Motivation Monday: You Have A Blank Slate Ahead

It’s Monday, it’s Monday!

Mondays are usually notorious for bad things…like the start of a dreaded work week. (That’s never my case, but if it is yours, you might want to consider what’s going wrong.)  Another way you can think of Monday is the start of a new, fresh week that is wide open for you to do your own bidding. It’s your chance to do something new and different for yourself — something small but noticeable — that adds up over time and changes your life in a big way.

Since making lasting changes usually starts with really small steps, Monday is a great day to start that process. Here are some things you can consider getting started with:

  • Drink more water. Whenever you get hungry or if a snack attack rears its ugly head, grab a glass of water before indulging. Water will keep your digestive tract healthy but also help you slow down your eating as well.
  • Get moving. If you’ve been meaning to exercise, try a brisk walk around the neighborhood or some polymetrics when you get back home. You won’t need equipment or a gym, so you have no excuses. One tip I learned from reading Kara Goucher’s book was to consider days off versus days of training. Tell yourself that you’ll get three days off instead of working out four days. Reverse psychology works!
  • Try eating healthier. Make small substitutions. Switch your regular soda for diet soda. Switch soda for water. Go sugar free with your coffee. Eat less bread at the table. Put less salt on your fries. Substitute out candy for fruit or trail mix.
  • Save some cash. Pack a lunch (or two or five). If you love eating out, try getting things to go and save on the tip. (Stingy, I know.) Or, skip restaurants all together, head to the grocery store, and start cooking.
  • Give yourself one power hour a day. Make it a distraction-free zone and power through some work that’s been difficult or a project you’ve been wanting to tackle. An hour a day for a week puts you substantially closer (to the tune of 7 hours) to whatever goal you had in mind.

If you fall off the bandwagon, next Monday is just around the corner. Try again! Also, remember that you are in complete control of your life. You can just hit the reset button and re-start your goals over at anytime. You might also find that you’ll alleviate a lot of stress by making things in your life more predictable. Everyone wins.

So, what are you going to change this week?

Beginning Ocean Swimming Is Not As Scary As Previously Imagined

After a lot of reticence and procrastinating, I finally attended my first ever open water swimming clinic. I have pretty much been terrified of the water since I started training for the LA Triathlon and since it’s coming down to crunch time, I started doing my research about a month ago.

I was unsuccessful at cajoling some of my friends to join me in an open water swim, since they were unavailable. I met someone at a running store who recommended an open swim training group but it turned out to be incredibly expensive (over $100 a session). Lastly, I went onto Meetup and luckily I came across the Beginning Ocean Swimmers clinic. Sessions were only $10 a pop and they had clinics nearby that introduced newbies like me to the ocean. I RSVPd and I was in.

When I’m super nervous about something, I do two things: I eat (a LOT) and, if it’s an appointment, I leave/arrive obscenely early for it. So, bright and early on this Sunday morning, I loaded up my brand spanking new wetsuit and gear out to Seal Beach to meet with the group. I was so nervous and scared when I first arrived at the beach since I was the only one there. I found a secret hidden nook in the parking lot (yeah, they exist) and tugged on my new wetsuit. I had put on my wetsuit for the first time that morning, and since it took me so long, I wanted to save myself the embarrassment of feeling slow again later in front of the group while getting dressed (and again while swimming)…so, I dodged that bullet by getting dressed early.

When I arrived, I was the only one wearing a wetsuit (totally noob move). Plus, I awkwardly didn’t talk to anybody and cracked open some trail mix and begin munching away (reference above nervous tendency). The instructor arrived, cool as a cucumber, and reminded me a lot of Jeff Bridge’s character in The Big Lebowski…except without the hair. Cool!

He briefed us on the conditions and coached a bit on what to look for when getting in and out of the water. Before I knew it we were lining up to swim out and in a few times. The first swim out there was scary. I waited for most of the pack to go before heading in to the water. In an effort to make it through the clinic I tried not to expend too much energy, thus taking the swim in a really calm, relaxing, and slow manner. It could have been compared to the swimming version of a Sunday stroll, which I guess at that time it was exactly that.

The first few times I tried to swim out I was greeted with breaking waves. Luckily, no saltwater was snorted yet. I eventually made it out to what felt like the middle of the ocean but about 50 yards from the Seal Beach Pier. We caught our breath and waded around a bit. I was surprised at how I was holding up, given that I hadn’t done much pool training. Whenever I get really tired in the pool I have a tendency to just stop swimming and stand up in the pool, or hang on to the side, but in the ocean none of that exists. All I could do was wade it out…and that I did.

