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?

The human body is amazing

I shared this video on Facebook the other day, but it stayed with me so much I thought I would share it here too.

It’s about how a disabled vet who had been told he could never walk without assistance again — and pretty much lost all hope — somehow met a person who decided to help. What follows was months of grit, determination and transformation.

The video is pretty awesome. It even brought a tear to my eye.

I love seeing that kind of human story. You know, the one about hope? About defying conventional wisdom? People are pretty amazing, ya know?

And I’m not just referring to physical ability. Yes, losing weight and regaining mobility is incredible in its own right, but the mind is truly amazing. The ability to believe in yourself and keep going, despite falling, possibly feeling embarrassed — it would have been so easy to give up.

Yep, the human body AND the human mind are pretty amazing. Don’t you think?

Dreaming the possible dream

The kids and I left the house this morning with the intention of finding the 3M Half Marathon and cheering on the runners. I know quite a few people who planned to run the 2013 race, and I thought it would be fun for us to go out there, despite the cold.

We ended up leaving too late to find the race. After driving all the way downtown and finding out that we had missed it, we stopped at UT to visit the turtles instead.

6 months of training

Sally running in 3M
Photo by Beth Tanner

My friend Sally was one of the 3M finishers. She has been training for 6 months. I think she started out a little unsure that she would make it so far, but she’s grown to enjoy running. She laughed when one of her running buddies asked what race they would train for after the 3M, but she’s already signed up for Austin’s 10/20, so I think she’s hooked on the longer runs.

It takes a lot of dedication to set your sights on a run like that — especially if your goal is half a year or more away.

What do I want?

I’m supposed to set goals I want to achieve in the next 8 weeks. Two years ago, it was hard to narrow down my goals — I wanted so much. Right now, it’s hard to imagine what I want that I can actually measure.

There are two things I really want that will motivate me.

  1. I want to lean out to 20% body fat.
  2. I want to do 5 unassisted pullups

I could probably come up with a third, but it would be made up — not really one that motivates me. Not right now, at least.

How will I do it?

  • I will follow the Whole 30. But for longer. That means lean meats — with an emphasis on quality and sustainability — grass fed, pasture-raised, no additives; LOTS of vegetables, with a heavy emphasis on leafy greens; some fruit, preferably melon, berries, or in-season fruits; nuts and seeds; healthy fats, like olive oil, coconut oil…
  • I will do my mobility exercises for my shoulder and forearms to keep my muscles and joints healthy everyday. I will practice pullups whenever I can. I will break down my movement and figure out where my weak point is and work on it.

I will support these actions by setting a positive, healthy habits. That means I will

  • Strive to sleep 7 hours a night (8 would be ideal, but since 6 is hard enough to come by, I’m going for 7);
  • Walk my dogs most nights during the week;
  • Play with my kids on the floor as soon as I get home;
  • Choose to eat at home rather than out at restaurants;
  • Plan out menus with Andy and help prepare our meals.

Whew! That seems like a lot! Can I do it?

3 reasons why my body comp went in the wrong direction

This past week, I met with Zach to do my body comp. The last time I had my body comp done was in December.

My latest body comp went in the wrong direction.

My weight is up, my body fat is up, and I gained inches everywhere — except in my hips, which defies explanation. I suspect there is SOME muscle gain. I am, stronger, but muscle doesn’t explain the increase in body fat.

Zach stared at the results with a confused and exasperated look on his face. “Are you pregnant?”

“Nnnnoooooo!”

“Well, I had to ask because it could explain this.”

At the time, I had no explanation. But after thinking about it for a few days and talking it over with Andy, I think I have pinpointed the problems.

