“One small positive in the morning can change your whole day.”
Nice weather. Early sunlight. Beautiful scenery. Summer is perhaps the best time to get in the habit of morning workouts.
I say that with positivity yet the need to bring a dose of reality. As many of us can probably agree, this is easier said than done. Dragging one’s ass out of a comfy bed early in the morning, no matter what’s waiting for us on the other side, can be tough. And no matter which of these popular summer workouts you choose.
However, the advantages and benefits of the morning workout, particularly the morning run, are big. One of the strategies I use to psych up myself for an early run is to remind myself of those advantages.
So, for me and for anyone else needing inspiration, here’s my ode to the early morning run – 10 reasons why to run in the morning. If you need more reasons to run, check out this older post with some running motivation.
You greet me with beautiful sunrises
You give me the chance to wake up without having to immediately shower and get ready
You’re often the coolest, calmest, best weather of the day
You bring me peace and calm I can’t get with traffic, noise, and other runners out later in the day
You are the time when my son is still asleep and doesn’t need me for anything
You are the time when my son is still asleep so I don’t miss out on anything
You give me an excuse to stretch, breathe, and have mindful time early in the day
You leave me more time to prioritize the rest of the day
You make me feel so good when I’m done
You – quite literally – put me in the best position to have the best day
Happy running and don’t forget how to stay safe while running!
Are you one for early morning running or workouts – but who also needs a little kick in the ass to get them done? Any other tips for making the morning workout happen? The comments are all yours so please share your thoughts.
“Run strong, run smart, run safe.”
June happens to be a month with a few important running dates.
June 3 is Global Running Day.
June 25 is Gabe Grunewald’s birthday, June 11 is when she died – I include the latter, too because I believe both days are wonderful reasons to celebrate her memory and positivity with a run.
And, as the official start of summer, June is also when we get our longest day of the year, plus the early morning and late evening daylight just lends itself to more running and feeling safer while being out.
Speaking of safer, June is also National Safety Month. What a perfect time to share a few thoughts and ideas for safe running.
For everyone running this summer, whether veteran or newbie to the sport, I wish you miles of healthy, happy, and safe running! Here are 5 tips for safe running, especially now in the summer.
1. Skip the Headphones
This is probably my top safety tip and it’s also just a good all-around practice to reap the stress-relieving, mindfulness benefits of running.
Forgoing headphones brings several safety benefits. First, it creates opportunity for greater awareness, overall. Oncoming traffic, wildlife or dogs on the loose, even – hopefully this never happens to most but it does happen – sensing and hearing a potential attacker coming up behind you before it happens.
While awareness is the biggest safety factor that comes from running without headphones, there’s also an argument that can be made for better self-pacing. Think about when a really upbeat song or one of your favorites comes on the playlist – you might start running faster, right? If you’re training for speed, this would be a benefit, however, for most people, keeping a comfortable pace for the most part is important to prevent overdoing it or throwing off your stride in a way that risks injury.
2. Plan an Intentional Route
I love quiet, secluded paths but running them does come with some risk, especially really early or late at night. Be smart about the route you choose, forgoing super high-traffic areas and instead saving those more out-of-the-way trails for busier daytime hours, then opting for busier, well-lit areas when the sun is just coming up or dusk is approaching.
For many runners, planning a route isn’t usually necessary, as there are a handful of regular ones that meet various distances. However, if this is you, it’s not a bad idea to switch up your route often. There have been instances where bad people watch and get to know a runner’s route, only to be able to attack in the most vulnerable moment. Again, I hope this never happens to any of us but it does happen.
3. Let Someone Know You’re Going
Ideally, anytime you head out for a solo run, someone knows you’re out there and when to expect you back. In the event something bad happens, the sooner someone is aware, the better the chance there is that help will arrive quickly enough.
I’m in a situation where my spouse always knows when I’m going for a run, whether it’s during the day and we’re simply checking in on how the other is doing, in the morning where he needs to be home in case our son wakes up, or especially if it’s a weekend long run and I’m going to be away for awhile.
For those who don’t have a “reason” to check in with someone else, don’t hesitate to text a friend or family member just to let them know your plans, then again when you arrive home safely. Better safe than sorry.
4. Bring Your Phone
I slightly cringe when sharing this tip, as I love the disconnected, “me” time that running allows. But when talking safety, it really is smart to bring along the phone on a run.
Whether you roll an ankle, are attacked by an animal or person, or even find yourself off your route and lost, having a connection to someone who can help is an important safety measure to take on every run.
5. Hydrate – Then Hydrate More
While hydration is crucial year-round for runners, this is one tip that’s especially important during the summer months. That summer heat, while loved by most who prefer a tank top and shorts to layers on layers of attire, can be tough on the body. Dehydration is a serious health risk so, along with running always must come hydration.
This isn’t to say you have to bring water and drink throughout every run. But, depending on your body and needs, you may need it if you’re running more than a 10k, or 10 miles, or a half marathon.
Whether or not you need the fluids during your run, be sure to take in plenty after your run and throughout the rest of the day. If you’re looking for help to make a habit of drinking more water, last week’s post offers a few ideas.
