Can’t build your temple without laying bricks

Temple Building

Today was a cardio day, but yesterday was weights.

I got down.

Weight lifting is interesting for me. On the one hand, I love seeing progress. I can lift the weight with less effort as time goes on and see real strength. My muscles get sculpted. I lift and carry heavy groceries in a single bound.

On the other hand, it’s hard for me to get psyched up to do it. A run in the early morning? No problem. My favorite aerobic workout before sunrise? No sweat. Weightlifting, however, requires some mental gymnastics to get motivated.

But yesterday? Crushed.

I do a full body workout with a barbell and plates. Ten tracks including warm up, squats, chest, back, biceps, triceps, lunges, shoulders, abs and cool down.

When I first started the program (Les Mills Pump), I wasn’t on the road, so I was able to follow it as outlined each day. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been traveling. That and other circumstances as of late led me to take it easy with my workouts. I found what amounts to a comfortable challenge for each track and stuck with it. For weeks.

In the past couple of weeks I decided if I was going to hang out at these easier weights, I’d really focus on form, and I have. But it was time for more.

Yesterday I felt energized, motivated, and ready for a challenge. It reflects an overall mood I’ve been in the past few months – one of action and forward motion. I’ve not yet blogged about my theme for 2014 (see 2013, 2011) but it definitely incorporates movement. I’ve started new projects and made strides in new areas.

And so yesterday, when it was time to get that barbell out, I knew it was also time to kick it up a notch. I increased weights on all working tracks. I worked harder than I have in a long time and it felt great! I was proud of myself all day and flexed my muscles in every mirror.

One of my favorite things about exercising is learning the lessons my body teaches. Yesterday’s lesson? If you keep doing the same things, you’ll find yourself in the same place. Progress requires effort. Lay down those bricks and build that temple.

When you become stuck in a rut
of apathy, your life stagnates,
leading to setbacks.
~Daisaku Ikeda

The Very Best Thing

Personal Narrative

Writer/director dream hampton asked this question on Twitter and shared a steady stream of responses. People taught their children to read, nurtured loved ones in times of sorrow or ill-health, quit jobs they hated, and traveled or moved overseas.

Some took classes and learned things that allowed them to radically transform their ways of being. Others wrote books, got married, took a chance on love, or learned to love themselves.

It’s a beautiful question, and one that requires no external metric. I’ve been thinking about it, and while there are lots of things I’m glad I accomplished or tried or read, I think the best thing I did was push beyond my comfort zone. There were several times this year where things felt risky or scary or I was unsure how they’d turn out, and I decided those were great reasons to try them anyway.

Comfort with discomfort is pushing me toward new goals for 2014, and I’m intrigued and excited about how they will manifest.

But enough about me. What was the best thing YOU did this year?

Winter Solstice

Personal Narrative

It seems only a few days ago when I wrote about the autumnal equinox, but here we are, welcoming a new season. It’s the first day of winter, and it comes to us bringing rainy skies and mild temperatures.

Despite the gray start, I am feeling pretty sunny about things. I have a few projects in the works – some brand new and others that are getting a much-needed refresh.

I’m not waiting until the new year to get started. I am beginning today so things will be well underway as thew new year dawns.

What about you? What plans do you have for winter or the new year?

Give me my 10s

Personal Narrative

This was a milestone week for me in many ways, including the fact I finished two 10Ks! One was in miles and the other was in words.

On Sunday I was feeling, as they say, “froggy.” Out of the blue, I declared to myself that Monday I’d run 6 miles for the first time.

This has been a goal of mine for a long time. I know many people who’ve done it, and my personal long was 5.55 miles, from a year ago. I’ve only run five miles or more a handful of times in life, and the 10K/6.2 mile mark seemed scary, quite honestly.

On my days of high energy, I’d think about tackling it, and it just seemed a touch too far. Rather than drown in a sea of what ifs, I generally stopped thinking about it as soon as I felt the telltale adrenaline. I wasn’t sure why it made me nervous, but it did.

But Sunday, I felt up to the challenge. I wasn’t positive I’d actually go for it my next time out, but I knew it wouldn’t be long now. Blue ran with me Monday morning, and when we got to my usual two-mile turnaround point, we decided to go a little bit farther. Then a little more.

After running 6.2 miles on the Greenway.
After running 6.2 miles on the Greenway.

“How do you feel about round numbers?” he asked, taking a peek at his Garmin. I knew we were past two, but I couldn’t gauge how far.

“I like round numbers.”

Eventually we were at an even three, which was guaranteed to get me six by the time we arrived back at the start.

As we passed the 5.55 mile mark, I smiled. I was excited to best my personal long and even more excited to know I was going to finally accomplish a long-standing goal. When we got to the start, we doubled-back a tenth or so and came back to finish the .2.

