Recovering from Job Loss: Learning How to Be Happy
Recently I was at a professional development event learning about the finer points of corporate training. During networking time, I talked with a woman who had been laid off a few years ago, then called back to work for the same company (which is rare for my chosen field). What was her biggest concern? Figuring out how to be happy in her new/old position and not constantly worry about the possibility of getting laid off again.
To Worry, or Not to Worry?
Here in the land of having been laid off from various and sundry positions 5 times over the course of my career, I know from being worried about job loss. I can honestly say that I have never seen a layoff coming. Granted, the first time I was laid off, being laid off was outside of my realm of possibility since it had never personally happened to me before. After that, though, once I knew it was a thing, there are many times I’ve worried about being laid off. Maybe it was concerns about market performance, or new management, or rumors about reorganization, or any number of other things that caused my anxiety to kick in. In spite of my heightened awareness of the potential fragility of my job status, I always walked away from those situations still gainfully employed, and thankful for it.
On the flip side, the times I have been laid off, I have just plain not seen it coming. I’ve been busy dealing with my personal life otherwise falling apart, or too busy working on a must-succeed project, or coming back from vacation to realize that apparently, I was not long for those companies. Be that a good or bad thing, I’ve learned one key lesson. It’s not worth me worrying about being laid off because I lack the right kind of awareness needed to have an inner “heads up” when my job is in jeopardy. I’ve chosen another approach to the possible elimination of my position.
An Alternative to Worry
Way back when, I had two operating modes when it came to work: “I’m happy with my job” mode and “I need to find a new job” mode. “I’m happy with my job” mode included excelling at my day-job with a side order of inactivity. “I need to find a new job right this minute” mode is when I started to network, look for career opportunities, dust off my resume, highlight my skills, etc. Now I realize that I needed to change from those two to an all new “working professional” mode—which is a both/and way of being. As a working professional, I still excel in my current role, but I also remember to keep my skill set up to date, continue to make ongoing professional connections, and have a career plan B (and up through about J, honestly) just in case I need it. Regardless of my employment status, this mindset serves me well and helps me live my life without focusing on fear.
Learning and Growing
Once upon a time, I planned to be a high school English teacher. While I didn’t end up teaching in a school setting, I use that skill set to help adults who work for businesses learn the knowledge, skills, and abilities that enable them to excel professionally and personally. I’m a lifelong learner, and I literally learn for a living—and help others do the same. I’m always learning new technology, reading up adult education theory, and gaining insights from those around me. In addition to having a formal background in education, I also attend regular professional development meetings, and I constantly read in and outside of my field. I make sure I can speak intelligently about trends in business, education, and beyond. Staying current and continuing to learn and grow keeps me doing well in my current position and future ready. In an ever-changing world, continued professional growth is the best way to manage whatever happens next.
Building (and Tending) My Professional Network
People talk a lot about “networking.” Too often, I think networking is depicted as a superficial act that involves shaking a lot of hands at a nametag laden event where people dread the next day’s “would you like to buy something from me” calls. For me, as an introvert, I approach networking differently. My goal is to build mutually beneficial relationships with people. These relationships are an opportunity to share information, help one another out, and feel more connected.
I keep track of my network using LinkedIn. When I meet people in person, whether it’s the first time we’re working together at a new job or because I sit next to them at a professional development meeting, I have typically had a real, in-person interaction with them before we connect. From there, I’m happy to help a friend of theirs look for a new job, or talk with one of my connections about how they might want design their technical certification program, or answer a question about a job applicant who is a former coworker of mine. I expect to help people in my professional network out, and know that they will be willing to do the same.
Regardless of the role that I’m in, and even if it seems to be going well, I always have a backup plan, and a backup-backup plan, and then a couple more backup plans after those. After 5 layoffs, and the unique challenges of each, I have a broad sense of the types of situations (like figuring out the health care exchange and determining when it made sense to do short-term contract work) I may need to mitigate. This means being ready to manage possible adversity or taking advantage of opportunities as they become available.
In addition to being proactive with my network, some of the things I’ve thought through have made me better equipped for issues as they arise. Here are a few of the things I’ve contemplated:
What Do You Think?
How do you manage career anxiety? Include your thoughts in the comments.
How to Keep On, Keeping On
When it comes to healthy habits, figuring out how to stay motivated is the ball game. I think we all know that we should (in it’s simplest form) eat less and move more. The trick is figuring out how to make good decisions for future you (who wants to age well) while also contending with current you, who very much wants to eat batter fried cheese curds and binge watch “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”. (Just as a for instance.)
