Why, Hello Again.

This photo of my dog in the tulips is for no particular reason other than cuteness.

This photo of my dog in the tulips is for no particular reason other than cuteness.

I was going to write a long post about why I disappeared from blogging, but every time I sat down to write it, my heart sank. It just seemed so boring to write. It finally occurred to me that if I am bored writing it, it would be even worse to read it. So, in the words of the great Inigo Montoya, “Let me explain… no, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

I stopped working out, so I stopped writing.

Not my proudest moment, but there you go. Now I am working out again, I have the energy and motivation to write. I have a ton of blog posts in my head and hopefully now that life is settling back into its groove, I won’t fall off the cliff again. No promises though – it’s my blog and I can not write in it if I want to.

For now, I am lifting weights again, walking my dog and trying to eat healthy. I am also trying to make some changes in my career and around the home, (like I said, I have a lot to write about.) I am also planning on getting back to reading all those wonderful blogs that I’ve been missing. See you around!

 

 

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March

Walking Hermes

The snow does not deter my dog in the slightest

Though it is March, it was -5 degrees this morning (colder yet with windchill.) With over 20″ of snow on the ground, it still feels like February. My city is constantly being ranked in the snowiest cities in the country – not just in the top 10, we are up in the top three. The other morning the wind was whipping fine snow spray everywhere. I felt this strange sensation… it took a minute to realize that my eyelashes were freezing together! Welcome to winter in the Midwest.

I don’t really mind all that much – snow shoveling is an excellent work out, as is slogging though snow. In fact, my dog walks are more like hikes – I end up climbing 4′ – 5 ‘ hills of ice and snow at every intersection. Even though I haven’t been working out like I was, I am still getting quite a bit of exercise. And I have to say, it has been a beautiful winter. Usually by now all the snowbanks are grungy and black and the streets are nasty, but this year everything is still as pretty as a Christmas card.

I’ve slowly been getting back in the swing of things. I’m back to making sure I get at least 15 minutes of exercise a day (over an above my hour a day dog walks) and tracking my calories with the MyFitnessPal app. I’m also trying to make sure I get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. It’s paying off, I have lost a couple of the post-holiday pounds I put on, and I am definitely feeling more energetic. I’m hoping to build on those three habits as we move into spring.

I’ve still got a lot on my plate. I am trying to figure out where to focus my attention: home, work, family, friends, writing, health… there is so much I want to do! I’m trying to find that mysterious work/life balance I’ve heard tell about, but it is like tracking down a unicorn. People talk about it, but has anyone ever actually seen it? I wonder…

Hermes Snow

Quit thinking! Let’s go for a walk!

More Thoughts on a Magic Exercise Pill

These would be a thing of the past...

These would be a thing of the past…

After I wrote the post about the magic pill yesterday, I found myself continuing to thinking about it later. I’ve come to a new conclusion: I think if such a pill were invented, more people would exercise, not less. Just in case you missed my post yesterday, here is the thought experiment that Caitlyn at Fit and Feminist posed:

and so I wondered, if medical researchers were to develop a pill that could provide all the physical health benefits of regular exercise, and that pill had no side effects, and it was as inexpensive as a bottle of aspirin – would I still continue to be as physically active as I am? []

First of all, I think nearly everyone would take this pill. Oh, there would be a few holdouts, there always are, but if there was a pill that would allow people to either lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, plus gave all the all the other physical benefits of exercise, that would be reason enough – even for the naturally thin and healthy. The question though is, would people still exercise, and I think not only would they still exercise, far more people would give it a try.

I mean, we all know exercise is good for us, so why don’t we do it? In my opinion the big three reasons are 1) It’s boring, 2) I’m not motivated enough and 3) the inner rebel that hates to do anything we “have to do.” There are other reasons of course, but I’d say these are some of the most common. Now, let’s introduce the magic pill:

Boredom: I think the very first thing to go would be repetitive exercise, (except in specific situations.) Things that people dread because they are monotonous: the treadmill, elliptical, stationary bikes and so on would start to die out almost immediately. The exception would be training tools for athletes, hard core cyclists might still use trainer bikes, runners might still use treadmills in bad weather and so on. But overall? These things would become the next buggy whip.

Gyms would have to start changing their strategy. Right now they succeed in part because people feel they “should” go. If you take away the “should” you are going to have to make it so that people “want” to go. How can you do that? By making it fun. Of the exercise I said I would keep doing, one of the biggest reasons was because it is fun. I think Crossfit gyms understand this. They have elements of friend competition and badassery that make it fun. I can think of lots of ways Gyms could become more fun. So… if they make exercise fun, then it becomes fun to exercise, not boring.

