Getting Better – Tracking

It’s Monday and I only have a few minutes to write this post. One thing I should be better about is scheduling posts, but I’m not and that’s just something that I’ve come to accept about myself. I am a planner, but I’m not a pre-planner.

In Rubin’s book she starts to talk about the things that make a habit stick. The first thing she writes of is TRACKING…..although I’m pretty sure she calls it monitoring. However, for me tracking is the best word for it.

I track lots of things….my mileage and performance on my runs (see my MapMyRun page), how many people view and comment on this blog, my hours working on projects for NETA, my students’ grades…..I’m even guilty of keeping score sometimes in relationships. Tracking progress is supposed to help habits form. So, you’d think that I’d be pretty successful at forming new habits……

The problem is that I don’t always track the things that I’d need to in order to create new habits. These are all things that I need to track for work or want to track because they’re already habit (like running). But, because of my nature as an Obliger, I think that tracking for future progress is harder than anything. If I don’t have someone accountable (like my boss or students) or don’t have a long standing tradition of something (like running), then it just doesn’t happen.

Part of the reason for me picking up this book is because there are some things I need to change about myself. It’s not that I don’t love myself; I do. I just find that I need a change, but maybe haven’t put my finger on which of my habits yet that it is that I want to and need to change.

What kind of tracking do you do in your life?

What habit of yours would you like to change?

Time, Values, and Habits – The Big Questions

This is my last post for the week on the subject of Rubin’s book Better Than Before. I’m still in the section on Self-Knowledge which is a big theme for me always. I’m a big believer in knowing yourself and the yoga Niyama of Svadhyaya.

At the end of the chapter Rubin talks about the big questions that don’t always seem big until you ask them. She breaks down questions into three categories:

  1. How you spend your time
  2. What you value
  3. Current habits

Some of these questions are easy for me to answer; like would I like to spend more time with friends or by myself? With friends. Would I be happy to see my children have the life I’ve had? No. If the people around me could change one of my habits, what would they choose? My controlling nature.

It’s hard sometimes to own up to the truth as in that last statement. I am totally type A and I’m a first born. I find that those are often my excuses for liking to be in control and from time to time I’ve wanted to change that about myself. However, I’ve come to realize that it’s part of who I am and that there are times when I need to be take charge and stand my ground.

Other questions were harder to answer; like do I like racing from one activity to another, or do I prefer unhurried transitions? Here I’m stuck and do not know myself. I think I like unhurried transitions. I like to take as much time as I need to explore a place or an event. But, at the same time, I like to have a lot going on. I’m not much for traditional “down time”. I don’t particularly like days of doing nothing and hours of watching tv or laying around. When I do spend a lot of time sitting and reading I feel productive because I’m usually learning something along the way.

What’s most satisfying to me: saving time or money or effort? Well, I’m always interested in saving money, but I feel like doing things right also saves time and effort. Sometimes researching the best and cheapest option will save time and effort in the long run. Also under that same category was: do I like to listen to experts, or do I prefer to figure things out for myself? Another hard one because I believe people are “experts” for a reason. I wish more of my friends and family would listen to me about living a healthy lifestyle and exercise because I have been an “expert” in this field for some time now. I’ve been a certified fitness professional for 13 years and had my master’s degree in the field for over 6 years. I work in the field and I live most of what I teach and know. But, I’m also a kinesthetic learner myself, so there are somethings that I need to try and figure out for myself. I’m also keenly aware of the fact that there is no “one size fits all” for anything in life other than Be Nice to Others.

And, if I could magically, effortlessly change one habit in my life, what would it be? Oh man, where do I start? I can imagine changing whole scenarios and situations and feelings and thoughts, but not one habit. I guess, as far as habits go, I wish I were more organized. My desk is constantly clutter and I have a lot of unfinished projects (despite being a finisher) that are of the crafty and memorabilia nature. I wish I could find a way to relax and give myself more time. I wish that I didn’t always feel the need to be on the go. And I wish I could work faster so that more time would appear to me.

