my gym.  There were prowler runs and negative pull ups and the triumphant return of kettle bells (seriously, why do hotel gyms never have kettle bells?). It was a good workout day.

Activity: attempted spin & strength training
Relevant Stats: 20 min. spin + 25 min. strength
Observations: I tried to do just cardio, I really did. The thing that used to happen with me when I ran all the time is happening to me with spin now: I hate it. I get on that bike and I want off immediately. I used to get that way when I ran all the time, and my runs would just get worse and worse until I forced myself to take a break. I need to take a spin break, but with not being able to run it’s tough to find an alternative. At any rate, I opted for more strength training after hopping off the bike despite my sore arms and legs from the day prior. I felt certain I would be in a world of pain on Wednesday.

Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: I know just one day prior I said I needed a break from spin, but I really don’t know what to do with myself for cardio when I can’t run. I hate the elliptical and it never feels like a real workout. I hate the rowing machine and my arms were way too dead to attempt that. That staircase machine terrifies me (I always feel like I’m going to trip and seriously embarrass/injure myself). All that to say I attempted spinning again, and had the same awful result. I could not make myself pedal a second longer than 35 min.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: Two words: prowler presses. Ugh. These kill my arms but I forced myself to do four sets. By the end of this workout, my muscles were very clearly saying to me “NO MORE STRENGTH TRAINING THIS WEEK!”  My arms, in particular, are not pleased with multiple days of strength training. My legs are a little bit more tolerant of it, but even they were kind of like “can we get a break?”.

Activity: spin + elliptical
Relevant Stats: 30 min. spin + 10 min. elliptical
Observations: Oh that spin bike. It is really, really killing me these days. I knew within 5 minutes that it was not going to be a good spin session. After half an hour, I threw in the towel and tried to crank the hell out of the resistance and incline on the elliptical to make it a decent workout. Even on the elliptical, my legs were telling me that they were done like dinner. Sometimes I just have to accept that bad workouts will happen.

Now, as I write this, the sun has actually emerged after three days of heavy, disgusting, West Coast rain that has rendered walking outside beyond unattractive.  As much as I love writing, I love being outside in the sunshine more, and I know this sunshine is not going to last for more than a couple of hours. So happy weekend y’all! I’m going for a walk!


Monday Musings: on the return of relaxation and its enormous power

It surprised me how much weight I was carrying from this move. It wasn’t that we weren’t organized. It wasn’t that we didn’t have a lot of time to deal with it. It wasn’t that I’m not overly skilled at moving (because I am, care of 10+ moves as an adult. and that’s not even counting all the dorm moves in university). In my experience, moving is just one of those things that is all encompassing. It eats up your life for weeks on end as you fill your precious leisure time with unglamorous tasks like…

…purging junk you’ve been clinging to for a decade…

…trying to list shit to sell online to absurd bargain-hunting flakes…

…packing in waves so you aren’t living in an empty house for too long but not leaving too much til the end…

…and trying to clean years of filth from the darkest reaches of your home (hello, under the kitchen sink, I’m talking to you)…

As if I weren’t feeling enough like a shadow of my former self with the new job and the heinous commute, adding moving to the mix took my monster status to the next level.  There has been no fun, or at least no fun that hasn’t been overshadowed by nagging feeling that shit still needs to get done. Then, this weekend the clouds parted (literally and figuratively), and we were blessed with a true Sunday Funday and I had forgotten how significantly true relaxation alters one’s state of mind.

For the first time in months, we weren’t weighed down by the mental stress of feeling like we should be doing something else. We leisurely and carelessly strolled the streets of our new neighborhood without that nagging feeling that we should be packing or cleaning or organizing. It was glorious. We played at the local Pitch & Putt course, which ended up taking a full three hours thanks to many, many beginners slowing our roll (as a sidenote, never have I felt so good at golfing), and I didn’t once think “oh crap, this is taking too long and now we’re going to be f*$%ed later on.”

I cannot tell you how much lighter I felt without the stressful weight of the move. Relaxation truly is a miracle worker.  It didn’t take a major vacation or even wildly elaborate plans. We did what we always do: walked and golfed and drank some wine (not at the same time), but we did it without the burden of a million unfinished tasks. This feeling may not last long, but I’m going to enjoy the peace of relaxation while I can.