The instructor then had us swim back to land and repeat the exercises a few times. Before I knew it things were looking rosy. I was actually keeping up with the pack and was swimming. I suppose what was scary to me before was the depth of the water. When swimming though, it’s easy to forget how deep the water actually gets, since you’re always swimming near the surface of the water. For all I knew the floor was right underneath me…but at the time, it didn’t matter. I was in the moment.

It then came time for us to swim parallel to the beach, from one lifeguard tower to the next. This was more of a long haul for me. After all the outs and ins, I was beginning to feel taxed. My stroke weakened and got rather sloppy (it had been progressively gotten sloppier over the course of the morning) and I was feeling out of breath. Something I learned from a friend who once completed an Olympic-distance triathlon was that since there were no limits to the swim strokes you could use, the backstroke was completely acceptable. I rolled over and paddled as much as I could without expending too much extra energy and when I caught my breath, I rolled over and continued swimming. I knew that if I spent too much time on my back that eventually a wave would crash over me and that I’d get saltwater inside my nose, mouth, eyes, etc., so I really had to keep it to a minimum.

The swim back to home base was the most difficult. By the time I was a few minutes in I was already pretty much tapped out. I slowed down considerably and strayed pretty far from the group. The idea was to swim back in to shore in the L formation in which we came in, but I ended up doing some sort of cut around that ended up being the same distance to begin with.

By the end we all met up at our original starting point. Everyone seemed very accomplished and the newbies (like me!) were getting all of the attention. It felt nice to finally overcome something that I had previously deemed incredibly scary! By the time I got to my car I was super elated that I couldn’t wait until the next swim clinic. I’m hoping to catch some ocean swimming sessions (either solo or with a partner) quite a few times before the BIG DAY.

When we were all done, I was incredibly thirsty. I drank and drank and drank but my thirst was insatiable. I couldn’t figure if it was because of my perceived exertion or if it was because of all the saltwater that I probably ingested! All in all I had a great time, I felt accomplished, and I can honestly say that I can’t wait to do it again.

In retrospect, it was such an amazing experience. Being around other triathletes and people who have trained in the water was incredibly inspirational. Being in the middle of the water with no land underneath my feet, surrounded by people who were sort of like me was great. It was like my own little place on earth that no one could touch. And, even though I was surrounded by other people in wet suits, it still felt like one-on-one time with nature. I was finally opening myself up to what the Earth has to offer…and it felt great.

Fitness Fridays: Set Your Intention

It’s that time of week again! I wrapped up an awesome Team Dress for Success orientation last night (hey, it’s not too late to join!) and it was super motivating. To top it off, I had an amazing run this morning as my ever-loyal boyfriend decided that he’d bike alongside me for the entire 10K trek. When I came in to the office today I was admittedly a little tired from the bike ride to work but I tried to stay focus amidst all of the work I still have ahead for a successful season. Check out my vlog below or keep reading…it’s your choice!

What really started setting my day on fire was an amazing call I got from one of Dress for Success’ past clients. (If you don’t already know, Dress for Success helps women transition from unemployment to work by providing them with career development services and work-appropriate attire for their interviews and eventual employment.) Her story: she used to have an amazing job and fell on hard times. (Sounds familiar.) Hard times ended up escalating and she started living out of her car. Her family eventually took her back in while she is trying to get back on her feet…and she is trying…trying VERY hard. Interview after interview, application after application, she remains diligent and focused. She has set an intention of being able to land a new job here in the city, preferably in an office-type environment. Her goals are clear and as she called to give thanks for what we’ve provided to her, she very tearfully unloaded her story. I was touched that we were able to give her the help she needed and invited her back in to take advantage of our other resources so that she can give herself even more of an edge.

So, you may ask, what does finding a job have to do with Fitness Friday? Well, it’s not too far removed actually. Setting an intention is necessary whenever you are trying to achieve any goal, no matter how large or small or insurmountable it may seem. The next time you head out for a workout or for lunch, ask yourself what you are trying to achieve. If you’re heading out to lunch, are you looking to stuff down whatever you can find at the closest fast food joint? Or, are you really looking to nourish your starving body and tired mind? Set your intention, change the way you look at things, and you might be surprised at your results!

