Friday, January 30, 2015

Things I Love Today


My house. I continue to love my house. I can't tell you how much I love this house.
View from the back - if you were a snake.
Realtors take pictures from funny angles.
That two-flat next door doesn't feel nearly so big.
Even if our resident opossum scared me silly last night.

Eating yummy homemade massaman tofu curry for lunch that a friend gave to me.

For the first time in six weeks, completing what feels like a "normal" training week for me.

Having ideas for paintings... lots of them... more than I can possibly even begin.

Having homemade pizza dough waiting for me at home so we can all have pizza made to order tonight. Buddy likes mushrooms, olives, and pineapple on his, The Dude the same. I like mine without cheese... Goo only wants cheese on his. Any other requests? No problem!

I've been reading books again. That just makes me happy. I have two good ones in my bag - one for the way to work, one for the way home. (Plus a couple of magazines if it's too crowded on the train to hold a book.) Then another by my bedside... mmmmm.

Good work, good food, good company. My children have been healthy, fun to be with, and reasonably well behaved. It's been a good week.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

If You Do One Thing You Can't Do Another

This post is inspired by Pumpkinmommy's comments on my last one. She asked Why Boxing? and also noted that I wrote about cutting back on running. I started thinking about both so much I decided I should just go ahead and write it all down.

Which I did. On paper. And then it sat in my writing folder. A week later I'm finally getting it on the screen.

I'm still figuring out my morning routine - what I want to get done and when I want to get up - vs. what I can get done and when I can consistently get up. Everything takes longer than I expect... and now we have added commute time (mostly from having the kids in two different places) so less time to do things at home, personal- or household-related.

My long-term athletic vision has changed over the last months and so I have been reorienting my exercise towards that. It's in part driven by my new-found love of boxing (which has re-awakened my long-time interest in martial arts), and in part driven by wanting to find a more sustainable running practice and goals. Basically, I want to get more out of the time that I do have for training, and I want to make sure that my body can handle it as well. I love the long distances... but I just don't have time for them in my week, every week... and especially not the recovery time I would need for them (and that time increases as I get older).

So I've changed up my strength training to include more weights and explosive work, and changed the focus of my runs to include more short runs at higher intensity.

I can't entirely give up some long runs, but I don't plan to do as many or as long as I used to. I do want to be able to be able to pick up and train for a half marathon or ten-mile race when I want to... but probably not more than once a year.

This change in focus has been making me faster, that's for sure (even with the long break over the holidays). The pace on my mid-distance cruising runs has dropped significantly, and my short runs are coming in consistently below 10-minute-mile pace. It will be fun to try some shorter races this spring.

But why boxing? I've been asking myself this since I started last May. I like the mix of strength, speed, endurance, technique, and eventually, strategy. Physically, last fall I felt in the best shape of my life. I like feeling well-rounded and with boxing (vs. swimming or rowing) I feel like my workouts have practical purpose. I don't mean that I expect or want to get into a fight anytime, but the movements are applicable in a variety of situations, rather than just being repetitive. I think that's also why I like trail running and hills, rather than just running on a treadmill or track.

Mentally, I like the challenge. Boxing scares me  - even just heading down to my basement - can I do this? Can I endure? Can I stay focused? Can I stay strong, and not just go through the motions? Add in working with a trainer - having someone pay such close attention to and evaluate me - and that's a whole other set of emotional challenges. Never mind hopefully someday sparring.

(A note to that: my current goal is to remain in basic good shape and eventually be able to train in a boxing-focused gym. No expectation of competing, but I would like to spar. I used to when I studied Indonesian kung fu and while it terrified me I also loved it.)

I also like being able to learn the history of boxing, and to follow the sport. I saw my first bout on TV recently (professional but not the ridiculous pay-per-view extravaganza) and have hopes to go see it live later this year (the Chicago Golden Gloves, which is amateur boxing). I didn't know how I would react to seeing it live and not just as part of a movie or historical footage, but I was fascinated and had learned just enough already to have half an idea of what was going on. I wanted to see it better! So boxing engages me physically and mentally, as a participant and as a spectator (over the years there has also been some really good writing about boxing), in a way that running doesn't always do. (I cannot get into reading about running technique or watch it for long, as much as I love doing it.)

