Q+A: What are you running from?

 

Good question, although I have a feeling that the question was half serious and half playing around.

So, what exactly am I running from when I’m running?

I’ve read a few articles about people running from their former selves…perhaps a more plump, depressed, chaotic, stressed, or unhappy version of themselves. Others are running from their problems or their past.

What am I running from?

  • I’m running away from my stresses and problems. Most of my problems are solved on my runs, so they are a lot more therapeutic than physical.
  • I’m running away from my negative thoughts. There’s something peaceful that comes from (temporary) physical exhaustion and knowing I gave it my all.
  • I’m running away from inconsistency. Knowing that I can keep at something for longer than I am comfortable with makes me feel like I will be able to transfer that will power into other areas of my life.
  • I’m running away from a bad past. There are some things that I prefer to forget, but running calms and pacifies the anger and angst I used to hold very close to me.
  • I’m running away from my computer. It’s one thing to work on it all day, but it’s another thing to spend all of my free time on it too. Just an hour or two away helps refresh my thoughts since a lot of my design problems are solved when I feel more connected with nature.
  • I’m running away from lethargy. Sometimes running makes me really tired, but most of the time I’m energized from the experience.
  • I’m running away from inefficient communication. When I’m in tune with how I really feel — and whether or not I’m making excuses for myself or others — I’m helping clarify whatever issues are at hand.
  • I’m running away from my inability to change. Running is relatively new to me and has brought great meaning, new friendships, and a different outlook. Every step I take helps me realize that change (for the better) is possible for someone who definitively makes the choice to improve themselves.

What are some things that you run away from?

Featured in Fitbie!

Check out the original article here

Over the weekend, Fitbie.com published a neat article on my recent journey. It’s been great but it’s certainly not over! I still have a long way to go in terms of training for the triathlon (mainly getting myself INTO the water, which I have failed at the last two weeks and counting) and training for the marathon (only 145 more days)…but hey, it still feels nice to be able to help more people with their journey too.

If you’re looking to ask any questions about this journey, what I did, etc., feel free to submit it via Formspring and I’ll do my best to keep up with them here on my blog.

Q+A: "Why Do You Keep Running?"

I received a blog request from Elijah this week on my running habit —

“You should do a post on why you kept running after you started, even on those days that you didn’t want to.”

 

Lately, it’s been harder and harder for me to keep the momentum going.

I’ve been running between 4-6 days a week for 4 months now. I can’t actually remember the last time I was this diligent about something. But, then again, I can’t remember the last time I continuously did ONE THING that helped me in all aspects of my life.

In hindsight, running seemed to have been the silver bullet that fixed a lot of problems in my life. If I had a bad day, I’d go on a run. If I had a great day, I’d go on a run. If I got into a fight with someone, I’d go on a run. If I wanted some time alone, I’d go on a run. Heck, if I wanted to pig out that night, I’d go on a run.

So, why am I still running?

There’s a part of me that has made room for this in my life. I made the choice that I was no longer going to be held prisoner to my own mind and body. The extra weight, sluggishness, decreased productivity, and lack of mental focus was really just a manifestation of my unhappiness. That isn’t to say that being skinny is the key to happiness — it isn’t — but when there’s one less thing for you to worry about it frees up your mind to concentrate on the things that matter.

To be honest, I’m still running because I’ve found so much inspiration in a lot of other people…the NPO director who manages a thriving career with spinlates every week. The aspiring triathlete who decided to take baby steps with her training program. The coworker who decides to lace up his running shoes to join me for a few miles around town. The friend who decides to take charge of her life. The significant other who keeps trying to find ways to live a healthier lifestyle, no matter what obstacles life throws in his way. There are people out there who I know that try a thousand times harder than I do to be the best that they can be. If all I have to do is throw on some workout gear and run around town a bit to keep up with them, it seems well worth it. It makes me feel like I’m chasing their successes and supporting their aspirations too.

In addition to that, I think I’ve also been getting better at playing mind games with myself. By always dangling yet another carrot in front of me that is *just* out of reach for now, it makes me work harder to achieve those goals. For instance, I’ve registered my races as far in advance as 6 months. I know that I’ll always have something to work towards. My first 5K was in March, 10K in April, 15K in July, half marathon in September, sprint triathlon in September, and marathon in November.

Living life to the fullest is not about setting it on auto-pilot. It’s about challenging yourself to be the very best self you can be. That’s why, when I get comfortable doing one thing (like running), I try to switch it up a bit (like deciding to train for a triathlon). I had not even been on the saddle of a bike for almost five years before I got back on it again. It took me a few weeks to get comfortable riding around a block at a time. When I got comfortable, I decided to challenge myself to ride it to work about a mile away. When I got comfortable doing that for a bit, I decided to increase my mileage 200% and to get comfortable doing that. And, you can bet that when I am comfortable making that ride I will keep the momentum going.

