Re-committing

Another week, another round of deep thinking about my running.

I have been “base building” for a total of 8 weeks now. That’s almost two months. And while I’m noticing those ever-so-slow signs of tiny gains that come once the body becomes more practiced, I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere. I don’t mean that in a “oh boo hoo I’m not getting faster yet” way, I’m just starting to get that come-to-Jesus feeling of okay, what exactly are we doing here? Are we training or not training? Do we care, do we not care? What’s going on? I’ve been taking things slow, like I should, but I’ve also been aimless and uncommitted and putzing around, and now I’m at that point of “sh*t or get off the pot already”.

My base building period is intended to prepare me for Chicago Marathon training. It’s 6 months, which is a long time, and perhaps I wasn’t totally prepared for how drawn-out this will be.

But I’ve also been thinking about this blog and how much it’s changed since I used to blog about training every week. It’s not a big secret that my blog content has steadily declined since Pittsburgh Marathon training ended last spring. It’s okay, we can all admit it. I sometimes try to look at my blog from the perspective of what an objective outside reader would think, and in doing so I can see that I was much more interesting and engaging when I was actively working toward a goal and my blog had more direction.

There are a few people who used to be avid readers of my blog, but haven’t read or commented here in months. I can’t say that I blame them, honestly. They came here to read about a runner who knew what she wanted and was working really hard each week to get it. Off-seasons and slumps come with the territory, but mine has been really long, and there are only so many times my readers can listen to the “I’m so motivated to make changes! I’m going to do this this and this and get really in shape!” spiel before they get bored and move on. I get it. Because honestly, I’m getting bored with it too. I don’t even miss the training or the fitness as much as I miss the feeling of knowing what the hell I want out of running and working toward something.

I’m not sure I should have opened with this, because it makes it sound like the only reason I miss training is that I need good blog content, but that’s not entirely true. More and more often lately I miss the feeling of being in great shape and progressing toward a goal. I’ve had several conversations recently with people I meet who happen to be runners. We will inevitably chat about marathon training and various races and it makes me long for the days of being mid-training cycle and having that “yeah I’m crushing it out there!” feeling. It’s not even just the race training or being a faster runner that I miss – it’s having fitness actually be a priority in my life. Building back fitness after a layoff takes time, I get that. But what frustrates me lately isn’t the fact that I’m out of shape, it’s that I’m not even really trying. I feel like I’m using the “base building takes time” as an excuse to half-ass it all. I skip runs, I bail on strength training, I do the bare minimum in everything. I’m just getting frustrated with myself. Just because I’m not actively training for a race doesn’t mean I can’t make my fitness a priority.

This is going to sound really silly, but another thing that’s been influencing these feelings the last couple days is the weather. Yes, you read that right. The weather. You may have heard that we are having a bit of a heat wave here in the Midwest. Yesterday we set a record high temperature for February 18th. Temperatures have been in the high 50s and low 60s here and it’s supposed to continue through this week. It wasn’t until I breathed the fresh spring air and gallivanted about with no coat on (in February!) that I realized how much these dark, dreary, frigid cold days of winter are affecting my motivation to exercise. All of a sudden I went from feeling pretty “meh” about running, to wishing it were June so I could start marathon training!

So, after 750 words of introduction I finally arrive at the point of this post: I want to recommit to my fitness. I really do. I miss training. I miss working toward a goal. I miss the pride of not just being in great shape but knowing I’m in great shape because of all the hard work I put in. I miss tempo runs. I miss my leaner body. Hell, I even “miss” things I never regularly did before: hot yoga and cycling and strength training workouts.

So, what does this mean? I’m not exactly sure. I’m not going to suddenly #beastmode my training or try to PR in the half marathon this spring or anything like that. Nothing about my running plan for the year has changed: Chicago is still my one and only priority, and I’m still adamant that I don’t jeopardize that by getting overeager this spring and burning out/injuring myself/peaking too early. I’m still base-building until then. I just need to start trying a little harder. Fitness isn’t simply going to wait until enough time has passed and then show up on my doorstep: I have to work for it. Yes, I have to take base-building slowly, but I also need to push a little harder, stop babying myself, and most importantly, stop giving in to excuses all the time. I can do better than this.

I’ve spent enough time warming up; it’s time to start the workout.