Aside from working on making long-term dietary changes and working on my mindset in general, I find that having another layer of accountability helps. Since I HATE HATE HATE spending money stupid, apps that not only gamify the process but include a financial incentive help me stay motivated as I strive to help future Brenda live a long, active, and healthy life. Her are my top three apps, plus one bonus app, that help me do just that.
Stepbet helps people with motivation and accountability as they strive to be more active as measured by an increase in steps taken. It requires use of a fitness tracker to track steps and participate in challenges. Stepbet runs 6-week walking challenges that usually cost $40 for an individual to enter. Upon completing the challenge successfully, participants receive their $40 back, and usually a little more, with the amount depending on how many people finished and get to split the pot. (I have earned as much as $53 total.) Step goals are based on increasing your current steps per day. 4 days per week have a regular step goal with 2 days having even higher stretch goals.
I used Stepbets as a starting point when preparing for my first 5K. I have also used Stepbets anytime my activity level has gotten too low to kickstart my increased exercise.
Runbet is very similar to Stepbet (and is also a part of WayBetter), but has a focus on helping with accountability as people build the running habit. Runbet hosts 2-8 week challenges (most are 6 weeks) like Starter 5k, Making Running a Habit, Getting Back Into Running, and Run to Lose Weight. Challenges specify how fast participants need to run (18 minutes per mile for the beginner challenges), frequency of running required (3-6 times per week), and required time or mileage to be achieved. Participants can use the free Runkeeper app to track their running outside, or submit a picture of the treadmill readout and a “sweaty selfie” to confirm mileage run indoors.
I participated in two Runbet when preparing to run my first 5K. Having a set schedule, and the extra motivation of not losing my $40, helped me to keep in the running habit. Also, since the pace was 18 minutes per mile, I could walk at a good pace and still make the time.
HealthyWage take accountability to a whole new level. Where as Runbet and Stepbet focus on activity, HealthyWage focuses on results—specifically a change in the scale. The goals are much more flexible, as is the amount of money to “bet” on the desired outcome, amount of weight to lose, and timeframe needed. Based on inputs, you see how much you could make.
From there, you do an official weigh in—which includes submitting a video of you weighing yourself with specific parameters to verify that it is you on the scale, and that you’re not falsifying information.
In addition to the main challenge, there are additional contests you can also take part in. Those include challenges to lose 6% of your body weight and challenges that increase your overall activity level as measured through step count. I signed up for a step challenge—specifically the Winter Walk-A-Thon Step Challenge. My current step average was calculated from recent FitBit data. From there, HealthyWage sets a goal for me to reach which is 25% above my current step count. For this 60-day challenge, I pay $30 per month, and I need to achieve a total number of steps over the course of the challenge that is equal to 60 days-worth of steps at the identified step count.
For example, if my established step goal is 10,000 per day, over the course of 60 days, I would need to take 600,000 steps, which averages out to 10,000 per day. There is no daily goal, however (which I like a lot). If I move a lot on one day, my displayed average daily steps needed will decrease to cover that difference. If I have a relatively stationary day, my displayed average daily steps needed will increase. One way or another, though, I need to meet that established step goal in the timeframe, so I win the bet.
I just recently signed up for HealthyWage. I’ve built, and lost, and built good routines for fitness in the past. Now, it was time for me to make sure those good fitness habits stuck, and that I also fine tuned my diet. Using HealthyWage to hold me accountable for weight loss AND increasing my activity will help give me another layer of accountability to meet my goals.
Runbet, Stepbet, and HealthyWage impact fitness related habits and results to help with accountability. The motivation is both not losing your initial investment and the possibility of earning a financial reward.
Stickk is a helpful as a stick, rather than a carrot, to help you stay accountable for a goal, fitness or otherwise. Instead of giving you the opportunity to win, with Stickk, it motivates you to meet your goal so you don’t lose. Stickk has to pick an Anti-charity where you’ll have to donate if you do not reach your goal. You can even identify people who will verify that you achieved your goal. In my case, I used this as another form of motivation for completing the Northshore Inline Marathon. It was also a case where my teenage daughter (also not a fan of my anti-cause) threatened to “kick my ass” if I didn’t meet my goal. That’s what I call accountability.
What Do You Think?