For those of you who are taking the plunge and taking up running this summer, check out my 7 tips for how to start running.
What other safe running tips can you share? Any experiences you’ve had that have opened your eyes or made you more aware to how you can stay safe while running?
The comments are all yours so please leave one.
“That’s high quality H2O.”
Longer days. More sunshine. Increased outdoor time. Lots of running outside.
Ah, the spoils of summer. It’s hard to believe we’re talking about summer. It feels like the winter was endless and we’ve barely had a chance to enjoy spring weather. I mean, it snowed a couple weeks ago for a good chunk of the country.
Along with more perks of summer comes more responsibility – to drink more water that is.
Why to Drink More Water
There’s never a bad time to drink water, never a time when our bodies don’t need it. But the simple fact that summer presents more opportunity for sweating and dehydration makes it a great topic for this month’s healthy habits opportunity focus.
The best thing about taking on the challenge of drinking more water? It’s super easy! It’s not like meal prepping, meditating, or starting an exercise habit – those all take work and a time investment. Drinking more water requires very little work and time investment.
Still, many people don’t drink enough water. Mostly it’s because water is “boring” compared to coffee, soda, energy drinks, and that carbonated crap everyone was obsessed with for a hot minute (wait, are people still drinking that flat swill?).
How to Create A Healthy Habit
Before talking about creating a habit of drinking more water, let’s go back to the foundation of this healthy habits series. Like any habit, the desire and a goal along with it are important. Please don’t go into this with anything less than both.
First ask yourself, why do I want to build this healthy habit? Do I really want to or do I feel like I should? Find your purpose, that desire to do it so you’re more likely to stick with it.
If you really want to, the second step is to set your goal and be specific about it. A goal gives you something to measure, something to gauge success, and see where adjustments or improvements could be made.
In this case, you could start by eliminating one non-water beverage each day, skipping a soda and opting instead for a glass of water. You could set a goal of drinking at least one 32-oz bottle of water during the workday, then build from there. Just have a place to start.
Now, here are four tips to build the healthy habit of drinking more water.
Invest in a Reusable Water Bottle – or Several
Sure, it’s easy to drink water. There’s water everywhere, right?
Not so fast. In theory, water is super-accessible and would be easy to drink all the time but keep in mind you’re not always going to be near a fountain or water cooler. You’re not going to drink from your faucet or pull over and stop to buy it when you’re thirsty – and, on that note, don’t over-buy water. Save money, save plastic bottles, good stuff.
So what’s the answer? Reusable water bottles. Yes, bottles, plural. It’s great to have one water bottle that you can always have near you and always be refilling. But if you want to up your water game even more, consider having multiple water bottles, for designated spaces.
I have one I keep in my car, one I keep at my desk, one I keep on my nightstand, and one that’s portable enough I take it from the kitchen to the couch to traveling.
For you runners and walkers out there, consider getting a water belt or vest so you even have it with you during workouts – an ideal time to stay hydrated. Same with those who work outside and may not have the opportunity to have a water bottle on their desk or within reach all the time.
The key here is, if you’re going to stick to the habit of drinking more water, it has to be easy and it has to be accessible. Set yourself up for success by having a water bottle for the most common places you are – and make sure it’s always filled.
Back to the idea that water is “boring” – go ahead and spice it up. Low-calorie drink mixes like Crystal Light are a great way to encourage more water drinking.
This gets a little sketchy when looking at coffee, carbonated “water” and other beverages that are water-based. For example, caffeine, while great and totally okay for most people in moderation, takes away from the hydrating aspect of water. Fizzy beverages may contain extra calories and excess stuff that aren’t helpful.
Now, a quick summary on that last piece: Coffee isn’t bad. Carbonated water isn’t bad. Totally okay to keep drinking a variety of beverages and of course we all should. Just try to keep those separate from your true water drinking goals.
Tech People – Use Technology
I don’t do technology. I’m not the average millennial. I refuse to allow an Alexa into our home. I barely use any apps, I don’t have a clue what version my iPhone is, and half the time I don’t even know where my phone is. I honestly don’t even think I’d have a smartphone if I didn’t need it often enough for my job.
Enough about me, the point is I don’t know much about technology opportunities that exist to help us drink more water – but I know they exist. I know there are apps and reminders and tools you can use – on your phone, watch, personal assistant device, whatever you have – to remind and encourage you to drink more water.
Half the battle of building a healthy habit is simply remembering to do it, right? If you love your tech and your devices, absolutely you should use it if it will help prompt you to hydrate and help build it into a habit that becomes natural.
Wait, eating? I thought we were talking about drinking? The two go hand-in-hand though and planning meals and snacks is a great strategy to boost more water intake.
How often do you find yourself mindlessly snacking, missing meals, or eating on-the-go? We all do it! And when our eating is random like this, it likely doesn’t include a glass of water.
Now, think about what happens when you eat an intentional snack or meal. Usually, there’s a beverage along with it. And you can make this beverage water. Every time you take a moment to enjoy a meal or snack, be sure you include a tall glass of H2O along with it.
What other tips do you have for drinking more water? Those following along with the monthly wellness opportunities, please share feedback on this one. The comments are your space to share thoughts or ask questions so please do so.