Mid-Week Tangent: how to ruin a perfectly good morning in five easy steps

1. Spill your entire travel mug of coffee all over your cloth gym bag containing your work clothes, and all over the hallway floor while trying to leave the house as quickly as possible.

2.  Drive 15 minutes towards the office before listening to a story on the radio about texting while driving, which triggers the realization that you forgot your phone at home, which also contains your license, credit cards and the access card for your office building.

3. When trying to turn around to retrieve your phone from home, sharply cut across two lanes of traffic to make the last exit before the toll bridge and then realize this is the one exit that doesn’t just loop right back onto the highway in the opposite direction.

4. Arrive home to realize that you also forgot your house keys inside so you have to ring the doorbell and knock like a crazy person, which only makes your boyfriend less likely to come to the door because you could actually be a crazy person.

5. Miss your morning workout entirely because now it’s too late to fit it in; shower, put on makeup, do your hair and get dressed in 10 minutes so you don’t arrive at work still in your gym clothes; and then proceed to sit in rush hour traffic because you are leaving 48 minutes later than usual.

* Yes, this happened to me today and, yes, I was about as pleasant as you can imagine after starting my day off on this foot. Is it Friday yet?

Monday Musings: on metaphysics of injuries

If you read Friday’s post, you’ll know that I have yet another sprained ankle. It’s not a particularly bad one judging by the relative lack of swelling or bruising.  Then again, the one thing I’ve learned about ankle sprains is that after a few of them they don’t swell or bruise as badly.  I used to think that was a good thing when, in reality, it’s just a sign of really bad damage. This is all rather beside the point of today’s post. The point is that my ankle is sprained again and the timing is…interesting.

I was in the midst of a really great run (in the sunshine no less!) when my ankle crumbled beneath me. I could easily look at this from a purely objective standpoint:  I wasn’t paying any attention to the ground, I stepped awkwardly on a rock, and I have weak ankles from past injuries. Long story short, I could just say it was bad timing and clumsiness and call it a day.

Or I could look to metaphysics, which would hold that there is powerful connection between mind and body. Metaphysics provides a more holistic view of our injuries, emphasizing that there is an emotional or psychological root to virtually any physical issue. Where it gets really interesting, to me at least, is when you look at the metaphysical causes of ankle injuries.

Ankles, you see, are critical for a sense of grounding, stability and mobility.  Ankles literally support us and propel us.  Ankle injuries can occur when we feel unsupported, either by others or by our own beliefs; and they can be a sign that we aren’t willing or able to move forward, particularly when moving forward means a change in direction or taking a stand.  Bet you didn’t know how much you need your ankles just to hold your shit together, did you?

This isn’t the first time that I’ve read up on metaphysical causes of ankle injuries (or any injury for that matter), but I was reminded of it on Friday as I killed time icing my foot. What I found particularly interesting was that, just as my ankle decided to go in a different direction than the rest of my body, I was grappling with how to get out of a potential commitment to work I didn’t care about and wondering what I would possibly do in its place. In other words, just as I was agonizing over my crumbling beliefs and fear of moving in a new direction, my poor ankle, that pillar of stability and motion, crapped out on me.  If that’s not a powerful mind-body connection, I don’t know what is.

This is all endlessly fascinating to me, except for the part where I realize that essentially I have to figure out a way to fearlessly forge a new direction for myself…That part’s a little less fascinating, but I suppose eventually I have to tackle the bigger issues, don’t I?

Thursday Real Talk: it’s not all sunshine and roses

You may have noticed that I’ve been writing less this week. I didn’t post on Monday even though I had a draft that I could’ve tidied up quickly. I threw together a post for Tuesday purely because I felt pressured (entirely self-inflicted) not to miss two days in a row.  Yesterday, I sat down to write a post and, after completing two partial drafts on completely different topics, abandoned all hope of pulling together anything good. And today, today I wrote another two partial drafts on different topics, neither of which will see the light of day any time soon.

