Learning & Development Requests
Since forever, I’ve worked in the field of learning and development--many times with a job title that has contained the word “training.” In those roles, one way that work came to me was a straight up request for training. Someone within the organization, often in a leadership role, would approach me and explicitly ask me to design a training program for a certain area of the organization. Often, these requests reflected the current delivery method of choice (in-person classroom training, video, webinar, eLearning) and several parameters for how the fulfillment of that training request looked in their head.
What Training Requests Look Like
Here are a few actual training requests I have received over the course of my career:
The Tricky Part About Training Requests
On the surface, training requests may seem like a simple set of marching orders. Go forth and start writing the manual, shooting the video, and scheduling the big conference room at the office to make the request a reality.
If only it were that simple.
I learned pretty early on in my career—and I’m reminded on a regular basis—that training requests are the beginning of a very important conversation about the perceived problem, who it impacts, and how to get rid of the problem. I’ve also learned the hard way that skipping over the needs assessment part and delivering exactly what people initially ask for has a pretty good change of making no one happy. What starts as “do exactly this” later becomes “ugh--why did you do it like that?”
Learning How to Listen to Training Requests
It's important to treat training requests as what they really are--a starting point for future discussion.
The trick here is to listen—but listen differently. Listen around and beyond the original request to figure out what problem the requestor is trying to solve. They actually don’t want a too-long webinar where people “multi-task”, or a game-filled in-person session that misses the mark, or a non-user friendly manual that no one will read. They want a solution. They want the current less-than-ideal situation to be resolved.
In short, they are using the best words they can think to use to pitch a solution to a problem.
They are saying “my car needs new brakes” instead of saying “my car doesn’t stop very well.” They are saying “I need a new refrigerator” instead of “my food isn’t staying as cold as it used to.” They are saying “I need a haircut” instead of “my bangs are hanging in my eyes and it’s hard for me to see.”
Taking this approach reminds us to take their solution as a starting point for discussion. Listen for the problem, not their proposed solution. This is the value L&D brings to the conversation.
Acknowledging, Restating, and Gaining Initial Agreement
Now, when I hear those types of initial training requests, I acknowledge what I heard, and restate what I think the need is, removing the proposed solution until we learn more. Here are examples of what that sounds like:
When they say:
“We need a day-long class to show the managers how to do the hiring process correctly.”
I acknowledge and restate:
“It sounds like people aren’t going through the hiring process they way you expect. Is that correct?”
When they say:
“We need a sales playbook and a 4-hour webinar with each area vice president presenting their individual section on how to sell the new product.”
I acknowledge and restate:
“It sounds like the sales team needs to know how to position and sell the new product, and we want to make sure the VPs are involved so we get the right message out in front of them. Is that correct?”
When they say:
“We need a detailed manual on how to complete[basic transaction] in the proprietary software."
I acknowledge and restate:
“It sounds like there are users who need to know how to do the basic transaction, and we need to figure out how to get the right information in front of them at the right time. Is that correct?”
When they say:
“We need a microlearning video on setting up [complex functionality] for the whole company."
I acknowledge and restate:
“It sounds like we need to make sure that key users groups need to learn how to set up [complex functionality]. Is that correct?”
Foundational Needs Assessment Questions
Once we have at least a cursory agreement on the problem we’re trying to solve, and the requestor knows that we’re listening and want to partner with them to address the real issue, it’s time to ask more questions. Throughout this process, we’re trying to learn the answer to the question “What does success look like?” Here are a few foundational needs assessment questions to help us get to that ultimate answer:
Asking these questions helps us not only build a strong working relationship with the requestor, but it helps us gain their buy in on the approach we ultimately take.
What Do You Think?
What are your go-to needs assessment questions? What are your tips and tricks for working with training requestors? Include your ideas in the comments.
My Top 3: Holiday Movies
'Tis the Season for Movie Watching
It's the time of year when it's cold outside, but warm and generally festive inside. The week before Christmas until the new year is holiday-movie-palooza. Here are my three all time favorite holiday movies, and three honorable mentions for your viewing pleasure.
When I look back at the movie that I have seen the most times, hands down, over my lifetime, the winner is Die Hard. I first saw it when my sister videotaped it from HBO long, long ago. It has stood the test of time as my favorite movie ever.
The storyline holds together well all these years later. Even the comment in the opening scene (making fists in the carpet with your toes) causes John McClain (Bruce Willis) to end up barefoot throughout the movie. Holly (Bonnie Bedalia) using her maiden name at work prolongs Hans (Alan Rickman) not figuring out her relationship to the rogue cop until near the end. Al Powell(Reginald VelJohnson) and his backstory culminate in him causing a key bad guy's downfall as Sgt Powell overcomes his fears. Everything is tied together.