My favorite question she asked throughout this all was:

What daily or weekly activity did I do for fun when I was ten years old?

Read, write, run.

I have always been an avid reader. I used to carry a notebook around and write in it. I used to run as did most of my family. And now, I still read, write and run. It’s telling of who I am. It’s an answer to the question: Of my existing habits, which would I like to see my children adopt?

With this in mind, I’m going to read over the weekend. I’ll be back writing on Monday. I plan to run again this weekend and all next week as regularly planned. I look forward to your responses to these same questions!

TOLT #67 – Head Problems

So, it’s Thursday and I’ve debated whether or not to link up with the Think Out Loud crowd and decided at the last minute to say yes I will. I’m still writing today about the Distinctions in Rubin’s book that I started talking about the other day. You can read the first part here and the second part here if you like.

Today (and yesterday) I have been suffering from a bout of depression and a migraine that is threatening my sanity. I don’t get them often enough for anyone to do anything about them. For the most part I can keep them from getting bad. I usually down a Mt. Dew at the first sign of a smaller headache and I’m good. But I know when the big one is coming and a caffeine laced drink isn’t going to stop the storm. So, I am suffering through with the feeling that part of my head is going to pop off and roll away. I hate all noise. I hate all light. I hate standing up because I feel like I’m about to collapse. I hate food as the smell and taste make me nauseous.  But I taught today and I’m eating and drinking and pretending to be normal.

It’s part of my baby steps. And one of those steps was a goal I had last year….to get back in the pool. So, today I donned my swim suit for the first time that I can remember (probably since before my first son was born over 6.5 years ago) and I got in the pool. The tightness of my cap and goggles aggravated my migraine and I almost gave up before I started. But I told myself that I could do 20 minutes….and I did. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it.

Why? Because I’m a finisher. I know that about me. I’ve had that same swim suit since I coached swimming in Colorado. I left that job in 2007. I like to wear things out….to see things through to the end. Starting new things on the blog and in life are always a little tumultuous for me. I think I’ve passed that trait on to my oldest. He cried today over old tennis shoes. I know the feeling….sometimes new isn’t as exciting as old is comfortable.

And that’s the last distinction… I think, that oddly enough, I’m a little more of a novelty lover. This seems to go against the idea of being a finisher and wearing things out, but I like things to be new in certain categories. This is part of the field I’ve chosen. I teach at colleges and universities…..each semester means new students. I might teach the same thing over and over again, but I tend to teach it slightly different than the semester before (or even the hour before). I like both the familiarity of teaching and the novelty of new ideas and experiences that it brings. I like the novelty of the ever changing fitness industry.

I like the novelty of moving to a new place and new faces and new running routes. But, it’s all the same at the same time. I like to see my same furniture in a new house against a new wall in a new arrangement. I like to see my same books on the shelves of a new office. I have had 20 residences in my lifetime, and yet, I still have the comforter that was on my bed in high school…..it’s been at all my residences since and still hasn’t worn out. I’m definitely a finisher.

What this tells me is that probably part of the reason I’m feeling down these days is because I have been in one place for longer than I’ve ever been before. My “new job” isn’t that new;  I’ve taught this class before….new school….same class….new students….same problems. I am still a little antsy about wanting my PhD and I feel like I haven’t been traveling much lately. Perhaps I just need a new adventure? Maybe it’s just a symptom of the moment?

What are your thoughts on familiarity vs. novelty and finishing vs. opening? Tomorrow I’m going to work on the next part of Better Than Before. I hope you’ll join me then.

The Word “DOWN”

I searched my old posts for the word “DOWN” today and found a fair amount for the past few years. Why? Because (although not currently formally diagnosed) I suffer from depression from time to time. It’s something I sought treatment for once in my life. Treatment that was offered didn’t work for me. It was a combination of medications and therapy. I found neither to be helpful. I’ve found exercise to be helpful and journaling to be helpful, but both are sometimes just patches on a gaping whole in my heart. Today the patch isn’t holding. Today I am down.