I Didn’t Earn It

I’ve been feeling pretty scattered lately. While I’m still enjoying the process of having a lot of goals and things to work toward (yay! No burnout yet!), I’m getting to that point in the process where I’m struggling to balance everything. Last weekend, as another Sunday evening fell upon us, I remember thinking there’s just never enough time – which, if you know me, is utterly laughable since I squander so much of mine. It’s just that my goals have felt much more competitive with each other than usual: it seems like I can’t do one thing without feeling like I’m sacrificing another. If I go for a run, I feel bad that I didn’t stay home and get much-needed cleaning done. If I stay home to clean and tidy, I feel bad that I didn’t get any reading done and I’m farther behind on my reading goals. And so on, and so forth. I’m really not doing a good job managing my life lately.

Last night I skipped a run. I also didn’t get any reading done. Our apartment is in desperate need of attention. We haven’t cleaned in forever and it’s getting so bad in there. But we just keep putting things off. Between working late and me being at the gym/class or on some run, we actually haven’t had a lot of time at home in the evenings. Yesterday morning Kevin was stressing out about how messy it is and how there’s going to be so little time to clean in the coming days. We have our belated Valentine’s Day date night tonight, and then our weekend is surprisingly busy – my long run in the morning, a wedding to go to in the afternoon, brunch on Sunday then and Kevin’s going to a hockey game while I make a trip down to my alma mater. But hearing about our schedules is probably boring as hell, so I’ll get to the point – last night, I slowed myself down.

I forgot about reading or running or meal prep or making progress and I focused on doing something that needs to be done. While Kevin was working late, I did dishes, I did laundry, I cleaned the bathroom, I tidied up. That’s how I spent the evening I should have spent doing a hill repeats workout and knocking another 50 pages out of my current book.

I may be in a bad mood later because my weekly mileage is so low and I only have three more weeks to get in shape for my half marathon, or because I’m going to end February a little more behind on my 36 books in 2017 goal, or because I had to spend money eating out since I didn’t do any meal prep. Or maybe I won’t feel bad about it, because I really believe that what I did last night was the best possible way I could have spent my time. It needed to get done and I don’t regret skipping out on other things to do it.

It got me thinking, and I was reminded of something that we so often forget as runners and goal-chasers: being able to train for races and chase goals is a privilege. And, like all other privileges, I have to earn it. Having extracurricular goals is a treat I earn for taking care of myself and being a responsible adult in the rest of my life. If I’m neglecting to take care of myself, my home, my family, and my job, then I haven’t earned the right to work toward any running or reading or whatever goals.

And that’s why I had to skip my run and forgo my reading time last night. I didn’t earn it. If I had forced myself to go on that run instead, I wouldn’t have felt very good about myself later. Sure, I would hit my weekly mileage target, but my house would slip further into chaos and I’d still be feeling scattered and stressed about my poor time management. We all struggle with balance sometimes, goals or no goals. It’s hard. Goals and “fun” things are important, because they enrich our lives. But nothing we choose to do should ever take priority over something we need to do.

My “time out” last night also created a momentum shift for me. Getting some of that much-needed cleaning done was like a weight lifted off my shoulders, and I suddenly felt a little more in control of the stress I’ve been feeling. I settled into bed at a decent enough hour that I could take 20 minutes to write in my journal. I wrote about the stress I’ve been feeling over how poorly I manage my time. I brainstormed ideas for how I can be better at arranging my time so that I can work toward my goals without feeling guilty and overwhelmed, and still have time to take care of my responsibilities and have a social life. I’m still figuring it out, but the wind is blowing in the right direction now.

And I don’t feel like it’s such a big deal to be “behind” in my half marathon prep or reading anymore. There will be other races this year, and I have plenty of time to get caught up in my reading before December.

If you made it all the way through my bloviating, congrats. I suppose this was just a long-winded way of saying I needed a day to get my sh*t together.

Great read on marathon training and obsession

I don’t usually do this, but I thought I’d pop in today to share something that I found very valuable. It’s pretty rare these days that Runner’s World publishes anything that really speaks to me, but today they featured a piece on marathon training that I could swear was written just for me.

I learned to chill out during marathon training: here’s what happened” is the story of a woman a lot like me, right down to our ages, PRs, and tendencies to get a little too obsessive during marathon training. I normally ignore anything with a click-bait title just out of principle, but this was worth the read. One of the reasons I went so far as to share it on my blog is that this woman’s story illustrates a lot of the reasons why I’m exploring “minimal marathoning” and how I became motivated to do so.