Taking Time Off Is Hard To Do

So the past few weeks I’ve inadvertently taken a bit of time off from consistent and regimented training. A part of me wishes I had a triathlon coach. Another part of me wishes I had more friends that were into running. (I’ve fixed that my coordinating the RunKeeper meetup group in LA as well as the Dress for Success LA Marathon team.)

I’ve had some major life changes over the past few weeks that I’ve had to deal with:

  1. I parted ways with a project that I worked on for 3 and a half years
  2. I parted ways with a really close friend
  3. I went through a relationship crisis (things are better now)
  4. I’ve recently decided to finish grad school (only 6 classes left)
  5. I’ve adopted a cat (he was on the euth list)
  6. I’m coming down with something that feels strangely familiar to bronchitis/pharyngitis (on antibiotics now)
  7. I’m in the process of deciding what to do about my business (always in flux)

So, in a sense, as life ramped up a bit, my training took a back seat. I’m only human, right? I’m trying to rationalize that this is totally normal but it still makes me anxious since I have so many races coming up this fall.

Over the past few years I’ve gotten better and better at listening to my body. Especially with running it feels like I can better discern when I’m legitimately not feeling well and need a break, versus just being lazy. It’s not always easy to reconcile the two, but definitely necessary. I don’t really want to exacerbate a slight running injury or the slight pain in my lungs, and if it means that I have to take a few weeks off to prevent myself from being down for a few months (something that’s not totally out of the realm of possibility, given my health history) I’d rather do just that.

I’m trying to use this time well to reflect on my training, go over my training logs, evaluate my progress, and so forth. The graphs look impressive and I suppose they make sense. After a number of solid months of serious training, it only makes sense to scale back and to allow my body to reap the benefits of said training and to become stronger. (That’s what it says to do in all of the running books, magazines, and websites I’ve read.) So, as it seems, my body and my life seems to be on the right track.

I’m also using this time to catch up on some reading (I just fired my nook back up and purchased Kara Goucher’s ‘Running for Women’). I have a few books from the library checked out too, one called Spontaneous Healing and one on Ayurveda medicine. I’ve been thinking about getting a second Master’s degree (my first one is in progress right now) in some sort of non-Western medicine field so I’d like to test my interests level a bit by doing some independent reading. It’s the same approach I took when I was trying to decide if my current degree program was for me: I checked out about 40 contemporary marketing communications books from the Santa Monica Public Library, read through all of them, and decided that I was still interested in learning more…so I took the plunge. Looks like I’ll be conducting the same type of experiment this time around.

With my time off I’ve been trying to get my affairs in order…get checked up for my cholesterol (this time last year it was in the 210 or 215 points range), get regular sleep, try to put together some regular semblance of a schedule, get back into the routine of being in school, etc etc. This weekend to myself has been great. So far I’ve gotten everything on my to-do list done: got an early jump start on my reading for class, did laundry, finally went grocery shopping, got an overdue massage (can be misconstrued as luxurious but it really is just an hour and a half of me getting beaten up by a Chinese man), got checked up at the doctor’s office, and caught up with some friends. I’m halfway through reading Kara Goucher’s book and I hope to get in a few more chapters in my PR book. So, all in all, it’s a nice rest from training but I will be more than motivated to hit the ground running, get some great pool time in, and hop back on the bike.

Taking time off is a necessarily evil. It’s not really evil, but for someone who likes to go at full throttle all of the time, it’s difficult accepting that I am not a machine and that sometimes I just need to recharge. What do you do when you need some time off?

Via Formspring: Hi! I am 18 years old and I have been struggling with my weight from a young age. I finally decided that I wanted to make a change in my life. I am about to start college and I was wondering if you had some tips for me.

Transitioning from high school to college can be a difficult experience. The freedom that comes from being able to make your own decisions may lead you down a path that ultimately ends up self-destructive despite your best intentions. Being able to eat whenever you want, whatever you want, can have a negative impact on your waistline, self-esteem, and energy level needed to get you through the school days.

Depending on where you go to school and if you commute, you may be faced with decisions…partying, eating out, fast food, sleeping in, skipping class. It’s best to go in with an open mind but set a few ground rules for yourself before you get to college so that you stay true to yourself.

If you’ve been struggling with your weight as a child, now is a great time to approach this experience as a time for metamorphosis. Use this time as a chance to become the person you’ve always wanted to be. Always wanted to be more outgoing? Wanted to join a club? Looked to join a sport? Now’s the time you can reinvent yourself. Most schools have a rec center. Sign up for a membership and take advantage of it. My school (CSUSB) opened up their new rec center right after I graduated but I hear that it’s a fantastic facility with a rock climbing wall, planned outdoor adventures, and great equipment. You can also consider joining an intramural team (meaning that you don’t really compete).