So that was the second 10k.

The first 10k actually happened the day before, on the 10th of November. And now that I think of it, perhaps the earlier achievement  inspired the latter. After many false starts and absolutely zero words dedicated to the effort, I started my first novel this month.

Well, my second if you include the one I began in middle school (which my peers said was really good!).

In October, I announced my desire to be a romance novelist (among other things), and November, National Novel Writing Month, seemed like a great time to start. I’ve long been familiar with NaNoWriMo, the project which encourages authors to write a draft of a novel (50,000 words) in 30 days. Now, I don’t believe in gimmicks. And because that seemed irrational and unsustainable, I always rejected the project outright. But this month, on the first day of NaNoWriMo, I decided two things:

  1. If I only participated a few days, I would’ve at least gotten started on my novel. That’s more than I can say for the past several years of thinking about it.
  2. Who cares about that 50k goal? I could set whatever goal I wanted. One thousand words a day seemed doable, and again, if some days I couldn’t hit it, see number 1.

So I started. And on the 10th day I hit my 10,000th word. My first 10k!

In honor of my 10s this week, a word from B Scott:

On Holding Back

Temple Building

Today’s run surprised me. It had been over a week since my last 4-mile run. Generally speaking, a couple of rest days are good for me. But too many means I start to lose a level of fitness.

It’s not to say I forewent exercise completely. In addition to rest days, I had a couple of bouts of weather-induced indoor aerobics. I also threw two short runs in the mix. In a hotel and pressed for time two mornings in a row, the treadmill beckoned. I’ve mentioned more than once how much I enjoy outdoor running and dislike treadmills, but there was no safe place to run nearby. It was the ‘mill or nothing.

No Bueno
Let’s get right to it and say both of those runs sucked. I never felt as though I could get a good breathing rhythm. I never locked into an ideal stride. I just wasn’t comfortable. Both days, two miles of running felt like five or six miles worth of work.

The past couple of mornings, I looked forward to getting back outside. Yesterday, was a disappointment. Mild fall temps were on my side, but the pouring rain was not. I decided to get on with the remainder of my day, foregoing exercise altogether.

The Greenway this morning.
The Greenway this morning.

Doubting Thomasina
Today, it was cooler than ideal, but clear, and I was determined to go get my miles. But get this: I was worried. Because my recent runs were short and difficult, I wondered if I had what it took to eek out my mileage. Some Saturdays I toy with the idea of a “long run” (five miles or more), but today my standard four felt like a stretch.

I wondered just how long it would take me to finish. How would I feel at the halfway point? Would I have to walk it out for large stretches of the trail? Would I just stop at a mile and turn around? The questions loomed. This level of uncertainty about a run is unusual for me, but there it was. I stalled a bit, and went out anyway.

When I got to the Greenway, I could tell immediately the run was going to go well after all. I easily hit my warm up pace and found a comfortable stride within the first 1/2 mile. It felt nice to open up and push the tempo. Being outdoors again was glorious, despite the cool air. Despite the damp leaves clinging to the trail.

I felt great, like the in shape runner I am.

Getting up to Snuff
I’ve run intervals a few times this year. Before now, I’d never tried them out. It’s true they help with speed, and I’ve come to realize they build my confidence as well. I know I’m reasonably fast for super short distances – I was a sprinter in my day. A few years at 3+ miles per run, I’ve now built some endurance, but often I’m scared to push my pace. I simply don’t want to peter out.

But intervals are designed for you to push, then rest. And really, I’m not racing anyone. I’m building my own fitness. Who cares if I need to rest at various points during my run anyway, intervals or not? And just because I got comfortable holding a steady pace at four miles, didn’t mean I needed to remain comfortable. That can easily lead to stagnation. And to some degree, it had.

Movie Lessons
In recent runs, I’ve found myself thinking about all of this while also mulling a scene from Gattaca (spoiler alert). In it, brothers Anton and Vincent are swimming. Ever since they were children, they tested each other to see who had the endurance to swim the farthest in open waters. Anton always won.

An older wiser Vincent finally stopped living down to everyone else’s expectations, and resolved to give life his all. In a confrontation between the two, they decide to swim one last time. Right when Vincent would’ve cried mercy, he didn’t. This time, Anton was the one who tapped out. He screamed at Vincent demanding to know how he was accomplishing this. How was he pushing beyond well-established boundaries? Said Vincent,

I never saved anything for the swim back.

Vincent gave it his all. He held nothing back. He learned to overcome his limiting beliefs about himself. In the end, he was victorious.

Holding Back
Often, I hold back when running. I get comfortable with a certain pace. Knowing I can push it, but will have to recover later, I don’t take chances. Steady state. But with the introduction of intervals, I saw my fitness increasing, and it became easier for me to see what would happen if I push it. I’d go faster! And yes, I may have to rest a bit, but I’d go faster for longer the next time.