When I get tired — as in, fatigued from my daily life, bicycling around town, or mentally taxed from an inundation of emails — I know when to lay off. Sometimes, though, my body tricks me into modes of conservation. It tells me when I’m tired when I’ve actually still got some gas left in the tank. What I’ve learned at races is when to hold back — such as in the cases of fatigue in training — and when to leave it all out on the road and to come home empty. At my two best races thus far, I’ve had complete strangers help pace me when I nearly wanted to throw in the towel. My first experience was actually in my first race — about halfway through I was exhausted and tired. I trained primarily on flat roads and this course was hilly. I wasn’t prepared at all and my body was screaming at me to start walking. However, the minute that I began to doubt my abilities, a much older man — probably in his sixties or so — came right up behind me and (literally) gave me the extra push and words of confidence that I needed to hear to keep on going. I still get chills thinking about that kind man’s gesture to this day.

Similarly at my last race in Santa Monica, I was so very close to the finish line that I could see it. I could hear the crowd cheering on runners as they crossed the timing mats. I could feel myself pretty darned tired from the course (uphill grade again), and pretty tired from the four weeks that┬ápreceded┬áthe race (I just wrapped the planning and execution of a 5K event the day before). He saw me about half a mile from the finish and he began pacing — and I tried to keep up with him. When he noticed what I was doing, he kept speeding up a bit, here and there, to see if I could keep up. I did, and we crossed the finish line together. Afterwards he beamed a huge smile and told me that I kept up a great pace and that he’d see me at the Rock ‘n Roll half marathon in the fall. (I wonder if I’ll be able to keep up with him then!)

Lastly, nothing — honestly, nothing — gives me more joy than knowing that I was able to help someone else reach their goals. (Beware that if you ever divulge some sort of secret hidden goal you have that I will probably try to concoct a way for you to achieve it…and I’ll probably pester you in some fashion as to why you are not yet actively trying to do it on your own.) Being able to cheer a friend on at the finish line or give my two cents on how they should approach a problem makes me happy. And, since running seems to be facilitating that conversation, I think I’ll just lace up my shoes and keep on running!

Long Weekends, Long Runs

Hope you all had a fantastic Memorial Day weekend! I spent my time off balancing pure relaxation and pushing my limits. All in all it was pretty fun!

 

I’ve found that double digit runs have been very intimidating for me personally, even though I’ve done a few of them already. There’s reticence on my end since I usually have to prep a bit for it. A 3, 4, 5, or 6 mile run requires nothing more than staying hydrated beforehand and then eating immediately afterwards…and usually sunscreen 20 minutes before I leave.

However, when a run goes into 10, 11, 12, 13+ mile range, I usually load up my hydration pack and a few portable snacks since I get hungry pretty easily. Then comes the lag. I take forever to get dressed. I walk circles around my apartment — even though it’s pretty small — and make excuses and procrastinate. I start flipping through magazines or organizing my desk, cleaning out the fridge, fix my hair…pretty much anything except get myself out of the door. The last bit of procrastination usually includes me laying down on my couch for a bit and visualizing my run. I never really know what gets me up off that couch and out the door but it does and I get on with it.

It’s not so much the dread of feeling tired, or getting sweaty, or whatever other excuse I can come up with, that gets in the way. For some strange reason I’m always paranoid that I won’t finish my run. It sounds ridiculous because all I have to do is choose to end it — I can cut it short, I can take a detour, I can stop and enjoy a park, or I can extend it — so really, “finishing” is relative. Finishing a run is not really the same as finishing school, finishing a project, or finishing the course of a relationship. Or perhaps it really is the same, since we are all in control of our choices, our happiness, and how we manage the things that effect us.

There’s almost an invisible amount of pressure on me that I’ve really just fabricated. Being enrolled in a marathon training class is a little pressure, but it’s really the good kind. I’ve enjoyed it thus far but what I’ve missed the most lately is running just for the sake of running — not to train for something, not to qualify for a race, not to check in or check out, but just for the sheer fun of it.

Today I decided to take a different mental approach and re-run a very difficult course with the mentality that I was just running for fun. (I of course checked in to it!) I focused on a few things: 1) keeping my composure, 2) smiling a bit more at strangers, 3) enjoying the scenery and 4) maintaining a consistent pace. I ran through Miracle Mile, Hancock Park, Sunset Blvd/The Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and back to Miracle Mile. With that attitude, my run was an absolute breeze!! I enjoyed a beautiful sunset along the Sunset Strip, and enjoyed magic hour in Beverly Hills. It was night by the time I made my way though WeHo and back towards my home and when I ran through the final streetlight, I didn’t feel a bit tired. My knees were a bit achy, but my breathing wasn’t labored and my energy wasn’t shot. Los Angeles is so beautiful, especially on the tail end of a long weekend that vacates the city. With the wind this weekend, the skies were clean and clear. For once I felt like I had the city all to myself…and I treasured every minute of it.