I’m even having a hard time finding one thing in particular to quote because it literally all spoke to me. But I found it most comforting to read this line: “…I thought I should’ve been doing some pretty heavy volume. I was stunned that I burned out when I tried to PR using a training plan that took me to a 60-mile per week peak.” Even in my base-building I still have an unhealthy tendency toward obsession with weekly mileage. I remember *needing* to peak at 60 for Pittsburgh Marathon training, too. And look what happened to me afterward.

Anyway, I’ll let you check out the article and let it speak for itself – and I’d really love to hear your thoughts and if you can relate. Have you ever been obsessive about time goals to the point of it interfering with the rest of your life? Do you struggle against the social media comparison trap and the urge to constantly do more while training?

A week of base-building: Perspective Shift

I don’t have a ton of training talk for this post, because nothing of particular importance happened last week. I got all of my planned runs in, about the same mileage as last week but spread over 3 days instead of 4. I cross-trained 1 day – a spin class at the gym – for a total of 4 workouts. I had planned to do 5, but ended up with an unplanned rest day. The 5th workout was going to be hot yoga so it wasn’t a huge deal to miss it.

Instead, I’m going to talk this week about my ongoing shift in mindset and coming to terms with my new running reality.

I’ve been in this Groundhog Day sort of mindset where I remind myself that I’m still coming back so I should expect to be rusty, but then I’ll still spend each workout bemoaning the fact that my paces are slow and how “humbling” it is, and rinse and repeat every workout. But this week, when I was on the treadmill doing 400m repeats at a pace that used to be only slightly faster than my half marathon race pace, my slower speed wasn’t humbling – it was just reality. Eventually you get tired of comparing to what you “should” be doing and start to accept things for what they are, however begrudgingly.

Looking at the big picture, there’s nothing lacking or out of ordinary about my running. I’m feeling fine, I’m running fine, everything is going fine – I’m just not as fast anymore. It happens. People get faster, people get slower. Things change, bodies change. Over the past few weeks my attitude toward this fact has gradually changed from resistance to acceptance. As long as my running is otherwise going well, maybe it will be more productive to turn my focus away from pace and onto something that I have more control over.

That’s not to say I won’t still make improvements, maybe even get back to the level I used to be at in time for the marathon this fall. I just need to come to terms with what I’ve lost. I’m not the same runner I was in 2016 and 2015. I run less and I weigh more, for starters. The sooner I can truly accept that, the sooner I can move on with my life and just enjoy my new pressure-free journey as it unfolds. Here’s what’s true: I’m trying. I’m getting out there, I’m logging the miles, I’m putting in the slow work of training, and for the first time in my running career I’m actually making an effort to train appropriately (aka, not racing my workouts and easy runs). All of that has to be enough for me. If it’s not enough for me now, it never will be.

I also came to a “stop and smell the roses” sort of realization lately that by focusing so much on comparisons to my past self and feeling embarrassed about my paces, I’m sabotaging my ability to enjoy this unfolding new chapter. I’m running again, I’m trying new training, I’m doing races, I’m building up my fitness. That can make for a fun and gratifying journey, if only I let it.

On a more upbeat note, with every week and every long run that goes by, I get a little more confident that I can run 13.1 miles and the Canyonlands Half won’t be a total meltdown. I’ve known since the day I signed up for this race in September that this wouldn’t be anywhere near a fast race for me; fitness level notwithstanding, I’m going to be spending the week leading up to the race hiking through national parks so I’m going to be running it on some pretty tired legs anyway. Plus, altitude. But I think I’ve done a good job managing my expectations so I can hopefully have a good, fun day no matter how fast or slow I am.

It helps that I honest-to-God have no idea what kind of finish time I can expect. And my past race times don’t really provide an accurate frame of reference for estimation: I’ve run most of my half marathons at a pace that isn’t much faster than my training, either because I was running them tired and slightly overtrained during a marathon build-up, or because it was in the off-season when I wasn’t formally training but was still in fairly decent shape. So I’ve never really approached this distance from the same position I’m in now: undertrained and fresh-legged, with no base but with a few years of running experience under my belt.

You know, it’s funny – I remember being so disappointed at those off-season finish times back then, but now I would be over the moon if I could run those times at Canyonlands next month. I actually get excited just thinking about it. My how things change, eh?