In case you missed it, check out:
January’s healthy habit opportunity: tips to create a gratitude habit
February’s healthy habit opportunity: tips to eat more inclusively
March’s healthy habit opportunity: tips to start meditating or practicing mindfulness
April’s healthy habit opportunity: tips to start running
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”
This week’s blog comes on the heels of a good week – and one that could have been a rough one.
Saturday was supposed to be the Fargo Marathon. I trained for the marathon through most of the early part of this year and, before I heard of its postponement to August, had every intention of being at the start line alongside my fellow pacers and runners. I was especially looking forward to running my second marathon while pregnant (I ran Chicago Marathon back in 2018 while 15 weeks along with my son).
Everything I Love About Running Marathons
I spent all last week slightly on edge. Normally, I’d be fully on edge, obsessively checking the weather, closely monitoring my food and water intake, and carefully scheduling those last few taper runs and recovery efforts.
So why still slightly on edge? I think I was greatly missing that fully on edge time.
See, I love everything about marathon training. I love the euphoria after a successful long run and also the angst of gutting out the tough ones. I love the feeling of my body being strong and fit and also the slight aches and pains that come with working hard. I especially have no problem fully embracing an exceptionally large appetite. Sure, I have tough days where I don’t feel like running and days I’m tired and would rather sleep in than stick to my schedule. But I even still love that.
I also really love the week before the marathon. I’ve learned to love the taper. I love the relaxed, shorter runs, the planning and organizing for race day, seeing the Fargo Marathon signage and road markings make their appearance, and especially going to the expo. Add the icing on the cake, the actual run itself, and it’s become one of my favorite weeks every year.
I really missed all that.
Grieving then Moving On
While I have no shame admitting I spent a little time feeling bummed and sad (okay, most of Saturday and even part of Sunday) I tried to spend more time reflecting on all the good things that came from not running the marathon.
Instead of spending my Saturday mornings prepping, running, and stretching, I slept in and enjoyed pancakes in pjs with my son.
I embraced the opportunity to be flexible with my running schedule to skip days when the weather was less than favorable.
Rather than tough it out and visit my physical therapist every week, I chose to scale back and rest when I started to feel the really tough aches and pains come on (it’s true what everyone says – the second pregnancy really is harder than the first).
But most of all, I still enjoy daily and weekend runs, with less pressure on myself to hit strict pace or mileage goals. Because, while not running Fargo Marathon for the first time in more than a dozen years definitely was tough, not getting to run the marathon doesn’t mean I don’t get to run.
We Still Get to Run
I think that’s the most important piece of this experience – being okay to be sad about what I missed out on but also being grateful for what I have, that I’m still able to run and that I’m still enjoying the miles. For some, this means continuing what we’ve always done, for others, this has been a great time to start running.
True, our races might be canceled (for how long, no one knows). But I’m here to remind you what’s important: running is not canceled. We still get to run. Grieve the loss of your race, that’s totally okay. Then, keep running.
And who knows, maybe my body wouldn’t have help us as strong through all those miles had I not taken it easier. All I know for sure, right now, is I feel good and healthy, right now, another positive.
While Saturday was tough, the rest of the weekend was full of positivity, bookended with a birthday on Friday and Mother’s Day on Sunday which, for me, pretty much just means more reason to eat good food and extra sunshine that comes from all the text, Facebook, and in-person messages from friends and family.
Not a marathon but still pretty great.
Have you found yourself in a similar situation, bummed about missing out on something that was canceled due to COVID-19? After allowing yourself the okay to be bummed, did you try to focus on the positive side of it?
The comments are your space to share thoughts so please do so. Or, connect with me @lindsayinreallife on Instagram or @LindsayIRL on Twitter. Subscribe to Wellness in Real Life so you get every new blog post straight to your inbox.
“Life is what you bake of it.”
Lately I’ve been doing more cooking and baking – and by ‘more’ I mean I’ve baked muffins twice in the past two weekends and have made actual meals with leftovers a couple times too.
I typically don’t do much of either; I strive for quick and easy when it comes to food and have found there are plenty of meals that fall into that category that are also delish, healthy, and satisfying. But on occasion, I get the urge to make something.
One of the (if not THE) only things I’ve figured out how to bake well is my Very Berry Banana Oat Muffins, a recipe I tinkered with for awhile before I got it right – and, honestly, it still sometimes doesn’t turn out perfectly but that’s baking.
Anyway, I was revisiting the recipe and, both due to the spice of life we call variety and the lack of certain ingredients in my home, I’ve made a few twists on it each time I’ve made them lately. My latest: a pumpkin muffin twist. They turned out pretty well so I updated the recipe and it’s under the Breakfast tab of my Yum, Food section.
I know, I know – there’s not much in there. What can I say, I don’t have many fantastic recipes worth writing down. I’m more of a “sloppy eggs on avocado and hummus toast with cucumber and tomato slices” or “zucchini noodles with whatever veggies you have in the fridge thrown in” kind of gal. The recipe is pretty much in the name.
Anyway, a final thought. The experience was one of those tales of adaptation and positivity – don’t focus on what’s missing or what you don’t have, do what you can with what you have. And, best of all, you come out of it with a bunch of tasty muffins to eat. So, pretty much a win win.