Now that I’ve taken this route a second time, I’ve kept my eyes peeled for some interesting photos. Next time I run this same route, I’ll create a photo album so that you guys get to see what I see! After this weekend I feel confident that I will be able to successfully take on the 15K in Santa Barbara on July 4th without a problem. I’m so excited to make my way back to Santa Barbara again…I am positive that the course will be absolutely stunning.

To end an otherwise great weekend, I received this nugget of genius in my email box just a few minutes ago…

Believe that you’re young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don’t let worn out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself. -John Bingham

Setting My Sights on Athens Marathon, LA Triathlon

This week marked a number of momentous occasions for me personally.

I finally had the guts to commit to a marathon…the Athens marathon, nonetheless. I’ve registered for the event and I’ve booked my flight. I will be in Greece for 10 days and in Turkey for 1. I have a 24-hour layover that will permit me to leave the airport so I am excited to get to enter another country during my stay. If things work out I might try to add Cairo or Alexandria via ferry during my time there.

I also made the decision to begin training for the LA Triathlon in September. I finally bought some swim gear as well as a bike today, so I’m super stoked to get this show on the road! The last time I rode a bike I was only able to make it one block before falling down. Today was a little different…I made it five blocks (not consecutively) but I didn’t fall down. Apparently when you lower the seat far enough you can still stop with your feet on the ground.

For those of you who don’t follow my tweets or don’t know me very well, I haven’t been able to bike for longer than a city block at a time and I dislike water in my face when swimming…so yeah, this is going to be pretty challenging!

* * *

It took me a long time to get to this point. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately as to why I’ve been on this weird health/wellness kick for the past few months. As with most things in life, there has been a number of things that have happened to me that’s affected me more than I thought it would and patterns in behavior that, in hindsight, are clear.

I used to be a pretty decent swimmer as a child. I took classes at the local YMCA and competed a little bit. I can remember the last time I swam as a child…it was some sort of final round of something related to my swim class, and our test was to jump off of the high board, dive into the pool, and swim to the other end. It seemed simple enough, but as I climbed up that ladder all alone as a wee child I tried to keep my cool. I’d been training for an entire summer for this moment. For some reason I froze on the dive board, petrified of the height and my swim-mates, my instructor, and the pressure of having to perform up to some external expectation rather than just enjoying swimming. (Strange concept, right?) I figured that it was my time to spend anyhow so I took my time getting up the ladder, and took my time getting across the dive board. I stood there for a bit just taking the moment in but apparently that was a bit too slow for my instructor, because it was at that moment that I was ready to dive that she took it upon herself to push me in. Feeling rather demoralized and shocked, not to mention scared, I quit swimming and didn’t start again until I got accepted into the Coast Guard Academy. I’ve since gone swimming here and there with no real consistency. As with the bike riding, I really only rode in circles in my backyard and in my driveway. Plenty of negative reinforcements were there to ensure that I stayed on my bike — cacti in the backyard, a rather steep hill and T intersection near my driveway. I rode for a summer or two and stopped because I outgrew my bike but my parents really couldn’t afford to get me another one.

After dropping out of grad school a few months ago I fell into a pretty bad spell of self-doubt and disappointment. It was a lifelong goal for me to go to grad school and I practically set myself up for failure by packing my schedule and making it impossible for me to complete any of the work. Despite all of the roadblocks I faced — difficult classmates, tedious assignments — there are a lot of things I could’ve done differently. Academia never came easy to me, and juggling my own business with another startup business and a crumbling personal relationship didn’t help. I’m hoping to go back in the near future and finish strong. But for now, I’ve decided to take up these new goals — finishing a marathon and a triathlon — hoping to convince myself that I still have the drive in me to set goals and to see them all the way through.

Here’s to a second wind!

21 Days Ago I Made A Commitment…And I Stuck With It!

So, 21 days ago I made a commitment to my community here and I’m happy to report that I’ve been completely, unequivocally dedicated to sticking it out! I’ve maintained at least half an hour of exercise daily. I’ve been watching what I eat, logging all of my food intake everyday (except for Wednesdays for some reason). I’ve moderated my levels of stress and am learning to recognize and deal with triggers as they emerge. I’m being a bit more descriptive about things that bother me when the issues arise, instead of bottling them up, blowing up, or imploding.