As an extra added bonus, it's genuinely funny. From Ho-Ho-Ho, to Yippee kay yay, people lacking self awareness (Agent Johnson and Agent Johnson, no relation), and a few characters that make you want to punch them in the face, this movie has it all--including at little Run DMC and Argyle (De'voreaux White), the best new limo driver a guy could be so lucky as to have on his side.
While You Were Sleeping
This is one of the best romantic comedies ever made. Sandra Bullock is Lucy, a delightful, but lonely, woman who works for the Chicago Transit Authority. She has a crush on a man she has never talked to who takes the train each day. Heroism and hilarity ensue as she saves her crush, Peter (Peter Gallagher), and his giant wacky family thinks she's his fiance.
Add a coma, an estate furniture business, Peter's brother Jack (Bill Pullman), her landlord's bumbling son Joe Junior (Michael Rispoli) and Lucy trying to come clean and failing, and you have this clever feel-frustrated then feel-good movie.
Throw in a little memory loss, the Callahan family's amazing banter, and neighbor Saul (Jack Warden) trying to help, and you have a movie with the romantic comedy payoff you want after this wild misunderstanding fueled ride.
When Harry Met Sally
This movie is not only a classic, but includes at least two Christmas holiday seasons. It's the story of Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) through their meetings over the years and the changes in their relationship.
This movie poses big questions. Can men and women be just friends? What is the right amount of cuddling time after sleeping together? Will a man ever leave his wife for his mistress? Can a man tell when a woman is "faking it"?
This movie's comedic timing is epic. In an early scene, we see Harry having an initial conversation with Sally as he spews diatribes and spits grape seeds out the window. Later, Harry and his best friend Jess (Bruno Kirby) discuss Harry's impending divorce at a football game pausing intermittently to do the wave There's also the amazing scene where Jess and Harry have a phone conversation at the same time as Sally and Marie (Carrie Fischer) and the conversations overlap. All of this is punctuated by interviews of couples explaining their relationships, ending with Harry and Sally telling their story. It's a cinematic wonder.
With movies, it's hard to pick just three. For good measure, here are three more that I love.
What About You?
What are your favorite holiday movies? Include them in the comments.
Death by Lecture
As humans in today’s fast-paced world, we often value getting the job done as quickly as possible. When it comes to helping people learn, lecturing’s, aka “just tell them everything they need to know,” becomes the unfortunate default mode of information delivery. Unfortunately, the process of knowledge transfer doesn’t work like a bank deposit, and we can’t just extract knowledge from one person and implant it in another. Instead, individuals need to engage with information so they understand what to do with those details and make them into their own, internalized knowledge.
Tell Me a Story
You know who loves stories? Little kids. Do you know why? They are trying to figure out what the world is all about and what to do with all of the things they are experiencing for the first time. Just like adults use stories to help children understand the world, stories help adults make the transition from bland best practice or potentially useful technique to thing-I-actually-do. Let’s look at three examples of how stories can be incorporated into training to engage people in the learning process and help adults actually learn.
Reason 1: Stories Help Concepts Become Real
In training, many times we’re covering abstract ideas, and sharing models for how to apply those ideas. Stories help us make that jump. Here's an example:
During a training with customer service professionals, we're trying to help them understand the importance of getting to know individual customers and catering to their unique needs.
"Each customer is different. Every person who calls us on the phone has their own point of view and personal struggles that we may know nothing about. We need to find out what matters to them and emphasize those points as we speak to them. Overall, be careful about making assumptions about people’s wants and needs based on your personal preferences."
Story to make the idea real:
"Here’s an example of learning about our customers and tailoring our approach to their wants and needs.
While working at a table at a church conference, my job was to discuss health insurance benefits with pastors currently working in congregations. I was there to promote a great new benefit where pastors could earn $250 for completing an online health assessment quiz. For me, taking the health assessment was a no-brainer, because I thought, “Yay! Free money!”
I quickly learned, though, that this was not the prevailing opinion among the pastors. Several stopped to express outrage that the church was trying to BRIBE them to take the health assessment. Since many of the pastors prided themselves on being more concerned with doing good in the world than with money, having a financial reward for doing something that they should do anyway became a disincentive.
One church leader realized that a different approach was needed. She used the concept of stewardship—which means taking care of the gifts God has given to you, including your money and your own personal health. She told pastors that it was their duty as leaders of the church to model good stewardship by taking the health assessment (especially since another benefit was helping their congregation to earn a discount on their health insurance premiums).