What’s at the heart of this? It’s not a lack of interest in writing for this space. Writing is still one of the things I love to do most.  It’s that my mental landscape is so completely occupied with career-related questions that I haven’t been successful in clearing out the tiny generative space that I personally need to write for this blog. In other words, I’m squelching my own creativity because I’m stuck in a downward spiral of career confusion.

Namely, I have no idea what to do with myself. I cannot remember the last time I got excited about a prospective opportunity, and by ‘excited’ I mean curious and interested, not jumping with joy. For the better part of a year, I’ve been tossing my resume out into the ether, meeting with employers, talking to prospective clients and networking my ass off and I cannot recall a single conversation that had me thinking ‘Yes! This sounds right!’ For some reason, this week more than ever, I’ve felt the troubling weight of this realization: I do not know what I want to do.

I have a small handful of potential work opportunities on the go and not a single one sounds genuinely interesting to me.  In fact, one potential opportunity, for which I’m supposed to ‘audition’ by delivering a portion of a workshop next Tuesday, is actually filling me with the same dread that I felt before I started my last job. I know it’s a bad fit already but, without having viable career alternatives in mind, I feel like I have to keep moving forward despite everything screaming in me to cancel, cancel, cancel. I’m conscious that I’m repeating my old patterns but, as they say, the train is in motion and I’m not sure how to bring it to a halt.

I am frustrated with myself for not being able to figure out an alternate course of action for my career.  I pride myself on being competent, thoughtful, reflective and, above all else, capable. I’ve always made things happen for myself, taken care of myself, and kept myself in a stable and secure position. For the first time,  I’m in a state of total uncertainty and I don’t feel entirely capable of identifying my direction.  It’s not a comfortable feeling for me, and it’s definitely putting a damper on my creative flair.

So there’s that. I have no answers. I have no great wisdom. I have nothing to offer except some real talk on where my head is at these days, and I can safely say that it’s not all sunshine and roses.

Training Tuesdays: How to Learn to Like (not love) Running

I’m fairly certain it’s clear from my blog that I’m not a passionate runner. I am an accidental runner and one who continues to run almost exclusively for the fitness factor, and corresponding ability to increase my candy intake. At any rate, I am the least likely person to tell you that you should learn to love running, in part because I don’t think running is for everyone, but also because I do not love running. I do it, and I have learned to appreciate it. So if you want to start running but fear the hard sell from uber running enthusiasts, let me give you an honest, no-holds-barred take on learning to appreciate–not love–running.

There are a lot of ways to get fit and build cardiovascular endurance. The best thing you can do for yourself is find some means of exercise that you love and stick with it. Running is good because, theoretically at least, anyone can do it and you can do it anywhere and with almost no specialized gear or equipment.  If that’s why running appeals to you, but you can’t seem to find a way to like running, this post is for you.

Here are my simple rules for learning to like/appreciate, but never love, running:

1.Don’t expect to love it: Seriously, forget all that crap you hear from your uber runner friends who tell you it’s the greatest high and the most fun you’ll ever have and how utterly and completely fantastic running is. These are lies, or at least they are lies to non-runners.  You know that expression “to each his own”? It means that different people have different ways of seeing the world. Those that truly love running see it in a way that non-runners simply cannot. If you let go of the expectation to love running, you can learn to respect and appreciate it for what it is:  one of many good ways to get and stay fit.

2. Accept that it will not be easy at first:  It’s likely that either your cardiovascular endurance or your muscle strength is going to be a barrier at first, depending on how active you have been and with what types of activities. But let me save you wondering if you can easily go from one type of activity to running without it being a difficult transition. The answer is no. Nothing makes running easier except for running. The simple recipe is that the more you run, the easier it gets. Lower your expectations and accept that your muscles and/or lungs will not be happy at first.

3. Don’t try to run with your runner friends: Nothing has quite the same de-motivating effect as running with fleet-footed and fit runners.  Even if they slow their pace for you, you’ll know you’re holding them back and the fact that you’re practically wheezing while they carry on a full-blown conversation like they’re not even moving will fill you with inner rage. Okay, maybe the inner rage part is just me, but certainly it’s not helpful, nor are there attempts at cheering you on with plucky motivation.  You do not need a cheerleader to make you feel like a less fit or capable runner. Go out on your own, or at least with other running newbies.

