Play Outside

Many years ago I had a gym membership. It was a nice little neighborhood gym, with very few intimidating members. It was mostly older women, come to think of it.

I lasted for about ten months, then the expense (as well as boredom) got to be too much.

Now I do most of my exercise outside (even in the winter, back when I could ride my bike, I was a 365 commuter), and I love it. It’s amazing what a difference it makes when I walk or run outdoors.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that all the walking and climbing on ice formations I did this past winter is what kept me feeling good all the way into the middle of February.

Now that it’s officially summer for us northern hemispherers, it’s great time to take advantage of the free opportunities for activity and exercise presented by the great outdoors.

Personally, I like to run over to the lake a couple mornings a week and then play in the water as part of my cool down. Evanston’s lakefront trail is cool too, they have some neat workout stations along the trail.

Pick a spot that inspires and refreshes you, and do the activity of your choice. The lack of climate control adds a nice little spice to things, and you really can’t beat the price!

 

Challenge Accepted

I wrote about a recent realization I had about my own physical capabilities. In a small way, I have experienced what it’s like when your body “betrays” you.

That feeling still lingers in the periphery of my awareness, that tiny little voice telling me, “you can’t” when I start to consider whether or not to push myself harder. It spoke up when I decided to start taking kettlebell and boxing classes (which I absolutely love), and it spoke up when I decided to start running again.

Sure, the last time I took up running was when my wrist issues were just starting and I had no idea what was coming. I ended up running for a couple of months and stopping when I had chronic hip pain and bronchitis. That was a fun summer.

I have to remind myself sometimes that I really have changed my relationship with my body in the past two years. I give it love and care that it would never have occurred to me to give back then.

So this past Sunday morning I had a little thought, one of those little sparks of inspiration that only hit me when I’m outside in the fresh air, I should run a marathon the year I turn 35.

That means I should aim to run a half-marathon next year and go the full monty the year after that. That seems just over the line of what’s possible, like I’m being a little overly-ambitious. Good.

I’m putting this new idea out on the blog now for two reasons. One, putting this intention out there for all the world to see will be great motivation. And two, because even if I don’t do it, even if I fail (oh no, not that word!!), there’s a lesson waiting for me here.

So, any favorite marathons to recommend? I think I might as well go someplace a little more exotic than downtown Chicago in case 2017 is my only attempt. Next up: better running shoes!

I Did Walk 500 Miles

The 12th week of the 2015 Women Out Walking program just ended and the final walk is this Sunday at the Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate.

I had so much fun participating this year, and it inspired me to get out and walk on some cold, gloomy days. In the past 12 weeks I walked over 500 miles, and my step record for a single day was 30,137.

It was great to lead a walk for the public. My favorite part of this was being part of such a great community activity. I definitely plan to do it again in 2016, and I hope more of you will join me.

Logging my steps and seeing how much activity I actually did in a day was what gave me the courage to take a leap and add weights and running back into my routine. Seeing those number proved to me that I wasn’t the frail person I had been treating myself as.

It just goes to show what can happen when you try something new. Thanks, W.O.W!

Show Some Love

The weather in Chicago has gone bananas today (big shock, right?) and I took a restorative yoga class this morning, so I’m in an introspective mood right now.

Have you seen the news ad campaign Whole Foods Market* put out recently? There’s one that I stop and stare at every time I walk past it:

Treat your body like it belongs to someone you love

That simple phrase gets right to the heart of much of the work I’ve been doing and writing about.

For so many years I asked demanded so much from my body, and gave so little back in return. My self-care routine for my first five years of massage practice was eating “healthy” (lots of convenience food, which was all-natural, but still), getting a massage once a month or so, and riding my bike. I had no creative pursuits outside of my profession, and I spent tons of time sitting on my couch and watching T.V.

I want to be very careful to be clear right now, none of that made me a bad person, and it doesn’t mean I deserved the injury I sustained. For my body, that just wasn’t enough. I wasn’t allowing myself as much self-care as I needed and deserved.