If you prefer to hang out on your own (like me) you can take up a more solitary activity that doesn’t require you to play nicely with others. However, joining a team will allow you to meet other like minded people and will help round out your college experience. You can try running or swimming — most colleges have a class you can take or a club sport you can join.

It’s great that you’ve decided that you wanted to make a change in your life. List them out on paper and make a plan on how you’ll achieve it. Just like getting into college, it’ll take some hard work and determination, but you can do it! College in of itself is a great experience and you’ll learn a lot…even if it doesn’t necessarily feel that way from the get go. Just keep going with the flow and become the person you’re looking to be.

So, in conclusion:

1. Give yourself some ground rules BEFORE you start school. For example, “I will join a sports team by the end of the semester,” “I will try to prepare one meal a day instead of eating out all three meals,” or “I will carry water with me to all of my classes so I don’t buy soda or snacks on my way there.”

2. Be open to new experiences. Change is scary but if you’ve always wanted to join a team or club, now’s the time to do it!

3. Reinvent yourself.

4. Write down your goals.

5. Make a plan of how to get there. You can check out my other entries on how to make it happen.

Good luck!

Ask me anything

Via Formspring: What gave you the strength to keep on losing weight?

It was a mix of internal and external motivations. I knew that I was doing something good for myself — I was becoming a healthier and happier version of myself. Additionally, I was also doing something good for the environment — lowering my carbon footprint, eating local, etc — and helping other people realize that they too could change their bad habits.

When you come to a point when you make the decision to do something, you have to put all of your heart into it. No holding back, no restraint. When you give it your all you’ll be surprised at how much strength you really have.

Ask me anything

There Comes a Point in Every Person's Life…

A few days ago I was faced with the mentality of my former self.

I came across a moment where I was comparing myself to someone who I couldn’t compare to. It wasn’t an impossible, out of reach type of comparison. Okay, actually, yes it was. My immature self a few years ago would have made the mistake of feeling down on herself because she didn’t look a certain way, have a particular body type, didn’t dress like the other girls. I was always a little bit different, a tad more pragmatic than most, and a little (okay, vehemently) opinionated against all things fashionable and not quite functional. So, when I wanted to knock down my self esteem a few inches, all I did was turn to compare myself to someone who I couldn’t compare to. It was “apples to oranges” as some would say.

What helped me snap out of this girl funk?

After thinking about it for a few days, I came to the conclusion that I am essentially happy with the person I’ve become. It’s kind of like the butterfly effect: If anything about me were different, everything would be different.

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions; where a small change at one place in a nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. For example, the presence or absence of a butterfly flapping its wings could lead to creation or absence of a hurricane.

I wouldn’t have the same friends or the same interests. I wouldn’t be in the positions I am now. I might not have my own business. I wouldn’t be training for a triathlon or marathon. I wouldn’t be busy trying to convince other people to go running with me and digitally pestering them with my RunKeeper status updates. I wouldn’t be so flaky over the phone and that wouldn’t result in such glorious reunions when they do take place. The people that I trust with my life wouldn’t be there for me. Essentially, if I weren’t the person I am today, I would be a completely different person, living under different circumstances, with different friends and a different outlook on life.

I’d rather be me any day.

Recent Read: Ultramarathon Man

This is a fantastic book! I found it when I started running early on and it was helpful to see that someone else was going through the same things I was experiencing. Dean is a fantastic writer — the pace of the book is fast but it keeps you in the moment with anecdotes and stories of his motivations, family, experiences, and perspective.

Without giving away too much info, my favorite part of the book was definitely the beginning. He chronicles his “EUREKA” moment and his first run, recounts his experiences in vivid detail, and flashes back between the present perfect and the past seamlessly.

I would highly recommend any newbie runners looking for extra motivation to pick up this book. Most serious runners scoff at him since he’s a marketing machine, but in my perspective he is just using his talent to promote the health and well being of children. To me he is more of a cause/fund-runner since most of the time, he is promoting his charity, Karnos Kids.

Pick it up! My rating: 10/10

Q+A: Why Tri?

The other day, a friend of mine asked me — “Why triathlon?”

Good question…and deserving of a blog post.