I also still have 4 more weeks of workouts to get in before the race, so I should be holding my breath on any finish time talk anyway. The one advantage of being back down at the bottom of the fitness mountain is that I have more room to grow again, and right now I’m at a point where a lot can happen in just a few weeks of consistent work. I can’t get too ambitious, but I can’t count myself out yet, either – just think of how many times runners have tune-up races that show them they are making more progress than they think they are. That’s why I’m sticking to my guns and making my only “goal” for this race to have a slow start and a fast, adrenaline-fueled finish, and ENJOY the scenery. That way, while it’s possible I might not like my finish time, at least I won’t have any “what-if”s or be disappointed in myself for not running a good race.

Oh, speaking of which – last week I briefly mentioned the Rock n Sole half marathon but didn’t go into much detail. So, yeah, I’m running another half marathon in June. I was originally planning to run the Wisconsin Half in early May, but for a number of reasons I just don’t want to, so I got my registration refunded (how nice of them to offer that through January!) and signed up for the local RnS half instead. The race is one week before I plan to start marathon training, so I look forward to using it as a celebration of making it through base building. I’m not sure I’ll be PR-ready, but I do plan to run it hard and hopefully get a good time as a way of closing one chapter and opening the next. Then I can use the following week to recover before Chicago training starts :-).

RnS is a race that I should hate. It’s expensive. It’s corporate and not run by a local company. It’s part of Summerfest which I don’t even like. But for some reason I just really enjoy this race. I’ve run it twice – last year I ran the quarter marathon and in 2014 I ran the half – and I enjoyed myself both times. It’s the biggest race in town (10,000 runners across 3 distances), and I like bigger races. Or maybe it’s the just the good memories and the familiar, mostly easy course, or that it has the feel of being an unofficial kick off to summer each year. Either way, looking forward!

Self-Care, Reconsidered

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I think we can officially say that “self-care” has been elevated to buzzword status in the past couple years, but it becomes an especially hot topic this time of year, when cabin fever and lack of sunlight begin to erode our work ethic and enthusiasm.  In a recent Instagram post, elite marathoner Shalane Flanagan referred to February as “the month of abandoned resolutions, dodgy weather forecasts and expired motivation.” It shouldn’t surprise everyone that February has remained Americans’ least-favorite month of the year for decades. And now, here we are.

The response to the midwinter doldrums is usually a blitzkrieg of self-care advice from the blogging and self-help communities, emphasizing little things you can do to relax, pamper yourself, and take a time-out from the demands of life.

And it’s usually great advice, but I often feel like it’s tailored toward a different personality type and isn’t something I can apply to my own life. With all due respect to the burgeoning self-care industry, advice like “take an epsom salt bath,” “unplug for the evening,” and “snuggle up with a blanket and hot tea,” isn’t really helpful to me. I’m not a Type A personality who has trouble managing a busy schedule and competing demands on my time and energy, so I don’t really need advice encouraging me to slow down. The opposite, in fact.

I suppose this puts me in the minority in Western culture, but I do not have the problem of being busy, overly productive or stretched too thin. I would argue that I’m probably not busy enough, actually. I feel stress, but it comes more from boredom and monotony and spending a little too much time in my own head. I say this with a twinge of shame, as I realize how incredibly privileged I am to be so insulated from the world around me that I can have the problem of being bored and feeling unconnected to things. Paradoxical as it seems, however, a life that is too slow can be stressful in its own way. This time of year especially it can lead to feelings of depression, isolation, and lethargy. In other words, those of us who are more on the Type B side of the spectrum need self-care, too.

So, what does that look like, then? What self-care tips do I find helpful?

Self-care, for me, means doing what needs to be done for myself. It means a few more chores and a little less free time in the evenings. What? Why?! In my January Recap, I mentioned taking some time off for self-care in which I stayed “a healthy busy”, as I like to call it. “Healthy busy” is the self-care I need.

It means, for example, that I force myself to run that errand over lunch when I’d rather just sit here, that I come home and prep/cook dinner, throw in laundry, and go for that 5 mile run, no matter how much I’m aching to just sit on the couch and be a vegetable and go to bed at 7:30 because work sucked and I’m tired and all that stuff can always wait until tomorrow.

I force myself to do these things because while they are unpleasant in the moment, I know they are good for me. It’s good for me to eat healthy and cheap, to have clean clothes and a clean house, to exercise and keep up with my training and get my fitness back, to stay on top of my responsibilities, and to develop discipline. Taking care of myself is often about doing things that don’t feel relaxing or comfortable in the moment but are necessary for whole, big picture self-care.