Have you been baking or cooking more during this COVID-19 quarantine life? What are some new twists on recipes or new creations you’re coming up with?
The comments are your space to share thoughts so please do so. Or, connect with me @lindsayinreallife on Instagram or @LindsayIRL on Twitter. Subscribe to Wellness in Real Life so you get every new blog post straight to your inbox.
“Start where you are.”
There are many reasons to run. Even with all the positives, some people want no part of it. They hate it. They think it sucks.
I get it. I used to be one of these people. One of my first blogs ever was about how I went from hating running to becoming a runner – and loving it.
Right now though, there have never been more reasons to run. It’s a chance to get outside. It’s a chance to escape for a few minutes to yourself. It’s a chance to set aside fear and do something powerful. And, for some, it’s quite literally the only exercise option, with gyms closed and at-home workouts not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s the perfect opportunity to build a healthy habit of running.
More Reasons to Run – And One Reason Not To
Although gyms may be opening soon, adding the simple environmental facts that weather is getting nicer and days longer presents an even greater opportunity to start running.
If you’re thinking about giving it a go, here are a few tips from me, a former anti-runner, on how to get started running.
But first, I have one pre-list tip: If you’re really not interested in running, if you’re only thinking about it because you feel like you should, don’t do it. That’s all.
1. The Right Gear
Although it might seem premature to go out and buy running stuff before you really even get started, it’s an important first step. Why? Running will be miserable if you don’t have the right gear. Think of chafing and other forms of general discomfort, all the way up to pain in your feet or other potential injuries.
On this same note, don’t feel like you have to go out and buy all the things. You probably don’t need a fancy watch, compression socks, the most expensive shoes, or a variety of belts, bottles, and night gear.
All you really need to start is a good pair of shoes, proper-fitting shorts or pants, a moisture-wicking tee, and quality athletic socks – some of which you might already have. Ladies, one additional thing you’ll want is a good sports bra that holds your boobs in place.
For all the parents out there, a good running stroller may be another piece of gear worth the investment. No excuses of not being able to go when you can bring the kiddo with you – bonus, if they’re like my son, they’ll enjoy the time…and it’ll be some of the few moments of peace from them you get all day.
2. Start Slow
Maybe you ran an 8-minute mile in high school. Perhaps you saw your friend post their 5k time on Facebook. Whatever the reason behind having a pace you think you should run, avoid going into the first few runs with any sort of pace-per-mile goal.
When starting out, run at a pace that’s comfortable. This will help avoid burning out too fast and potential injury. You’ll have plenty of time to build from there.
3. Minimal Mileage
Similar to pace, don’t try to run too far too soon. Again, it might seem like a total breeze to head out and do a 5k but, even if your head tells you to keep going and you’re in fairly good cardio shape, your body might not be up for it.
One option is to try running for a minute or a few, then walk for a few minutes. Gradually work on extending the running minutes and eventually you’ll reach a point where a full mile or more is more than doable, it’s comfortable.
4. Find a Buddy
One of the reasons I started running and stuck with it early on is because I had a friend, Jen, who was also getting into it. We often ran together and, even when we didn’t, we’d keep in touch about our runs and keep each other on track.
While I no longer have many people I run with, and especially not now, I have virtual running buddies, both those I regularly text and those in online groups that keep up that runner connection and inspo.
And a buddy doesn’t have to be an actual human. For many years, my dog, Burton was my go-to running buddy. Especially on days I wasn’t really feeling it, his energy and annoying-ness forced me to get up and get out the door – and, almost always, I was happy we went.
Starting a running routine is exciting and, while some find it’s hard to stick to it, others find it’s hard to lay off it. It’s important to be sure you’re not overdoing it and only running. It’s equally important to focus on strengthening your runner muscles, for some that may be your hamstrings, for others, especially mamas, that’s your pelvic floor. Switching up your running with other forms of exercise is also a good idea.
On that same note, healthy running isn’t just about the run itself. An easy, light warm-up and a quality cool-down stretch or yoga sesh are good injury-prevention, as is taking a rest day when you need one and giving your body a break.
6. Set a Goal – and Have a Plan for How to Get There
As with anything fitness related, having a goal is key to sticking with it. If you’re just looking to run now until your gym opens up, this step isn’t as crucial – though that right there is your goal. If you’re looking to build a running habit and stick with it, a goal is a must.
And a goal doesn’t have to be a 5k race or anything along those lines. A goal can simply be to run twice a week – that’s it. Just getting yourself up and out the door (or on the ‘mill) to get in the run is a quality goal. Figure out what you need to do to achieve that, maybe it’s going early in the morning before your kids get up, maybe it means going in the evening when your energy is highest.
Another goal-setting must is choose something realistic and measurable, that way you can reflect on what happened if you miss it one week (which is totally normal and okay – don’t give up!) or, if you’re consistently crushing it, maybe it’s the right time to push yourself and up it for the next week.
7. Stick With It
Some days, running is great. Some days, running sucks. I’ve been running almost 15 years and I still have days I don’t want to do it. Some of those days, I don’t. Others, I need a little more internal coaching to psych myself up. Don’t give up and let those bad days prevent you from having the good ones.
