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?

Accepting Change and Moving On

Happiness is really a choice. Change? Not so much.

Change hits me really hard. For some reason I’m just really uncomfortable with it. Many times…rather, most of the time, change is really for the better. I’ve had quite a few things that brought along a lot of change…graduating college, moving out, ending relationships, leaving projects, ending tenures, starting/failing/re-starting grad school. The list can go on and on.

I think what bothers me most about change is that sometimes I feel like I could have done something better. Sometimes I wish I would’ve spent my time differently. Sometimes I wish I had focused a little more. Maybe if I had done something a little differently, the entire experience would have been better, worse, or otherwise different. It’s a classic case of analysis paralysis. Let me be the first person to tell you, if no one else has already, that change is hard and that I understand. Just know that everything happens for a reason. I’ve personally gone through a lot of change this month and it’s been one rollercoaster after another, but I can honestly say that things will work themselves out.

The reason why I take the concept of change so hard is that I personally see change as an end to something. Changing jobs or roles in life, moving on from dead weight, and growing all involve some sort of transformation. If I could just learn to flip a switch and see it as a beginning I think it’d be a lot easier on me. Change is a new beginning. You can wipe your slate (relatively) clean and transform. It’s a necessary step to reincarnation…so embrace it.

Some things I’ve done to accept change and move on:

  • Talk it out. Sometimes it helps to have a cathartic session with another person who is willing to listen.
  • Reflect on your experience and remember the good things. What made your experience enriching? What did you get out of it?
  • Get excited about what’s next. Now that you’re in a state of change, you have been handed a wild card from life. You are completely in control of your next move. Call the shots and take charge.
  • Give it time. Most people will go through the five steps of grieving (denial/isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). It’s totally normal and no matter is too small that it needs to go ignored.
  • Do something to honor your feelings. Allow yourself to feel the way you do. This isn’t the time to deny or deprive. Do something nice for yourself…you deserve it.
  • When you’re ready to make a decision, don’t look back. Keep looking forward and move towards the future.

What else do you recommend?

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: Do you consider your heart BPM when training? If so, how do you go about it? Do you track avg BPM? Do you try and maintain a certain % of your max heart rate?

Sorry for the delayed reply! I have NOT done any real BPM training, primarily because I don’t own a monitor. Since I’m new and starting out, I’m really trying to learn to listen to my body instead of measuring and gauging every little thing. (I’m prone to that and I measure as much as I can…)

I’d say that it’s important to gather as much data as you can on your workouts. If you have the means to purchase a monitor, go for it! Some of the cardio equipment at the gym already have sensors built in, i.e. stationary bike, treadmill, elliptical, etc. I would love to have one for running but don’t yet have the need or want to know. 🙂

I also have a philosophy of perceived exertion. People should learn to read their bodies to the best of their ability. Most of the time, the answers are self evident if we just learn to clue in to the signals. Of course there are outliers (i.e. someone found out they were seriously ill and died in a matter of days/weeks) but for most of us, we need to track our habits and address the negative ones before it’s too late. Learning to depend on yourself and not a device/machine to give us all the answers will put us one step closer to that.

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.

Via Formspring: What was the most difficult part about taking and keeping the weight off?

The most difficult part about taking and keeping the weight off is listening to my body. Sometimes I don’t feel motivated to exercise or eat well, but I try to listen to what my body is trying to tell me.

If I’m not motivated, I try to figure out why. Am I stressed? Did I forget to hydrate throughout the day? Did I sleep enough? If I feel like eating junk food, I try to listen to my body: am I craving something salty or sweet? I try to find healthier alternatives to whatever it is I think I’m craving. In the worst case scenario I indulge a little bit in my cravings. It’s not healthy to be overly restrictive anyways.

I always try to evaluate the cause of the problem before I take any action. That has been the most difficult part so far…trusting that my body is a well-tuned machine that needs some basic maintenance!

Ask me anything

Prepare to Fail if You Fail to Prepare

My boyfriend never lets me forget that I’m a J. (First search result: “ISFJs tend to plan their activities and make decisions early. They derive a sense of control through predictability.”)

I have a pretty set routine when it comes to my running. Not necessarily with routes, although I have a tendency to run the same one again and again out of habit. My routine of preparation has been key to my success. In this case, success is loosely defined as: “showing up on time and running my personal best” and is not locked to a timed performance.

Last week I failed to prepare for my 15K. Hence I essentially prepared to fail. My nutrition and hydration the days leading up to it were off. I was exerting myself in ways that were foreign to me. I didn’t sleep well, nor did I sleep in my own bed. (Aside from traveling to races, which I’ll be doing towards the end of the year, that has been my cardinal rule!) I wasn’t sticking to any semblance of a training schedule but really just training whenever I felt like it and whatever I felt like doing. A ton of no-nos!

I didn’t have anyone to blame but myself. I showed up just a few minutes after the race started. It was a small race, so there weren’t any route signs nor were there street closures. I was half a mile in to the course (or at least what I thought was the course) and couldn’t find any of the runners. I stopped, on a residential street somewhere in Santa Barbara, after a long weekend of anticipation, and started jogging back the way I came in with tears streaming down my face. I was completely disappointed in myself that I hadn’t prepared fully and that I had allowed myself to come that close to a race start again. That’s right, again. I’ve done it a few times before but lucked out. Not this time!

I was very disappointed and disheartened. Spent a few moments that morning with my boyfriend moping around and tearing up but for the most part I’m now over it. He bought me these little silver eagle earrings from a little knick knack shop somewhere on State Street in Santa Barbara and I’ve been wearing them ever since. They remind me that I can be as fast and on top of my game as much as I want to be. All I need to do is take a bird’s eye view and assess the situation.