How do you stay motivated to meet your health and fitness goals? Share your thoughts in the comments.
From "To Do" to "To Done"
Like many adults, I have what feels like a never-ending to-do list. No matter how much progress I make, I often dismiss what I have accomplished because I'm too busy focusing on all of the things I haven't done.
A couple of years ago, I had a boss who encouraged me to make a success list on a weekly basis. This was a great way for me to remind myself that I am making progress--even if it doesn't always feel like it's the case. In addition to my weekly success list, I decided to take personal inventory and do a quick list for the past year.
This Year's Success List
1. Added daily yoga to my wellness routine.
2. Applied for 21 jobs and had 12 interviews.
3. Bought running shoes I absolutely love and ran my first 5k.
4. Celebrated my 10-year anniversary with my husband.
5. Connected with over 100 new colleagues on LinkedIn.
6. Cut my daily commute time by 1 hour per day.
7. Decided to quit doing roller derby for a while to focus on being a roller derby mom.
8. Didn’t totally freak out when my daughter was on a two-week trip to Asia with a school affiliated group.
9. Enrolled my daughter a drivers ed class and started my role as a driving coach.
10. Found an awesome new chiropractor.
11. Got a new FitBit and finished 3 StepBet challenges.
12. Got our cat, Zippy, through ear surgery. (Now she has one ear hole, but two cosmetic ears).
13. Learned how to slow down on hills in inline skates. (Next year I hope to have a little more style in my slowing down.)
14. Logged over 80 gym visits.
15. Outlined a book on job searching and job transition.
16. Published 18 blog articles.
17. Ran over 70 miles and inline skated over 250 miles on outdoor trails.
18. Saw “Die Hard”, “They Live”, and “When Harry Met Sally” at the Parkway Theatre.
19. Skated my first inline 10K event and didn’t die, then skated my first inline marathon and finished in under 3 hours.
20. Started a great new job as the Director of Training at a software company.
21. Survived my second position elimination in 2 years and found a great new job in less than 2 months.
22. Tried spinning and enjoyed it.
23. Vacationed in New Orleans.
24. Watched all the episodes of Will and Grace and Friday Night Lights.
25. Wrote my very first knitting pattern.
What About You?
What is on your success list for this past year? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Most people in the business world know that social media can be a powerful tool to help get the word out. Unfortunately, while many people understand the value in the abstract, often they don’t really know why it makes sense, or how to go about doing it at all, much less doing it well. As someone who has worked with a variety of independent businesspeople (including artists, musicians, self-defense trainers, real estate agents, and more), I have learned a few key strategies for leveraging social media well.
Two Common Mistakes
While many small businesspeople are on board for using social media in the abstract, I have noticed that many people make two common mistakes. For one, people have no plan at all. Maybe they go so far as to create bare bones accounts on some combination of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and then stop. They may not even have a picture to use, or be sure how to describe who they are. In short, they start and quickly fizzle out because they aren’t sure what to do next. For those that manage to complete their account profiles, they typically err in a different direction. After they have their accounts, and even follow a few people, they might make posting after posting that say nothing more than “buy my stuff.” I’m not even sure which one is worse. Both result in a social media profile done poorly that won’t have the desired result.
According to the Internet (and, yes, the article link is included below), 79% of US adults have at least one social media profile, meaning there are approximately 243.6 million social media users. That’s a whole lot of people who businesses can access in between pictures of friends’ kids and live tweeting their favorite television show. Not only are those people available, but social media accounts are free to open and use with the opportunity to pay to further boost messages and connect with more people. Social media use can help humanize your brand and build brand awareness, which can result in a larger customer base—which can lead to more revenue from views, sales closed, and return business.
Doing Social Media Well
So how does one go about doing social media well? For one, you have to have something to say—and that something can not just be “buy my stuff.” We’re building a brand here. So who are you and what do you want to say to who? How do you want to be perceived? What do you stand for? How do you help people? What kind of content might interest the people that you’re trying to reach? Who are those people? Thinking through those core questions can help you figure out what it is you want to say. Figuring out your core message is mission critical to making social media work for you.
What To Say
While “buy my stuff” can be one of the types of messages shared, ideally, that’s only 10% of what you’re saying. So what else should you be talking about? Here are a few ideas that I’ve used while promoting the Mellow Fury Etsy shop. These tie into the knit hats I make and sell, and my best sellers are sci-fi or comic book themed.
