Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Things Running Taught Me About Life

An unexpected outcome of my running pursuits has been applying what I've learned to my every day life. (Much like my rowing experience.) Here are a few lessons that crossed over to other areas of my life:

Don't take it personally. I read an article with advice about running outdoors that said, "Don't take the wind personally. Resistance is just another sensation." The wind is not there to ruin your day. The wind is not a person > The wind cannot have ill feelings for you. It's simply resistance. If you insert another annoyance for 'wind', it makes things, well, less annoying.

Benchmarks, schmenchmarks. I followed the Couch-to-5k program. Because of my back issues, I repeated some weeks. When I signed up for the extra races, I had a period of panic, but somewhere between weeks 4 and 5, things clicked. It didn't align with the program, but eventually I reached my goal.

You've got to figure out how to be your own side-line high-fiver. During races, some of the most bolstering moments were when strangers would high-five me at mile markers. What I'm trying to learn from running is how to be my own high-fiver and cultivate that feeling of "Yes! You rock! Keep going, you rock star you!", on the treadmill and off.

One way to accomplish that is to regularly feed yourself positive thoughts. It's no secret that I'm a little bit neurotic. What I learned from yoga is that you have to cultivate your own positive thoughts and gentle reminders. In the spirit of becoming my own yoga teacher, I've been growing a collection of positive refrains to use while running, as it's sometimes the only thing that will get me through that damned second mile. Among my collection:
"I'm already doing this."
"I am so much stronger than yesterday."
Figure out how to be your own Good Witch.

"Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right." It's so annoying, but so true.

"Your mind will quit 1000 times before your body will." Ugh, my freaking mind. Despite it being one of the pillars of yoga, I never understood the relationship between mind and body until I started running. Both separation and oneness are skills to cultivate, that's for sure. There is a time for both.

Don't compare. Doesn't matter how fast/strong/fit the next guy is. You're already doing it.

It's all a really big privilege. Whether it's grueling physical activity or standing in line at Whole Foods, all of it is a blessing. I'm lucky to be able, literally, to choose my route. That's the biggest lesson of all.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

30-Before-30 Update: #22: Run a 5k and Not Die

One of my favorite things about listing out my goals has been looking back to my frame of mind when I set them, and then seeing how I feel about them as time goes on, and then also seeing how they come to fruition. Most times, it hasn't looked anything like how I thought it would. And its usually been 10x times better for it.

When I set this goal, it was before my back issues, before I discovered the startling truth we all will face at one point in our lives: You get one body. Only one. It's yours to nurture. And when something happens to it, your world can turn sort of grey. It takes a lot of work to get it back--and I'm very lucky to report that I could get it back.

My original thoughts behind wanting to run a 5k were simple: I just wanted a reason to get into shape. With my new perspective, this goal took on a brand new meaning. When I got my body back (and that's precisely how it feels, like one day my old body was handed back to me), it became about strength, about celebrating that the rain clouds part eventually, about appreciation and gratitude, about being well and staying well. About doing it because I can, for as long as I can.

It has been a long road back, with lots of physical therapy and hard work. And patience, which, you know, I'm super great at. (There ought to be a font for sarcasm.) My third physical therapist, my total rockstar BFF Brenda, was the one who made me believe that not only would I get better, I would get awesome again. She worked running into my PT schedule, once I was back to zero pain (but still down a lot of muscle and endurance from my time on the horizontal). First I ran in the pool three days per week. Once I had no pain doing that, I ran on the treadmill in 30 second intervals, then 1 minute, then 2.

And so on, and so forth, over many, many weeks. It is arguably the most disciplined I've ever been about anything--both when it comes to the consistency of the workouts, but also the restraint I showed by not overdoing it and the empathy I showed myself by not beating myself up along the way.

Funny thing is, I basically moved to the city of 5ks. Within two months of living here, friends and coworkers had asked me to partcipate in not one, not two or three, but five 5ks. I only ran three of them, because the other two were for work purposes. Luckily, I had already started training.

Mile 1: The Cubs Fun Run, May 11, 2013
This one was ahead of my training schedule, by, oh, you know, three weeks. In an 8 week training schedule, three weeks is quite a bit, especially the last three. But a new work friend, Whitney, asked me to run it with her and a friend, and since it wasn't officially timed, and you ended up at Wrigley Field, I agreed. She also promised drinks afterward, so.

