Make it non-negotiable

30 Day Blog Challenge, Temple Building

Today is National Women’s Health & Fitness Day. People who have met me via social media and in real life, know I make #templebuilding a priority. The days I get up and exercise in the morning are the days I’m off to a fabulous start. But there was a time when that wasn’t the case.

I’m a self-described athlete. I ran and biked like most kids in my neighborhood growing up. I was a gymnast in elementary school.  A cheerleader in middle school. I danced (band auxiliary) and sprinted (varsity track) in high school.

I engaged in fewer structured activities in college, although I danced (partied) several hours a week which definitely counts for something. After college I had an on again, off again love affair with local gyms.  I stocked up on exercise DVDs for the off again moments. Even as an elementary school teacher, I woke up early enough to exercise, chant, drive 30 minutes and still get to work by 7 a.m. I prioritized prayer, sleep, laughter, water and movement. They kept me in good spirits and good health.

When I became a full time doctoral student in 2007, things changed. I found myself a recluse when class wasn’t in session. All the time I read and wrote papers, thought about theory, drank coffee and ate McDonald’s. Seriously. All the time.

Me: May 28, 2012 after exercising at home.
Me: May 28, 2012 after exercising at home.

A few months in, the side effects from that “food” and the disgust from Super Size Me, spurred me to choose healthier meals.

(Sidebar: I didn’t eat fast food for a year after that, and with the exception of two iced coffees in 2007, I’ve never consumed McDonald’s again). I was no longer exercising, because who had the time? But I knew my body was ready to move again.

Despite my desire to exercise, it was a struggle at first.  I had to force myself to stop reading or writing to go for a walk or a short run. I argued with myself – one more page, or one more paragraph. Then another. I’d panic as I watched the setting sun, realizing it was now or never.  I’d throw on some fitness gear and get moving.

That happened many times, until:

  • I realized I always felt better after exercise, and
  • I scheduled it. I made it non-negotiable.

The very first time I put an exercise appointment on my calendar, my dissertation advisor wanted a meeting. I had to break it to her, “No, I’m not available at that time. I’m exercising then.” She, a woman very much into self-care, supported me and offered several other times even with her busy schedule. I understood then, to the degree I was serious about taking care of myself, I could figure out the rest.

And so I set my exercise schedule daily. I incorporated strength training, swim lessons, and running, all depending on my class and homework schedule. I treated exercise like any other important appointment. I was definitely going to attend, so I had to plan the rest of my day around it.

Over time it has become less of an appointment and more of a way of life. Sometimes this means running on treadmills when I’d rather be outside. Sometimes it means a 15-minute high intensity interval workout instead an hour of strength or cardio. Sometimes it means evening workouts although I definitely prefer sunrise exercise.

The point is, I’ve made it a part of my regular routine. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

Happy temple building!

When more is better

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative, Temple Building

Distance running didn’t come naturally to me. I’m a sprinter, and have been ever since I outran the neighborhood boys back in grade school. In my 20s, I tried distance running a few times, but it never really stuck. I rarely felt as if I could breathe very well, and my legs always itched. I figured out the solution to both of those things years later – a histamine blocker and pacing.

Yesterday’s run was a good one. This route had manageable hills and after 3 miles, I had energy left, but no time.

It takes me anywhere from a half mile to a mile to get warmed up. During those first 5-10 minutes, I’m looking for a comfortable stride length and finding a good cadence for my breathing. Around mile two I get in a groove. I relax and settle into the run, especially if it’s a familiar route.

The third mile varies. Depending on my level of fitness, I experience fatigue during the first half. I slow down a bit, especially if I was pushing things earlier. Sometimes I start wondering how much longer I have before I arrive at home base.

Unless I’m short on sleep or fuel, I shake it off by the second half of the mile. By then, I’ve gotten my breath back, my legs back, and I’m rocking out. Yet for years, that was the end of the run. Eventually I discovered the magic of mile four.

That fourth mile? That’s the sweet spot. I’m warm. Breaths come and go in energizing rhythms. My stride opens. I’m pushing it until I cross the finish line. The endorphins are in full effect. Life is great.

These days I’m back at 3 because I’m finding new routes and running hilly terrain for the first time. It’s a tough slog, really. Training on hills is more than a notion.  I’m looking forward to developing my fitness, and eventually finding 4 sweet again. After that? We’ll see.

In case you missed it…

Personal Narrative

2010 marked the end of graduate school, and the end of writing by committee for a while. In 2011, I planned to write for self. And I did. Sort of. But not as much as I envisioned.