That’s why I love that ad so much. What all of my adventuring the past two years has boiled down to is this: I am showing my body that I love it. Slowly, day by day, I am learning to thrive.


*In the interest of full disclosure, my spouse is an employee of Whole Foods Market. They did not pay me to write this and I’m pretty sure I would love this campaign just as much if my household had no affiliation with the store whatsoever.

 

Alpha what?

My monthly resolutions post seems to have struck a chord with people in real life, which has been pretty neat. I thought it would be fun to revisit that concept and my results from last month.

Resolution:

I decided to meditate on my mat instead of in bed and eat a light snack.

Results:

Mat meditation: I chose this one because I kept falling asleep during my guided meditations when I did them in bed. I thought lying on a thin mat on the hard floor would help. While it did make it easier to stay awake for the entire guided meditation, I think then having to get up and go to the bedroom woke me up enough to really limit the usefulness of this one.

Snack: Despite my best intentions (and written reminders) I only remembered to do this one a couple of times. I can’t seem to wrap my mind around the concept of eating anything before bed.

Conclusion:

I’m calling both of these a bust even though the snack didn’t get a fair trial.

Do I feel discouraged by this result? Not at all, because it’s June. New month! This month I’m going back to meditating in bed, but propped upright with pillows. I’m also listening to alpha wave music as I fall asleep. Last night the music was kind of overwhelming, but I want to give it a decent chance. If I don’t like it, I get to try something new in July!

Epic Summer Redux

All the photos in this post are from last week’s mini vacation in New Buffalo, MI. I thought it would be fun to share a little bit of that adventure here, but it seemed really self-indulgent to write an actual post about it.


 

Two years ago I was having the worst summer of my life: I was experiencing on and off debilitating pain (more on, sadly); I had suddenly left my job, my clients, and presumably my profession; and a close family member turned out to be very ill. Sometimes I thought it was going to crush me.

Walkway to the dunes
Walkway to the dunes

It was also in some ways the best summer of my life: it felt like I had very little left to lose and so I really lived in the moment. When I was in Chicago my besties and I would go to street festival after street festival and dance in the street like we didn’t have a care in the world; in those moments I honestly didn’t.

Little New Buffalo lighthouse behind the dunes
Little New Buffalo lighthouse behind the dunes

I have decided to try to have it all this summer in what I’m calling, “Epic Summer 2: The Return”. At first is seems like a daunting idea; seeing clients (and giving them my all), keeping healthy, blogging and staying up on social media, working on my creative writing, and then finding time to dance with abandon. Kind of the opposite of carefree, right?

A family of geese joined me for morning meditation. Such fluffy goslings!
A family of geese joined me for morning meditation. Such fluffy goslings!

Fortunately, in addition to all the other ways I have been trying to optimize my life, I have been reading a lot on time management/productivity. This article was the inspiration I needed to finally go for it.

We randomly stopped at Central Beach in Indiana to admire the Chi skyline.
We randomly stopped at Central Beach in Indiana to admire the Chi skyline.

 

Here’s my plan for the days I don’t see clients: during the hours when all sensible vampires and people of Irish descent are staying out of the sun as much as possible, I will be doing my computer projects like writing for this blog and my newsletter. During my original Epic Summer I spent these hours either reading about the Founding Fathers/ Revolutionary War if I was in Michigan, or watching t.v. if I was at home. I’ll use timers to help ensure that I’m using that time as productively as possible (I cannot tell you how much of a difference using a timer has made in my life already!). The rest of my time is for playing outside, or reading, or street dancing.

I just really liked this bush.
I just really liked this bush.

The days when I do see clients will stay the same. When I am at work, my time is theirs and I give them my all.

I have no idea if this plan will actually succeed. My hope is that by bringing back little pieces of that carefree summer, I’ll have even more to give during my working hours. The beauty of being self-employed is the freedom to play with things like this. The danger is not re-calibrating in time if it doesn’t work. Luckily for me, I’m an optimist.

This was the view from our balcony. I could never get tired of waking up to that!
This was the view from our balcony. I could never get tired of waking up to that!

So Long, Chitown!