4. Start slow, build slow: We all have that friend who’s run a half marathon without training and without ever really being a runner. Guess what? That’s not most people. Start slow. You’ll feel a lot better about running 2k when you aren’t aiming for an unrealistic 1ok run when you haven’t run in years (or maybe ever).  When you have a good 2k run, don’t try to jump to 10k. Early confidence is great, but build your distance slowly and you’ll be more likely to avoid a demoralizing setback. Most humans take time to build up to 1/2 marathons. That friend of yours (and mine) who went couch to half-marathon is a freakish anomaly.

5. People will pass you and you will feel like a tortoise and that is normal: I get that no one wants to feel like the slowest runner on the planet. For the longest time, I was so self-conscious of my loud breathing (read: wheezing) and plodding footsteps, that I would actually stop running in the presence of gazelle-like runners. Everyone has to start somewhere.  Ultimately, this too is about managing expectations. Don’t expect to be the fastest runner out there on day one. Know that you’ll be passed, a lot, and especially when you’re going up hills. One day this may not be the case, but even if it is there’s no law that says runners have to be fast. I am the shining example of this. I’ve been running for over a decade and I am still slow as molasses.

6. That endorphin crap is…crap:  Okay, that’s not a fair statement. I genuinely believe that some runners experience the “runners high”, otherwise known as an endorphin rush. Personally, I have yet to finish a run feeling anything other than tired and glad it’s over. Sure, I have felt a sense of accomplishment and pride for being disciplined enough to run when I don’t really want to, but I don’t consider that the same thing as a euphoric high.  Once I accepted that feeling accomplished was good enough for me, I let go of my desperate search for positivity inducing endorphins (whoa, that was a mouthful).

7. Don’t make running your only thing: Even runners will tell you they occasionally suffer from running fatigue, which can be either physical or mental.  They say it’s best not to put all your eggs in one basket, and that’s just as true with running. Find another activity to use on the days when the thought of running makes you want to set your running shoes on fire just so you have an excuse not to run.

I can’t promise you these rules will work for you, but they may help you get to a place of accepting running as a part of your life more than just expecting running to be your true love. Join me in tolerating running like you tolerate that weird co-worker who means you no harm, and who you actually learn to appreciate over time, but is never going to be your best friend.  It’s really not as bad as it sounds.

Monday Musings: breathe deep, have patience, keep moving

These last few weeks have been damn tiring. I find networking (or relationship-building or whatever other modern repackaging you want to wrap it up in) terribly exhausting.  I have good days where I feel predominantly optimistic, or at least my own version of optimistic which is still tinged with a good dose of pragmatism.  I would say I also have an equal if not slightly greater number of days which feel hard, where I feel discouraged, and where it feels like nothing is moving fast enough. On those days, I am my own worst enemy, my pesky little inner critic gets promoted to CEO and she runs a very tight ship of negativity.

One of the biggest challenges I anticipated for myself in leaving my last role was staying positive in that purgatory of the unknown that occurs between leaving one job and starting another.  I thought I would struggle with it and, in fact, I have.  Like most things in my life, I started with a white hot spark of forward movement. I spammed my network like crazy. I booked meetings like a fiend. I updated my LinkedIn and resume like there was no tomorrow. Then I finished my first round of meetings, few of which yielded anything concrete or promising, and it was like “Okay, now what?” My white hot flame fizzled into a spiral of fading smoke that I like to call demotivated discouragement (because I like alliteration).

I find it difficult to keep the momentum going without seeing results.  I don’t need to see immediate results, mind you. That wouldn’t fit with my brash pragmatism.  But I do need to feel like things are moving forward, and sometimes things feel brutally stuck. When that happens, I find it much easier to just sit back and wait.  Clearly, I understand that this is not helpful.

Ah life transitions, you are filled with such delightful internal conflict and turmoil, at least for sad pandas like me.  It is a daily struggle to remind myself to breathe (not literally, of course, but more in the form of activities that keep me sane), to stay patient knowing that few things in the world move as quickly as we’d like them to, and to keep moving forward, ignoring that inner voice that tells me it’s okay to just wait.  One day, perhaps soon, this will all become an old habit to me so much so that it seems perfectly natural. Until then, breathe, patience, move forward, repeat.