Monday Musings: on ending 2017 and moving into 2018

Happy new year everyone! I hope you all had as wild and crazy a new year’s eve as we had over here, and by wild I mean barely making it to midnight and spending most of the evening attempting to complete an infuriating puzzle that claimed to be for ages 6+. I want to know who these 6 year old puzzle wizards are, because we are 38 and the struggle was real. Visual-spatial perception is so not my jam.

Alas, that is not the point of today’s post. Today is New Year’s Day, which likely means no one is reading this. For many, like me, today is the last day of holiday vacation glory and tomorrow signals the return to work. Ugh. But before that, it’s always fun to take a look back at 2017. I mean, where did the year go? I had more career low points than I’ve ever had in one year, which were thankfully balanced out by many high points in my personal life.  My injury continued to plague me, but the upside is that I’ve finally (I think) wrapped my head around my new definition of fitness. In other words, 2017 had a lot of ups and downs for me, which mostly balanced out in favour of the good.

If I had to describe 2017 in three words, they would be: change on steroids. I moved to the suburbs, started a new job, quit that job, took four glorious months off of work, sold a house, bought a house, started another job, moved into a temporary rental, contemplated quitting the new job many (many) times, recognized that the new job is serving its purpose right now, and completely revamped my approach to fitness.  I’m exhausted just reading that.  And that’s just it, although there was a lot of good in 2017, I can also say that it was a tiring year. Change is tiring.

What I’m about to say is probably going to sound contradictory. Even though 2018 will be another year of big changes, I’m super excited for it. Bear with me on that one. Yes, I just said change is tiring, so why would I want more of it? Well that’s the weird thing about change. Whether change is good or bad, it’s equally tiring to me.  But at least the changes on the horizon are ones that I’m excited about. So bring on the change, 2018. I’m ready for ya!

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TWIR #88: sudden and unexpected improvement

Well, after weeks of my SI feeling tenuously on the brink of reinjury, I made sudden and miraculous improvements. I won’t over-analyze. I will simply say a big hell yeah and move along. Here’s what I got up to this week.

Saturday
Activity: outdoor workout!!!!!!!
Relevant Stats: 3.5 km running + plyometric intervals
Observations: OMG, I haven’t had a park workout in WEEKS! It was a sunny day, and warm (for December, at least) so I couldn’t resist the allure of the track. I figured even if I couldn’t run, doing something outside was better than sitting around inside. I was pleased to find that the run to/from the track + the six laps in between intervals did no harm whatsoever to my SI. Progress!  I celebrated with many carbs, 9 days worth of advent calendar chocolate, and a giant bowl of ice cream. Cheat days are my fave.

Sunday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 30 brutal minutes
Observations: After Saturday’s triumph, I expected Sunday to go much better. By the time I made it to the gym, it was almost 4 o’clock. What I discovered was two-fold. 1. That is not my optimal time of day for a workout and 2. As it turns out, roasted pork hock (consumed at the Christmas Market earlier that day) is not good workout fuel. Ugh.

Monday
Activity: planned day off
Relevant Stats: flight to meeting to dinner meeting to post-dinner-meeting-meeting to bed
Observations: I knew there would be minimal activity on Monday and I was right. I had only 10 minutes to myself the entire day and did nothing but sit on my ass, first on planes, then in meeting rooms, then in a restaurant and bar. I believe my distance walked was under 1 km for the whole day. I also was forced to consume sugar and carbs when my breakfast order (ahem, on the private jet) was incorrect and included nothing but fruit, sweetened yogurt, a sugar glazed muffin, a danish and a croissant. I ate the croissant, which I considered to be the lowest sugar option. Then we weren’t even fed lunch (!!!!) before diving into a four hour meeting. My only option was a Nature Valley granola bar. Colour me unimpressed.

Tuesday
Activity: planned day off
Relevant Stats: so much sitting + 60 min. outdoor walk
Observations: After an early morning meeting, we boarded our jet to head home, which meant six hours of nothing but sitting. The second I got home, I was itching to go for a walk outside. Though I should have been working, the fresh air and movement was a total necessity. Even though it was only an hour, I felt immeasurably better afterwards.

Wednesday
Activity: strength training, mostly lower body
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: Do you ever have one of those mornings? I woke up earlier than I needed to and was actually excited for the gym. I left the house a full ten minutes earlier than usual and there was no traffic. Everything was looking golden. And then I arrived downtown and there was not a single, f’ing parking spot to be found anywhere in the vicinity of my gym.  I drove around for over ten minutes, then gave up and parked at my office, which tripled my walk to the gym. Ugh. This cut my workout way short of what I’d planned, but I guess on a positive note I was fueled by my irritation.