By keeping the wants and needs of the audience in mind, and realizing that they may be very different from our own, we figured out how to position this benefit in a way that resonated with our audience. "
How the story helps:
This story takes an abstract concept (everyone is different) and drives it home. Since many people may identify with the person who would gladly take the health assessment to earn money, seeing a completely different, and often unexpected, viewpoint can be shocking. Adding details about people and context for why they have the values they do, can be eye-opening.
Reason 2: Stories Help People Learn from Other People's Experiences
When you first learn a concept, it may sound good in the abstract, but you're not sure how to apply that idea in the real world. In professions like being a police officer or a fire fighter, stories are a way that seasoned staff help rookies learn from other people's experiences. Here's an example of how to use stories to share real-world examples.
With new corporate trainers, using proximity technique to deal with disruptive students in a classroom environment.
"When trying to manage students who are disrupting the classroom, using proximity can be helpful. In short, standing near a student can help them to realize that they need to change their behavior."
Story to share one person’s experience using the technique:
"During student introductions at the beginning of a sales training class, Alice, a branch manager sitting at a table in the back of the room, was explaining what she hoped to gain from class.
In the middle of Alice’s introduction, Jim (the top insurance salesperson in the region) answered his phone. He was sitting at the front table in the classroom, and there was no way for the whole class NOT to hear his conversation as he loudly explained the concept of accident forgiveness.
I asked Alice to pause for a moment, then walked over to Jim, and stood next to him for a moment. He looked at me, I smiled at him, and then he put his hand over his phone long enough to say, “I’ll step outside to finish this call.” I nodded to let him know that I appreciate it. Once he left, Alice finished up, and the next person did their introduction.
In this case, standing next to Jim was the cue he needed to realize that he was doing something disruptive and self-correct his behavior."
How the story helped:
The story involves people with names and characteristics. This shows on sometimes challenging student, a high performing salesperson, and a situation that may resonate with students. It also shows how using a relatively simple solution can solve the problem, and help the trainer maintain control of their classroom. This story shows students how they can apply the skill, which may also help them identify when they could use a specific skill in their classroom.
Reason 3: To Give Context for Technical Training
When I’ve observed technical trainers, most of them are great at taking people through the step by step process needed to make something work. However, many times the question “why would we ever do this?” is missed. If people don’t get why the process matters, they will have a hard time mustering up enough energy to pay attention. Here's an example of how to use a story to set up a scenario within a technical training course.
Showing students in an intermediate Microsoft Word class how to use the mail merge feature to create mailing labels.
"We’re going to create mailing labels. This would be helpful if you needed to mail the same item, like a marketing campaign, to multiple people. You could even use a mailing list that you had saved in Excel as the starting point for your mailing labels."
Story to illustrate why you'd complete this process:
"Joanie and Chachi are getting married and having the big wedding of Joannie’s dreams.
Now that it’s time to address invitations, her best friend, Jenny Piccalo, points out that addressing 500 envelopes by hand is going to be excruciating.
Joannie has a great idea! Why not use the Excel file they’ve created and use the Mail Merge feature in Word to create mailing labels! They can even use one of those handwriting style fonts to help them match the script on the invitations.
Let’s look at how to set that up."
How the story helped:
Especially in technical training, sometimes we get so caught up in the “click here, click there, GOOD LORD NOT THERE” aspect of it that we forget to tell students why they’d ever bother to do the process we’re explaining. Giving them a why, in this case a why that aligns with concepts people know (the joys of managing the postal aspects of a big event) and incorporating fictional characters (who doesn’t love a little Happy Days reference?) adds a layer of lightheartedness that is often missing from technical training.
What Do You Think?
Why do you think telling stories in training is beneficial? What is your favorite story to tell? How does it enhance the learning process? Include your thoughts in the comments.
My Top 3: Essential Time Management Skills for Increased Productivity (and Happiness)
Many times, when you ask someone how they are "BUSY!" is a common response. Some wear "busy" like a badge of honor. "Busy" indicates that you are so good at pretty much everything that you are constantly in demand. While it's definitely nice to be wanted, it's also exhausting to try to do everything all the time for everyone.
As someone who was formerly a member of every group and an organizer of every event--to the point where it way way more work than fun--I've learned a thing or three about managing my time to increase my overall happiness.
Time Management Skill #1: Saying No
People talk a lot about time management as a way to squeeze the most life into every waking moment. I used to try really hard to do everything I thought I *should* do. (The word “should” is a hint that perhaps I didn’t want to do some things very badly.) Want to know a little secret? One of the real tips for effective time management is deciding what you’re not going to even consider doing.
