Mindfulness and meditation

Why I started a new morning routine

Over the past few weeks, I’ve started changing my morning routine.

I used to get up, take my supplements, empty the dishwasher — maybe down a cup of black coffee — and then dive into a workout routine. Back when I was going to a gym class — I would jump in my car and go. But lately it’s been at my house. Regardless, by 6am I was sweaty, pumped and ready to dive into my day.

But I’m starting to question the routine. It woke me up — no doubt — but I started to be aware that it was doing nothing for the constant state of anxiety I was in. If anything it intensified the feelings. For 45 minutes I pushed hard , and I felt relief from the exhaustion that followed, but the stress and anxiety would always return within hours.

I still believe in exercise — preferably high-intensity exercise done in shorter time. But I finally started listening to my body. And my body was suffering. I was irritable when I didn’t exercise. And I don’t think I  was very much fun whether I did or not.

A couple of weeks ago, a career coach I heard speak talked about the things you should do every morning. And it struck a chord with me because I was already starting to tweak my routine. What she was saying seemed to take that even further. So now, while I’m still honing what works best, I’m working to establish a morning habit that leaves me more relaxed, calm and able to handle stress throughout the day.

Walk

I love being up before the sun and taking the dogs for a walk. I grab my phone and headphones, a couple of poop bags, and off we go around the neighborhood. On days I have less time, we walk around the block. But on other days, we might go for a bit longer — even up by the park in my neighborhood. Sometimes I listen to one of my Spotify playlists, but lately I’ve been listening to podcasts I downloaded from Entheos, an awesome website I have a membership to thanks to a gift from a friend.  I feel centered and quiet. The dogs love it and come to expect it. I used to make it the last thing I do, but the dogs are agitated until I walk them because they know they get to eat right after — so I made it the first thing.

Meditation

After the dogs are fed, I pull out my yoga mat in my office and I sit in silence for several minutes. I’m still trying to get this meditation thing down. It’s really hard to quiet my mind, so I’m definitely practicing, I have a whole routine I go through with my eyes closed where I try to focus on something inside me, then the sounds around me, then my breath.

You know what really helps? Goose. Goose will lay down in front of me and I just pet her while I practice. Research has shown that petting dogs helps lower blood pressure, so I’m sure that helps a lot.

Affirmation

I continue my quiet time by doing affirmations. I have a whole list written down, and I read through it three times — really thinking about what I’m saying to myself.

Visualization

I used to let my day happen to me, but by using visualization, I can plan out how I want my day, week. month or even year to happen. This is where I think about what goals I want to accomplish and how I’m going to do it, whether it’s a tough meeting with a client or where I want my business to be by the end of the year. It feels like I’m taking responsibility for my own goals and happiness. It makes me feel more accountable – and that I have the ability to shape my life.

Read

I pull out something to read from the shelf sitting next to me or my iPad, but my rule is that what I read cannot be email. I may read a few passages from something like “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work” or something inspirational like that.

Write

I made a new addition to my food/workout log. It’s now also my gratitude journal. I take time to write about what I’m grateful for that day, and it is so eye-opening. It makes me really think about all of the good things that are happening and the people in my life. It kind of makes the annoying things or the bad events seem small and not as significant.

Next steps

I’m going to keep working in this routine over the next month to see if  I can make it a habit as well as make it work for me. I’ve been sick over the past week, so I have not wanted to work out. But I need to add it back in, and I need to figure out where in the daily schedule to put it. Maybe I will do it right after. Or maybe a midday workout is best. I’m still honing this whole thing.

But I know — so far — there has been a positive change. Andy has commented that I seem much more calm and capable of handling stressful events. I had a flat tire earlier this week, and I didn’t get nervous or freaked out or anything. I just did what I had to do — change the tire (with Andy’s help), reschedule some appointments, and rearrange my schedule to make time to get the tire fixed. Did it put me behind? You bet — but it’s not the end of the world.

And that’s the whole point, right?

This is my race

CAP10K 2014 Selfie

My inner voice told me to keep going. I’m glad I listened.

I ran in the 2014 Cap10K four days ago and I’m just now getting over being sore.

Which is crazy because it’s not like I haven’t been running long distances.

But this race was difficult. I wasn’t feeling right. I had only been running intervals for the few weeks before. Following the training regimen I had been using for guidance was agony. Or maybe it wasn’t, and I just did not want to devote the time.

It also didn’t help that I did not sleep as much as I should have the night before the race. There was a rare night out — a fundraiser for the kids’ school. Then I was up working late. Again. Or maybe it was the glass of red wine I had with dinner. Did I really need it? Should I have had more water? I’m not young anymore. I don’t bounce back as quickly.

Did I mention there were hills?

There were 6 big hills on the course. The first three were very steep. I have been running almost exclusively on a treadmill. Even though I raise the incline, it is no substitute for the massive hills on the race course. But I’m proud of myself. I did not stop. Here’s the mental conversation I was having:

-Don’t stop. Keep going.

-But this is harder than I expected. I can stop if I want to. This is my race.