Thursday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I made a major miscalculation in Wednesday’s workout. I mistakenly assumed my trainer would torture my arms, since she usually does, so Wednesday I did almost exclusively legs. Naturally, this is the one week my trainer decided to give my arms a vacation and subject me to a  brutal leg workout. By the end I could barely do a single leg deadlift with only 40 pounds. I was dying.

Friday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: After Thursday’s leg-tastrophe, I opted for as much arm action as I could muster, which I assure you is not a lot. The only leg exercises I did were some warm up single leg deadlifts (with low weight) and some prowler pushes. Even that seemed like too much. However, now my arms are also exhausted so instead of just half my body being in pain, my entire body is suffering. Workout fail.

With that, the weekend is here. It is now ten days (!!!!) ’til Christmas and, while I’m in a good place with my shopping, I still have a list of Christmas to-do’s that’s a mile long. I’m excited, though, as I love everything holiday. So let’s get this weekend and all its holiday prepping started! Happy weekend y’all.

Mid-Week Tangent: how the other half lives

I’d like you to imagine a world in which you roll up to the airport a mere 15 minutes before your flight, and in which you walk straight through a quiet and empty terminal without any thought to removing liquids and laptops and shoes and belts, boarding the plane with only a cheerful introduction from the pilot (with a handshake to boot). It sounds like a fantasy world, doesn’t it? But my friends, this world exists, but only, and this is an important only, for the other half.

This week, I took my first and likely only trip on a private jet. In a word it was brilliant, and such a stark contrast to commercial aviation.  I would include a picture of the magical vessel, but realized that the picture I took might give away the company I work for. Suffice it to say, if this is how the other half lives, perhaps I should have worked about 1000 times harder in my career.

At first I thought I was super fortunate to step foot onto the corporate jet. As a relative peon in the corporate machine, I have no business being there. I am merely fortunate that my role occasionally requires attending meetings with senior executives, and sometimes those senior executives don’t have time to dilly dally with commercial air travel when those meetings occur in Minnesota. I now realize that there was nothing lucky about this experience because from this point forward I will be plagued by the memory of idyllic private jet travel whenever I suffer through commercial air travel’s laundry list of unpleasantries, such as:

–arriving at the airport 1-2 hours before my scheduled flight time, forced to kill time surrounded by screaming children, loud talkers and seat hoggers. Did you catch that earlier when I said you can arrive 15 minutes for a private jet? Even for an international flight. 

–suffering the indignity of airport security with its rules and formalities and tiny liquids bottles stowed only in regulation-sized, clear plastic bags, and hand swabs and pat downs.  You better bet you can carry liquids of any size on a private jet. Family-sized shampoo? Go for it!

–rushing to fit in one more visit to the bathroom before boarding time because you know that it’s not worth it to take a chance on the washrooms on board. Guys, do you know how big the washrooms are on private jets? I could turn around without hitting a wall or sink or toilet. I mean, I could’ve done a full lunge in there. And we had a real towel to dry our hands on. Contemplate that level of civility for a moment.

–jockeying for position during pre-boarding by corralling myself into the appropriate zone like some of sort of cruel caste system.  How can I forget being personally greeted by the pilot as I waltzed onto the plane without line nor formality?

–needlessly turning my phone onto airplane mode, stowing my bags under my seat, or putting my laptop away during take off or landing. Imagine the liberation of having your purse casually tossed on the couch directly adjacent to your chair (yes, as in a standalone chair).

–snacking on nothing but a tiny bag of pretzels and some club soda instead of a custom-ordered meal eaten with actual cutlery and cloth napkin. Ugh.

–walking through multiple and seemingly endless wings of gates to find your way to customs only to be greeted by an agent I’ll tactfully describe as no fun, who will ask you a million questions in a way only customs agents can (i.e. the way that inspires total anxiety even when you have done nothing wrong). I didn’t even have to leave my cushy, on-board chair to clear customs. They came to me, and I didn’t have to answer a single, damn question. A simple glance at each passport sufficed. That’s the sign of power and wealth which, to be clear, I had only by association in that moment.

I’m sorry if I’ve just ruined commercial aviation for you, especially as we near the holiday season when chances are you, like me, will be hopping aboard a plane with the masses, crammed into a middle seat between a crying baby and chatty Cathy. It wasn’t my intention. I just needed to open your eyes to a world of air travel beyond what you and I are likely to experience and, yes, it is every bit as incredible as it sounds.

Monday Musings: putting the time in

Today’s post is really just a thought, but one that’s been nagging at me this week as I continue to drag my feet on putting any real time into my career exploration.