I think when people give up on running it’s because they think they just don’t love it, it doesn’t come easy to them, or they’re just not like those runners who have it figured out. I can’t speak for all runners but I can tell you one thing: I don’t have it all figured out. What I know is how good running makes me feel and that keeps me happy to stick with it, even with tough days.
Most days, I genuinely love it but I’m certainly not immune to the ‘running sucks’ feelings every now and then. It doesn’t mean you’re missing some magic running gene, it means you’re human.
The point: Don’t quit running. That doesn’t mean don’t take a week off. That doesn’t mean you must run every day of the week. As much as you can, try to stick with it at some level of consistency. Because, as you may be experiencing right now, starting up or starting over is tough.
Side note, if you’re interested in more healthy habit building, check out my tips from last month’s edition, how to start being mindful or meditating.
Fellow runners, what other tips do you have for getting started running? Those of you who aren’t regular runners, have you found yourself wanting to hit the pavement during COVID-19 quarantine or because the weather is becoming more favorable to encourage it?
The comments are all yours so please share your thoughts.
“Creativity is contagious. Let’s pass it on.”
If you’re like me, and most runners, you save your race medals, bibs, and other various race day goods.
If you’re like me, and most runners, you probably have intentions of doing something creative to display or save this memorabilia.
If you’re like me, all this stuff gets tossed in boxes and put in piles, never to actually be displayed or housed creatively.
It’s okay. Pretty sure that last one applies to most runners but I don’t want to assume everyone’s as lazy…er, lacking creativity…as I am.
Maybe it’s because of this coronavirus quarantine life we’re all still living, maybe because I’m sad about my May marathon being canceled, or maybe because it’s Boston Marathon time – whatever the reason, I’m proud to say I finally did a project with, not one, but THREE sets of goodies from races.
A Trifecta Approach
Some races, usually full marathons, offer runners a foil wrap at the finish to help keep your temperature from dropping too quickly. I always keep these, again, with the intention of doing something with them…just never actually doing anything with them.
The race medal and bib are pretty obvious keepsakes, but I wanted a way to incorporate all three items into a cool display. After thinking about it and doing some searching for the right frames, I decided I’d create a frame display, with the blanket as the backdrop for the bib and medal.
Because Fargo Marathon finishes indoors (which is pretty rad), Fargo finishers don’t receive the foil blankets. But I did have three from Boston, Chicago, and Duluth, so I decided that would be a perfect lineup to frame. A nice little non-Fargo trifecta and three of my most memorable races.
I ran Chicago when I was pregnant with my son, Duluth was my first marathon after he was born, plus I ran it alongside my longest best friend for her first full marathon. And Boston was, well, running Boston. The ultimate dream.
I simply cut the blankets to fill up the frame, minus the matt, then arranged the bib and medal as I thought would look best, with some wiggle room as I realized they’d shift a bit as I flipped it over to properly display in the frame.
It was fairly easy and didn’t take a ton of time. I’m so excited about how they turned out and they’ll be the perfect décor for the new gym nook we’ve created in our basement.
Now, I still have a pretty sizeable stack of medals, bibs, and other race stuff that remains in piles and boxes. So I’m still in need of more creative ways are there to display them.
What have you done with your race medals, bibs, and other goods? Or do you have a really good idea planned in your head? I’d love your ideas. After all, as the quote reads in this blog, creativity is contagious. In a time of COVID-19 and unpleasant contagions, let’s pass along some creativity germs to each other!
The comments are all yours and I’d love more ideas so please share.
“Just put on pants.”
Acquire a new skill. Try a new workout. Start a podcast. Learn a new language. Write a book.
Wow, with all the pressure already on the world not to collapse, there’s suddenly a ton of pressure on all of us to improve ourselves or accomplish a whole fuckton of things beyond staying healthy, both physically and mentally.
If you’re like me, you might have seen a ton of articles, social posts, even TV spots about all the great things you can be doing while spending more time at home. If you’re also like me, you might feel like you’re not ‘taking advantage’ of this time by doing something extraordinary.
I’m not doing anything extraordinary. I’m not running a marathon in my backyard or writing a book. I’m not launching a YouTube series or taking up pottery. My days are actually fairly normal, in a sense, so I’m doing things I’d normally do. But even if your days aren’t so routine anymore, you might not be doing any of those things either. And that’s okay.
Having a Routine
What are you doing right now? Ideally you have a routine but I realize that’s not happening for some. Me, I get up around the same time each day, then eat breakfast and take some mindful time for the day. My son gets up so I help get him ready, then get myself ready and go to work – although now I go to work in my kitchen, not my office building.
I start the day by watching and reading the news, as well as social media, then trying to separate the paralysis of negativity in what’s going on from my actual purpose of staying informed and up on what people are sharing (I work in the public relations field). Then I dive into the day’s tasks. I usually take a break to exercise at lunch because I love to exercise and the break is important, then back to it.
My husband and son come home, I unplug and hang with them. We do our usual family time, if it’s nice out I take Abel for a walk or run in the stroller or we play outside, then it’s dinner, bath, and bedtime for the little guy, followed by my dinner, catching up with my husband, and relaxing with one of our shows – and, some nights, plugging back in and taking care of work that needs to get done.
