Milwaukee, I Heart [Attack] You!

Once again, I was supposed to spend last week out in a cabin someplace; hiking, meditating, and generally decompressing. This time, my consolation trip was a weekend in Milwaukee. I’d never actually been in the city itself before, just gone around it on my way to more exotic locales. Like Madison or Minneapolis. Within 30 […]

Cheater, Cheater

Watchtower
I’m watching you, cheater!

First, mindful eating has changed my life. No exaggeration, I feel amazing!

Ahem, moving on…

Last week I had my first personal training session with Malik Turley at Hip Circle Studio. To say it was awesome is an understatement, but it’s an understatement Malik will appreciate.

As many of you know, I started running again this summer. It’s going well so far, but I noticed that my lungs are by far my limiting factor. My legs and heart could go forever (or at least farther than I’ve been going), but my lungs start to say “nah, we’re good with this much” earlier than I’d like.*

My mission (which I chose to accept): pace my breathing. Inhale for four steps, exhale for four steps.

Easy peasy!

I had been doing runs around 3 or 3.5 miles before I incorporated paced breathing. (Why wasn’t I doing it from the start? Ignorance, plain and simple.) My first run after that session: I ran outta steam after 2 miles. Whomp, whomp.

I’m happy to say that after this morning’s run I am back on track. It took some mantras, but I got it done. I am officially training for a 10K with new and improved breathing habits.

Has anyone else struggled with this? Did you have to retrain?


*When I was a cyclist I didn’t ever work hard enough to need to pace my breathing. Sometimes I really miss those days, but most of the time I’m really grateful for the challenge!

 

Slowing Down

I have so much to do today that I am going to meditate for two hours instead of one -Mahatma Gandhi

Yesterday I finally kept a promise to myself; way back in the winter I decided that one day, when the weather was warm, I would sit under a tree by the lake and meditate for as long as my heart desired.

I haven’t felt so free in a very long time. The strong winds, pounding waves, the movement of the grass and leaves, I felt like they were allowing me to finally release some of my old wounds. After those two hours, I felt lighter than I have in a long time.

It was a revelation in many ways, but one thing that struck me the most yesterday was how much time I seemed to have for the rest of the day. Normally, my days go whizzing by in a whirlwind of activity and thought. Yesterday I was constantly amazed by how early in the day it was. I’m sure that part of that is that I set no tasks for myself beyond the meditation and eating.

There’s more to it than that though. I had my phone and computer off all day (well, until I caved at 6:00 pm), and I focused on one thing at a time.

It inspired me to try a mini-experiment: for the next week, I have turned off the email alerts on my phone. In fact, the only alerts I’ve allowed are phone calls and texts.

So far, I love it! I’m so used to being immediately reachable via email that I thought it would feel like I’d lost a part of myself. Instead, I feel more able to really focus on the task at hand.

I have been just as productive today as I would be on one of my whirlwind days (I ran, I went to yoga class, I cooked for myself, I ran errands, I did laundry, and now I’m writing this post!), but I feel much calmer than I normally do.

I think a two hour meditation day is going to become a weekly event! How about you? Have you tried anything similar? How did it work for you?

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!

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!

Pausing for Pictures

I have a couple of posts planned to talk about how massage and mindfulness practice complement and enhance one another in the works, but for now I want to write about another area of my life where I have found a similar connection: photography.

The act of pausing to take a photo feels very similar to the act of pausing to investigate my emotional landscape. Both encourage me to fully inhabit the present moment and feel what it’s like to be in my body right then and there.

As an amateur photographer, mindfulness practice keeps my mind from wandering as I take in the natural beauty all around me. My mind is calm and untroubled while I frame my subject, and I am aware of any emotions I am feeling about the subject. It strengthens my patience as I wait for the right shot (especially helpful when I am trying to capture the movement of the waves), and enables me to appreciate the shot and then move on to next.

As a mindfulness practitioner, photography builds pauses into my walks; pauses which give me an opportunity to check back in and refocus if necessary. Adding photography into my walks has helped me regain a certain freshness in my perspective of the world around me. I have regained the ability to view parts of the world around me with a child-like wonder that strengthens the curiosity and friendliness to myself that is such an important part of mindfulness.

The sense I have of the interconnected nature of the ways my life is evolving on this journey of mine. It is an empowering realization.

An Adventurous Spirit

I’ve written before about the discipline it sometimes takes me to keep going forward in my wellness journey.  Discipline alone isn’t going to do it though. One of the reasons I have accomplished as much as I have so far is that I started from the perspective of an adventurer. I made a choice, which I have the option to continue to make every day, to experiment with different lifestyle changes just to see how I felt.

Diet and exercise are the areas I play with most frequently (please note that I am not a nutrition or exercise specialist, I work under professional guidance), and I like to try out new things every couple of months. I keep what helps me and don’t worry about the rest.

What seems to be so important about this is the way it adds a sense of fun to what could otherwise feel like chore. A good example is my current dietary experiment- I am doing a sugar detox. I have had a real sweet tooth for the past year or so, and I am a little worried about the cute cupcake bakery that’s close my apartment if I do successfully curb my cravings. So this detox could seem like a chore, or even a punishment, but I treat it like a fun experiment.

Blizzard Day
Before this year I never walked the mile to the beach. It didn’t seem “worth it”.

 

It’s a little change in perspective, but I think it makes a difference when you want to make a lifestyle change. Why not try to add a little lighthearted fun to your own journey?

Before this year I never walked the mile to the beach. It didn't seem "worth it".
Look at how beautiful it is, even on a cloudy day.

 

Just for Fun

This city's for the (wild) birds.
This city’s for the (wild) birds.

I was hiking around the Montrose bird sanctuary this morning when I saw these birdhouses I haven’t noticed before. This mindful walking stuff is great! Bonus: unlike yesterday, I did not freeze my phone today.

January Sale with Bonus Fun

For the month of January my massage packages are an extra 5% off! Massage is a great way to jumpstart your self-care routine in 2015, and this is a great price. The regular prices are listed on my website.


Now for the bonus fun portion: I am on Instagram! As some of you know, when the wrist pain started I had to quit endurance cycling (for now). So I took up running and had to quit because of joint pain (for now). I went back to taking daily walks, and that’s been pretty nice.

Now that it’s really, really winter here in Chicago I thought it might be extra motivation for me to get out there if I’m documenting my walks in some way. So I pledge to add at least one photo on Instagram per daily walk. If you want to check it out I’m “wellnessadventuring”.

I hope that those of you who are also enduring the deep freeze are finding adventures of your own!

Classic Chicago beach wear (not pictured: very warm boots)
Classic Chicago beach wear (not pictured: very warm boots)