I was giddy when I picked up my race packet the night before. It felt like someone handed me a badge that said "runner" and "Chicagoan" all at once.

I ended up having to walk about a quarter of the race, but I met Whitney and her friend at a bar in Wrigleyville afterward (those tall, crazy Southerns finished in 30 minutes, while I was closer to 47), and, well, drinking bloody Marys in spandex at 9am made for quite the finish line.

Mile 2: The Chase Challenge 3.5miler, May 23, 2013
Still ahead of schedule by a week, but my boss and a few coworkers were planning to run, and the starting line was essentially right outside my building. And my company paid half my entry fee. I couldn't not!

This race felt exactly how the second mile of a race feels: It pretty much sucked, but it showed me that I had a lot more in me than I thought I did.  This ended up being incredibly bolstering for me. That's not to say it wasn't incredibly grueling. The scenery was terrible, as we were essentially running through highway tunnels. I walked a few times, but ran strong the last 1.5 miles. When my time was emailed to me about 20 minutes after I finished, I was really proud. Five minutes less than last time, and this race was almost a half mile longer than the last!

Then I ate two pieces of gluten-laden Chicago-style pizza the size of my face and walked back to my office while sharing laughs with my coworkers. My tumtum was not happy, but the rest of my body was.

Mile 3:  The Chicago Color Run, June 16, 2013
This was actually supposed to be by first race, but all the other opportunities came up.  I ran it with a crazy fun group of Ohioans (?), one of which is a high school friend's girlfriend-turned-my insta-BFF, Ashley. We were pretty sure it wasn't truly a 5k--it seemed really, really short and easy.

It was so much fun, and it felt exactly how mile three of a race feels--easier than the previous few! There were stations where people would douse you in colored cornstarch and then people had their own packs of it as well. It was super fun!

Mile .10686: What's next?
I am excited to say that I think running is a hobby and form of exercise that is here to stay. It's taught me a lot about myself, it has strengthened, renewed and sparked friendships, and it's taught me a lot of life lessons. (You know there's a whole other post coming on that...)

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Ahem. I can hardly contain myself.

I am day dreaming about colors and couches and fabrics and headboards.

I had so much fun tackling things with my house. I really did. But. It was a lot to tackle by myself. It's a whole lot of house--3 bedrooms and an enormous dining room. Other than painting the walls and trim, my living room went untouched. I was trying to take a family home (a fixer-upper, no less) and personalize it for one person... a person with a lot of crazy ideas.

I love so much about what I put into those rooms, and I will zap the security deposit of anyone who tries to paint over that navy dining room. But a lot of the time I found myself with my hands tied because I wasn't sure if I'd like something down the road, or I wasn't sure if it would be practical if I wanted to sell or if I started a family there. And then when I realized I shouldn't make today's decisions based on an undetermined future, I just felt stuck. Stuck, as in the synonym of uninspired.

I recently secured a beautiful, huge apartment for September 1, when I will move out of my sublet, say goodbye to living with someone else's things, and finally settle into Chicago living. (Giving an obscene amount of money to someone I met on Craigslist inflicted such a panic that I called my mom and had a good cry, but I forked it over. And I'm never moving again, at least not without a Xanax and a vodka-soda.)

In this apartment, I'm excited to create something that is more fitting for my life as it is right now, instead of making choices for a day and a life that isn't here yet. Expect to see more pink-closet-esque choices, not that I'm allowed to paint the walls or anything.

I love my house, and since we can't predict the future, it's possible that I'm just putting the pause button on it, but right now it's an investment in my future, one mortgage-payment-paid-by-college-students at a time. My new apartment, however, is going to be a celebration of life, right here, right now.

It's the sweet spot between the roots and the wings.

Three cheers for the present! Hip, hip, hooray!