I've been working with a couple of books by Mark Hatmaker in lieu of having a trainer (thanks for the recommendation, Hillari!). One is for conditioning and strength training and the other is of standard boxing technique. I made little tweaks to my form and was quickly able to feel a difference in my power. My challenge continues to be getting myself started in the morning - not up, I can get up - but started, and on boxing rather than any of the other things that also call for my attention.

And then there's that whole notion of cutting back on running... not so much the miles, but the number of days a week that I run. I miss running four times a week. So I may have to keep tinkering with my schedule.

Longing for just another hour in the day,

Friday, January 16, 2015

Winter Workouts

My workouts at the beginning of this month:

  • Shoveling snow;
  • Pushing / pulling / dragging Goo in the stroller over unshoveled sidewalks;
  • Wrestling Goo into his snowsuit and boots;
  • Shivering on the train platform.

What have I not been able to make myself do on a regular basis? Get up early and do my strength training and boxing in the basement. Baby, it's cold down there!

The two weeks both before and after Christmas - so four weeks total - were not good ones for me physically. Stress and upset routines led to poor eating and minimal physical activity. By the time I returned to work I felt as if I was just returning from a long illness. And then the extreme cold last week and its impact on our schedules (school closings) kept me from picking up my workouts again, either boxing or running. At the beginning of this week I felt as if I was going to have to come back slowly and carefully if I wanted to avoid getting injured.

Which, as it turns out, is a good thing, as I've been neglecting a few things in my life and need to make time for them. It's a lot easier to fit in other things if I'm starting my workouts from zero! Much harder to be going full-pace the way I was (and loved doing) and then have to "give up" some of that.

That said, I do want to build my strength-training and boxing back up (I plan to cut back on running), and that will be hard since I don't have any external motivators for those right now. But that's about where I was last summer when I stopped taking classes, so I can look at my training logs to see how I did it then. But the real challenge is in finding ways to get myself out of bed in the morning and then downstairs. I'll figure it out, though. Slow and steady... slow and steady.

Grateful for warmer weather,

Friday, January 9, 2015

Word for the Year: Vision

Some of you may know (or have realized) that I spent a fair bit of time thinking about self-improvement, professional development, etc. A couple of months ago I even went through a 31-day exercise in goal-setting and action steps. So it would make sense that I would have a list of goals for 2015 and plans to implement them.

But all my reading and reflection these past months has led me to a different conclusion. That goals, as worthwhile as they may be in the short-term, aren't really going to help me become the person I want to be. For that I need to look at habits, and consider if there are habits I want to break, or, even more constructively, if there are habits I want to take up.

And to guide me in choosing these habits, I need to think about my visions for the future. What do I hope to have done in ten years? Who do I hope to become?

Other questions, borrowed from Jeff Sanders:

  • Which projects mean so much to you that you would regret not doing them?
  • Which goals would radically change your life more than any other?
  • What have you been dying to share with the world?

And then last year I found it tremendously helpful to think about a word for the year, something short and concrete that could serve as a touchstone as I went about my everyday life, making all those quick, immediate, unceasing decisions that we all make in the course of a day.

I'm sure I don't want to share my list of habits with everyone, and I'm not sure that I feel ready to share my deepest vision for myself either. But in the spirit of all the 2015 resolutions/goals posts out there, I give you my word of the year: Vision. So that I may continue to develop mine, and to view all those habits and goals and decisions with those visions in mind.

What would your word be?

Always growing,

P.S. While I reference Jeff Sanders above, my two favorite personal/professional development blogs are Leo Babauta's Zen Habits and Seth Godin's Seth's Blog. And I would not have found them without Matt Frazier's No Meat Athlete. Do you have a favorite self-improvement blog or resource?

Monday, January 5, 2015


It's not as if Seth Godin needs my link any of his posts to become any more influential, but this one was especially moving to me today. Some quotes:

Is there anything worse we can say about you and your work? "You are unprepared." 


...We are unprepared to do something for the first time, always.

We are unprepared to create a new kind of beauty, to connect with another human in a way that we’ve never connected before...

We've been so terrified into the importance of preparation, it's spilled over into that other realm, the realm of life where we have no choice but to be unprepared...

...Once we embrace this chasm, then for the things for which we can never be prepared, we are of course, always prepared.

Falling in love and getting married comes to mind, of course. Having kids. Buying a house. What else?

Pondering these things,