I’m super fortunate to still be working full-time. I’m super fortunate that my day-to-day is still filled with much of my normal, like being a good employee, mother, wife, and carer of myself. I’m super fortunate this is allowing me to keep a sense of routine in an otherwise chaotic time.
It’s Okay To Just Be Okay
Some people aren’t as fortunate. Their normals aren’t there. For some that means more time, without work or social activities, for others that means less time, with homeschooling, more cooking and cleaning, or possibly caring for a sick family member – or self, and dealing with all the news.
Even if you find yourself in any degree of the camp that equals more time or non-routine time, I’m here to support you in the reality that you may not accomplish anything great during this time. And that’s okay.
You don’t need to master a new skill, try the latest new workouts, start up a podcast, learn a new language, or write a book. I feel like there’s so much social pressure right now to be using all of this “extra” time to make incredible life changes or accomplishments.
It’s also by far one of the most batshit crazy times I think many of us have lived through. It’s scary for so many reasons. The mental and physical capacity fear, worry, and anxiety take up is real. If you need to escape with a Netflix binge of Parks & Recreation or watch Tommy Boy three times back-to-back to feel a sliver of calm and happy, that my friend is worthwhile, productive time well spent.
I think back to my maternity leave. I started out feeling bad if I didn’t do the dishes, keep the house clean, get all the laundry done, read a book, do yoga when the baby napped (he didn’t, for the record) and, the big one, get outside – because being a new mother and taking baby out is terrifying but everyone harps on you if you don’t “get out of the house” because you need to, so then you feel bad if you don’t, but you’re so full of anxiety when you do…yikes, okay I had a point, sorry back to it.
My point is, I quickly learned that some days, I would survive, not thrive. And that was okay. I was keeping a tiny human alive, one who relied on me for absolutely everything, and that was enough. I tell every new mom this, when they feel like they’re not doing enough or the only thing they did all day was breastfeed and get the baby down for naps. High-fives, new moms, that is a day where you did your best and you did what you needed to do. I think every parent, mother or father, can relate to this.
Folks, we’re in a similar situation right now. Every day is not going to be a day that you thrive, some days, it might just be the one where you survive. And THAT’S OKAY.
What To Do During Quarantine
Here’s a list of things you do need to do right now. You DO need to take care of your physical and mental health. You need to be honest with yourself about how you’re dealing, and do what’s needed to get through the day, ideally with smiles, laughs, and bursts of positivity. That’s it. This is a time of unprecedented chaos and confusion, rules and new normals. Dealing with that is enough, some days more than others.
Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t try to do something. If you like to read, get into a book. If you like to write, keep on with journaling. If you like (or tolerate) exercise, absolutely do it six days a week. If you like to clean and organize, do it often. Being totally unoccupied is just opening up your brain to more worry, what-if scenarios, and anxiety.
The point is, do what makes you feel good and do not feel bad if you’re not doing “enough” these days. I don’t ever advocate for doing absolutely nothing, but I do advocate for doing things you want to do, not those you feel you have to or should do.
In addition to doing what you normally would and maybe something new you want to do, I would encourage you to try a couple of things that might be new or irregular. Rest. Relax. Re-prioritize what’s important in your day to day. Take time to be mindful or meditate, to acknowledge gratitude every day, and keep thinking in short and long-term perspective.
Just Put On Pants
I’m not sure if you’ve read or watched any “experts” share advice on working from home, but the #1 thing many of them share: put on pants. Real pants. Seriously, that’s it. That’s the benchmark of productivity and having it together during this pandemic. Putting.on.pants.
Let’s all calm down and not feel guilty if we don’t run a marathon on our balcony or learn to sew or write this generation’s version of We Didn’t Start the Fire (though that would be really rad, someone should do that…Mr. Joel?) and keep things in perspective.
I guess, one skill I can say I’m working on is decision-making, as I decide which local restaurant I’m going to order food from that day. I wish I could say it was going well but I’m as horrible as ever at choosing food with so many wonderful options.
For some people, now absolutely be the time to try something new. If you’re one of those people, ensure it’s coming from a place of truly wanting, not feeling like you have to or should.
What’s your gauge of productivity during the COVID-19 chaos? Are you proud of or simply happy with anything you’ve done? Bigger question: Do you feel okay or are you struggling? The comments are your space to share thoughts or ask questions so please do so, and let’s help each other out with positivity and taking off the pressure.
“Feel the burn.”
What’s the #1 reason for skipping workouts or not prioritizing them altogether? I mean, aside from when gyms are closed and we’re all trying to do our part and stay home.
Time is the main reason workouts get skipped, right? It happens to everyone, even those who love exercise and are good at making time for it. Between work and activities and charitable causes and kids and housework and friends – and, of course, sleep – some days, there’s just not enough time to do it all, a workout isn’t high enough on the priority list.
And that’s okay. Not every day has to include a workout as priority time. Even though we all get 24 hours every day, those 24 hours get eaten up fast.
Another offshoot of the ‘not enough time’ reasoning, it’s easy to fall into the trap of, “There’s not enough time…for a good workout…so I may as well just not do one.”