I decided to get on here and write instead of continuing to lay in bed and feel depressed. I can feel depressed and hopeless while not laying in bed. I also feel sad, scared, and angry. The anger is usually what motivates me to start moving. And then when I think about being angry and how it hurts to feel angry, I get sad again. And then I start crying and trying to figure out what would help. Time. That’s about it. I just need time to move from this state of being to the next state of being.

I read an interesting article on NBCNews.com the other day:

How Being Angry Can (Sometimes) Be Good for You

but I’m not interested in being angry right now. I want to feel good and good seems a million miles away, but getting out of bed is one of the first steps in the right direction. Writing here is my second step. This tells me a little more about how to be me:

I take little steps.

This was really evident in the way that I approached running awhile back. I wanted to get more consistent and faster, so I started running the shortest course I had and added on a little at a time. I need to remember that it’s not big steps that motivate me, it’s little ones.  And

I’m a marathoner.

When I work on a project, like myself or work, I take a long time to do it. Everything in life takes me time. And sometimes that means I have to step away from the work in order to better assess if I’m headed in the right direction. Today I needed to get in bed and just be for a minute….I needed to get away from life for a minute to reassess…and then start back up again. Even this far into writing and I’m already feeling a little more “normal”. Finally,

Sometimes I just can’t decide who I am.

When thinking about the promotion vs. prevention focused personalities I’d say I’m pretty much a split down the middle. Promotion focused individuals are looking for achievement; something I’m always seeking….to feel like I’ve finished something and done it successfully. Prevention focused people are seeking to avoid consequences like loss and punishment; this is also me. I am a health and fitness professional partly because I want to avoid the health problems that have been prevalent in my family members. I budget because I’m afraid of being in debt. I had a speeding ticket and am now terrified of getting another. Yet, I’m always looking for gains. Sometimes….I’m just not one or the other.

More of what I’ve learned about myself today is that it’s okay to be me, even when me is not who I want to be.

Please share a few of your thoughts and join me tomorrow as I finish exploring this portion of Rubin’s book.

Being Me

In her first book on happiness Gretchen Rubin writes about “Being Gretchen” as one of her personal commandments. It’s something that I have always been driven to be….authentically me. Today authentically me feels like someone who yells a lot….both to be heard and out of frustration (and sometimes a combination of the both).

In Better Than Before Rubin writes about going deeper than the Four Tendencies framework and thinking about how to better define the self. These are the distinctions that make us not like all others, but like some. Kind of how I sort my laundry at the end of each day…..some things I would wear again before washing (like hoodies) and things that definitely need to be washed before they touch me again (like socks I ran in). The world is a little simpler (and sometimes so are we) if we can define ourselves in one of two groups.

Here are the questions she poses:

  • Early riser or night owl?
  • Marathoner, sprinter, or procrastinator?
  • Overbuyer or underbuyer?
  • Simplicity or abundance?
  • Finisher or opener?
  • Familiarity or novelty?
  • Promotion or prevention?
  • Small or big steps?

Today I’m going to start with just a few of these and I hope that you’ll consider them as well and share your thoughts on where you fall in these groups.

The first one that stuck out to me is the overbuyer vs. underbuyer. I am most definitely an underbuyer which you can read about in my post “How Many Do You REALLY Need?” This is a constant source of pain in my life. I find that most people I know are always spending money or looking for more STUFF! I just can’t stand the stuff. I feel like holding on to sentimental items clutters my life enough that I just don’t have room for more things that I won’t use.

I have moved many times in my life. I am still in my 6th state, but this is the 3rd city I’ve lived in in this state. This is the 3rd residence I’ve had in this city. And each time I move I look for what more I can give up without actually wanting to get more. The funny thing is that my houses keep getting bigger…..