  1. Too much sugar
    SXSW was my downfall. I had been doing pretty good with avoiding excess sugar until March 9. I planned to indulge a little. I ended up indulging a lot. The sugar addiction came back with a vengeance, and the eating continued well past SXSW.
    Then, it became easy to justify “celebrations,” as my son calls it. He always wants to celebrate something with a dessert, and I fell into the trap.
    Heed my advice — beware the sugar beast.
  2. Too much stress
    I set a number of professional goals at the beginning of 2012. The good news is, I’m workin’ it baby! I’m very happy with how things are going for my career. However, the side affect has been a busy schedule that keeps my adrenaline at a level I haven’t felt since I produced newscasts.
    All that adrenaline and cortisol is wreaking havoc on my body because it’s telling me to hold onto and store fat. Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf have both written about this.
  3. Not enough sleep
    Beth likes to point this out often — I don’t sleep enough. And it’s true. I have passion for what I do, whether it’s working out, creating websites, or being a mom — and often I find I don’t have enough hours in the day to do everything without cutting something. That something often turns out to be sleep.
    I don’t talk about how tired I am because I’m so used to the feeling and because people don’t want to hear it anyway. But I am chronically sleep-deprived.
    Unfortunately, sleep loss limits fat loss, and according to research, people who lose out on sleep produce more of a hormone that makes you feel hungry.
    Conversely, sleeping more can help you burn more calories.

Any of this sound familiar? I’m sure I’m not alone here.

The question is — can I fix this?

I know I can tame the sugar beast. I’m already on my way there. I get offered sweets all the time, but I politely refuse or I gratefully accept and share with my wonderful and appreciative family.

Reducing stress is a little more tricky, but completely doable.

Sleeping more is going to be the hardest to changes, but that’s mostly because I’m stubborn. I don’t want to give up anything. I love my early morning workouts, I love my jobs, I love my clients, and I love my family. I don’t want to give up any of the time I devote to these.

Obviously, I have some tough decisions to make. Stay tuned.

On falling behind (and running to catch up)

I feel like I’m walking into an unfamiliar house.

It’s been weeks since I wrote about my fitness activities, although I’ve never missed a workout. It feels a little strange, and, to be honest, I had a lot of trouble thinking of what to say. I started about 15 times, and each time deleted it, only to begin a again.

How do you catch up when you’ve fallen so far behind?

You’re probably wondering why I fell behind. The simple answer is, “work.” My work and my business have taken over my focus. Projects have demanded my attention, and I succumbed to the pressure — no longer could I find enough time to write a well thought-out blog entry about my workout of the day. Writing and sleeping were two of the first things to go.

I’ve also neglected the exercises Dave and Ryan gave me to correct the shifting in my hip and help my shoulder pain. I know they work, but I’ve found it hard to work them into my already-packed schedule.

I’ve been starting to lose focus over the past few weeks, too. Ever since SXSW, when I let myself indulge, I’ve found it hard to get back to the clean eating I was doing before. I’ll eat on target for a few days, but when the weekend hits, all bets are off.

I mentioned to Zach my pants feel a little smaller. I wondered out loud if it was muscle (I have been doing a lot of squats!), and he laughed at me. Something tells me he does not agree. We scheduled a body comp for this week. I’m dreading it. I fear I have fallen way behind in my goals. I had set a goal of reaching under 20% body fat. There’s no way this week’s measurements are going to say that.

Sometimes it takes a kick in the pants to get my head back on straight. I need Zach to fuss at me. I can hear him now: Get your S**T together, Cindy! It’s not that hard!

We all lose focus from time to time. But I don’t want it to get to where I fall down and can’t get back up.

I’ll let you know how the body comp turns out.

 

Goals for 2012

Child squats while reading book
I think one 2012 goal should be to squat as naturally as my kids.

Effective goal-writing has not come easily for me.

I’ve spent the past week drafting, writing, and re-writing my goals. It’s not that I haven’t written goals before, but they’ve always been generalized — more like one of those “resolutions” people set in the new year to lose weight or exercise more.

This year, I wanted to be specific. Thinking big is great, but the hard part has been setting shorter-term goals that will help me GET to those big goals. I think I’m finally happy with what I came up with.

This year, I wrote fitness, personal, and professional goals, saved them in a Google document and then shared the file with Andy — a technique to help hold me accountable. I’m well aware that I may need to adjust my goals as I go, but I don’t see them as set in stone. What I wrote is a living document. It will need frequent attention and assessment.