I’m Not Motivated Enough: I think there are two levels of motivation here. There is the, “Meh. I don’t really feel like going for a run today,” sort of malaise that even elite athletes feel sometimes, and then there are the huge debilitating factors that those who are overweight face. I’m not concerned about the “meh” factor too much, I’ll talk about why in the next point. What I want to talk about is how hard it is to exercise when you are overweight.

Now, we all know that no matter where people are or how they feel, they can do some form of exercise. However, in order to do so may involve dealing with public shame, physical disabilities, and limited access. This is why anyone who is overweight and gets out there and exercises is an automatic bad ass and my hero. Let’s break this down a bit and look at it a little closer:

Public shame: Working out when you are out of shape and overweight can be embarrassing. I’ve been told that people at the gym really don’t pay attention to other people and everyone is there to deal with their own stuff. That may be perfectly true, but really, it doesn’t matter. There is a reason that all of my exercise (especially when I first started) was done alone, at home. If we had a pill that could help everyone get to more or less the same healthy body weight, this shame could be lifted.

Physical disabilities: Being overweight can make it really, really hard to work out. I wasn’t that overweight, (5’6”, 170+ lbs) but even for me, it was difficult. Here’s a kind of embarrassing example: I’ve mentioned before that at my heavier weight I was pretty busty. That means that any sort of activity that involved running or jumping was not only awkward, but really uncomfortable. It’s a small silly example, but you can see where I am going. Folks with weight issues also frequently have other medical problems that make exertion hard. Again, to use myself as an example, I have had asthma since I was a child. While I still have it, it has definitely improved since taking off 35+ pounds. Take these examples and extrapolate out – and you see why I think people with weight issues who work out are bad asses!

But wait, there’s more!

Limited access: Do you know what kayaking, rock climbing, biking, gymnastics and skiing all have in common? They are great exercise, lots of fun …and they have weight limitations. Many other sports don’t have specific weight limits, but they are there nonetheless. I’m thinking of things like group sports. Sure, there might not be a specific rule, but that line is there anyway. The magic pill would eliminate it. Sure, some folks (like myself) would still be uncoordinated and lousy at sports, but they wouldn’t be uncomfortable trying them due to their body shape. I’ll tell you, I really dislike group sports, but you would have a much better chance at talking me into a game of volleyball now than you would have 35 some odd pounds ago.

The inner rebel: We all have an inner James Dean that hates the idea of doing anything we “have to” do. But if we take away the guilt with the magic pill, we make gyms and other recreational activities fun and accessible to all, this just disappears. Not everyone is going to run out and start doing Crossfit or take a Kickboxing class, but all the folks who have always been curious about it but afraid, now can jump in.

I know the magic pill is just a thought experiment, but what a wonderful thing that would be for everyone.

Photo credit: Holiday Inn Express on flickr

It’s My Anniversary! (But I Don’t Have Time for it!)

on the scale.jpg.jpgToday is my anniversary. On January 15th of last year I decided to start doing something about my weight. On this day last year I started using MyFitnessPal and began figuring out how to lose some of my extra poundage.

I really wanted today to be special. I wanted to write a long post about where I have been and what I have been through. I’ve been planning it in my head for weeks – but life doesn’t always go as expected. I mentioned that I have a lot going on in my job right now, and frankly, I am still up to my eyeballs in it. I hired a brand new employee who will be starting Friday while at the same time I have to be prepping for a trade show, not to mention new management above me and a whole bunch of other changes – let’s just say that it’s a lot on one little plate!

Since I don’t want to give up the chance to write about my journey this year, I’ve decided to move my anniversary. That’s right, it’s my anniversary and I can move it if I want to! If I can’t have today, I have another date in mind:

The trigger last year was a doctor’s appointment. I’ve had asthma since childhood and this was a routine check-up and prescription refill. Actually, it went really well. I haven’t needed to change anything in years – my meds stay the same. In the course of congratulating me for keeping my asthma under control, the doctor also mentioned that I was the same weight I was seven years prior, when I first started seeing him. He meant it as a compliment, but it got to me. It was the exact moment I realized that if I kept going exactly the way I was, I would stay the way I was, but if I wanted something different, I needed to do something different.

Seems obvious, doesn’t it?

It hadn’t been, though. On January 15, 2013 I took the first step and downloaded an app to track calories. I also made a commitment to myself to try. This year has been the result.

I have another yearly appointment with that same doctor coming up, on Valentine’s Day, nonetheless. That seems like a perfect anniversary! Over the last year, I’ve found a lot of love for myself I hadn’t had before. So, I am using the next month to clean up my work schedule a bit, even things out a bit, and in a month, I’ll be ready to write that anniversary post.

In the meantime, I might be a little scarce over the next couple of weeks, but I am still here and I have lots and lots to write about!