-That’s right — it’s your race. That should keep you going. Don’t worry about the people running by. You need to keep going. You will get mad at yourself later for stopping. You know you can do this. This ain’t your first rodeo.

-This is my race…. This is my race….

Still, as difficult as the race seemed at the time, I did not do too poorly. In fact, I was right on par with last year. My time was 1:00:58, and since I’ve been training at that pace, I’m not surprised at my results.No, I did not reach my goal, but as my friend Jenny pointed out — there is always next year.

My kids rock.

Pre-race 2On the other hand, I’m super proud of Luke and Madeline. They both ran in the CapKids race the day before. Luke improved his 1-mile time by at least a minute from last year. He looked great running through to the finish line!

And Madeline? She ran the WHOLE FREAKIN’ THING. A mile. She ran it. She’s 3.

I think I’m doing something right.

Saddle sore

Me, Greg and Mads in downtown Austin.

Me, Greg and Mads in downtown Austin.

My brother came in town for Christmas and stayed for the cycling. He keeps a fixed gear here (at my folks), but decided to rent a road bike to tackle Austin’s hills better — the route from downtown to my folks house has some really gnarly hills.

He’s been trying to put in 40 miles every day.

The last time my brother came to town he shook his head at the condition of my bike. My little road bike had been neglected and abused — sitting out on the back porch, open to the elements. He carried it to a downtown bike shop and asked them to give it an overhaul. It came back looking shiny brand new and riding beautifully. But I’ve only had the opportunity to take it out once or twice. So the other day, my brother texted me that he was five miles away and he wanted me to pull out my bike and go for a spin around the neighborhood.

I hooked up the bike trailer and loaded Mads into it, then we took off down the street with Greg.

I wish I had taken photos — because it was a great day for a ride. I was surprised at how strong I felt. I know that I’ve been working out and running, but bike legs are not the same as cycling legs. And pulling the trailer made it a bit harder — in a good way!

We didn’t go that far — just 11 miles. We wound our way through my neighborhood, across into Allandale, down to Rosedale and around back home. I knew I would be saddle sore, because I did not bother to pull out my riding shorts.

The next day I ran 5 miles on the treadmill. I thought I would not be able to handle it, but once I got started, I felt good and strong. I followed up with a bodyweight workout.

Today I’m pretty sore. I’m scheduled to lift weights, which I think I’ll do once it warms up a little. But sleeping more has helped me recover faster.

I’m on vacation, and I’ve been relaxing (well, I’m working a little). Over the past week I’ve been trying to sleep longer. It’s made a difference.

I think I’ll take the kids out for a ride a little later — I don’t often get a chance to do that.

In just a few days the mad schedule begins again — early morning workouts, long days and late nights of working and trying to keep pace for the family. Right now, recharging and having fun are exactly what I need.

Cindy the runner?

A while ago I had decided not to do much running anymore. Other than the occasional 5K and the short bursts in my Crossfit workouts, I had pretty much decided that I didn’t want to run much anymore.

But I like having a goal to work toward, and ever since I left Crossfit behind, I have been thinking on and off about the Cap10K in April. It’s a race I had already decided I was going to do again. I’ve run it for at least three years. Or has it been four?I can’t remember when Jenny and I ran it together for the first time.

I love that race. The distance feels significant but not too far. And I love being part of such a large group of runners. It feels like being PART of Austin.

But this time… I want to run it faster. Imagine how much faster I can be if I actually train for it! Rather than just scraping by thanks to good conditioning, I might actually improve my time.

In 2014, I want to shave 5 minutes off my time and run the Cap10K in 52 minutes.

Since I have no plans to join a running group, I found a training cycle to help me reach my goal. One of the Women’s Workout cycles on Breaking Muscle is training to complete a 10K in 43-52 minutes. Perfect!

It has three workouts a week for 12 weeks, with a mixture of intervals, sprints, hill runs and long runs. I am supposed to follow up each run with a bodyweight workout.

I decided to use two of my off days for strength training — no met-cons. I’ve tried that and burned out fast. I settled on 4 weeks of the Starting Strength program. After 4 weeks, I’m going to start the “Lift Like a Girl” routine and see how that goes.

Yesterday I started working backward on my calendar from race day back to when training should begin.

As I was putting the workouts into my calendar, I started to get a little freaked out. The runs were pretty intense, and I haven’t been doing much at all. I think the most I’ve done recently is 4 x 800m in a workout. There aren’t 12 weeks until I should start the 10K cycle, so I decided to work up to it. I found another training cycle — this one for a 5K. I jumped into it right in the middle.

Week 7 began today with a 5 mile run.

Talk about intense! Since I can set the speed on the treadmill, I started with a faster clip, then at 1  1/2 miles, I dropped the intensity a little. I picked it up a mile later and repeated until I had finished 5 miles. I was dripping with sweat.

I followed up with just a couple of short bodyweight interval workouts:

A.
1 minute Squat-Thrust-Burpee
1 minute Strict Push Ups
1 minute Alternating Abdominal Bicycles

Rest 1 minute between sets.