Oh, but on the contrary. Any and all exercise matters.
Given what we’re all going through right now with most people practicing physical distancing, some full-on quarantining in their homes, and hopefully all of us limiting exposure to the outside world, exercise becomes more important than ever. The mood-boost, stress-relief, and simple normalcy it provides shouldn’t end because we’re limited in other regular activities.
A Quick, Effective Workout
Going back to the scapegoat of ‘not enough time’ preventing us from working out, there are plenty of strategies to get in a quick and efficient workout.
There are about a million people and companies offering at-home workouts right now so I’m certainly not here to add to that. Rather, I have a perspective, a plan most people can take now or apply to future life when, dare I say it, things go back to normal.
While most immediately ‘cardio’ and working up a sweat come to mind when thinking workout, resistance training shouldn’t be overlooked. And there are plenty of ways to get a great lift in a short amount of time.
Now, I know people who regularly spend 45 minutes or even more with each lifting workout. Me, I’ve learned I can get in a solid lift in much shorter time – easily 30 minutes or less. One of the last times I was able to go to the gym, I really raised the bar – or lowered it, I guess? – by cutting that down to 19 minutes. A good, heart-pumping, muscle-fatiguing lift sesh in less than 20 minutes.
Here’s my formula for fast, efficient lifts. Hopefully this helps with those ‘time’ excuses or can be used as you’re doing workouts from trusted companies or trainers.
I should note, this is meant for the average exerciser; someone who’s accustomed to lifting for at least an hour, super heavy and intense might not find this valuable. But, for most, this is more than adequate for feeling a burn and those days when time is crunched.
Resistance Workout Method
First: choose two muscle groups to target, such as back and shoulders or chest and triceps.
Quick note: there are workouts being shared out there that have you working all the muscle groups in one session, similar to the philosophy of a BodyPump class. Those aren’t wrong but, for this quick and efficient method, let’s stick to two groups and really focus on fatiguing them.
Second: plan ahead so you know what you’re going to do and can move quickly between sets. I like to choose two different exercises to do back-to-back as a set, that way it’s easier to keep up the pace.
Example, today I worked back and shoulders. I decided I would do front and side lifts (set one), seated row and lat pulldowns (set two), overhead presses and bent-over single rows (set three) – all with resistance bands.
A lower-body option targeting glutes and hamstrings: Standard squats and stiff-leg deadlifts (set one), bridges and deadlifts (set two), donkey kicks and single-leg deadlifts (set three). For lower body, I use a mix of weights, ankle weights, resistance bands, and simple bodyweight.
Here are a couple of older blogs to give you additional ideas for lower body exercises. One is a bodyweight circuit – no equipment required; the other does have some gym-inspired moves but is just good ideas for lower body exercises.
To Sweat or Not to Sweat
This strategy should take around 20 minutes, depending on how fast you move between sets. It can be done on its own or, one thing I like to do, is break it up with cardio in between, creating almost a circuit.
I have an elliptical; often I’ll do five mins on that, break to do a set, then back and so on until I’m finished. The same could be done with a treadmill or bike, or non-equipment style with mixes of marching, skaters, jumping jacks, endless possibilities.
If you are indeed looking for an opportunity to really break a sweat and get your heart rate up, I suggest the circuit approach. However, if you’re rushed for time and don’t want to sweat (as in, don’t have time to shower), sticking to just the resistance work shouldn’t get you sweaty enough to require a shower.
And I should know, I have, shall we say, active sweat glands. You can call me an aggressive sweater. Bottom line, I sweat easily. No shame.
I hope this simple strategy I’ve adopted and love helps you in your quest to lift, whether you’re just getting started and need a basic formula to begin or you’re looking to make it more efficient or work from your house if you can’t get to the gym.
How are you handling at-home workouts? Is that a new concept or is it normal for you? What other tips do you have to share for working out at home or efficient, quick workouts that deliver? The comments are your space to share thoughts or ask questions so please do so.
“Wherever you are, be there totally.”
It’s an unbelievable time we’re living in, friends. If anyone would have foreshadowed the coronavirus situation we’re in, as a community, as a country, as a global population, I don’t think you’d find one person who’d have ever thought it was even remotely possible.
But here we are, with new COVID-19 changes happening by the day, sometimes by the hour, and life as we’ve known it is no longer the same. It will be again, someday, but not right now and certainly not any time soon.
How COVID-19 Is Affecting Us
My job is in communications so, naturally, I’ve been spending plenty of time watching the news, reading the news, and seeing how our new normal is unfolding on social media. All of this between eating second breakfast, lots of Teams meetings, and, obviously, enjoying the background noise of old episodes of The Office and Seinfeld in the background.
One of the stories that caught my eye last week is that downloads for meditation apps are up significantly within the past couple of weeks. It makes me think that it’s all really starting to catch up with us, take a toll on people – all the social distancing, working from home, and how this type of unprecedented situation has made trying to do our jobs pure madness, at best.
I decided this would be a great topic for this month’s opportunity focus: meditation and mindfulness.