I guess that would make me also somewhat of a simplicity lover over an abundance lover. I do like things simple. That’s probably part of what has drawn me deeper and deeper into the practice of yoga over the years. It’s simple: be kind and good and that is enough. However, I love the feeling of abundance when it means that I am surrounded by friends and laughter. I used to think that most people felt that way, but I’ve met a large number of people who prefer time alone. I get it. It can be nice to have the quiet, but I wouldn’t change my rambunctious boys for a quiet house….ever! Even when they’re driving me up the wall and asking for more stuff! 😉

So, what do these things tell me about myself and why is it important to decide? I think that knowing myself in this way will lead to more happiness in my life. I like a small, uncluttered space, filled to the brim with friends and family. That is my ideal life. The question will always be….is that reality?

Please share a few of your thoughts and join me tomorrow as I talk about a couple more of these distinctions.

Meditation Monday #45 – Tapas: The Spirit of Inquiry

Gray Mondays seem to be a theme in my life. This one is being caused by the outskirts of Irma. Irma means goddess of war or noble and will likely be a retired name on the Hurricane List after this year. Her spirit will live in infamy.

What about your spirit?

Spirit is a hard topic to wrap one’s head around sometimes. Sometimes we put spirit in the same basket as soul and other times it’s attitude. Some people believe they have a spirit animal (I guess T would say mine is the gazelle). I remember our nanny telling our youngest that he was her spirit animal when he suggested that they bake cupcakes after her car had been broken in to.

I picked back up the Gates book today and read Day 77 about Tapas in which he defines it as “the spirit of inquiry”. And I journaled

“having the heart of an explorer” Gates writes about tapas. My mental health and the desire for it keeps pushing me forward to learn more in life. It’s part of this final month of My Best Body Happiness Project. It’s about a “willingness to work hard” and in my physical health, in my eating changes, I work hard without developing hardened and steadfast rules. Rather I work hard to achieve this feeling of “honestly knowing myself”, my successes and my limits. I don’t know that I have the “desire for spiritual health” the way that my grandmother does; the way that some of my friends express; and even how a a few of my students do, but I know more and more each day about what I stand for and still seek “to know more”.

So, what about you? Are you practicing Tapas?

What is your heart’s desire?

Your drive?

Your spirit?

Not Bad For

Yesterday was a little bit of a lead in to what I need to talk about today…..

A phrase I need to stop using with myself or in description of others:

“NOT BAD FOR….”

Have you ever said this about yourself? As in, I don’t look bad for 36. Or that run wasn’t bad for 36. I find myself often comparing how I do, look, etc with my age. I haven’t fallen so far down the rabbit whole as to say not bad for a girl, but I have said not bad for a mom of two before and then cringed inside. I rarely find myself using that phrase with others, except my kids….

Not bad for 4 or 6 when it comes to reading, drawing, folding laundry, etc. I am apparently secretly obsessed with what is “normal” for a certain age. I am not sure where this standard comes from. Was it taught to me? Is it something that’s unique to my mind and the failures within? Am I trying to reach some sort of goal that I haven’t yet defined?

I remember back when I was married the first time and had decided what “good enough” would look like after I had kids. “Good enough” is just another way of saying “Not bad for” in my book. Good enough for government work was a phrase tossed around our house a lot back then. But why does anything have to be valued in that way? Why is it not ever my best? Or, in honest, my worst?

What is so bad about saying, today I sucked? Or today I rocked it? What’s so bad about not putting a disclaimer on my performance in life? I feel like this phrase is mostly hurting me in my life. If I were to judge my work as “not bad for” I probably wouldn’t get much work. If I judged my performance as a mom as not bad for…..my kids might get taken away. I want to spend this month ditching this phrase in an attempt to help my mental health.

What’s the one thing that’s holding you back?

Have you ever put a disclaimer on your life?