The simple and short of it all is that I’m trying to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Training for a triathlon takes a lot of time and dedication. It takes a certain amount of willpower to commit to a training and nutrition plan. It cuts into things like lazy weekends, roadtrips home, going to dinners and sometimes going to happy hour…and I’ve learned from first-hand experience that even your closest friends and family won’t be okay with this. (Most friends and family feel threatened by newfound willpower/commitment and actually try to sabotage your efforts.) In this case, being comfortable with change means that you’ll learn to back off at the appropriate times and do what’s best for you, no matter who is barking up your tree.

Most of my training is done alone, which is conducive to a lot of self-reflection, pushing, and thinking. About 10% of conscious thought is focused on technique. Another 10% is focused on intention. The rest of it is really in a state of meditation. It doesn’t mean that my mind is empty, but I’m generally concentrating on something that’s been bothering me, a problem I want to solve, or some uncomfortable part of my day that I’m trying to dissect. I spend anywhere between 5 and 10+ hours a week training, so admittedly that’s been a lot of time for me to work through those issues. In that time I’ve been able to make difficult decisions and come to terms with a lot of things that have happened to me in my life.

I’m fairly young but have lived through a lot of difficult instances — some that should have killed me, some that should’ve scarred me for life, and some that should have left me questioning my existence. Living through those experiences really just means that I’ve managed to survive and thrive despite them. I think that focusing my energy and efforts on something that requires more commitment than I’ve ever really put forth towards anything else will help me build character and gives me the chance to help others along the way. (I truly believe that the best way to improve yourself or your condition is to focus on helping other people.) I don’t think I’ve ever done anything this consistently for this long, but I’m very motivated.

If that answer didn’t suffice, here are some that I usually blurt out depending on my mood:

  • I want to prove to myself that I could achieve what I used to think was impossible.
  • I want to show other people that they can commit and achieve their goals too.
  • I want to eat as many burritos, pizzas, and hot dogs as I feel like and never feel guilty.
  • I need an energy outlet that doesn’t require me to think (too much).
  • I don’t want to die a fat, unhealthy, technological sloth.
  • I decided I needed a hobby outside of my career.
  • It was something new that I haven’t tried before.
  • I wanted to travel to different places, but with a purpose.
  • I wanted to stop worrying about how I looked and focus more on how I feel.
  • I wanted to save money on “lazy” entertainment, like booze and movies.
  • I’m taking a break from grad school and needed something worthwhile to do.

Everyone has different motivations. It doesn’t make you any more or less an athlete…but it sure will effect how sustainable your goals and methodologies really are.

Only 92 days to go until the LA Triathlon!

My Theory on Excuses

I spent the summer after my high school graduation with my face in lots of geese poop in a very humid and steamy New England. Most of the time I was getting yelled at — not because I was doing anything wrong, but mainly because I wasn’t doing anything right. I was a cadet candidate at the US Coast Guard Academy and I was looking for an easy way out of paying for college. Big mistake!

Didn’t look forward to much during those eight weeks. I made a few friends and learned a lot about myself and the power of persuasion. On the days where I mentally fought back and made excuses for why I was slipping up, they were infinitely tougher. On days where I just accepted my shortcomings and strategized on how to improve, I felt more in control of my situation.

But, one thing I learned from the indoctrination experience was that there are “no excuses” — meaning, that for whatever you slipped up on, there was no real, viable reason why you should’ve done or reacted the way you did. Having to bite my tongue whenever I was called out on a really daft move to say “No excuse, sir” was really just a mental exercise in asking myself the deeper question of “Why on earth did I do that?”

People give themselves a lot of excuses as to why they can’t achieve their goals. Sometimes it’s because they don’t have enough time or willpower to see it through. Sometimes they are terrified of success. Other times their friends or family are sabotaging their efforts. When people begin to realize that “Done is better than perfect” and that “every excuse of a choice to fail,” it will help put their decisions into a real perspective. Even though I’m getting ready for a morning run, I probably won’t do as good as I’d like to do. I can make excuses — I had a hard day at work yesterday…my legs are still sore from the night before…I didn’t get enough rest — or I can realize that getting myself out the door and being consistent has its rewards. If I give myself the excuses to crutch my bad behavior, I’ll keep repeating said bad behavior. Thus, it’s more beneficial for me to take a “no excuses” approach and to answer to the person I’m most trying to compete with — me.

On the other hand, perhaps I should’ve gone to bed earlier.

What’s your theory on excuses? What do you do to combat your own excuses?