I always appreciate being asked to help out, attend a function or be a part of a group. Now, I find other ways to help that involve a time commitment I'm willing to make. Do I want to volunteer to run a junior roller derby bout? No, but I'll donate items for the silent auction. Do I want to organize all of the volunteers for the school fiesta? No, but I'll volunteer for an hour to sell tickets or just contribute money. I've learned to say no to things that I'll end up dreading, and to say yes in a way that I won't hate.
Saying no is freeing. It's beautiful to be invited to an out of town wedding for a passing acquaintance and politely decline to attend. It's nice to not to go to every single class my daughter takes and feel like I'm a bad parent if I don't pay close attention to her every move. It feels good when I take care of myself by not committing to go to multiple events on a given day because it's just too much all at once.
I've also gotten better at realizing that I don't need to give an excuse or an explanation for saying no. I get to just say "no thank you" or "that's not my thing" or "I have a conflict" and that's enough. I get to manage my time, priorities and energy as I see fit--and everyone gets to be okay with that.
Time Management Skill #2: The "Stop Doing" List
In life, all of us have received a talking to regarding the value of sticking with things. I came equipped with way to much of that skill. I am the queen of work more, try harder and overachieve. I kept on dating someone way after it was clear that the relationship was going nowhere. I stayed involved in organizations long after the benefit to me was gone out of a sense of obligation (and probably of my own importance). I stayed in jobs that had stopped being interesting because it was easier to stay than it was to find something I'd like more. I've kept going with lots of things because "I'm no quitter!"
Today, I am proud to be a quitter. It's just a matter of figuring out when it's time to keep trying, and when it's time to call it a day.
I decided to end a marriage when there was nothing else constructive I could do to make it work that would not seriously impede my own happiness and self worth. I quit volunteering to run an art festival when I realized it was a source of stress instead of a source of joy. I quit a part time job because the hours were terrible and my time was more valuable to me than the small amount of pay I was receiving. Knowing that you don't actually have to finish everything you start is an important life lesson to learn.
My "stop doing" list was a welcome relief to obligations I was taking on for no good reason. I stopped getting together with friends who weren't fun. I stopped going to family gatherings where my drive time was way longer than time I would get to spend with individual people at the event. I quit finishing books that I started reading, but didn't like and stopped watching tv shows that lost my interest. I also quit denying the fact that I need a fair amount of alone time to maintain my happiness.
Quitting really is freeing when you don't view it as failure, but a non-judgmental ending that opens up the possibility of new beginnings.
Time Management Skill #3: Trying New Things
Really? How is trying new things a time management skill? For me time management is really happiness management. Part of my ongoing happiness comes from learning and trying new things. Now that I've freed up time by saying no and quitting things that no longer serve me, I have time available to try whatever appeals to me at the place I am in life.
Recently, I tried soma yoga, started a roller derby skills class and decided to go roller skating with my daughter weekly. I now block off time to blog and read. I also spend time with my husband, go to movies at my favorite local theatre, schedule much-needed introverting time and hike new trails with my best friend. Over time, I'll hang on to what I still enjoy, move on from what I've discovered isn't my thing. Maximizing my time (whatever that looks like to me) makes me feel better.
What About You?
I am a parent to a teenage daughter. [Insert appropriate level of panic here.]
Personally, I don't think most people really know what they are doing when it comes to parenting. I always felt like there would be a magical day when I felt grown up and like I knew all of the secrets of the world. Suffice it to say that it hasn't happened. Regardless, I have a child, and she's growing up, so I've continued to make things up as I've gone along, and it's been going pretty well. So far, she's a likable, considerate person who gets decent grades, has a lot of interests, and has friends whose parents I don't hate. As an extra added bonus, she gets along with me as a mom and a tolerable adult figure. I consider that a win.
With that less than stellar resume of my parental qualifications, here are my top 3 pieces of unsolicitied life advice for my teenage daughter. Who knows. Maybe your child, or any random adult for that matter, will learn a little something.
1. You actually don't "HAVE TO" do most things.
There are some basic life things that we all have to do--but there's a whole lot that we actually don't have to do, but that we do out of obligation. Let me rephrase. You do not have to do everything people ask or tell you to do, like or try. You get to say no and you don't even have to give said person a reason why either. How cool is that?
You don't have to like a band, hate a person, identify as gay/bi/straight, try a drug, do a shot, dye your hair, eat food, take a dare or do anything physically that you don't want to do. People of all ages will try to tell you otherwise, and they are wrong. This also goes for hugging someone creepy, eating a dessert that a coworker made or having a second helping of casserole because someone says "You are too skinny!" People often want some sort of validation for how they live their lives, and they will try to get someone to affirm their own choices by choosing them, too. You don't have to be that someone.