Of course, I must choose carefully – not all items I could add to a checklist and scramble to complete are necessary for me to take care of myself. But when it comes to health, home, and responsibilities, it seems that a little busy work and a few chores are among the  best ways I can practice self-care.

In addition to being necessary for my well-being, getting things done and being productive  and active give me a sense of accomplishment that boosts my mood. Staying busy at work and at home makes the work weeks go by faster, and I always remind myself that doing the work now means I will enjoy it so much more when I finally do take a couple hours to veg out with a Law & Order marathon or go to bed early on Thursday night, because it will feel like a treat. The time spent lying on the couch will feel earned, not wasted. The habit of healthy productivity pays dividends, too – the more you do, the more you want to do. I’ve often felt my most energetic and productive during “busy” periods, for all of these reasons.

There is of course some overlap between my version of self-care and what I see in the popular listicles geared more toward my Type A friends. The reasoning, however, is slightly different.

Reading is a must for my self-care, but not because I need to wind down and relax, but because getting out of my own head/life for a while is a necessary stress reliever for me. It helps me feel refreshed, allows me some perspective, and gives my overactive “monkey brain” a break for a while. For example, for the past 2 weeks I have been forcing myself to get up from my computer and spend my lunch hour reading while eating in the break room. Not only is this consistent reading time necessary for me to meet my 36 books in 2017 goal, but giving my mind and eyes a break from the computer screen is relaxing and will often result in me being more, not less, productive in the afternoon.

Unplugging is also a self-care technique I share with my friends of different lifestyles. I find social media to be ironically isolating, and the constant noise clouds my ability to think clearly about anything and everything. It’s not the least bit coincidental that I feel a thousand times better and more like myself when I have some distance from Facebook and Instagram. In fact, simply unplugging for a few hours a week isn’t enough: for my self-care, I need to consistently spend less time online.

 

All of that said, it’s important to remember that things can and will change in life, and it’s very possible that one day soon I’ll find myself on the other side of the equation: overly busy managing a schedule of demands and commitments that is bursting at the seams, and needing that time-out for a lavender epsom salt bath and a hot cup of chai tea. Finding the appropriate form of self-care is important, but the definition of that can and will change as life goes through seasons!

A week of base-building: Trials & Tribulations

The big 1-0!

 

BREAKING NEWS: Last week I did my first speedwork in 4 months! After many weeks of slow easy miles to re-acclimate to running, it’s time to start the process of boosting my fitness. I’m planning to do one running workout per week here on out: mild speedwork that is appropriate for my current fitness level and not too demanding.

For my first speed workout, I did 6 miles easy with five .1 mile strides at the end of the first 5 miles. Then, a twist: in the last mile, instead of going right back to easy pace after the stride, I made myself bring the pace down only a tiny bit, and then very gradually slow back down to easy pace for the remainder of the mile. I call it the “de-escalating last mile”.

It went well. Breaking the run into intervals made it go by so much faster, and I had forgotten how good it feels to crank out some fast running. My overall average pace wasn’t that much better than usual, which I guess shouldn’t surprise me since some eased-into .1 mile strides aren’t going to knock that much time off my mile splits. My de-escalating last mile was almost a minute faster than my other miles, even with the gradual slow-down to recovery pace, so I’m glad I forced myself to push at the end.

The next day, however, was a very low point for me. I went for an easy 4 miles at what felt like my normal pace/effort, and when I looked at my watch at the end I saw it was literally one of the slowest runs I’ve had in years.

It really got to me. I tried to remind myself that it’s just one run, we all have off days, and I was probably just tired from working out three days in a row since my body isn’t used to that anymore. I knew I was overreacting, but in that moment, logic couldn’t stop every negative thought in the book from flowing through my head. How did I get this slow? What on earth is wrong with me lately? Why do I seriously SUCK at running anymore? I ran consistently for 3 years before I took time off in the fall – how is it possible that NONE of that is there for me now? It’s amazing how 4 measly miles could make me feel so angry and humiliated and defeated.

So in spite of how low I felt, I told myself to remember this run, this moment, these feelings. Remember it so that when I run Rock n Sole Half Marathon in June as a celebration of base-building, and when I’m in great shape during marathon training, and when I triumphantly cross that Chicago finish line, I can look back on this freezing February evening when I felt so pathetic and see how far I’ve come.

