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Published on July 8, 2013, by meg in Mindfulness.

Things got a little out of control recently and I didn’t realize it until I was forced to stop and do basically nothing all day Wednesday.

Our air conditioning broke on Saturday and, because we had been planning to replace it anyway, we decided not to fix the broken one. Instead, we waited a few days until the installers could come out and put in a new unit.

fort!It was hot, but definitely not as bad as it could have been – the temperatures hovered in the 80s, which is pretty good for a DC summer. It was even more humid than usual, though, and really pretty unpleasant, especially at night.

The installation of the unit took 12 hours. The installers were AMAZING and it’s so great that they were able to get it done for us the day before a holiday, but it meant that I spent the bulk of the day in a sticky, gross house, unable to leave.

I felt very twitchy at first. Things have been so go-go-go lately that I didn’t want to relax (the thought that Out There was AC didn’t make me any less restless) and I was grumpy.

But the next day, I realized just how much I needed to just sort of be for a while. So I chilled out on Thursday too. And Saturday. And it was really pretty great. The only thing that would have made it better? An actual blanket fort. But instead, I had a metaphorical cocoon, and now I feel recharged and ready to tackle life again.

 
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Published on July 5, 2013, by meg in What's Making Me Happy.

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Inspired by Mary Catherine Starr’s Simple Joys of the Week column and the estimable crew of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. Thanks for being awesome!

There are weeks that make you tear your hair out and scream and cry and stomp around. Then there are weeks where you would swear you just floated through on a cloud, one where nothing gets you down.

This week was not like either of those, though it had elements of each.

So, let’s get to it!

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    • A party! Our first official party at our house, where everything is painted and cleaned and (mostly) unpacked. We sat out in the backyard with twinkle lights, flowers, food, and friends. The Man grilled. I drank gin punch. There were three desserts, clearly the hallmark of a splendid party.It was so fun that I forgot to take pictures, which in the Age of Instagram is, I’m fairly certain, a cardinal sin. Still, I did remember to take a picture of tiny key lime pies later. Aren’t they adorable?
    • The weather! Yes, everyone else on the east coast is sick of rain, but I am incredibly grateful to it because it kept the temperature in the 80s, which is unseasonably cool for DC this time of year. This is wonderful because of…
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    • Our broken air conditioner! Which was the stompy, hair-pulling part of the week, but the happy is that we were going to replace it anyway, and now we have a brand new AC that works significantly better and will cost less to run. We also ditched the ancient oil furnace for a new high-efficiency gas furnace. Wheee! Success!
    • Fruits and veggies! I am obsessed with this time of year because there’s so much delicious stuff to eat. This week it has been rhubarb, strawberries, green beans, apricots, cauliflower, and tomatoes. YUM.
 
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It’s been a tough year for weight maintenance over here.

I’ve gained back a fair amount of the weight I lost two years ago, and it’s a bummer. Mostly because my pants don’t fit anymore, and I like the pants I have.

racing-weight-cyclist-triathlon-training-diet-bookI’m not ready to dive back into race training – partly because I’m enjoying the time off from racing, but also because I just don’t feel like I’m in the kind of shape I need to be in for serious training.

Enter Racing Weight, a program that tackles just the problem I’m having. I just ordered the book for my Kindle after using the Pear Sports plan for about a week and a half (full disclosure: I own none of their gear and am using the mobile app on my iPhone.)

The app is really neat – it creates a plan based on the book and you can reschedule workouts as needed. I haven’t had a great week yet (as in, hitting all the workouts) but as I play with the app more, I’m seeing how flexible it can be.

There are a few cons:

  1. You have to pay for each plan, which isn’t a deal breaker for me, because you get coaching as you go through the workouts.
  2. Figuring out how to reschedule all the workouts as needed and get the long run on the day I wanted took a bit of fiddling
  3. If the app crashes in the middle of (or at the end of) a workout, you can’t fast forward through the part you’ve already done and have to start at the beginning. This has only happened once, so I can’t complain too much but I could see it being more annoying if it happens more.
  4. The company really wants you to buy a Bluetooth-compatible heart rate monitor, so the app keeps asking you if you are OK with not getting coaching that is targeted for your heart rate. As I have a heart rate monitor (though it doesn’t use Bluetooth), I just ignore it. And I don’t really use my heart rate monitor in general.