Education: share information in your area(s) of expertise.
Entertainment: Include something fun or funny.
Humanize: showcase the person behind the brand.
Customers: showing satisfied, happy customers.
Supporting Others: share the love.
Buy My Stuff: showcase what you sell in a non-obnoxious way.
What Do You Think?
What are your thoughts on using social media well to promote your small business? Include your thoughts in the comments.
My Life in the Learning Business
I have always worked in corporate training, and I have a penchant (a gift, perhaps) for working for organizations that reorganize, get bought out, or otherwise restructure. For a lot of companies, when times get tight and push comes to shove, learning and development positions are categorized as a “nice to have”, not a “need to have”. Consequently, I know my way around a layoff, and I’ve had to become adept at all things job search as to keep my expensive habits of eating and living indoors.
Recently, for the fifth time in my career, I found myself unexpectedly in a position where I needed to change jobs. The last time around, my position was unexpectedly eliminated on the day I returned from vacation. That was about two years ago, and I was not expecting to have to do this again quite so soon. However, life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. I also know that of all the times I worried about an impending layoff, I have never seen it coming when I was directly impacted. Consequently, I’ve learned to try to be successful in whatever professional position I have, while also knowing that I need to be to seek out an alternate position given the ever-changing climate of business.
My Job Search by the Numbers
In a previous blog article, entitled “Job Search Insights by the Numbers”, I listed the statistics associated with my last job search. This time around, things moved a bit more quickly than I initially expected. Keep in mind, too, that about half of the jobs for which I applied have not responded. In their defense, I was on and off the market pretty quickly. It’ll be interesting to see who I hear back from eventually. With that, here’s how this job search shaped up:
Differences from Previous Job Searches
My last job search lasted 147 days. That's right. It was exactly 100 days longer. So what were the differences between then and now? What magic did I use to so quickly land a great new position?
Time of Year
Fortunately (as I look at the bright side), I knew I needed to make a change in late September. I’ve found that being unemployed over the holidays nearly guarantees about an extra month or two of job searching (or more likely, waiting). In fact, my longest two job searches included the holiday season, lasting 180 and 147 days respectively. The best advice that I have is to take some time off from job searching over the holidays. This time around, when I estimated the possible length of my period of unemployment, I surmised that I would either secure a new position before Thanksgiving or I’d most likely be waiting to start a new role until February or March of next year. Getting a jump start, even by a couple of weeks, made a big difference.
During layoffs one and two, I lived in Madison, Wisconsin. While I love Madison as a city, as someone whose chosen profession is corporate training, I knew that I needed to move to a larger job market or consider doing something else for a living. In the middle of my second big period of unemployment, I started targeting companies in Minneapolis. Even with the challenge of relocating (and managing all of the other areas of my life that were in transition right then), finding a new job took under five months. Being in the greater Twin Cities area, even with me being more selective on where to apply, I still had a lot of options. This gave me a better chance of one of the positions I applied for moving me along to the interview stage. It also made it easier for me to manage my job search related anxiety by applying for additional positions each time I was concerned about not hearing back from one potential employer.
I started using LinkedIn seriously in 2006. Since then, I’ve connected with coworkers, members of professional development organizations, colleagues with whom I’ve interacted, and pretty much anyone who I encountered and found interesting. I stay active on social media sharing useful content and attend industry meetings on a regular basis. Having this robust professional network and assisting individuals in my network when they are job searching or exploring new fields of interest, has helped me immensely. When encountering a position that interested me, I immediately looked to my network to see who might be able to put in a good word for me and help me get pulled out of the initial pile of candidates. I have also had more than one “informal interview” with a possible referer so they feel comfortable recommending me for a position. Since people are putting their reputations on the line, I don’t take their assistance for granted.
I’m at the point in my career where I know what kinds of jobs interest me. I have good formal education, recent job titles that are well aligned with roles for which I’m applying, and I’ve stayed current on the industry. While having someone refer me for a position helps, I know that I still need to be a well-qualified candidate. Those qualifications are what help me get from a courtesy phone interview to being considered a viable candidate for an open role.
Pure Dumb Luck
There is a certain amount of planet alignment that happens whenever something good manages to actually happen. In this case, a company in a field that interests me (software) had an opening for which I was qualified, and I had a former coworker who was willing to refer me for the position. The quotes “The harder I work, the luckier I get” comes to mind as does “luck is preparation meeting opportunity.” Sometimes, timing is everything.