I wouldn’t expect to get better at anything without practicing or putting the time into it. I don’t expect my golf game to get better this Winter as I hide from the rain and cold (i.e. binge-watch Netflix) instead of hitting the greens. I don’t expect my running to get better any time soon given that I’m doing no more than running isolated laps in between sets of plyometrics. I don’t expect a book to read itself; I know I have to sit with it and digest page after page of the written word.

I also know full well that career exploration takes time. I was a career counsellor for years and I work in career development. The first thing I tell anyone who asks “what should I be doing?” or “how do I develop in my career?” is that there is no replacement for putting the time into really defining what matters to you, your financial goals, what you’re good at, etc. etc. etc. It is not quick work and it can also be very challenging work, but it’s work that only the person can do for herself.

Still, I seem to be sitting here more days than not expecting an answer to magically fall from the sky of an alternate universe where one doesn’t need to put in the time. It is hurting no one but myself, of course, and yet that is arguably the worst person to hurt. There is no replacement for putting in the time. I’m talking to myself when I say ‘repeat after me: there is no replacement for putting in the time.’

Monday Musings: problematic patterns

I recently wrote about how wherever you go, there you are. That post and its sentiments have followed me around like a dark cloud since putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, as the case may be). At its heart, that post is about patterns. This past week, I attended a Neuroleadership Institute Summit and, as one would expect with a conference about neuroscience, I heard a lot about how our brains form patterns, and how challenging it can be to reprogram our brain to form new patterns.  For the record, patterns aren’t always a bad thing. In fact, many serve us well and free our mind from needless clutter. It’s just that not all of them do.

Herein lies why that post has sat so heavily with me. Among my many patterns, one is continuing to move into new jobs only to become quickly and intensely frustrated, at which point I become incapable of seeing anything beyond the negative. I get the flight syndrome, the sudden urge to escape and move on to greener pastures. And yet, when I start to look elsewhere, I look at the exact same types of roles, as though somehow a new organization or new colleagues or new mission, vision and values will somehow change the work itself. It makes no sense.

Except that it makes perfect sense. Because our brains are wired to keep us in a state of homeostasis, we will automatically choose the path of least resistance when faced with the discomfort of change. Change is perceived as a threat by our brains, and our brains cannot actually distinguish between real and perceived threat.  It’s fascinating, until you’re the one stuck in the pattern and seemingly unable to kick yourself out of the rut. Then it’s a pain in the ass, and then I get stuck in yet another job that frustrates the hell out of me and I’m left asking myself why I keep falling into the same pattern when I know it yields the same troubling results time after time.

I’ve broken problematic patterns in the past: the urge to pick up and move as a means of changing who I am (yes, I’m moving again in a few months, but no, this time it’s not to be a different me in a new place), dating essentially the same (wrong) person over and over again, or continually making friends with flaky people who aren’t there for me the way I want friends to be. I’ve broken all those patterns over time. What I’m not clear on is what was the impetus for change in those scenarios? Was there a straw that broke the camel’s back or was it just the recognition that the pattern needed to break and a willful intention to make things different? I suspect it was the former, which is troubling because it seems the more emotionally exhausting and less direct way to break a pattern. Either way, this current pattern needs to be broken. I need to trick this little brain of mine to stop sounding the alarms every time I contemplate a career change. I don’t know how to do that yet, but when I do, look out world.

Monday Musings: wherever you go, there you are?

It’s true what they say. Wherever you go, there you are. I have moved to new cities a few times, five times to be exact, and each time, despite new surroundings and jobs and friends and patterns and routines and sometimes my own best efforts, I come out on the other end as more or less the same person. Yet as I sit here one week from moving into our new and temporary rental in the city, I am hoping that for once this old adage won’t ring true.

I’ve been a self-proclaimed monster for three months now.  Imagine living with a monster for three months.  My boyfriend deserves a serious reward. I get up way too early (for me), deal with a commute that fills me with so much rage, spend my work days dragging my feet and soul and brain around like dead weights, and then try to cram all of my fun life activities into the 1.5 hours of free time I get before going to bed to do it all over again. It has made me a Royally Unpleasant Person (capitalization to emphasize how very deserving I am of an official moniker). I don’t like myself much these days so I can’t imagine that others are terribly enamoured with me either.

Next week, however, I will receive the gifts of sleep and time. I move closer to work, substantially closer in fact. And it has become my light at the end of tunnel. I can sleep in a whopping one to one-and-a-half hours longer (!!!!!!). I can start work at a normal time and leave work at 5 and still be home at the same time I get home now leaving at 4 pm.  I get 2.5-3 hours of commuting time back to myself, part for sleep and part for fun. In my mind, this surely has to make me a better human again. It simply must. I imagine myself as I used to be: quite sociable when I want to, able to get through a work day without feeling as though it’s all for naught, and maybe, just maybe, being able to stay up past 9 pm on a weekday. I imagine it to be glorious, and imagine myself as a ball of bright sunshine instead of the angry, brooding dark cloud of bitterness that I am these days. Dear God, people might actually want to spend time with me again!