But so far, I really like it as a way to keep me accountable. The app tells you when you miss workouts and asks you to drop or reschedule them, which is handy. You can do two workouts in one day (the workouts, at least in the early part of the program, are 20-30 minutes) and the second workout drops off your calendar.

So this space is going to be used to talk about the book, the plan, the app – whatever – and my efforts to get back into racing shape.

Here are some photos of the app itself:

 

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Published on July 1, 2013, by meg in Mindfulness, thinking.

This winter, I went to an open house at my favorite DC yoga studio, Tranquil Space. I had originally picked the studio because it had two locations – one near my home and one near work – and because it offered later classes than most other studios in the area. I work until 8 p.m., and so an 8:30 yoga class sounds pretty good.

I haven’t been doing a great job of getting to classes, though I feel I’m doing a better job keeping up with my personal practice, now that I have a little more space to really spread out.

20130701-115526.jpgBut at this open house, the studio offered 15-minute information sessions. I went to two – one an introduction to the chakras, which was interesting but honestly 15 minutes is only enough time to get confused! The second, though, was on mindfulness, and it has sent me down a path that’s been equal parts frustrating and rewarding.

Frustrating because it’s hard for me. Like, really, really hard. I’ve become so focused on getting things done and making things happen that I’ve forgotten how to just stop and enjoy moments. Not just special moments or moments where I’m especially happy, but also the moments that are ordinary or boring or annoying.

I have been very busy thinking about how I’d like to like my life to look in the future and I’ve forgotten to live my life as it is now. I touched on this a bit in my last post.

In the workshop, I was introduced to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a medical doctor who has done a great deal of research on mindfulness and health. This video is a good synopsis of why I find him so interesting and accessible:

I was very inspired. I ordered a book by Kabat-Zinn and a mindfulness workbook that promised to help me relieve stress. Sign me up!

Because I’m focused on results, I started with the workbook and a promise to meditate for ten minutes a day. Ten minutes isn’t much! I can do ten minutes!

Ten minutes is an eternity if you don’t approach it the right way.

So that tapered off fairly quickly. I’m revisiting the idea, though. Doing more yoga, even in short sessions. (After all, yoga exists to prepare the body for meditation!) Reading the Kabat-Zinn book and ignoring the workbook until I’m ready. Trying to pay attention to the world around me and to myself when I can. Being forgiving when I can’t.

It’s been helping keep me calm in the face of stress. I’m not sure how I want this little feature to go, but I wanted to talk about this and I imagine as I focus more on it and progress, I’ll have more to talk about.

 
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Photo by mindfulness via Flickr

It’s been a long, strange winter. It was cold and windy and I didn’t want to do anything except nest. New house, new town, new running trails.

I didn’t have a lot of interest or ability to focus outward. Or inward, really, and I have a tendency toward anxiety when I stop taking time to relax and think about life.

It’s been hard to find the time to think.

Running used to be a way to find the time; I tend to use running as a form of informal meditation. But post-marathon it felt more like work and less like joy and my brain refused to turn off the way it used to.

New routes didn’t help. More hills didn’t help. Feeling slow and overweight and old didn’t help.

I eased off and stepped back and ran less. Ran easier routes. Didn’t push.

That helped.

I started to make more time to just lie in bed and think. It’s still informal meditation, but it has always worked well for me and it’s helping again. Being still is a luxury, yes, but a necessity as well.

I gained weight, lost a bit, then backed off of that too. Too much anxiety. It’s not where my head is right now. It’s not a healthy thing for me to care about.

For the past two years, forward motion has been my driving force. I have spent a great deal of time looking to see what comes next. Now I want to halt. To be still. To enjoy this moment, just as it is.

Blogging didn’t have a place in that. Blogging is often all about what’s next, about feeding the beast with all the content and experiences you can muster.