What Do You Think?
What are your tried and true job search strategies and secrets to success? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Earlier this year, when talking with a friend about her job search plans, I mentioned the idea of a “personal brand.” She asked me what I meant by that, which caused me to do a little soul searching. I realized I had bought into the idea of the value of having a strong personal brand while working with mortgage loan officers and real estate agents—two audiences who are all about getting their face out there to attract business. I took a step back and started thinking about how to better articulate the why and how of a personal brand.
Role of a Brand
As a consumer, a brand is a shortcut that helps me make a buying decision. If I want a good cup of coffee in an unfamiliar city, I find a Starbucks. If I need to buy a book, I typically go to Amazon, and for an audio book, I’ll visit Audible. If I want durable shoes for outdoor activities, I’m looking for a pair of Keens. There are also brands that are so prominent, they have become part of our lexicon. People Google instead of doing an online search, use Kleenex rather than tissue, and pick the version of Coke they want at a restaurant. Those brands mean something whether it’s quality, range of items available, or a predictable experience. Brands help us jump to a quicker answer instead of having to weigh multiple options for every single buying decision we make.
A Personal Brand
A personal brand is a similar idea. Instead of branding a product, though, it’s intended to help shortcut the decision-making process to promote someone’s credibility or value. When I think of the epitome of a personal brand, I think Oprah. Oprah tells us what pop health gurus to listen to, what books to read, who to vote for and more. Oprah has a television network, and a magazine and an empire. Everyone knows who Oprah is and what she’s all about. This is personal branding at its finest.
For the rest of us non-Oprah's, we also have a personal brand. When people meet one another in-person, oftentimes, we check out one another's online presences. In the work world, it's usually LinkedIn and potentially Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (among others). Whether you're looking for a job, or connecting with a professional colleague, having an online presence is nearly a given. Make sure that presence is one you want people to be aware of (because they'll find it one way or another) and that it positions you in a positive light.
My Personal Brand
My personal branding aspirations are not at the level of Oprah. (My television network and magazine are on hold for now.) For me, my personal brand is showcasing my skills as a trusted professional in the learning and development space. I want to be known for sharing industry related information on adult education, conveying lessons learned, and communicating my personal insights. My goal is to position myself as a real life human with day to day challenges who is also someone you’d trust (or hire) when it comes to helping adults learn information to enable them to succeed.
I started to pay attention to my personal brand when I realized I wanted to start sharing my insights in blog entries. For me, a personal brand was an embodiment of what I wanted my blog to be about. In short, my blog is my way of sharing my learnings with others who could benefit from my trials and tribulations. Using the colors in my professional headshot and a fun photo of coffee, my personal brand was born.
When I think of what my brand includes, I think first of how I present myself online as well as in print. For me, that means I have a professional social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. On each site, I used BrendaLearns as my username, my professional photo as my avatar, and a consistent description on each site. I also have a background picture on my social media sites that showcases the same color scheme (shades of red and gray). In addition, this color scheme is included on my blog at (you guessed it) www.BrendaLearns.com. On my resume, I include a red line on the left side, which continues to emphasize my personal brand. In addition, my business cards feature the same color scheme and background image to keep my personal branding consistent.
Have Something to Say
My focus of my blog is sharing my key learnings with others. It’s about helping others navigate life’s trials and tribulations by enabling them to benefit from some of the things I’ve either researched or learned through experience. Whether it’s helping people think through personal finance questions, figure out how to navigate a job loss, train for an inline skating marathon, or just helping people learn in general, I am wired to want to help people learn and grow. I want to share information in a way that is understandable, and even fun.
Likewise, that same spirit is embodied in my social media presence, I want the world to associate my personal brand with someone who is knowledgeable and helpful. This is why I share articles on helping adults learn, leading strong teams of high-performing (and happy) individuals, and other business insights. I also share articles and posts that show that I’m human, too. I have 2 cats (Zippy and Meathook), a daughter who is into roller derby and learning to drive, a strong interest in inline skating, and a love of quotes that are at once funny and thought provoking. Without having something to say, and getting comfortable being human in front of others, having a personal brand is not worth much.
What Do You Think?
What do you think about personal branding in general and the value of having a personal brand? Include your thoughts in the comments.
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.
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.
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.
I learn for a living. I distill my research into useful blog entries. Geek, parent, knitter, yogi, writer, educator, businessperson, health advocate, & skating nerd.