At least I have a starting point

Fitness Goals

By December 31, 2012 I will:

  1. Maintain 17% body fat
  2. Be able to shoulder press 85lbs 1 time in a row
  3. Snatch 65 lbs 3 times in a row consistently with proper form
  4. Add 15 lbs to my deadlift max (205lbs)
  5. Do 5 unassisted strict pullups in a row
  6. Participate in 3 competitions (Olympic lifting or Crossfit)

How I will reach my fitness goals:

By January 31, 2012…

  • Zone my paleo meals as a 14-block athletic female, continuing to eat Paleo, protein and fat only at breakfast, and fasting 5 times a week.
  • Eliminate alcohol and sugar from my nutrition (Junk-free January!)
  • Add a 3rd lift day once a week, focusing on 4 lifts each time: squats, snatch balance or similar, upper body lifts such as push jerk, and lower body lifts such as deadlift or variations.
  • Only do strict pullups with a band – no kipping – even in Crossfit WODS

By March 31, 2012…

  • Reach 17% body fat
  • Sign up for my 1st competition (Crossfit Games sectionals or Olympic Lifting competition)
  • Drop the blue band for a purple band on pullups
  • Add 5 lbs to my deadlift max

By June 30, 2012…

  • Sign up for my 2nd competition (Garage Gym Throwdown)
  • Attempt 10 strict pullups with no band every other night
  • Reassess goals and set new 1 month and 3 month goals to get through rest of the year.

.

 

There you have it. Well – the fitness goals, at least. My personal and professional goals are pretty robust, too.

Now it’s time to attack my goals. Day 2 of 2012 — whose with me?

Retest: “DT”

Cindy holds bar with arms straight overhead
At the top of a push jerk. (Please ignore my pasty, white legs.)

There is a little Post-It in my workout log that has floated through my notebooks for the past year. It shows up every three months. It has this workout written on it:

“DT”
5 rounds
12 Deadlift (M 155# / W 95#)
9 Hang power cleans
6 Push jerk

I’ve done it a few times in Crossfit class, but this is one I picked out last December and have used as a home benchmark. There is a note written at the bottom of the Post-It:

Goal: 75# in under 12 mins

I think I wrote that goal last spring. I can’t remember. Anyway, I reached that goal Friday.

Time: 10:17 @ 75#

In deadlift position
Deadlift position (Check out Mads in the background 🙂 )

It was the first time I tried 75# with DT. In September, I slammed through the WOD at 9:38 with 65# on the bar. At the time I had forgotten I had done the same WOD at home the week before at 70#. But I was much slower — over 13 minutes.

I’ve definitely grown stronger over the past year. Over the past several days I’ve been assessing my accomplishment, looking at where I want to change and improve. I finally have a pretty exhaustive list of specific fitness, personal and professional goals for 2012. They’re not quite done, but I should have them ready on January 1.

What do you want to accomplish in 2012?

 

Brain vs. brain: “Hell yes!” vs “Hell no!”

I’ve been pondering a question all week, and so far, I do not have an answer.

How does one tackle a problem when it’s hiding inside yourself?

A little background: On Monday I met with Zach to talk about setting goals and do a body comp. It’s been three months since the last body comp and about 4 since I last sat down with him.

My weight is 5 pounds lower, my body fat percentage just slightly lower — just below 20%. What was really interesting were my measurements. I lost all over, mostly in my chest (no surprise), hips and waist. The average loss was about 1/4″. I have yet to set my goals for the next six months, but I told Zach some of the things I would like to accomplish:

  • 17% body fat
  • unassisted pullup
  • 80# shoulder press

He advised me to set 6 month, 3 month and 1 month goals, be specific and set goals based on how I plan to accomplish farther reaching goals. Example:

  • 6 months: Do 10 unassisted strict pullups
  • 3 months: Practice 10 pulls every other night without band
  • 1 months: Do all Crossfit workouts that call for pullups strict instead of kipping with 2 purple bands

Something like that. He had some recommendations — tighten down on the food starting Jan 2, forget kipping pullups for a while until I get the pullup down, add another strength day into my week and squat (You can’t squat enough, he says) and start entering some competitions — it will give me something to train for. But there’s one thing he told me over and over this week that he says is up to me to fix.

You refuse to get under the bar. You HAVE to be aggressive.

Hmmm… this refusal thing. This lack of aggressiveness. It’s kind of driving me crazy. The conscious part of brain is going through the checklist, setting my body up, firing muscles, screaming like hell to go, go, go! Then, I’m imagining my subconscious or unconscious remembering or imagining something and throwing a wrench in the whole process. Kind of like sabotage.

