The 2 Minute Swim (or How I Learned to Run)

Sometimes I like to brag that I’ve run a half marathon.

This is only half true. I haven’t run a “real one”- one that was timed and had a medal and a finish line and all of that exciting gold stuff, but I’ve run a half marathon on a treadmill. I took pictures of my mileage. As evidence. Okay, maybe that’s not even impressive at all. Whatever. But I did it.

So I can run. I run a lot, sometimes 4-5 times a week, with 30 minutes of running being my bare minimum for a workout with running.

I really like running, actually.

However, during my first running workout- excluding gym class in grade school- I didn’t even run for THREE MINUTES. I’d never run as a workout before because I didn’t really do any kind of workout before. I thought exercise was against the nature of my body. This really meant that I gave up on my running career before it started in order to pursue my fated path of couch potato extraordinaire. Alas, it was not to be.

The first time I whimsically decided to work out, I told myself I would only run for two minutes…and I barely made it! When I got to one minute and 30 seconds, I almost had to stop. But I kept going, and made it to two minutes, and then turned off the treadmill and walked away. For the next few days, I did the same thing: two minutes of running and then walking away. After that, I upped my challenge to three minutes for a week or so, and then to 5!

Suddenly, I was running for 5 minutes straight, and then 10! It probably took me a few months to get to 30 steady minutes of running, but everything came from that first 2 minute run! My success really boiled down to allowing myself to change only 2 minutes of my life.

When I jumped in a pool last month at an Orlando hotel, I tried to swim a bunch of laps, and quickly got exhausted after maybe a quarter of one. I haven’t really tried to swim in years. Actually, I’ve never really swam laps- maybe once. I don’t really know how to swim, for that matter.

And as I took a choking, water-tinged breath in the Olympic sized pool, a vision of my first 2 minute run from long ago popped into my head. I allowed myself some mercy. “Just 2 minutes of laps today!” was my mantra, as I swam a wholehearted 6 feet or so and then gasped for air. But I went back under and swam my 2 minutes- and then another 2, and then another. I don’t know if you’d really call my swimming “laps” or “skilled” for that matter. But there was movement.

And sometimes a little movement is all you need.

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How to Exercise More Easily in Your Thirties (Or The Things That Don’t Have Labels)

I was never that into exercise classes, or into any kind of collaborative workouts, really. But yoga classes and Pilates classes and Urban Rebounding (aka trampoline classes) sound so cool. Theoretically, workout classes seem like a great idea to me, but I never actually go. Well, it’s rare. Even when classes sound cool, it’s super rare that I can commit to being at a specific class at a specific time. Maybe it’s that certain rebellious streak running through me. Honestly, when I exercise, I just want to be alone.

Running and strength training became two of my favorite exercises around sophomore year of college, when I realized that I really liked the gym when I had headphones on. Before college, the idea of avoiding sports at all costs very much appealed to me, and I had lumped the gym in with ESPN and dodgeball. But running is a solitary sport, and no one can hold me accountable if I don’t run more than a mile (except self-critical me). And strength training is another loner activity most of the time, where I can lift as heavy or as light as I want and people mainly leave me alone save for the occasional ” here’s how to lift better!”

Both running and strength training are very mainstream, acceptable forms of exercises to do, even if not at the gym. But sometimes I don’t feel like going outside and running, or outside to the gym (my gym is 11 blocks away), so I do a “home workout.” These workouts usually consist of body weight strength training exercises (i.e lunges, squats, pushups) and the equivalent of half an hour of jumping jacks spaced out in intervals. When I get into a conversation with someone about working out, and I tell them I didn’t go to the gym today but instead did a “home workout, which includes a lot of jumping jacks,” people usually kind of snicker. Jumping jacks seem to be a weirdly unacceptable exercise to do. They are part of an unlabeled and non-mainstream exercise program that I made up. But that’s okay- it works for me.