My Body; My Mind

Another check in for MY BEST BODY challenge! It’s now the end of August and the start of the final month of this HAPPINESS PROJECT. At this point I can report……

  • That I am currently not battling any major or minor illnesses. My allergies are kicking up (as it seems happens at any time of year here in Wilmington), but overall doing well.
  • I am prepped for my race this weekend and have logged the most miles in a month for 2017 already in August (come back next Wednesday for a race report). I have had no injuries this year (knock on wood) and, despite my shoes being old, have great confidence in meeting my goal while still keeping up with my students’ training.
  • My overall perspective of how my body moves has changed. Through changes in my eating and exercise plans I have lost a little weight (even though it wasn’t the goal) and changed the shape of my body and the way it moves. But….I do find myself constantly saying this one phrase…NOT BAD FOR….

And because of that last statement, I feel that there’s another aspect of my body in all of this that I’ve neglected to directly focus on: My Mind. Continue reading “My Body; My Mind”

TOLT #65 – The Skin I’m In

Welcome to the fifth month of My Best Body Happiness Project! It’s Thursday and I’m sharing my progress over on Running With Spoons weekly link-up.

One element that I have slightly neglected in all of this body talk is my skin. I had a full skin check done back in February when I first visited the dermatologist about the cyst in my leg. Luckily….she found nothing really to be of concern about…..except the cyst. On Monday I was back at the “doctor’s” and my leg is still not healed. It keeps flaring up and the NP gave me an antibiotic for that plus whatever else this cough is that is currently plaguing me and fingers crossed that it heals this time!

Once it’s healed, I’m going to have a terrible scar that will look just as bad as when the cyst was in my leg. It’s kind of part of who I am….I scar. I broke my wrist in several places in March 2007 and had to have surgery on it and a metal plate inserted. The stitches were the kind that weren’t supposed to leave a scar….and yet, I have railroad tracks on my arm. They’re so obvious that more than one person has questioned if I tried to harm myself. I didn’t; unless you count snowboarding without wrist guards as trying to harm oneself.

My skin and I have always had a tumultuous relationship. I am very fair skinned in the winter and tan very easily in the summer. My siblings all have freckles on their face and I have random freckles on my body. I am allergic to “regular” sunscreen and I break out in hives if you feed me mushrooms. I get contact dermatitis from a few things like latex gloves and I had a weird eczema patch on my elbow during both of my pregnancies. I had the worst acne when I was younger and developed an esophageal ulcer thanks to strong medicine I had to be on for the bad acne. Basically, my skin kinda hates me….but not always.

There have been many times in my life when I thought my skin was beautiful! Like my headshot on the blog. It’s from the Christmas after my second son was born. I’m barely wearing make-up and it’s DECEMBER! I was simply glowing at that time. I don’t know if it was the prenatal vitamins, the happiness of being a new mom again, eating well because I was breastfeeding, or what the cause was, but I loved my skin at that time.

Your skin is kind of an amazing organ:

  • It accounts for about 15% of your body weight
  • Is thickest on your feet and thinnest on your eyelids
  • Renews itself about every 28 days
  • Changes in your skin can signal changes in your overall health

(Facts found at https://forefrontdermatology.com/skin-fun-facts/)

So, wow! and Yeah! I see why my skin has looked better at some times than others. For me, at this point in my journey, I would love to see beautiful glowing skin because of the dietary changes that I’m trying to make. However, they’re not always consistent changes. I am still struggling with how and what to cut out when and what fits into our social life.

For instance, last night we had a sick kid who wanted chicken noodle soup to feel better. It’s kind of a given; most of us were raised to believe that it has magical healing powers. So, we had chicken noodle soup….in JULY!