I’d love to say that I’m saying all of this because inspired to be better than before, or something equally hopeful, but really, I’m just bitter and I refuse to be defeated by days like this. Hey, whatever keeps ya going, right?

Later, I soothed my wounded ego by going back and looking at the Strava analysis of the previous night’s speed work (oh yeah, so, I came crawling back to Strava. But only as a training tool. I don’t follow anyone and I have my account set to private). The pace graph showed that not only did I execute my de-escalating mile pretty well, I was also hitting some decent speed paces in my strides. So my body hasn’t forgotten how to run fast after all, even if it is pretty rusty! But rusty is okay. I can work with that.

 

Sunday morning I set out for a long run, my first time running 10 miles in over 4 months. As I plugged through the first couple miles I was greeted by the tired legs and labored breathing that has become all too painfully familiar to me in the past couple weeks.

But I knew better than to get upset this time. The long run is like that old friend from back home who never changes. I knew almost exactly how the next hour or so would play out over this familiar route. I knew at which point in the next couple miles the tiredness would melt away and my legs would feel fluid and my breathing would calm down, and when I would start the gradual oscillation between stretches of gentle fatigue and comfortable smoothness, and when I would start to feel that familiar late-run tiredness charged with gritty resolve. I relaxed in my discomfort – this was the long run, and I knew what was coming.

For better or worse, this is where I shine. I was born to run long. I don’t have a lot of leg speed. I can’t race a fast 5K or knock out a blazing interval workout to save my life. But in training for three marathons, I have very rarely had a “bad” long run.  Sure, I grumble about them because of what a time-suck they are (why can’t I be good at the stuff that only takes 30 minutes??). But this is the one workout that just clicks for me. The long run is my redemption as a runner. It’s where I come home.

Sure enough, during the last half of that 10 miler, I started to feel like my old self again for the first time in weeks. My legs showed up for me after what felt like a long absence and, just like old times, in the last couple miles I could once again close my eyes (briefly, so I don’t trip, of course) and see the finish line coming into view and hear the cheering crowds and the warbled voice of the announcer. In that moment it didn’t bother me that my paces are slower than usual, because I felt strong at the end and I was proud of myself again. This long run was what I needed, it was that gentle but resolved voice saying, “hang in there, kiddo.” For the first time in 5 weeks, I came away from a run feeling like things are going to start getting better.

 

This month I will continue with majority easy miles, but my mileage will start to consistently increase. My long runs will be true long runs now (aka, passing the 90-minute mark) and every one of them from now until Canyonlands will be 10+. Add in the weekly speed work I’ll be doing and upping my cross-training game, and I’m crossing my fingers that by the end of this month I’ll finally start seeing some real, albeit small, progress in my fitness.

 

Month in Review: January

Keeping this intro brief because there is a lot to go over in this post, but I decided that my blog goal for the year is to do thorough monthly recaps for every month. I’m not much of a weekend/weekly recap person, but I do really like reading and writing monthly recaps. So, on to my first one of 2017!

Life Rundown

I started off January ready to put 2016 behind me and have a great new year. I was looking forward to the quiet that follows the whirlwind of the holidays as people get back in touch, life goes back to normal and routines can be developed. I set a handful of goals for this year that I can feel good about, and after half a year of listlessness, I was feeling ready to be productive and work toward something again.

Aaaaand then 3 days into the month I got sick. It wasn’t bad enough that I had to miss any work but it threw me out of whack for the rest of the week.

Sick lyfe, yo

The next week it was once again Routine Interrupted, but for a good reason this time: we went to Mexico! We spent a couple days on a luxurious Playa Mujeres all-inclusive resort where our good friends got married on the beach. We partied the night away at the wedding, ate amazing food, played all day at the pool bar, and I sipped strawberry daquiris and mudslides on the beach. It was both fun and very relaxing.

 

After an extra day off for MLK Day, I returned to work as usual, thankful that not too much had piled up while I was gone. That Friday afternoon we had our annual staff celebration party. We went for drinks, Mexican and mini-bowling and ended up spending many hours (and PBRs) together, just talking. This was the day of Trump’s inauguration, and I felt it was very significant that I spent the rest of the day celebrating my coworkers and the important work we do.