This is Your Brain on Stress

Brain overload

Basically, this is my brain.

It’s been a strange week here in Long View Hill land.

I mentioned that there are changes happening at our office. We have a new executive here who will eventually, if all goes well, be our boss. For now, he’s been brought in at roughly my level. This has caused all my fellow upper managers (who are all men) to start acting like silverback gorillas. There’s been all sorts of posturing, roaring and beating of chests as they try to prove who’s the cleverest. For one of my coworkers, his roaring consists of walking in circles, humming tonelessly and singing “do do DEE dooo…” over and over. It’s not a very effective roar, but it’s what he’s got. As you can guess, it’s messing with the energy in the office and everyone is jumpy and on edge.

Normally, I would be drawn into this sandbox too, (and I fight dirty,) but I have other fish to fry. One of my employees is leaving – she’s up and moving out-of-state – and I have a very short time to fill her rather fabulous shoes. I posted the position online and had over 80 responses in 24 hours.* So, I’ve been phone interviewing, setting up face-to-face interviews, writing rejection emails and just generally trying to keep all the balls in the air. All day long I am listening to what candidates say, trying to figure out what they aren’t saying, asking lots of questions, and making decisions. My brain is in overdrive and at the end of every day this week it’s turned to complete mush. In fact, when New Executive came over and asked if he could meet with me, I said “Nope. Not today, not tomorrow, and probably not next week either.” Maybe not my most politic move, but an honest one. Besides, if he wants to pick my brain, he needs to do it when there is a brain there to pick.

On top of all this, I took a seminar on Thursday on one of the big web-based software packages we use. Overall, it was a pretty good class. I think that it will really help me in my day-to-day job, and if I need to move on, it’s a skill I will be able to use elsewhere. I’m really glad I took it, but of course, it came during this week and it was a lot of thinking, remembering and learning new skills. More brain mush. Now, it’s like oatmeal.

And I hate oatmeal.

Oh, and did I mention that in two weeks I have to go out of town for a trade show? And this is normally the week we prep for it?

Yeah…

One good thing so far is that the weather is now a balmy 20 degrees, so I’ve been able to do full, long walks with the pooch. The ice and sub zero temps were forcing us indoors, but the last couple of days we’ve done real walks and it’s really helped. Funny, exercise is what I want to do the least when I am stressed, but it is also the one thing that really makes a difference. Long walks help in particular because I can work through thoughts, sort stuff out and categorize the day. I like that.

I started this blog because I wanted to figure out a life’s journey for myself. I thought I would have plenty of time to think about it and work towards it, but I am getting the feeling that 2014 is going to be a even bigger year of change than 2013 was!

 

 

* Favorite names of applicants: Precious, Precious, (yes, there were two of them), Diamond, Lacy, Charee and Charlsie. I’ve decided to hire them all and start a girl band instead! We will be awesome.

 

Photo credit: State Farm on flickr

Does My Face Cause Regrets?

compliment or-nsultOccasionally I write about the odd “compliments” I’ve gotten since losing weight. Please understand that I know most of these are said with good intentions, and I do appreciate that. I just smile and say thank you when they are given. (I only rant here in the privacy of the internet with you, dear reader.) And one final disclaimer – I am not “anti-compliment” or anything. I really do appreciate when people take the time to say something nice or encouraging to me, it’s just that sometimes, when you dig into what has really been said, it isn’t really a compliment.

The most recent one came when I changed my profile photo on Facebook. (It’s the same photo of me that I put up on this post.) I don’t post a lot of of photos of myself, so a lot of people commented on it and said very nice things… but there was one that got under my skin. It was from an ex. He’s a good guy and we dated back in my 20s. The relationship was never going to “go anywhere” but we had a lot of fun. Even though we had our issues, I was honestly surprised when he dumped me for his crackpot, creepy boss. This is the compliment he left:

I don’t have many regrets in life, but this photo gives me an additional one.

Now, I know it’s supposed to be nice, but… it isn’t. Not really. Let’s break it down:

If he just had said, “I don’t have many regrets in my life, but you are one of them.” (and not on a photo of me,) that could have been sweet. Without being on a photo, the comment could be because I am an awesome human being and an all-around badass, and he regrets dumping me for his weird, needy and possessive boss lady. Fair enough.

If he had said, “Daaaaaaannnnnnng woman, you loooooooook goooooood. I haven’t dated anything that fine since 1993!” I would have laughed my head off. (And it would have probably been true!)