The flip side of this is that other people also don't have to do everything you tell them they have to do either. We each get to make our own choices, and take a "No" or "No thank you" or "I don't think so" as a real answer. Set the personal boundaries that are right for you, and accept other people's boundaries, too.
2. Plan ahead--at least a little bit.
Children and adults alike each deal with "emergencies" on a regular basis--many of which wouldn't have had to be emergencies with just a wee bit of forethought. Many day to day "emergencies" can be mitigated by having your cell phone, $10 in cash, and your house keys.
On the low end, here are a few super-easy tips from me to you. Bring a towel with you into the bathroom. Brush your teeth before you put on your lipstick. Put on your knee pads before your wrist guards. A little forethought goes a long way.
On to bigger and better things. Many other perceived "emergencies" have only become so because of neglecting to look ahead a few days to see what is coming up or a general lack of communication. On Sunday, look ahead at your week. Give me a heads up that you have a band concert, volleyball game, birthday party or sleepover at least 2 days before it happens. If I have to fill out paperwork, or give you permission to do something, or figure out any logistics, make that a week. All those activities that you are involved it don't just happen. It takes a bit to get a doctor's appointment for an athletics physical or request a copy of your vaccination records or lay hands on the special whatever-it-is that you want to get whats-her-name for whatever thing it is she's celebrating.
Also, just know that if you don't plan ahead, I am at the point where I'm done making your poor planning my emergency. I've got things going on too--must of which I had to schedule and arrange to accommodate all of your activities that I actually knew about.
Overall, take responsibility for your own life because no one is going to care more about your activities than you do. Get a calendar and write things down. While I'm temporarily still your chauffeur, I am not your concierge.
3. Seek out help when you need it.
Everyone needs help from an adult sometimes. Everyone. You can talk to me, or if you'd rather, try out these people: your dad, your step-dad, my best friend, your best friend's mom, a teacher at school who you like. Talking to your friends is great, but sometimes you need an adult opinion. (I have 30 years of life experience on you--which means I've been through a few things that are totally new to you.) You are fortunate that you have many, many people who care about you who want you to be well. Even if you think it's the most horrible thing that anyone could ever do, let's talk and figure out what's next. Give me a chance to help before you do something extreme like running away, hurting yourself or hurting others. I am also happy to share my list of stupid things that I did as a child (and some after that) that I also thought were super horrible then that you will find laughably lame, now.
If you know of someone who you think needs help, tell one of us about that, too. I am happy to talk to your friends, their friends, other people's parents, or whoever else you think is struggling to help them get through it--whatever it might be. Life is often hard, and going through it alone makes it even harder. Let one of us help--which includes picking you up and helping you get out of a messed up situation at some god awful hour in the morning (which I will happily do whenever it is needed.) I'm also not going to yell at you or give you a hard time. Again. Here to help.
What is your top "adulting" advice for others?
My Pandemic Knit Hat Pattern
Knitting Is My Therapy
Earlier pandemic, I was outside A LOT. Now that it's colder, and darker, and Minnesota is in another round of closing entertainment venues (specifically roller skating rinks), I'm knitting more again. If you're interested, here is my go-to knit hat pattern, complete with supplies lists and a few video tutorials on techniques. Here we go!
Learn More (Knitting How-To Videos)
I Skated an Inline Marathon!
I Did a Thing!
On Saturday, September 14, 2019, I completed my very first inline marathon! After months and months of planning, training, and intermittent panicking, I successfully completed the Northshore Inline Marathon. Even better, I completed it in my best average per mile time for a long distance, and even snuck in just under the 3-hour mark for event completion.
What Training Entails
Here This is the first time I’ve trained for an athletic event at this level, and it definitely took a lot of time and effort both on and off skates. What may have seemed like many, many social media posts of pictures of my skates and “I just skated 6 miles in this beautiful place” took an amazing amount of time in researching, physical conditioning, recovery activities, mindset training and so much more. Here are a few key components that went into completing this inline marathon:
So Now What?
What started out as a big audacious life goal has become the starting point rather than an ending point. I'm planning on another running 5K, and another inline marathon next summer. I also know where I need to improve, like continuing to improve my stride and get better at navigating hills, and I'm excited to keep getting better.
Distance Skating: All the Gear
How To Do This
When I think of things I've wanted to try in life, one of my biggest foundational questions is "how do I even do this?". In this article, I'll give you my answer on the gear aspect of what all the things are you might need to inline skate for a longer distance.