Sometimes I feel too tired or too pressed for time to even do my home workout. For awhile, during one or two of the most exhausting auto shows I worked, where I was standing on a hard floor for 9 hours in heels all day, I would solely do my ‘5 minute workout’ every night before bed. All this workout consisted of was a bunch of different ab exercises (sit up variations), and a bunch of push-ups. Sometimes on super-motivated nights, I’d actually do this workout for 10 minutes instead of 5. This may sound like only a little bit of time, but the differences were notable to me. I felt better. And then eventually I’d go back to the gym and run and do hour long home workouts and get back to my irregularly scheduled program.

I guess the main thing about exercise in your thirties, or anytime really, is to do what works for you. I prioritize wanting to go back and work out again, and be consistent with exercising multiple times, so it’s important for me not to hate my workouts and feel like they’re too hard. They just need to be hard enough…or sometimes they just need to be easy. I try to stay kind to myself.

Once I’m actually working out, I find it easier to continue working out. The hardest part is usually starting- which is, coincidentally, the hardest part of doing anything.

And some days I just stretch…I put on music and stretch everything that hurts, and then I make up stretches that have no labels and that I have never done before, or maybe I have once but I’ve forgotten them. All I know is that it helps to let your preferences lead the way. Tell your body: ‘Remember, this is good- this is your favorite. This will be an easy one. We’ve got this.’

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How to See A City In Your Thirties

How to See A City In Your Thirties

One of my favorite ways to see a city on foot is to take what I’ve lovingly coined a “run-walk.”

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I’m a fan of running, and it’s nice to see new places and things in a city while also getting exercise. However, a lot of times when I’m just running, I don’t stop and really appreciate the scenery, nor do I take my touristy photos on the way. But when I’m solely walking, I don’t usually get as far, nor do I get the extra exercise I can get while on a run.

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I used to have a travel blog called You Somewhere Else where I wrote about travel tips as well as run walks and other fun and possibly useful travel habits. I’d photo blogged about my Seattle run walk before, and now I’ll share my Downtown LA one.

What’s great about a run walk is when something interesting comes up, you can stop running, and simply walk and take photos.

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Run-walks are usually longer than your run, but way shorter than a walk, because you can cover more ground faster. You can also run right past the boring spots.  You’re allowed to stop whenever you want and take as much time as you like.

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You can take pictures of bizarre things that strike you.

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Or scary things that make you want to go the other way.

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Or funny things.

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Things that kind of remind you of home.image.jpeg

Things that seem to come out of nowhere.

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Touristy things that are still cool to you.

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Things that are happy but sad at the same time.

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And beautiful things you may never have noticed.

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No matter what you choose to photograph and explore, I highly suggest run-walks in new cities, at least one time. They’re a laid back yet energized way to open your eyes to new sites. Enjoy the journey!

 

The Beauty of Following in Your Thirties

I’m concluding my last night in Miami and it’s been a great trip. Tomorrow’s gonna hurt because I have an 8am flight to my next job in LA, so I’ll try to keep this short.

I’ve been to Miami before, and I’ve had both good times and bad here. The bad times consisted of blurry clubbing alcoholic nights that I felt forced to partake in. I had one trip here where I was dragged out to a club practically every night, and I had to buy a whole new clubbing wardrobe at the Miami H&M. If you know me, you’ll know I’m not a clubber- so I was following the crowd because I wanted to make friends and not function in complete isolation.

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This is the first time the city was really amazing for me, and it’s because I followed through with what I really wanted to do. The show that I worked was late-shifted, so there were days I started work at 4pm and got out at 11pm. This allowed me to go to sleep at 2 am and wake up at 10am, still getting 8 hours sleep while remaining a night owl. I was able to enjoy my free hotel breakfast outside in the heat of a sunny outdoor patio, and then meditate and then go running on the beach afterwards. I was able to rent bikes and swim and see the city and walk for hours by myself. I was also able to go out to nice dinners with close friends, and see some family I have nearby. I also didn’t end up drinking a drop of alcohol during this particular trip in Miami, for no other reason than I wasn’t around other drinkers. Instead, I had one of the best slices of carrot cake I’ve ever had in my life. In short, this trip was the anti-party. My visit had quite the goody two shoes, squeaky clean feel for a Miami trip…but it was exactly what I needed right now.