So today, out on the open path, no music, no pressure, just me, I ran. And when it felt good, I ran faster. And when I thought I’d been running a good distance at a good pace, I checked in. Do I really need to rest right now, or am I holding back? And I’d rest or run accordingly.

It was a great run. Much faster than usual the first two miles, and faster in stretches toward the end. I ran my fastest overall pace for this distance.

I surprised myself. I didn’t hold back. The race was only with myself, and I won.

On clarity and sabotage

30 Day Blog Challenge

This has been a year of transition.  Every season thus far has boasted some sort of change, and that remains true with the advent of fall. Recent professional shifts have left me considering next steps, which, in many ways, will be a return to previous steps. As I checked in with self about my current professional path, the thought above came to me.

When I say “supposed to be doing” I don’t mean according to some external metric.  These days it’s easy to be swayed by the expectations of Big Brother. We’re a surveillance-happy society, wherein we’ve virtually relinquished self-control and self-expression in favor of conformity via the policing of bodies and thoughts by peers, or nonconformity and the punishment industry. So no, I don’t mean what someone else thinks I’m supposed to be doing.

I mean the thing or things I truly desire deep down. The things I feel pulled toward when I am otherwise occupied. Over the years, that pull hasn’t been very strong, so I put plans on the back burner. Eventually I’ll get to this, that, or the other thing. But I have new goals and new plans to meet these goals, and right now daily life isn’t in alignment. In a moment of stillness, I felt that pull.

To the degree that I am clear on my desires, and my mission in life, my bouts of self-sabotage become more difficult to sustain.

It’s time to get in sync.

Just keep swimming

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative

“I think that a lot of people in our country have gotten depressed, pinned in, pinned down with living lives they don’t want…tell me what your dreams are. What are you chasing? It’s not impossible.” ~Diana Nyad

There are lots of big stories in the news right now. Some of national import, others of international import, but the one of personal import is about badass Diana Nyad. She’s a 64-year-old marathon swimmer, she set a new record, and perhaps most importantly, she refused to be defeated by time, circumstances or self-doubt. She went for an Xtreme Dream and made it come true.

Age is not an excuse for giving up. Allowing yourself to grow passive and draw back is a sign of personal defeat. There may be a retirement age at work, but there is no retirement age in life. ~Daisaku Ikeda

Nyad swam 110.4 statue miles  in just under 53 hours, making the trek from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. She wasn’t without protection – donning a special suit and mask to protect her from the jellyfish which foiled her previous attempt. And she wasn’t alone – her team was with her, stopping her for feedings and rest and making sure her path was as passable as possible.

Xtreme Dreams Require Relentless Pursuit

The seed to swim to Florida was first planted in Nyad as a young girl, and she made her initial attempt at the age of 29. That attempt, and the next three were beset by obstacles she couldn’t overcome. Despite the disappointing setbacks, she refused to give up on her dream without trying one last time.

You have a dream 35 years ago — doesn’t come to fruition, but you move on with life. But it’s somewhere back there. ~Diana Nyad

Not only is she a lifelong swimmer and dreamer, Nyad is also a lifelong learner. Although 35 years passed between her initial attempt and her final, successful one, Nyad said she learned we should never give up, we’re never too old to chase our dreams, and even solitary sports like swimming are a team effort.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about goals in recent years. And as I’ve hinted in the past, I have a lifelong dream or two I’m pursuing. As beautifully illustrated by Nyad’s victory, dreams don’t simply come true on their own. It’s not enough to have one. It’s not enough to hope and wish it will come true. It takes effort. Human action steps. And sometimes, even with planning and preparation, it’s not enough to go for it once.

Anyone who has ever made a resolution discovers that the strength of that determination fades in time. The moment you feel that is when you should make a fresh determination. Tell yourself, “OK! I will start again from now!” If you fall down seven times, get up an eighth. Don’t give up when you feel discouraged—just pick yourself up and renew your determination each time. ~Daisaku Ikeda

It took Nyad five attempts  – five – over the course of more than 30 years. This tells as much about physical skill and endurance as it does about patience and perseverance.

But just as important as the thought to never give up, is the seriousness of intent and clarity of purpose. That 8-year-old Nyad dreamed of swimming the Florida straits, and 20-something-year-old Nyad was a successful endurance swimmer wasn’t happenstance.  Furthermore, that 64-year-old Nyad was ultimately successful, wasn’t a matter of luck. It was the culmination of focused determination and untold hours and years of disciplined work.

These are habits I’m developing in myself. Mostly I’m working to overcome my own efforts at self-sabotage through procrastination, something Joshunda tweeted about recently. It’s a process, but then again, growing and evolving always is. The point, at least for me, is to keep striving. Or, as Dory said in Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming.”