With that, here are a few of my hopes for this space:
  • Work in this quote:
Didn't like the movie, but I like the concept.
  • On second thought, work in a lot of quotes. After I bought the house, I stopped doing what had become my trademark in all my previous apartments: scrawling down quotes on post-its. I didn't even run out of post-its. I think I just ran out of inspiration. (See: stuck.) Well, 3M, order up. Project Quote Revival is under way.
  • Take a nod from William Morris's decorating philosophy
"Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."
This actually started when my mom was helping me figure out what to store, sell and bring right away and it made packing a lot easier. There's no sense in packing things you don't want or don't need just to pay people to carry them up a bunch of stairs so that you can decide that you don't want or don't need them, and then try to find a way to get rid of them in the middle of a city. This was incredibly liberating, and I got rid of all but two pieces of furniture.
  • Use color, but embrace white. There will be dreaded white walls, and the downside of renting is that it's not always practical (or, you know, permitted) to paint. So I aim to get creative with my use of color (tapestries! 3M sticky tape!) but I'm also going to make peace with our old friend Mrs. White (<--best movie ever! "So......much."), and learn to use it to my advantage. 

This tapestry is going to become my shower curtain.

I love this "headboard". "So... much."

All in all, things are feeling more aligned. I feel like I am living a life that is more in line with what I truly want. And, that, my friends, is inspired

Friday, June 7, 2013

Brain Crushes

I have several brain crushes going on at the moment.

Are you worried about future generations? Think kids today are spoiled and headed nowhere fast? Don't. There are kids like Jack Andraka, and the people who raised and nurtured him, out there.

"I got 199 rejection emails and one acceptance."
Claudia Zelevansky, writing about her looming 40th birthday, made me think about my 30-Before-30 list a little differently: 

"Because no matter how good your current comparative lists look, there's always that other list, the secret list you made a long time ago...
I'm not telling you what was on mine.
Because in truth, being 40 minus a year and 4 weeks old has taught me that my secret list is a catalog of extremely impressive virtues that have very little to do with me." 

And, finally, Ally Hamilton put into words what I've been busy doing these last couple of years. I don't necessarily believe I have something in particular that I'm "healing" from, but this part resonated so much that I printed it out to hang on my bathroom mirror:

"I got my sh&t together so that I truly enjoyed being on my own. It wasn’t comfortable, and I’m not going to tell you I didn’t spend the first few months of that time weeping a lot. But after that, it was actually quite nice. And then it became awesome. And then it became so awesome, I thought, only someone amazing could make me want to change this up. And that’s how you enter a relationship coming from a place of curiosity, and not need. So it’s a choice you make and not a problem you’re trying to solve. If someone is running from you, by all means, let them go. You have you. You get to have you. Make that a great thing. Realize what a gift that is. So that you value yourself and your time and energy, and would never dream of giving any of that to anyone who wasn’t running in your direction."
Plus, two things simply because I'm obsessed:

I love this song so much. The video is kind of nutty though.

Briohny Smyth is a total rockstar.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


  • While I've got the discipline of running down, the rest of my workouts have been hard fought. The other day I went to yoga only because its near Whole Foods and I wanted a kombucha. I don't know what this says about me. I'm a lazy hippie with expensive taste in digestive self care?

Ha. Haaaa. Confession: I find this incredibly funny. The em dash!
  • The first two times I heard a squawking noise in my cubicle row, I earnestly hoped that someone was visiting with a bird. Only the third time did I concede that it was probably a cell phone chime. (Come on, it would be SO cool if someone was visiting with a parrot.)

  • The frequency with which I use Wikipedia for work would shock and, I suspect, enrage my English professors.

  • I have edited my Match.com profile more often than my resume. Part of me just wants to link to my blog and be like, "If you think you can handle that, give me a holler."

  • There is a corridor outside my work building, a little park with a fountain and greenery, with plenty of places for people to sit and eat lunch. Every Wednesday in the summertime, a farmer's market takes over, with fresh veggies, aged balsamic vinegars and olive oils, stinky cheeses, and fresh-baked crusty baguettes. This past Wednesday was the first showing, and I was in my glory. I tried to keep my cool around my coworkers, but at the end of the loop, I squealed, "I think this is the best day of my life!" And it kind of was.

  • I am going to be a ridiculous mother. A note from the dog walker that said "Henley was a good girl today. A little girl gave her Cheerios." almost made me cry. A little girl gave her Cheerios! She was probably so happy and so gentle, if a little too excited! Forgive me for being that parent. Cheerios! A little girl! I can't. even.