It’s a lot harder to fight sabotage when it’s inside yourself.

But there must be some way to alleviate a fear of dropping under the bar or being aggressive.  Answering a few questions might help. What is it? Why does it bother me? How do I face it down? Just telling myself to do it has been my tactic, but the results have been inconsistent. Ordering people around is never a good management skill, no matter whether it’s other people or yourself.

Monday
Back squats w/ 5 sec pause 65% 5×4 → 95
Hip Power Snatch + OHS 3+3×3 → 35/55/55
Hang Power Snatch + Hang Snatch: 2+1, 2+2, 1+2, 1+1, 1×1 → 55/55/65/65/65
Push Press 5×4 → 65/65/65/80 75

Wednesday
Front squats w/ 5 sec pause 65% 5×4 → 85
Hip Power Snatch + Snatch Grip Push Press + OHS 3+3+3×3 → 45/50/55
Hang Power Snatch + OHS 3+3×3 → 55/55/60
Hang Snatch + OHS 2+2×3 → 60/60/60
Power Jerk 3×3 → 55/70/85

Not getting under the bar is holding back my potential, coach says. Obviously, he’s given me a lot to think about this week.

Have you ever had a mental block that was holding you back? How did you overcome it? I want to know!

Never quit

Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or and hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.

Lance Armstrong

I dreamt of being a lifeguard when I was 14.

I wanted to have a job by the pool, get some sun, save lives. It seemed glamorous and perfect for a teenager.

I signed up for Red Cross CPR and First Aid classes. Then I signed up for my town’s lifeguard training class. It was a week long.

And it exposed all of my weaknesses.

I thought I was a strong swimmer. But I really wasn’t. I could swim freestyle OK, but I had never been formally trained in any other stroke, which was a major disadvantage.

I struggled through 4 days of the training. I felt humiliated every day when I left. On day 5 — the last day — I decided I wouldn’t show up. It was testing day, and I was sure I wouldn’t pass. So instead of going and possibly humiliating myself further, I decided to quit.

Twenty-five years later, I still regret not showing up. Not seeing it through.

I think about that whenever I’m faced with a new challenge. It could be some really tough coding issue at work. Or it could be a really tough exercise. There’s a part of me that thinks about quitting. “You don’t HAVE to do this. You could ask someone else to figure this out.” Or “This weight it too heavy. Quit now and you won’t hurt as bad.”

But I know that finking out will make be feel like crap for a very long time. And even though I could end up being humiliated — red in the face — I do it anyway.

That’s my determination.

I hope I remember that next weekend at the Tough Mudder. I intend on completing every obstacle and finishing the course, no matter how long it takes or how scary it feels. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t signed up, but I did, and I’m not backing out now. No WAY.

I have a goal: Finish the Tough Mudder.

I’m not gonna quit.

My priorities

It’s been 3 1/2 weeks since I tightened up my nutrition and set new goals for myself.  While body fat isn’t really one of those goals, I decided it would be good to see where I am.

I should have done this at the start, but whatever.

Zach found the form with my body measurements from 2 years ago.  What an amazing change over the past 2 years! I have shrunk!

It was fascinating to see how I have dropped so many inches all over. Literally, EVERYWHERE is smaller.

And no surprise — body fat is down, too. I’m now at just over 20% body fat, which is down a couple of percentage points from when I did the I AM Challenge this year.

My favorite thing that Zach said was that I was looking “veiny.” That made me laugh. 🙂 No really — he gave me credit for working hard, said I was looking good, and told me to keep doing what I’m doing.

I expressed my frustration at what I perceive is a lack of strength and gains, and in his own way he reassured me that things will change. He told me to just lift heavy stuff – just focus on that (which is what I’ve been trying to do). And then, he told me when I come down to the other gym and start doing the Oly class I’ll get strong — I won’t be able to help it, because that’s what they do.

I think I’m figuring out what I want and what I need to do to get there. Part of that has been setting priorities.

One of those priorities is sleep. Sleep has been haywire (“Cindy, that’s bad girl,” Beth has said when she looks at my log). But last night, I specifically went to bed early and got nearly 8 hours. I’ve got to do that more often than not, but it’s a start.