The worst mistake you can make is to give up on yourself and stop challenging yourself for fear of failure. Keep moving forward with a firm eye on the future, telling yourself, “I’ll start from today!” “I’ll start afresh from now, from this very moment!” ~Daisaku Ikeda

Starting where you are

Temple Building

I ran this morning.

I really wanted to go, and although I had planned on strength training, I chose to heed the call to get some miles instead. I’m so glad I did. I’m a runner. You could also say an out-of-shape runner, or a runner on vacation, or a runner who hasn’t run much this year, but I’m still a runner.

My personal long is 5.55 miles, and at one point my average distance was 50 miles/month. It’s been a long time since I’ve hit either of those two metrics. I pretty much gave up running late last year when I began spending more time in hotels than my own home. I don’t know if you know this, but many hotel treadmills suck, and that’s only if you can manage to snag one before 5:30 in the morning.

Not the business.

Me & Blue, after my 1st run this year.
Me and Blue after my
first run this year.

But I love endorphins and being fit, so I certainly didn’t give up templebuilding altogether. I did high intensity aerobics in my hotel room and lifted weights whenever I was home. And then, I moved. Gone was my 4-mile running trail past dolphins and jumping fish. Not only would I have to figure out new routes, but I’d have the added challenge of real elevation in the mix. Georgia has hills.

I ran my first miles of the year a couple of weeks ago. A little over two one day, a little under 3 the other. Both of those were on the familiar flat terrain of Florida. My legs and hips protested. I ached after. The good ache, though. More of a you’re-cross-training-and-it’s-awesome ache. I’m in Georgia now, and those five miles brought the running itch back.

So today, with little more than the thought of “running about two miles – to the park, around and back,” I headed out.

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 10.35.20 AM

It was hard. And it was great. I’ve decided to push myself and run a few more times the rest of the month. My goal? 20 miles. It doesn’t matter that I used to run 50 miles in a month. It doesn’t matter my average pace used to be a little over 9-minute miles. It doesn’t matter that I used to run 4 or more miles at a time. I refuse to judge myself by a metric applicable to the person I was then, but am not now.

Today’s me is a runner, starting from scratch. First time running hills. First time running 20 miles in 2013. I can’t start from where I was. But I can start from where I am. The starting line is wherever you are right now. All you have to do is begin.

Ready? Set… Go!

Be true.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative

Do you have a favorite quote that you return to again and again? What is it, and why does it move you?

If you summon your courage to challenge something, you’ll never regret it. How sad it would be to spend your life wishing, “If only I had a little more courage.” Whatever the outcome, the important thing is to take a step forward on the path that you believe is right. There’s no need to worry about what others may think. It’s your life, after all. Be true to yourself. ~Daisaku Ikeda

I first saw this quote in the November 2012 issue of Living Buddhism magazine. Sae Chonabayashi said it encouraged her to pursue her dreams. It encouraged me to do the same. At the time I read the piece, I was at a crossroads; I was unsure about quite a few things. That quote resonated, and I got clear on next steps in a hurry.

Life is short and no one wakes up in my skin every morning except me. I have plans and dreams, and it’s quite possible they won’t work out as I’d like…but I have to try.  I’ve always been one to play it safe. But safe isn’t always satisfactory, and time passes way too quickly these days for me to waste it in any state of dissatisfaction. So whatever the outcome, in eleven days, I’m moving forward on a new path.

I embrace possibilities and love.

To thine own self, be true.

NaBloPoMo March 2013

On looking and leaping. #NaBloPoMo #amwriting.

30 Day Blog Challenge

NaBloPoMo March 2013

Do you always look before you leap?

Of course. Gravity is real and objects are solid. Not looking where you leap can lead to injury. Or worse.

That said, looking first doesn’t negate the leaping. It simply means assessing the situation beforehand. I weigh pros and cons. I mull things over and consider multiple angles. I do a gut check: How does it feel when I think about leaping? I can’t say if I put more stock in feelings over facts. It depends on the leap in question. I don’t do all of this to talk myself out of leaping, but rather so I can leap mindfully.

I think a related question is Have you ever taken a leap you’ve regretted? The answer to that is a solid no. Regret is a strong word and one I’ve always scorned. I love myself and I love my life. Everything is not exactly as I’d like it to be, and that’s part of the drama of life. Sure, I’ve made decisions I wouldn’t make again. But I don’t regret them; I learned from them.

There’s no need for us to be held back by the past or how things have been so far. The important thing is what seeds we are sowing now for the future. ~Daisaku Ikeda

Keeping past decisions and future goals in focus encourages me to be mindful of my present actions.

So yes, I leap. But first, I look.