B.
4 Rounds:
30 seconds of Bird Pickers (right leg)
30 seconds of Bird Pickers (left leg)
10 Unbroken Knees to Elbows
1 minute Janda Situps

The workout took me a while, so I’ll need to plan a little extra time in the morning. And I need to make sure I have a healthy snack immediately available if breakfast won’t be for a while. I’ve considered a post-workout recovery shake, but for now I’ll stick with real food and see how it goes.

It’s nice to have a goal to focus on that isn’t work. And this one feels attainable. I just have to work for it. But nothing that is worth achieving ever comes easy.

I had to make a choice

This is one of the most difficult posts I’ve had to write, and you can tell I’ve had trouble writing if you look at the date of this post versus the last one.

But it’s almost the end of November and it’s about time I admitted publicly that–

I quit Crossfit and Olympic Lifting.

It happened in September. (Yes, it’s been that long.) I really don’t want to explain why, Just accept that my life sort of exploded, and I was forced to make some tough decisions. One of the choices I made was to stop going to a gym to workout.

It wasn’t easy. It was really hard to let go. Afterall, I had been going to Crossfit Central two times a week for 4 1/2 years and Olympic Lifting for 2 years. I remember worrying about it a lot. And at the time, the Lean Turkey Challenge was about to begin and I had signed up. Zach even met with me and encouraged me to continue going — just at a different time during the day.

I considered my options.

And then, I took a deep breath and pulled the trigger. I decided to follow through on the challenge, but I was done with the gym. I called Crossfit Central and continued my membership through the end of the year so Luke could keep going at a discount. But after December, we planned to look at different activities for him.

I felt really sad. I remember showing up for my first Lean Turkey body comp with Coach Taylor and explaining that I would not be able to do any of the workouts in class, and probably not any of the extra workouts planned for the weekends. She seemed cool with it, if not a little puzzled. I tried not to panic. Sometimes I get ancy when big things change. I remember feeling really worried at dinner one night with my parents.

“I don’t want to get fat again. I’m not going back to that,” I announced. They assured me that was not going to happen. And looking back I feel so silly for thinking that by not going to a gym and having a formal class that I would fall into the trap of fat and lazy. I guess I had come to believe that the only way to stay fit was through a formal program — I had done one for so long.

I found another way to work out.

It turns out that there IS life after the gym. Despite my coach’s lingering words — “Are you ever going to work out again?” — it is possible to stay fit and active without going to a gym and having a coach.

My parents gave me their treadmill. Their neighbors were so nice to drive it all the way across town so I could put it in my office. I use it just about every day. I walk, I run short bursts, and sometimes I do longer runs.

I pulled together all of my dumbbells, kettlebells and other workout equipment. I cleaned up my barbell and rack. And I found a wealth of knowledge and workouts online. One of the best resources I have found is Breaking Muscle. They post workouts in all kinds of disciplines, but my favorites are the Women’s Workouts and the Kettlebell Workouts. Right now I’m following two different cycles. I also follow Crossfit Central in my Feedly, and I look at the WOD every day. Sometimes I work it in, sometimes I don’t.

Life after the gym

I still feel pretty raw — the explosion in my life hasn’t quite been settled, but I can reflect on the changes a little now. With quitting Crossfit, as sad as it made me at the time, I think I’m happier now.

  1. I don’t feel as beat up.
    I was ALWAYS sore. ALWAYS. I just could not see that I was doing too much. I was paying a hefty membership and I could not admit that I needed to stop and rest.
  2. I can be flexible about when I work out.
    While my time is still really limited, I can workout at 5am and then be ready to move on mith my day. Feeling tired one morning? That’s OK! The workout can change — maybe I just walk today… or maybe sleep in! It’s up to me!
  3. I can focus on what’s important.The gym may have been a short distance away, but I spent A LOT of time getting ready to go, going, and then cleaning up afterward. Working out at home means I don’t spend as much time doing all of that. And there are two things I’ve been able to recommit my time and energy to — my kids and my business (Standard Beagle).

Luke-madsI’ve realized that as much as I need time to myself, I need to focus my energy on Luke and Madeline as well as my business — epscially since i want a close relationship with my kids and a successful business. They are so important to me.

I dream of my business really taking off, and thanks to the extra time I’ve been able to commit lately, it’s starting to. I think 2014 will be huge for the Beagle.

And as for my kids — well, they’re just awesome. I have more time with them in the morning before school. We eat breakfast together, and I’m not ALWAYS in a rush to get out the door.

Will I ever go back?

Maybe. If life changes and it’s possible to join again, I may just do that. But based on past history, once I quit an activity, I tend not to return to it. Skating and Kung Fu are good examples.

I still love the folks over at Crossfit Central and all of the specialty programs. And I always tell people to check them out if they’re looking for a Crossfit program. But I’m entering a new era.

I’m going to try to write about this new adventure, And I hope you’ll bear with me. This should be an interesting journey.