However, when we unpack what he did say, this is what I get: “You look good, now. I regret breaking up with you, now.” Honestly, that just ticks me off. I may have lost a little weight and gotten a makeover, but I am still the same dang person! The photo gives you an additional regret? You think I look attractive (now) and so you wish you hadn’t been a jerk in the 90s? What if I wasn’t attractive? Would you still regret it? Because let’s be honest, I’m still basically the same person I was a year ago. I can’t exactly put my finger on why, but this comment of his makes all my feminist hackles rise.

I don’t mean to make mountains out of molehills, and hey, I like the way I look too. I just don’t have any illusions that it makes me any different (better or worse) than I was before. I’m me, for all that that means: good and bad. If you regret being a jerk because you were a jerk, fine. If you think I am pretty, fine. But if you regret being a jerk because I am pretty, you’re still a jerk.

 

Winter Messages

The River in winterI’ve been feeling out of sorts lately. As I mentioned Monday, I’ve fallen out of my routines. I seem to have a slight case of the blues. It’s nothing serious, there is nothing really wrong, I just feel like the Gods of Entropy and Apathy have taken notice of me and decided to teach me a little lesson.

I think I know what started it all. The Thursday before Thanksgiving I was in a minor car accident. Really minor – an inattentive driver rear-ended me. Fortunately, it was at a traffic light and I have one of those 5 mph bumpers. Though it felt like a lot more than 5 mph when he hit me, my car was fine – not even a scratch. I did, however, bang my right knee into the steering column. (I drive a stick shift.) That knee has been giving me some grief for a couple of months now, so it took me some time to realize that the new sharp pains came from the accident. There was no visible bruising or swelling, it just hurt like someone was repeatedly hitting me with a ball peen hammer. I thought I must have really messed it up somehow. It hurt to walk the dog and it was impossible to run. Weight lifting, with all the squats, got thrown out the window too. I could have done other things, but that’s when the vindictive nature of the Twin Gods of Little Movement struck.

We all know Newton’s First Law, right?

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

I seem to be at rest, but I want to be in motion. In order to change my state, I need some kind of force – a lever to pry me free of my inertia. With the holidays and rotten weather, I’ve been spending a lot of time indoors, much of it in front of screens. I decided it was time to get out in nature. I’m out walking the dog every day, of course, but I was feeling called to do something else.

I went for a walk in the woods.

I went on my lunch hour. It was dark, rainy, wet and cold. I was also inappropriately dressed, (since a muddy walk wasn’t my plan when I left for work that morning.) Fortunately I always keep a spare pair of walking shoes in the car. I was about 20 minutes in when I stopped to take a few photos, then walked a little further… and saw what nature wanted me to see: a pileated woodpecker. Many people see signs in every day things, like numbers or colors. I have a deep affection for birds. Some birds, of course, are particularly special. The pileated woodpecker is one of those. There he was, up in an old tree, proudly strutting his stuff.

Like me, my dad was also a bird lover. For many years I gave him books on birds and bird watching for Christmas, especially when he became sick and couldn’t read much anymore, but could still enjoy the pictures. He was amazed by the pileated woodpecker, and I remember him saying “Look at these huge woodpeckers! They are the size of a crow! I want to see one!”

As far as I know, he never did.

But I have, several times since he passed away. They are shy birds and usually found only in heavily wooded areas, like the areas up and around my cabin. Every time I see one, I think of him.

And perhaps that’s the message: Buck up, buttercup! Live large and follow your dreams. Life is a crazy thing, you can die of cancer at 59, so don’t waste it moping about – get out and do something. You’ll be glad you did.

Fair enough.

pileated woodpecker

 

Photo credit of the pileated woodpecker: Matt MacGillivray on flickr

Little Miss…

brokenI’ve been writing about the habits I’ve been trying to build and work towards and I know it can all sound a bit Pollyanna. I just want to say, it isn’t all perfect.

I have weeks when things are clicking along – when I’m doing what I want to do and feeling productive and in control. But there are also weeks like the last one – when everything is just a little off. Some goals I get close to, but miss. Others don’t even come close. I haven’t done my weight lifting or been for a run in weeks. I’ve been getting some sleep, but not enough. I’ve been spending money and I haven’t been meditating.

It happens. The trick is not to let it take over. The world gets crazy sometimes and you have to set some things aside. There are priorities and responsibilities that take precedence. Other times life just goes a little sideways for awhile. There’s no shame in not being perfect, in falling short of your goals, of having to do a half assed workout or eat fast food. However, once those habits slip, its a little tricky to pick them up again. It is not as easy as deciding to do them in the first place when you’re all wound up and full of “I can do this!” energy. Entropy is a nasty beastie.

I’m ready to let last week go and start fresh. I’m not going to beat myself up for what did, or didn’t happen. I’m also not going to let go of my goals. It’s time to just wipe the slate clean and get back at it.

I’m worth it.

 

Photo credit: Faruk Ates on flickr