I cut off the beast and wrote in a paper journal. Not as much as I wish I did, but it’s a habit I’m trying to restart.

Blogging can be mindful, though. And I find I miss it tremendously. So I am going to do it again. And here I am, writing to tell you about it.

I can’t promise regular content. I can’t promise even writing about running (though who am I kidding? There will be running talk. I don’t think I can stop myself as I get back into it, as I rediscover the joy). I will attempt thoughtfulness, though, and balance. And kindess, toward myself and others.

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was (and has been) to be a better friend. I meant largely to others, but now I see it applies to me as well. Be a better friend to yourself. Show yourself the kindness you show your friends. Judge yourself less harshly and find more happiness.

I am not who I was or who I wished to be, but I am finding peace in who I am.

 

 

 
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Published on January 11, 2013, by meg in real life.
Journal that reads 'Look Ahead.'

Via flickr from libookperson

Not really. I like the old me! The current me. Whatever. I’m in a pretty good place, generally.

I haven’t set New Year’s Resolutions since I decided to drop my extra weight and run a half-marathon in 2010. My goal last year was to run a marathon, but I didn’t set it as a resolution. I started thinking about it back in October of 2011.

This year, though, I want to set some intentions for the year. It sounds all yoga-y and not…quite like me, honestly. But I love the idea of picking a few concepts to live by, things to keep in mind.

And here they are, simple as they seem.

Consistency 

  • Fitness: Sticking with a plan. This includes strength training and intervals and running. 
  • Doing the things I say I will, when I say I will do them.
  • Following through with friends.
  • Attempting to be on time. It’s rude to be late, but I just am awful at punctuality. Must keep working on it.
  • Housecleaning.
  • As ever, try to be more consistent with blogging.

Awareness

  • Spending less time looking at screens and more time looking at the world around me. 
  • Running without music, bringing awareness to the runs and the route.
  • Paying more attention to the people around me and my relationship to them.
  • Paying attention to my body and my mind and doing what is best for me.
  • Pay attention to what I eat and how it makes me feel. Learn to eat more sustainably and intuitively. I am getting close, I think, but it’s a work in progress.
  • Curate my home. Don’t just accumulate things to accumulate them. Make sure everything in the new house is meaningful, useful,  and specific.

Kindness

  • When doesn’t the world need more kindness? Some days I think ‘be kind’ is the most important and helpful advice I have ever received.
  • This goes with the self-awareness item, but: Be kind to myself. Strive for excellence, not perfection. Don’t beat yourself up excessively when you fall short.
  • Do the same for others.

So that’s it – that’s what I want this year. Some small things, some big, but all important. There are others – exercise my creativity. Make things. Get outside more. But a lot of them fall into those three big categories, and I like that.

 
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I tend to be pretty goal-oriented. I always like to have plans and thoughts and ideas going because I find it fun. Even when the ideas don’t pan out, I don’t usually mind too much. I move on to the next thing. I’m a dreamer, and to be a sane dreamer, you have to realize that sometimes your dreams won’t work out.

This winter, I put aside my fitness goals to save my sanity and my health. Moving consumed my life for longer than I had expected. In fact, it’s still kind of consuming my life. Not all of the boxes are unpacked. I haven’t lived in a house with four bedrooms as an adult, so all the extra space feels weird to me.

And then I got sick. I normally follow the ‘if the illness isn’t felt below your neck, you’re fine to work out’ rule of thumb, but in this case, watching my mother get sick before I did made me realize that would be a terrible idea. So I rested. And rested. And rested some more. I unpacked very few boxes and did some easy weights and yoga, but I did not work out outside. I put my goals (to run a 2:10 half-marathon  in March) aside. Staying healthy and keeping myself sane was more important.

I’ll still run the half in March. I’ll still have fun. I’ll be a little disappointed that I won’t (probably) be reaching a new PR, but I will  have gotten back into training as quickly as possible without feeling like a crazy person or putting my health at risk.

I feel pretty good about that.

 
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Published on January 7, 2013, by meg in injury, real life, Running.