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And I loved this Miami. I loved it because it’s here that I really feel like I’ve gotten a small percentage of the feel of giving zero fucks about what people think (something to strive for always, but especially in your thirties). I hung out with the people I loved and enjoyed and was nice to the acquaintances, but didn’t go out of my way to follow what they were doing. Instead I followed my yearning for being with myself and the beach and talking to my closest friends. I fell into a nice healthy rhythm and felt amazingly self-sufficient, yet socially happy for a long stretch of time. It was an amazing balance.

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It gives me hope that you can follow what you really want to do and not have to be swept along by others….and even by the scary, uncertain parts of yourself. Sometimes my own feelings get in my way and I feel like I can’t trust myself or find balance. But here I just followed what I really wanted to do, while staying in touch with the people I cared about, and things fell into place. Maybe it’s the warm weather or the beach or the movement. Or maybe it’s something else.

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First Thing in the Morning in Your Thirties

For most of my life, I never really had a morning ritual. Well- I never had a morning ritual that went much beyond putting on my makeup and getting my hair into some sort of acceptable outside-world style.

Then, as I went through my twenties, I started adding new parts to my morning ritual. I got into making green juices in the morning, and then- even better- I got into making green smoothies. I purchased a french press and started making my own coffee every day as well. Lots of liquids. And then I figured out a way to style my hair even quicker than before (by forsaking straightening my crazy waves into heat-damaging oblivion every single day).

Yet even when I had a handle on my morning routine, it always felt like a means to an end. I got nothing super important done in the morning. I usually saved that stuff until the afternoon, when something more pressing usually came up and interrupted it anyway (like lunchtime. Or drinks out. Or a new bunch of emails to return. You know, the important stuff…)

This summer, I hit a wall. I was sick of the days passing me by while some of the most important things I wanted to do daily remained undone. So I started a ‘most important things on my list are the first ones’ habit. And it really started to work.

I’d get up, start some coffee, eat an apple, and meditate (which is very important to me). Then I’d put on my gym clothes and go running or to the gym (also very important). Then I’d come back, make a smoothie, and tackle my to do list or go to work. In this way, I was meditating daily and also getting to the gym before interruptions took over. The first thing in the morning habit really worked. Even though I’m a night owl.

The hardest part has been expanding my morning ritual into other important tasks. It was easy to meditate and run and then get through a to-do list of smaller items like ‘wash dishes. email so-and-so. send invoice.’ It was much harder to meditate and run and   then tackle larger and more important to dos like ‘rewrite resume. practice presentations. watch videos and research new job prospects.’ I was just talking to my friend Janna about this; For whatever reason, the reallly important tasks that could further our lives and careers have been getting pushed by the wayside and out of our days entirely. And this has been happening for a while… kind of sort of like always. Especially on work days where there’s not much time left in the day to tackle tasks other than getting to work.

Our new idea has been to start using the ‘first thing in the morning’ ritual to include these big important tasks right away…and I think it’s best to only focus on one Very Important Task daily.

So to recap, instead of trying to kill a whole to-do list, I’m going to prioritize one big important task a day and only try to do that, starting in the morning. First, I’m still going to start my coffee and have an apple and meditate. Then I’m going to work on the chosen task for an allotted period of time. Only THEN will I tackle the other items.

I think choosing only one large item a day to work on first thing in the morning is helpful. When there’s only one thing to think about, it’s easier to stay focused and not accomplish absolutely zero big important tasks in a day.

What do you think? Do morning rituals help you? How do you accomplish the really big important tasks and not let the days pass you by?

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