Consistency was an important issue. I made a point to run at least once every day even if I didn’t feel like it. I missed only one day and that was because I had a three hour car ride back from my mother’s birthday shindig, a landslide of work to welcome me from my time away, and a meetup event that evening. I gave myself cheat days but I didn’t really do anything with them. I made a point not to be too absolute with cutting out particular foods. If I had to have something, I had a small portion of it and kept it under control. What I found was most effective was exercising early in the day — because I ran in the morning, I didn’t have an excuse at the end of day (i.e. “I’m too tired”). Additionally, it set a precedent for the rest of the day. Because I felt better in the morning, I ended up feeling better for the rest of the day. The first few days were really exhausting…I’d need a nap after my run, sometimes for an hour, sometimes two. But, as I kept with it, my body adjusted to the physical activity and now I don’t need naps, nor do I get tired midday. I’m pulling more productive days and I’m staying chipper through stressful situations.

All in all I feel better, look better, present better, and am happier. Today I met with a client and the first thing she said was “Wow, you are glowing. Life is agreeing with you.” Nice compliment, I’d say! Clothes are fitting better, I’m a bit more cheery…but I suppose all that matters is that I’m feeling healthier.

Special thanks to everyone who has been extra supportive in my efforts. You’ve either left me motivational comments or kept the junk food at bay in my presence. You’ve made healthier choices in your life. You’ve confided in me your desire to take the same steps to a healthier life as well. I thank you, commend you, and support your efforts. Hopefully I will be able to keep up these efforts when I go on my road trip in a few weeks! I’m hoping my Angels keep me in check.

Do You Really Need a Degree To Succeed in Graphic Design?

In short…kind of.

Bauhaus Poster

For people who are unfamiliar with the technology and processes of design — from the artistic form to the technical know-how necessary to execute ideas — going to school is one of THE best ways to learn. You have to choose your school carefully though. If you don’t, you run the risk of getting caught up in a program that doesn’t necessarily fit your goals or approaches.

I was lucky to go to a private art school for one (very short) semester. In that space of time I learned a lot about the art behind it. I spent almost ten years learning the science of it beforehand, and imitating what I saw in magazines and books. In that short period of time I was thrown in to the more artistic, ethereal challenges behind my projects. When I left that private art school and transferred in to a local state university, I was flabbergasted. Students were still learning to kern. They still tried to run RGB layouts through our four-color printer. They were designing booklets in Photoshop. They hadn’t the slightest cue about binding technologies, HTML, print production, etc…all things that I had essentially grown up with.

The traditional design school experience was very tough for me. I breezed through the coursework but quickly approached my two design professors and asked that they challenge me as hard as they could. (That they did…one drove me to tears!) In my experience it wasn’t the actual course work itself that taught me a lot, but instead my interaction with my professors and the internships with which they connected me. It was also in my dealings with my classmates, by being patient and helping them grow as designers through fair and honest feedback and critiques. It was in helping them understand that design was simply not just a pretty picture but a piece of visual communication that was to eventually be consumed by millions of people…and that it needed to be taken seriously.

What I also never expected was to deal with politics. Different professors had different teaching styles and their own philosophies about how to run their classes. When it came time to seek funding for an international project, I had to deal with the politics between departments, and getting recommendations. Some of the hardest lessons I learned in design school was knowing when to drop a design argument when it became apparent that it came down to taste; understanding that honey attracts more flies than vinegar; and that sometimes it didn’t really matter what other people thought — that if you could unequivocally defend your design, you were designing from an informed point of view. It was also really difficult for me to deal with rejection: I had applied to create my own masters degree program but was rejected on the grounds that my GPA was not high enough. (All credited to the hop-skipping of majors I did prior to switching in to design.) In retrospect that was a blessing in disguise: I would have missed out on the opportunity to work for a boutique ad agency and learn the reins of running a business from the inside out. I would have missed out on working with The Rainmaker Network. I would have missed out on starting my own company. I would have also missed out on enrolling in the degree program at Golden Gate, which has served me so well thus far.

No, it wasn’t the brand identity assignments or the poster designs or even the portfolio class that taught me a lot about the design process. It was the people. It was the patience that was required of me to finish the classes. It was learning how to follow protocol, even if I didn’t want to. It was learning that forms of expression require a process, and that there were no shortcut to success. Design school taught me that I would have to work hard, commit to goals, and set to achieving them if I were ever able to make something of myself.

Amara Poolswasdi Working
A quick snapshot of my working process while I was in Thailand. Note the Advil and sketches EVERYWHERE

So, although you don’t really need the degree itself, I believe that it will help you build the patience and understanding necessary to succeed.

(crossposted to unicornpress.net/blog)