It’s not as bad as last year’s possible stress fracture/unpleasant muscle strain, but it’s pretty unpleasant.

After a month sidelined by moving (which is mostly done, HOORAY!!!!!), I immediately got a cold. I’m pretty susceptible to colds, and they tend to linger for much longer than what I think is normal, so I almost always go into complete rest mode when I get one. I’ve had bronchitis twice. I do not recommend it at all.

The cold got into my chest, but didn’t turn to horror and seemed to be going away. AND THEN. I started wheezing and having coughing spasms.

The two times I had bronchitis, I also had asthma, so I recognized the signs and went straight to the doctor, who told me it wasn’t too terrible and gave me an inhaler to puff on twice a day. I have mostly been using it in the morning and after exercising.

Because I AM trying to exercise. I ran a mile and a half today, interspersed with walking intervals. I think I pushed myself a bit too hard, running one of the intervals under at a 10:45 minute mile, because I felt tight in the chest for a few hours and had to puff on the inhaler, but it wasn’t anything too terrible.

I am doing well with weight lifting, but I’m getting frustrated by not being able to run. We have had a string of bright, crisp winter days – cold, but not much below freezing in the morning – and I really miss getting out there and knocking out a few miles. I was looking forward to exploring my new neighborhood and meeting up with a new running group. But the cold is still too hard on my lungs, so I’m sticking with the treadmill until I can complete more than a mile without feeling winded. It’s smart and safe, I know, but it’s also incredibly irritating. January just doesn’t seem to be my month.

 
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Looks like taking some time off was just what I needed. While my diet has been all over the place this week, I’ve hit every day of working out that I have planned on. And I feel amazing.

The first week back in the gym/on the roads is always a struggle – reminding yourself why you’re doing this as your body tells you how much it would rather be curled up on the couch with a book or a DVD set. The second week, though, is magic. You’re not as sore, the workouts are feeling easier, getting out of bed earlier seems more normal, and you’re feeling super-pumped that you’re Getting It Done.

Unfortunately, you know there will come a time where every workout feels like a slog and getting out of bed is The Worst Idea Ever, but hey. I’m enjoying this while I can.

It’s been really great. My runs have felt solid and consistent, weight training is leaving me less sore the next day, and I’m eating all of the vegetables again. HOORAY FOR VEGETABLES.

I’m not feeling 100% awesome about my healthy lifestyle – my diet is still pretty bad, as I’m giving into more sugar cravings than I would really like – but I’m writing everything down regardless and it is helping inform my choices again.

My scale is broken, so I can’t say if my weight has budged (odds are not good on that) but I feel like I’m making progress again.

Workouts for last week:

Nov. 29: 6 miles; felt AMAZING and PERFECT; I want to feel like this on all of my runs. Also stretched for 20 minutes. I am really trying to work on stretching after work.

Nov. 30: 1 mile run (warmup) 60 minutes weights

Dec. 1: Reeest

Dec. 2: 8 mile run (longest since the marathon!)

Dec. 3: Rest more

Dec. 4: 1 mile run, 60 minutes weights

Dec. 5: 5 mile run, felt really slow and tired and hungry, but so proud of myself for getting up extra early to do it

 
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Road sign: FAIL RD.

Courtesy of fireflythegreat on Flickr

Well, that didn’t take long.

Weekends are the doom time for eating well and running consistently. Add in moving chores and birthday celebrations, and, well, let’s just say it did not go very well in terms of healthy eating.

Delicious eating? Yes. But not healthy.

But it’s a new week, one full of possibilities, and I have planned my meals and stocked my fridge with delicious vegetables. I’m ready, willing, and able to have a healthy week.

While moving chores derailed the run streak on Saturday (seriously, I have to wash my walls before I paint them? WHAT), I did work out five whole days last week, including two strength training sessions. This week’s goal is to get to three, but I have a hard time with that Friday session. So we’ll see how it goes.

The other big goal is to swim at least once – I miss swimming and want to get back into the pool. I’m aiming for Thursday on that one.

And half-marathon training officially begins this week! Sure, it’s ‘base-building’ phase, but I have a plan! I like having a plan.