Skating Further = More to Carry
In addition to the general challenges of learning how to inline skate outdoors on trails, as distance becomes longer, there are additional factors to manage. For one, figuring out how to carry a few personal items, some just-in-case supplies, food, and water becomes necessary. There are multiple solutions available to solve these problems from hydration backpacks to fanny packs to vest to hand-held water bottles. There is also the question of what all to where (clothing and gear) and how to go about procuring each of the needed things. As a starting point for your own learning process, here's what clothing and gear I went with to prepare me to skate longer distances.
What I Wear and Why
Clothing choice is tricky since it means balancing many factors. For me, it's addressing sun protection, managing body temperature, keeping safety in mind, and having a way to carry the things one needs when exercising outside for a few hours at a pop. Gear needs to help keep you safe in case of an emergency as well as balance performance and manageability. After a few false starts, here's where I landed.
Up Top: Terry Soleil Long Sleeve Cycling Top
At first, I wore a Women's Armachillo Cooling Sleeveless T-shirt from one of my favorite stores Duluth Training Company. When was skating under and hour at a shot, and I didn't need to carry a lot with me, this was a great solution to carry my keys and ID. While I liked something sleeveless, I also had to wear sunscreen on my arms. As I researched what other inline skaters do, I realized that short sleeve cycling jerseys were the go to. I needed a way to carry water with me in the least awkward way I could. I looked into hydration backpacks, and other water carrying solutions like fanny packs or hand bottle holders.
I chose a bicycling jersey because, like a lot of longer distance inline skaters, they give you the ability to carry a few thing with you without tying up your hands. In general, I'm not a fan of bags, because off odd weight distribution, awkwardness when accessing items on the go, and increasing body temperature by having one more thing to carry and sweat up. Having pockets in the back of my shirt where things are readily accessible, but not particularly bulky to carry, has been a good solution for me.
I now own 3 long sleeved Terry Cycling Tops since I typically skate 3 or so times per week. I like these particular cycling jerseys because they have three deeper pockets on the lower back instead of 2 larger ones. I also purchased one Fix It Stick Back Bottle which is specially designed to stay put in a jersey, and put it in the middle of the back. I also typically carry a smaller water bottle with me, and in my far left back pocket, I carry a few Picky Bars for on-the-go nutrition, a few single serve size packets of Osmo Nutrition - Active Hydration for Women to add to water handed out at water stations, and a skate tool just in case. I also prefer the long sleeve version because it has sun protection UPF 50+ built in. It's also moisture wicking, and since it's designed "by women and for women", it fits way better than other jerseys I tried. They feel light and are comfortable in addition to being functional. As an extra added bonus, I also like that each of mine have fun designs that include blue (which is my helmet color.)
Down Low: PopFit Stella Leggings w/Pockets
Leggings with pockets are the best thing ever. I tried a number of different brands of leggings, and I like these PopFit leggings the best. I like them because they have fabric rather than mesh pockets, and the pockets are substantial. The deep pockets give me a place to put my key fob and ID (right pocket) and my phone (left pocket, screen in) where both are accessible, but won't fall out. They have sturdy seams, keep their shape, come up high enough at the waist, and the material is sturdy. As needed, I can also carry a small water bottle, or crumpled up cup, in my right pocket, or even a snack as needed.
When inline skating, I've fallen a few different ways. While my knees and wrists are safety geared up, leggings are my barrier between the rest of me and the asphalt. These are also heavy-duty leggings that can take some abuse and last. I have had a few bigger falls this year (stick in my skates, wiped out going down a hill, hit by a boy on a bike) and these leggings helped protect my legs from serious road rash and are still wearable and looking good. As an extra added bonus, I love the body positive message of this company, and the wide range of sizes available.
Until very, very recently, I was skating in K2 Alexis Pro Women's Inline Skates. These were a good place for me to start. They had strong construction, good ventillation, and softer wheels to give me a little more control and a little less speed while I was learning to inline skate. I've also beaten them up a bit, and now that I have put in some mileage skating, I decided that I was ready for an upgrade. I'm in no way ready for elite level skates, but something with a little more speed made sense.
When picking out new skates, I stuck with K2s because I knew they fit my feet well, and they are made for those of use who do not have delicate calves. I picked out K2 VO2 90 Pro Women's Inline Skates because they had 90mm wheels instead of 80mm wheels (bigger wheels = faster) 83A wheel durometer vs 80A durometer (harder = faster, but not so fast that I will do myself great bodily harm), an aluminum frame vs plastic frame (increase durability), and they were more breathable. I'm at the skill level where the grippier wheels were slowing me down and making skating on uneven surfaces more difficult. On a very short skate I did to try out K2 VO2's, I went about 30 seconds per mile faster than I did in my K2 Alexis skates. I also took them out on a recent 16 mile skate and they felt great.