Now more than ever, I think it’s in everyone’s best interest to practice some form of daily mindfulness or meditation to keep ourselves sane, focused, and perhaps most importantly, grateful, amidst all the chaos that can too easily bring us down and defeat even the most positive person.
Meditation and Mindfulness
What are we talking about with starting a mediation or mindfulness practice? Let’s begin with, what I believe is the simpler act of the two, mindfulness.
The practice of mindfulness is a bit easier to grasp than meditation, simply because I think the word and concept of meditation in itself freaks people out a bit and conjures up thoughts of long-haired people in white linen pants sitting cross-legged and humming “ohm” over and over.
Yet, to my knowledge, the concept of mindfulness is appealing to most people. The idea of slowing down to speed up, of taking a few pauses during the day to check in, and the discipline of being a bit more self-aware about everything, from positive word choices on your next conference call to whether or not you really want that second breakfast (and if the answer is yes, that’s 100% acceptable. Eat that second breakfast.).
Meditation, on the other hand, is a little more intimidating. However, the concepts really aren’t much different. Both concepts have essentially the same benefits, reducing stress and anxiety among them, are intentional acts, and are about achieving a position of being fully present.
The real difference, as I see it and putting it very simply, is that while mindfulness is meant to be practiced frequently throughout the day, in quick bursts, meditation is a much more focused practice. It really deserves more time and focus to truly clear the mind, get to a state of total awareness, and achieve a sense of calm.
How to Create A Healthy Habit
Before talking about creating either one as a habit, let’s go back to the foundation of this healthy habits series. Like any habit, the desire and a goal along with it are important. Please don’t go into this with anything less than both.
First ask yourself, why do I want to build this healthy habit? Do I really want to or do I feel like I should? Find that purpose, that desire.
If you really want to, the second step is to set your goal and be specific about it. A goal gives you something to measure, something to gauge success, and see where adjustments or improvements could be made.
In this case, you could set a goal to practice mindfulness before every meal. Another goal would be commit to a 15-minute yoga meditation three times a week. Any goal is acceptable and there’s really no “wrong” way to do mindfulness or meditation. Here are a few tips to get started.
First – Mindfulness Basics
Mindfulness is a great healthy habit to adopt. To get started, there are a couple places one can begin.
Figure out times during the day that you could work in mindfulness. One of the best ways to find times for mindfulness is repetitive actions – every time you sit down to eat, every time you get into the car, every time you sit down at your desk, those types of things.
One of the simplest mindful actions is to take a few deep breaths. Pause. Be aware for those moments. Take a moment to slow down, acknowledge, be aware, then act.
First – Meditation Basics
Meditation and mindfulness are pretty similar. In fact, some of the same basic points of meditation apply to mindfulness. Simple acts of deep breathing and finding awareness of, everything from that breath to the feeling from your fingertips to your toes.
Meditation requires a bit more dedication, time, and focus, so, again, choose a time to do it regularly that coincides with a routine or perhaps a time of day that’s ultra-stressful and could benefit from calm and focus.
Next – How to Practice Mindfulness
To begin practicing mindfulness, choose that time of day or that regular, repetitive action that lends itself to a brief moment of pause and clarity.
One example is to start the day in a mindful place, beginning with breakfast or coffee. Don’t turn on the TV or look at your phone, instead, take a few deep breaths before taking a bite or sip. Eat and drink slowly, taking time to breath, enjoy the simple pleasure of the food or coffee, and think about how you want to show up today. Gain perspective on challenges you know are going to come your way and what really matters that day.
Another ideal time for mindfulness is when you sit down at your desk. This could be the start of the workday, after going to the bathroom, or returning from a meeting – all opportunities to take a few seconds of deep breaths and focus and get back to the right state of mind.
One of the great things about mindfulness, once the practice begins, it’s easier to incorporate into more activities. It can be done often and while doing other things – yet it’s not the same as multitasking because you’re not trying to do something, rather you’re giving deeper focus and attention to what you’re already doing.
People think I’m crazy, but I don’t use headphones when I run outside – even on three-hour long runs. I use that time for focused, mindful thinking. I gain perspective on challenges in my life. I give gratitude for the health and ability to run (that one comes in handy when I’m fatigued, hurting, or just not feeling it). And, admittedly, I think about food. There are a lot of food thoughts.
Next – How to Practice Meditation
Similar to mindfulness, choosing a consistent time of day is one idea to get started with a meditation practice. Eventually, you might find there are certain times in the day that work better or those where meditation is really needed.
A great way to practice meditation is through yoga. Start the process by just sitting and taking deep breaths, then noticing how you feel through the different poses.
If yoga’s not your thing, skip the poses and just sit quietly, taking deep breaths and getting that deeper sense of being in touch with yourself. That’s really what meditation is all about. The act of doing nothing yet some of the most productive ‘nothing’ there is. Being still, being aware, gaining so much.
Again, these are just basic ideas to get started with mindfulness or meditation. Remember, there’s really no wrong way to practice mindfulness and meditation, as long as it’s serving as a way to find more calm, clarity, focus, and positivity.
Those following along with the monthly wellness opportunities, please share feedback on this one. Additional tips? Opportunities that didn’t work so well? The comments are your space to share thoughts or ask questions so please do so.