Here’s the thing: wherever you go, there you are. So what if my commute and lack of sleep aren’t the real issues here?  I’ve blamed my work malaise and general lack of sociability on a crippling combo of exhaustion and commuter rage. But what if it’s the other way around? What if the job and the lack of sociability are the cause of the exhaustion and commuter rage? What then? It’s been a nagging little voice in the back of my head for weeks, one that I’ve been trying to sweep under the rug with reassuring thoughts that it just has to be better. Deep down, that little voice is still there. I haven’t silenced it and I am not convinced its voice shouldn’t be heard. I’ve been holding out hope that I’ll be a brand new, shiny me next Monday morning. But what if…whatever you go, there you are?

TWIR #77: if it’s not one thing, it’s another

I can’t tell if my SI is actually better this week or if it’s just been overshadowed by a really, really annoying neck issue that cropped up after my personal training session. Either way, I’m left wondering if my body has just reached the age at which it is going to experience constant problems like this. I feel too young for that so my preference is to believe that I’ve just been cursed with a body that doesn’t want to get back into alignment this year. With that upbeat preface out of the way, let’s see what this week’s workouts had to offer.

Saturday
Activity: hike(ish)
Relevant Stats: 4.4 km return
Observations: My SI was killing me all morning and I had no idea whether a short and steep hike would help or hinder the situation. It turns out that it helped my SI, but did not help my productivity. I had been a packing machine all morning before I left, but upon returning home was able to accomplish nothing other than eating chips and watching This is Us (by the way, totally don’t get what all the fuss is about on that one…).

Sunday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: Still afraid to visit my local gym, I opted for an at-home strength workout. While some may say that can’t be a good workout, I assure you it can be. I don’t even have any heavy weights at home but I find that increasing reps per set and the number of sets leads to just as effective a workout as at the gym. Bonus of at-home workouts: watching Definitely, Maybe in the background. Who doesn’t love a cheesy Ryan Reynolds movie?

Monday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: unknown time
Observations: Sometimes I think “I’ll remember how long I worked out for by the time I write my post at the end of the week”, and then I realize that I give my memory way too much credit. I do not remember. I am not even 100% sure that I was on the spin bike, but I know I didn’t run and I know I didn’t do strength training three days in a row, so by process of elimination I am left to deduce that I spun.

Tuesday
Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: This was the beginning and the end for my neck. I don’t know whether the culprit was multiple sets of negative pull ups after weeks, maybe even months, of not doing them, or whether it was the stress of trying to keep my hands and legs in sync while doing backwards bear crawls. Let’s be honest: in any given training session there are a plethora of exercises for which my feeble body might try to overcompensate with random muscles, yes even including neck muscles. The only good thing about this week’s session was that I did not have to tow any weights behind me.

Wednesday
Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: avoided all snow in Edmonton
Observations: I had to take a quick trip to Edmonton for work, and not packing gym gear made for my smallest carryon bag yet. Even I was impressed! But that’s not the point. The point is that it snowed on Monday and was set to snow Wednesday evening, and I somehow perfectly timed my trip between winter conditions. I actually like snow, but I stand firmly in the camp of September being TOO SOON for it.

Thursday
Activity: spin
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: This was not a good workout. My legs and lungs had nothing to give. Maybe it was the fact that I woke up at 4:41 and had trouble falling back asleep. Maybe it was the wine on Wednesday night. Maybe it was just my general state of crabbiness and malaise. Whatever the cause, I did not enjoy the experience and couldn’t wait to get off the damn bike, thus only spinning for 35 minutes. Am I great at making excuses for my lack of exercise motivation or what?

Friday
Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: Good God, pushing that prowler will be the death of me. I couldn’t find any 35 lb weights to put on the prowler today, so I went with the 45 lb weights. Let’s just say that trying to run with 90 lbs loaded onto a prowler is harder than I thought it would be.  These legs are gonna hurt tomorrow. All in all, though, today’s workout was an outstanding rebound from yesterday. I’m finding, once again, that my strength workouts are great lately while my cardio workouts are abysmal, which probably means I really should be focused more on rebuilding my cardio fitness. But I likely won’t, because who really likes doing what they “should” be doing.

That’s another week of workouts under my belt and a weekend of packing to look forward to. Yes, that was sarcasm. Happy weekend, and here’s hoping that I don’t somehow injure another part of my body attempting to push boxes of heavy kitchen gadgets out of the way. Seriously, I have a lot of kitchen gadgets and they are hella heavy.