What Do You Think?
What is your go-to inline skating gear? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Life Is What Happens To You While You're Busy Making Other Plans
Last Sunday, I skated 10.4 miles, my longest skate to date. I was where I needed to be in my inline marathon training plan. I was less freaked out about hills, my endurance was improving, I had an ever-improving stride, and I was mostly ready (and productively anxious), about my upcoming inline half- marathon.
On Tuesday, I went to my favorite local lake with a 3ish mile bike trail with the plan of putting in 6 miles. About a half mile into my skate, I slowed down a bit as I went across a driveway, then started to pick up speed again. Suddenly, I felt something in the middle of my back, and I was knocked to the ground trying to figure out what just happened. A moment later, and I was standing up in the grass with a few more dings on my safety pads, looking at a boy on a bike. My best guess is that he was going faster than he should have been and not paying a whole lot of attention to anyone or anything else on the path. The main “anyone” on the path was me—an adult women in an obnoxious cycling jersey and a blue helmet. I stood there, taking personal inventory of where it hurt (which was barely anywhere because of the fun that is an adrenaline dump), and looking at him, and his seemingly disinterested mother, in disbelief.
There is a Fine Line Between Awful and Funny
What followed was an interchange that went something like this:
Me: You hit me with your bike and knocked me down.
Boy’s Mom: What happened?
Me: He hit me with his bike and knocked me down.
Boy: My brakes didn’t work.
Me: You hit me with your bike and knocked me down!
Boy’s Mom to Boy: Oh no! Let’s look at your brakes.
Me, to Boy’s Mom: HE HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN!
[Silence as I waited for the mother or the boy, or really anyone, to ask if I was okay or show any sort of acknowledgement or remorse for the part where the boy HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN.]
Me, to Boy’s Mom: In case you’re wondering, I’m okay.
Boy: My brakes didn’t work.
Me: YOU HIT ME WITH YOUR BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN!
In the end, I got nothing from the mom, and the boy continued to try to explain to me about how his brakes didn’t work. I skated ahead to get away from them, and when they caught up with me as I was waiting to cross the street, the boy stopped--funny how his brakes worked then--and his mom didn’t make eye contact with me and apparently was busy trying to locate her other child (who I think she was also trying to locate when the boy initially HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN).
I decided to skate only 3 miles that night since I was feeling a little off after the boy HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN. I was happy to skate/walk away from the issue, but the interaction bothered me for all of the reasons.
The Day After
I woke up the following day and realized that, although I am durable and tough, getting hit made a real impact on me. (Pun intended.) My back was a little sore, and later in the day, I had a headache and was extremely tired. I went home and slept a bit. The day after that, I noticed neck and back pain, and realized that this is what whiplash feels like. I scheduled a chiropractor appointment for Friday morning, and skipped skating Thursday night.
On Friday, I went to the chiropractor, and told her my situation. She told me it was my call whether or not I wanted to skate in a week, and we could see how it went and make a call later in the week. I have a couple of specific stretches to do, ice to use on my back and neck twice a day, and a directive not to skate or anything equally strenuous until at least Tuesday.
20, and probably even 10 years ago, I may have pushed it and done the race knowing that I could tough my way through it. While I have no doubt in my ability to play hurt and work through pain to achieve a goal, it’s also important to know when that makes sense, and when that is just dumb. I had planned for a week of training to achieve a few more things (a longer skate on rolling hills, an even longer skate on a flat surface to surpass the half marathon distance before the event) that I’m not going to be able to do. There is the pre-race taper, but I’m a little too pre-race to call this a long taper. There is also the pain that you play through (like soreness and aching rather than “I messed up my neck and back because someone HIT ME WITH HIS BIKE AND KNOCKED ME DOWN.”)
All of the Goals
While one of my goals is to skate an inline half marathon, that was really a sub goal on the way to skating an inline marathon. Knowing myself and my body, I’m going to sit out the half marathon (which kills me a little) and heal up so I can come back strong and do the full marathon in September. Sometimes one goal has to go away to reach another, more important goal. I’ll also skate the half marathon distance, just not with the pomp and circumstance of finishing an event as planned.
Skating is the most recent manifestation of one of my longer term life goals: continued wellness and mobility. One of my other core life goals is to be able to retain mobility and fitness throughout my lifetime. Currently, I’m not willing to put “complete inline half marathon in 2019” over “ability to walk when I’m 80 and live relatively pain-free.” This is one of those cases where adulting sucks. I know enough that I need to give up an interim goal to hit two, larger (and more important) long term goals. I'm still not happy about it.