Moderation is going to be spotty around here for a couple of days (not that I really need to do any, but just in case my popularity suddenly skyrockets- ha!) while I’m out of town.

The plan was to spend a week in a cabin in Kentucky, hiking and soaking up some nature. The reality is a couple days in Michigan checking out the other side of my beloved inland sea.

So I’ll be away from the blog until the weekend, and mostly away from social media too. Have a great rest of the week, I’ll be back and ready to write next week!

Stories We Tell (Ourselves)

There’s a distinct possibility that as I type this post, I’m still riding the endorphin high of my first kettlebell class. Tomorrow I might wake up and regret ever being born (this is my number one go-to joke, my parents think it’s hilarious*), but for now I feel unstoppable. I’ve been feeling like that a lot lately; this sense that I am strong and resilient. I’ve been planning to start doing more intense cardio and weight-bearing exercises for a while now, but I was afraid to actually start.

What I realized almost immediately after class today was how many times I have told myself over the past few months that I’m still weak. That I need this or that issue to get better before I start working with weights. Basically, I’ve been telling myself, “I can’t”. For at least a month now I’ve been getting in my own way.

There was absolutely a time when I should not have been doing anything as strenuous as kettlebell or boxing. Heck, there was a time when I needed to be careful not to walk too many miles in a day! I absolutely needed to focus on restorative exercises for an extended period of time. I needed to be gentle with myself and baby myself.

But now I realize that all that restorative self-care has born fruit. I’m doing really well, and I’m ready to shift gears into building strength and endurance. It was taking the initial plunge and signing up for that first class that was the hardest part. I had to trust that I knew myself well enough at this point to know that if I was doing something harmful to myself that I would stop.

It felt so amazing to walk out the studio door this morning, on my wobbly legs, and tell myself how strong I’ve become. To stop that mental narrative of my own physical fragility in its tracks. Today I feel amazing. And tomorrow is my beloved yoga class.


*No they don’t. That’s my number two go-to joke.

This is My Work

I know I’ve already written about  the profound effect reading “Show Your Work” had on me. It’s geared mainly towards artistic types, and I was reading it from the perspective of a writer who takes photographs. I figured it was going to mainly inspire my creative writing, and maybe just spill over a little bit to this blog.

Then the weather was beautiful and I sat outside with my notebook.
Then the weather was beautiful and I sat outside with my notebook.

As you’ve already seen, my activity online has increased quite a bit in the past week or so. It was this past Friday when I had a pretty important realization: this blog is a part of my work. Duh. Some of my most important work is improving my own wellness, and this blog is the map I’m making as I go along. It’s the kind of obvious truth that just glides under my radar until the moment comes when it hits me in the face. Like some kind of inspiration pie.

I’ve realized that one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to have a creative outlet. It took some bouncing around from class to class, but my life is so much richer now. That creative energy infuses all parts of my life, I’m practically jumping out of bed every morning (no small feat, because sleep and I have not yet made our peace) ready to see what my day has in store. Today it’s rain and technical difficulties with my main computer, tomorrow could bring anything!

Find your creative outlet, something that brings you satisfaction and joy. Don’t forget to share your work.

A Bigger Sandbox

I just finished reading “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it was a life-changing book. I’m actually reading through it a second time now before I pass it on to someone else.

Before this, I’ve been writing away in my little corner of the internet, not venturing out much. I figured that it was more important to spend my blogging time strictly on my writing, my photography time on my own work, etc. After finishing that, I’ve been going out and engaging with other people more at their sites, finding new IG and Twitter buddies, and just generally getting out more in the virtual world.

Wow, I was missing out on a lot! I’ve read so many amazing and thought-provoking pieces this week, and I can’t wait to engage with them more. I have a feeling that I’ll step up my writing too, because other people are just so inspiring!

I want to leave you with this wonderful post by Leah Cox on choosing which passions to follow. It mirrors my experiences of the past year or so, and was informative and upbeat.

Thanks for reading as always, I’m going to go soak up some of this hot weather while I can. I’ll be in class all weekend (and I can’t wait)!