In 2012, I wrote more often than years past. And I wrote about things that were intellectually and/or emotionally fulfilling. This was especially true in August, when I participated in Tayari’s WriteLikeCrazy and Aliya’s 30 in 30 (30 blogs in 30 days) challenge. As a category, my 30-in-30 posts were the most rewarding to write and many of them ranked among the highest views for the year.

Creating time to write, and mustering courage to share my writing were two challenges I battled for nearly every post this year. But I did create the time. And I did share. And so did you…

Thanks so much for reading and sharing my rants, confessions, mini essays, declarations and lessons this year.  Here are the ones that seemed to resonate most:

2012 was a great journey, with milestones on many fronts. I hope to write my way through more of them in 2013, and share them with all of you.

In love,

Nicole, the LadyBuddha

SunsetWithLove

After 12 Weeks

Temple Building

It’s April 1st, and today I was supposed to “rest.”

I spent the past 12 weeks doing a high intensity cardio program, TurboFire. I enjoyed it a great deal. I lost body fat and a few pounds (no mean feat when you already exercise regularly), and gained cardiovascular fitness. I also embraced my newly realized love of exercise and made the 6-day/week workout non-negotiable. It reaffirmed my need for routine and structure, despite my love of freedom and flexibility in my work schedule.

I debated long and hard about continuing the program for another 8 weeks or moving on to something else. I decided the fact I was feeling so attached meant I needed to break away and move on. As of next week, I’m beginning a new regimen – Pump (a full body weight training program) 3 times a week, plus cardio (running) 3 times a week.

So that brings us to today.

I ventured outside for my first run of 2012! I wish I could say it was glorious. It was definitely a good run, and I know for sure my cardiovascular fitness has improved. Breathing was easy and I had plenty of air, even when I pushed my normal pace. The problem? Lack of “rest.”

TurboFire is all choreographed kickboxing, squats and plyometrics. Running four miles was easy on my lungs, but my glutes and quads had commentary.

A lot of it.

I had to walk a little bit and/or slow down during the burn. Still, I’m excited to report I hit a new personal record:

1st run of 2012 = personal record!

My previous PR was my last run of 2011, so it’s a happy surprise that my new one is my first run of 2012. Here’s to continued temple building.

Personal Record

Temple Building

Today I claim total victory. I ran a personal best, smashing all of my previous times for an average pace below 10 minutes a mile.

This is huge news for someone who never thought she’d run distance for fun, and who once believed the occasional dip below a 12-minute mile was cause for celebratory cheers.

Typical pace from earlier this year.

And this, in a nutshell, is one of the things I most love about running.

Running is a daily opportunity to set tangible goals and work toward them. Funny thing about running – it brings you face to face with reality. Sometimes the weather isn’t cooperating; do you run in the rain or sweltering sun anyway? Sometimes your body isn’t cooperating; do you wrap the knee or rest it? Sometimes time isn’t on your side; should you cut your run in half or just wait until another day? Or maybe the laundry has piled up; do you wear those uncomfortable shorts and hike them up the whole time, or…?

Decisions. It’s extremely rare when I can say my run and the stars are in complete alignment. Despite the snooze button, my failure to wash clothes, Mother Nature’s quirks or anything else, I often decide to run anyway.

And maybe today’s run sucked: I was slow, it was hard to breathe, I was hot, cold, etc. Maybe today’s run was perfect: I hit my target pace, I had great form, it was a glorious temperature with a refreshing breeze. But true glory lies within the confines of whatever the circumstances are. In other words, no matter what, I have the opportunity to do my best – realizing that “best” may look very different under varying circumstances.

Today’s circumstances were pretty favorable. And in the past week I’ve surprised myself, shaving two and a half minutes off my “typical” total time. For the first time since I began running over two years ago, the 10-minute average pace was within my grasp!

Monday’s run was literally a couple of seconds shy of the 10-minute pace. I snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as I yanked my skort up and down throughout the run, finally stopping to give it a good pull.

This is what a wardrobe malfunction will do.

Going out this morning, my aim was what it always is – to have fun and do my best. Honestly, I didn’t think I had it in me to top that 10:01 pace today. Usually, I run fastest after more than a couple of days of rest. When I touched the gate at the end of my run and stopped the clock, I cheered my time. 39:10 (9:48 average pace). Total victory!

Now that’s what I call a personal record!

I have no idea what my next run will be like. Will it be warm or chilly? Will my knee be irritable? Will I add back all the time I’ve shaved? I don’t really know. But I do know that I’ll enjoy my run, and I’ll do my best, whatever that means at the moment. In the end, I can’t win in the past. I can’t win in the future. I can only win in the present moment. And so can you.