Recovering and Refocusing
For the next week, my main physical activities will be sleep, yoga, stretching, and walking. It's killing me a little bit already, but better to take a week to really recover than pushing it too soon and hurting myself worse. After that, I'll reassess. Then I may do shorter skates on flat, controlled surfaces (like a local inline skating track that is well-maintained), try out my easy hills trail (which is a mile long), and see how things are looking. I'm also going to take full advantage of the chiropractic arts and have a massage between now and then. I may also walk and put in some elliptical time to keep my fitness level up while I heal.
What Do You Think?
How do you heal from an injury? How to you manage your headspace? Include your thoughts in the comments.
From Plan to Reality
In previous blog articles, I outlined my 3-phase inline marathon training plan. Having a high-level plan is not enough, though. In order to be successful, I must put that plan into action. This means getting from weekly mileage and a list of cross training activities on a page into specific appointments on the calendar. This also means factoring in the weather, work activities, parenting, and spending time with family and friends. I also find that if I don’t think ahead, it’s way too easy to not make training a priority.
The Overarching Detailed Plan
I have a detailed outline of my specific training plan. It plots our week by week how many miles I should be skating, and additional training activities and frequencies. Within a given week, my goal is to skate outside 3 times, have 1 cross training day, incorporate working on hills, maintain flexibility, and do some strength training. I also need to have at least 1 rest/recover day in addition to daily stretching. As I get closer to the inline half marathon, here is what an upcoming training week looks like:
Blame It on the Rain
Growing up on a farm, I was used to having a contentious relationship with the weather. Farmers are always trying to work it out so that they can cut hay, give it a bit to dry, bale it, and then haul it out of the fields and into the barn—ideally without it getting rained on along the way.
As a city dweller, I have not had to care as much about the weather for years. Now, though, since I need to train outside (and skating in the rain is not a thing), I need to pay more attention to the weather. When might it rain this week? If it does rain, how much? Can I sneak in a skate early morning or later evening skate before or after the rain? With that information in my head, and my training plan in front of me, it’s time to do some research and scheduling.
Working Around the Weather
Not only do I need to find 3 days where I can skate outside, but I also would like to have 3 days with at least 1 day off in between. I also need to stay flexible enough that as the weather forecast updates, I can revise my scheduled days as needed. Right now, it looks like Tuesday afternoon and Friday morning have the greatest chance of rain. On the day of my 3-mile skate, I also want to be sure to do some practicing on hills (my stopping downhill skills need some work) and on the longer skate day, I’ll focus more on distance on a relatively flat surface. As weather dictates, I can also possibly work on stopping on hills and going up hills, on a different day.
Also, this past weekend, I did a longer skate on Saturday, and a skating lesson on Sunday, so I need to take Monday off from skating to let my body recover. That means that later in the week, I may need to skate 2 days in a row depending on the weather. I will tentatively push out my longer skate until Sunday so I at least have a day off from skating before that longer, potentially more taxing training day. With all those things in mind, I check out the week's forecast:
Current Working Plan
After looking at the weather, I considered my work schedule, social plans with friends, fitness classes I wanted to go to, and the family calendar. After factoring those items in, here's the schedule I landed on:
Activities for Specific Days
My recovery day can be whatever it needs to be. Sometimes, recovery involves guarding the couch and watching Netflix followed by an Epsom salt bath and a little extra sleep. It could also include a massage or a leisurely hike with a friend. For my next recovery day, I’m planning on foam rolling and a little yoga.
When it comes to flexibility training, I do basic stretching every day. In addition, I like to go to at least one yoga class per week. This helps me to make sure I’m not doing the same exercises all the time and pushing myself to use different muscle groups. As needed, I can also do flexibility training on a day when I’m also doing skating or cross-training.
For Strength training, I have multiple options. I can take a strength class, do circuit training at the gym, or I can do a kettlebell routine at home. This is the most flexible component of my workout since I have the option of doing this at home as schedules permit. As needed, I can also do strength training on a day when I’m also doing skating or cross-training.
Cross training can take multiple formats. My favorites include running outside and running or walking uphill on a treadmill at the gym. As I work on getting better at hills, using the Stairmaster at the gym, or walking around Minnehaha Falls park and doing multiple flights of stairs, helps increase my cardiovascular capability as well as my hill climbing muscles.
Scheduling Each Activity
Once I have my general plan set, I figure out exactly what I’m going to do and make an executable plan. Writing down details helps me to complete each planned activity. It also gives me the specific information to enable me to not have to think through details in the moment and risk not following through. Here are my specific activities for the week:
What Do You Think?
What concrete plans do you make to make sure you'll meet your fitness goals? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Brenda is an innovative learning and development leader, instructional designer, and continuous learner.