Also, you have to consider taste profiles. We’re learning to love new foods (my kids are digging nectarines like crazy!), but also struggling to find recipes that don’t involve cheese. Why? Because we tried the vegan cheese and it was the worst thing I’ve eating in a long time! It’s not a flavor I will get used to because I’m not interested in spending money on it again. Meatless meals are sometimes sooooo delicious (we recently had apple/almond salads with baby greens and broccoli slaw) and other times a big fail (enchiladas with sauce that tasted like it belonged on pizza or spaghetti).

My skin is responding to these foods and changes as is the rest of my body. But I used to be so good about taking care of my skin in other ways too. I used to have a million different lotions for different parts of my body and applied them religiously. Now I’m lucky to remember to apply any at all to any part. But I’m also choosier about what I put on my skin.

Currently I use:

  • Shea Moisture Fruit Fusion Coconut Water Energizing Bar Soap
  • Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen, Grow, and Restore Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Shea Moisture Argan Oil and Raw Shea Butter Body Lotion
  • Banana Boat Kids Sunscreen Lotion
  • Ology Facial Moisturizer with SPF

(Not a sponsored post)

I wish that I could afford Shea Moisture products all of the time, but I can’t. Currently all of the ones I’m using were bought on clearance. I wish that I could remember to put on my facial moisturizer every day, but as a mom sometimes my get ready routine means that I forget because I’m in a hurry. And I wish that I took the time to fully lotion after my showers, but I often am rushed then too. So, for the next month I’m going to try and pay a little more attention to my skin in three ways:

  1. Get sunscreen on every day to protect my skin when I’m running, at the beach, on play dates, and in general outside
  2. Take the time to get a pedicure because my feet deserve it (I was given a gift certificate for my birthday last year and I still haven’t used it!)
  3. Get my leg healed.

How do you take care of your skin?

What make it its best?

I Need More Gretchen! – The Call to Self-Care

So, a few of weeks ago I read/listened to a pair of posts/podcasts by Gretchen Rubin:

A Little Happier: More Advice about How to Be Successful–Check Every Box.

A Little Happier: Don’t Check Every Box.

I know that just looking at the title of each of those seems like a major contradiction, but Gretchen Rubin has these “Secrets of Adulthood” that she lives by and one of those is

The opposite of a profound truth is also true.

Her two podcasts are about being successful and applying for a job, but I took the idea to heart in regards to self-care. It draws back to the topic I was writing about last week in my course review of the Inclusivity Training I did where Chelsea reminded us over and over again to

Drink as you pour.

If I am to take care of myself I need to check all of the boxes and make myself into the person I want to be; this will help me to be happy and is the only thing I truly have control over. I need to meet my own expectations. I need to push myself to be the best that I can. I need to think positively about myself and my own capabilities.

But, I also don’t need to check all of the boxes for anyone else, or even, sometimes myself. Sometimes it’s okay to spend the entire day in my pajamas lounging on the couch and watching tv with my kids. Sometimes it’s okay to eat pancakes from the fridge in the middle of the day. Sometimes it’s okay to say no to a workout.

The key is balance. I’m in the middle of a big project in my life and some of that means checking the boxes off to meet a goal I have. This would include

  • Getting in my 4 runs each week
  • Trying to be active each day
  • Avoiding eating as many animal products as possible
  • Choosing to eat less processed food
  • Making time to breathe and to meditate
  • Reading more
  • Writing more
  • Spending more time playing with my children
  • Taking care of myself when I need it

This is all part of My Best Body Happiness Project that was inspired by reading Rubin’s first book. I think that something inside of me has been trying to get back to this idea of balance lately. I will be writing on Thursday about where I am in my project and Friday will be a book review from the last book I read.

Currently though, Gretchen Rubin is helping me again as the next book on my reading list was Better than Before, her book about habits that introduces the Four Tendencies (I’m an Obliger). There will be a lot more self-care going on, a lot more meditation/reflection, and I’m sure that I’ll learn a lot more about myself and my habits as I go through this new book.

Have you read Better than Before?

What do you do for self-care?

What boxes do you not check?