That weekend the Packers lost the NFC Championship game in morbid fashion, which should have been my first clue that the January honeymoon days were over. Last week totally sucked. I was stressed at work to the point of crying in the bathroom one day for no real reason. The shitshow of the Trump administration has been more stressful for me personally than I imagined it would be, and I felt like I just couldn’t get away from it for a second – it was on social media, it was on the radio, it was on TV. I was distracted at work and I spent my evenings going down the rabbit hole of comments sections (just reading, don’t worry!) instead of recharging and caring for myself. Instead of using the weekend to regroup, my brain just continued to melt. I was a mess.

So I’ve been spending this week that straddles January and February staying busy – a healthy busy – while also insulating myself a bit so I can focus on self-care. I temporarily deactivated my Facebook account for the week and removed the Instagram app from my phone, and I’ve been trying to avoid news. Kevin and I even went to a real live grocery store on Sunday and I’ve been prepping and making all of my food this week – and it’s all pretty nutritious, too! I’m plugging along at reading again and I’m doing a much better job at sticking to my workout schedule. I’m still a little stressed at work because I’m just slammed with things that need to get done this month, but I think I’m managing that stress a little bit better and I’m definitely being more productive.

Oh, and I made myself a nice minimalist office this month!

And of course, these two hammed it up all month. Must be nice getting cuddle up and sleep and have no responsibilities all day…

 

So, in conclusion – January surprised me. This normally quiet month was busy, loud, and all over the place. There were warm beaches and frigid snow; there was relaxation and celebration and there was bleak stress; there were great weeks and terrible weeks. January was nothing if not full of life. And life, it goes on!

Goals/Resolutions Progress Report

  • Grow in my minimalism practice: I created my minimal office!! Now…to make it last…
  • Read 36 books in 2017: So, this is a tricky one. In order to stay on track for this goal I’m trying to read 3 books per month. I was a reading machine in January, but I actually only read one full book: Ta’Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, a poetic and thought-provoking memoir of Coates’ experience growing up black in Baltimore and NYC, told in the form of a letter to his son after the Michael Brown shooting. I spent the first week of the month finishing a book I had started in 2016, Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, historical nonfiction that combines the narratives of Daniel Burnham, architect of the 1893 World’s Fair and sociopathic (and disturbingly prolific) serial killer H.H. Holmes, who was killing dozens of people in his “murder castle” just outside the fairgrounds. Since I didn’t read this whole book in 2017 I can’t really count it toward my 2017 goal. I moved on from that book to Coates and then immediately started Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, historical fiction about the different ways in which two sisters deal with – and resist – Nazi occupation of France during WWII. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish it by the end of the month, so I am going into February a little behind but hoping to catch up soon.
  • Cleaning up my diet: Literally no movement on this until the last 2 days of the month, because we are just terrible at food prepping and grocery shopping. That said, I always tried to make good choices and avoid fast food amidst all that eating out! Ha.

As for running and building my mileage base, results are mixed. All of my runs are going well and feeling good. However, there were many missed (and outright skipped) runs, including a long run, and I feel like I got absolutely nowhere in establishing a routine. Maybe this is premature since I still have 5 weeks to get mileage in, but I’m getting worried that I’m going to be very undertrained for the Canyonlands Half in mid-March. It’s easy to dwell on the negatives (the holiday pounds I put on are still stubbornly clinging to my core, my paces aren’t changing much), but I’m really trying to focus on the positives (the fact that running feels good and easy and I’ve been able to add on mileage with no issue). Almost every day I have to remind myself that slow and steady wins the race: this is a six month process – and I am only in month 2. I have plenty of time to build up my mileage and get my speed back.

Improvements for February

Summarizing this month has given me some ideas for how I can improve next month. First and foremost, I need to take advantage of my wide-open schedule and work hard to get myself into a routine. I need to be better at resisting my laziness and being a little more productive. I loathe the busy work of grocery shopping and meal prepping, but it feels so good to eat nutritious homemade meals every day. It’s so hard to get motivated to work out on these cold dark winter evenings, but I feel so great when I get a run in and I need to do the work now to build a foundation for later. Laura wrote a great post the other day about inertia, how doing the hard work of building momentum now will make it easier to keep going later. I’m going to try harder this month at fighting the winter doldrums and taking care of my body. The work won’t do itself.

On a lighter note, we renewed our YMCA membership, and I want to start going to the gym in February so I can cross-train more. I think it will help alleviate my occasional boredom with running and give me a preliminary idea of how well I do on a training regimen that includes a lot of cross-training.

As for the rest of my goals, the only thing I can really prescribe is to keep up the good work!

How was your month?