So, if I must disclose…this is my pre-race routine. I’ll have to be pretty flexible when I go abroad or travel for races but it’s pretty much solid and has worked for me so far.

My 12 steps to successful race/long run preparation:

1. Sleep in my own bed, the night before. Try to sleep for a whole eight hours. I usually only manage 6 since I get nervous and I wake up a few times before the alarm is set to go off.

2. Sleep in some of my race clothes. That way all I have to do is pull on a few items and head out the door.

3. Prepare only 1 serving of Muscle Milk. If I drink 2 I generally have an upset stomach early on in the race.

4. For runs longer than 6 miles, I’ll consume half or one packet of Power Bar Energy Gel Blasts. I’ll also pack out a full Camelbak of water with another energy gel and a bar, just in case I get hungry en route.

5. For runs longer than 6 miles, I wear cushioned running socks. For anything shorter, I’ll wear thin running socks.

6. My hair must be out of my face. One strong elastic band and two bobby pins. Nothing more or my head hurts!

7. Fully charge my iPod shuffle the night before so I’m not bummed if my music quits out halfway. (I’m trying to wean off of the iPod but for now it’s a necessary evil.)

8. Do a very small morning warmup. I usually park a few blocks away from my apartment so the jog to my car is about 3/10ths of a mile. It’s a nice jaunt in the morning before things get hot.

9. Charge my phone during the car ride to the race. Nothing bums me out more than not being able to use RunKeeper while I run!!

10. Wear running clothes that I feel comfortable in running in that day. Being a woman means having to deal with fluctuating sizes during different times of the month, so I make a point not to squeeze into anything too constricting. Function over form prevails.

11. Hydrate on the way to my race…but always making a point to go to the bathroom before the race starts! (Otherwise it’s a disaster…)

12. Never mess with the lacing on my shoes. (I never untie/retie my shoelaces once I get the right fit.) If I find that my shins start hurting the week of the race I’ll order a replacement pair from Zappos since they’ll overnight them to me.

What’s your routine? How do you prepare for your long runs or an important race? Let’s swap some tips!

4 Steps To Making Your Goals More Achievable

In my last post, I went at great lengths to detail exactly HOW to set goals. It might seem a bit self-explanatory but I’ve worked with a lot of people who are just plain overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. If you are one of those people, hopefully my suggestions helped!

So, we’ve established that having goals are great. However, goals that are too far out of reach become more discouraging than encouraging. How do you deal? You make them more achievable!

Here are four steps to consider when refining your goals to make them achievable.

  1. Realize that the only thing standing in the way of your goals is yourself. If you really want to achieve a goal, find out what your barriers to entry are. Work on breaking those down first so that you can freely proceed with your plans.
  2. Don’t sabotage your goals before you get started by making them too far out of reach. Remember, the higher the expectation, the greater the disappointment. By putting your goals too far out of reach you give yourself a reason to fail later.
  3. Hold yourself accountable with milestones. Break down your goals into manageable mini-goals. Most importantly, give yourself enough time to meet those milestones.
  4. If you slip and don’t achieve your goals by the anticipated date, forgive yourself. Learn from the obstacles that were in your way, remedy them, and keep going!

Did I leave anything off? How do you make your goals more achievable?

Four Stages of Conflict Resolution

This morning I participated in a meditation and Dharma session at a local Buddhist meditation society and listened to a very thoughtful and provoking address on conflict resolution. In the past year I’ve noticed that my approach to conflict (and its eventual resolution) has dramatically changed. Be it a shift in perspective or different resources I have available to me, it has definitely changed for the better and I am beginning to be more mindful of when I am practicing meaningful conflict resolution. I hope that these stages will help you recognize your abilities to reconcile the differences that present themselves in your daily life and that you will be able to apply them as needed.

Stage 1 – Pacification. There is an attempt made at pacifying a conflict, otherwise known as a “heart-to-heart” or some sort of method by which one party attempts to address the situation. Usually done by “talking things out,” this step almost always reinforces a relationship by establishing a connection or bond that revolves around trust. It is in this stage that the relationship between the two individuals grow deeper.

Stage 2 – Mediation. There may be insufficient communication between the two conflicting individuals; therefore, a third-party mediator may be required to help both individuals address said conflict. This can be via counselor, psychologist, friend, clergy, arbitrator, etc, but it is preferred that mediation be conducted by someone who does not have a vested interest in said relationship. An objective point of view is necessary to help evaluate the conflict, but not place value on either individual’s opinion.

Stage 3 – Magnetization. One individual within the conflict changes the situation in such a way that compels the other person to take action. In this stage, ultimatums or interventions may reasonably take place. A drastic action that creates a schism in the relationship will push the resolution in one of two directions. Much in the same way that magnets work, this will either bring the two individuals closer together or tear them apart. In this case, it is safe to say that there is no middle ground.

Stage 4 – Destruction. Either one or both individuals choose to destroy the aspect of the relationship that causes conflict. This does not necessarily mean that the two individuals walk away from each other entirely. This stage of conflict resolution highly depends on both of the individual’s emotional quotient. The most emotionally mature individuals may be able to permanently separate their overall relationship from the root of conflict. In this case, the conflict is resolved but the relationship (either actualized or imagined) remains intact.

How have you been successful at conflict resolution? Do any of these steps apply to you?


Special thanks to Ken McLeod for the discussion after this morning’s guided meditation at Against The Stream.