The Importance of Recovery
I'm in the swing of inline marathon training. This includes three outdoor skates per week (currently 3-6 miles each with increasing mileage over time), one day of cross-training per week, and strength training once a week. To make all of this possible, recovery is critically important. In addition to sleep, Epsom salt baths, and monthly massages, there are three tools that help with the active part of recovery.
The Obligatory Disclaimer
Before I share my thoughts on tools for active recovery, which could be construed as medical advice, please note that I am not a doctor, lawyer, or certified health care anything. What I am is lifelong learner and a first-time inline marathon participant who's figuring out what works for me and sharing what I learn. Be sure to double check my math with your own doctor, personal trainer, or whoever it might make sense to ask about these sorts of things. Go forth and do your own research!
The Value of Taking a Class
I am a fan of learning as much as I can through research, then taking a class to help me get the bigger picture. I highly recommend a class taught by Angie Fern entitled Muscle Tension Release With Foam Rollers and Tennis Balls Workshop, or a foam roller class for short. This 3-hour class (which I've now taken twice) helped set me right and get me going in the right direction. I highly recommend it. I've included the website to keep an eye on regarding upcoming classes. Angie is definitely the go-to for how to really leverage these tools. This article only scratches the surface.
For Legs: Strap
There are a few areas in dire need of stretching that require a little extra help. While there are a few yoga stretches (pigeon and butterfly pose come to mind) that target the hips and thigh areas, using a strap helps stretch these areas more effectively. Since I'm skating, which uses a lot of quads, calves, and hips, these stretches are mission critical.
I have my fancy strap that I typically use. I also have a plainer travel strap that has the buckle. I love the strap in that it travels well, and also gives me a quick, effective way to stretch important muscle groups.
Check out this YouTube video to see the stretches I do on a near-daily basis. I typically do each stretch for 2 minutes per leg.
For Feet and Back: Two Tennis Balls in a Sock
Two tennis balls in a sock is not to be confused with the following items:
For my feet, I put one foot on the end of the sock, then roll my other foot over the tennis ball to work out knots. It seem to be the right amount of pressure to work out tightness. This also helps with planter fasciitis, that horrible tightness in the bottoms of the feet. I typically do this a minute or so per day, and on an as needed basis, to relieve that tension. As needed, I also will put my foot in between the tennis balls to ease out knots in the sides of my foots.
For my hips and back, I lie on my back, and position one tennis ball on each side of my spine down near my tailbone. Over time, I move it a bit at a time and work it up towards my neck. This is a great way to massage those key points that aren't easy to hit using other methods.
Check out this video on how to make your very own two tennis balls and a sock and a couple of ideas on how to use your creation.
For Nearly Everything: Foam Roller
Foam rollers are starting to gain popularity--and I see why. They offer a great way to do targeted massage on your muscles without having to schedule (and pay for) a massage each time.
During the class I mentioned taking with Angie Fern, I learned strategies for using a foam roller head to toe to address muscle tension and improve everything from planter fasciitis pain to improving breathing capacity to preventing headaches.
I especially love using the foam roller to address multiple areas of my legs. Rolling out my calves and quads are two key areas that help my recovery greatly.
I also have a few key bits of advice to share. First off, roll out each leg independently instead of rolling out both at the same time. This helps give each leg the attention it needs.
When it comes to equipment, I suggest a plain foam roller (instead of those that are textured). Sometimes, the textured rollers put too much pressure on a given area. Second, having a shorter foam roller, 12-18 inches, gives more options for specific exercises and is also easier to store.
Check out this video for a few basic foam roller moves you might want to check out.
What Do You Think?
How do you rest and recover while training for an event? Or just in general? Include your thoughts in the comments.
My 3 Phase Inline Marathon Training Plan
In an earlier blog post, I talked about my previous half-baked inline half marathon plan. I learned the hard way that I need a solid training plan to reach my goals. This time around, here is my three-phase training plan to achieve my inline skating marathon related goals:
Phase II: Increasing Endurance Through Cardio
Once I increased my overall level of activity, it was time to work on my endurance. I went in with the following high-level goals:
The Running (Wo)man
I started out thinking I would totally do three different things in this phase of training. It really ended up being all about the running. For 12 weeks, 3-4 times per week, 30-60 minutes a shot, I focused on running. I used the foam roller, yoga, and walking to recover, and a wee bit of inline skating as cross training, but otherwise, I ran intervals, and then longer distances.
Running a 5K
In order to get myself to focus on running, I committed to running a 5K run at the end of April. I knew I would have to work up to being able to run that long and that far.
To give my training structure, I used RunBet. Like StepBet (which I used in Phase I of my plan), RunBet is and app that organizes 6-week challenges to help individuals improve their running. The starter RunBets focus on getting participants to run 3-4 times per week at a pace of 18 minutes per mile or faster. I used two separate challenges to create a regular running habit and increase my distance. Each RunBet challenge costs $40.00 to enter. As long as you complete the RunBet challenge by meeting your goals for each week, you're guaranteed to earn back your $40.00 and usually a bit more. Holding my $40 hostage pending me completing tasks is enough to motivate me to get the job done.
Building The Running Habit
My first RunBet was a 5K challenge. This involved running 3-4 times per week and increasing mileage systematically to get up to the full 5K (3.2ish) mile distance. I walked a good chunk of this, then, as time went on, alternated running and walking. Since it was still cold and/or rainy during much of this time, I was doing nearly all of my running on a treadmill at the gym. The biggest takeaway from this was running/walking consistently.
My second RunBet was a Weight Loss Challenge. My goal, though, wasn’t weight loss. It was to continue the momentum from my first RunBet so that I would continue to run the 3-4 times per week to do more actual running. (I’m at the point in life where I’m not focusing on weight loss, but overall health and wellness.) This challenge was a little different because it focused on running time rather than mileage. I still needed to hit an 18 minutes or less per mile pace, and each day included 30 minutes of running, but no distance requirement.
RunBet and Couch to 5K
While I had the going-to-the-gym habit down, I needed to get more running into my running. However, my goal was to run—not just walk—3.2 miles without stopping. This meant I needed to have some kind of a system for running. I used the legit Couch to 5K app. (Please note—there are several versions of couch to 5K, and some of them assume you have a way higher fitness level than what I would consider “couch.”)
While the RunBet app got me to the gym and on the treadmill, Couch to 5K helped me use the time when I was there well. The app basically systematically times out intervals of running and walking. This helped me build up my endurance in a systematic way.
Running Mindset: Stop Trying to Go Fast
As I was getting closer to the end of my second RunBet, I started reading the book 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster By Training Slower. This was excellent timing. As I was working on running longer intervals, I found that it was really hard for me to run for very long. I learned that I was making a common mistake that many recreational runners make--I was trying to run too fast and trying to increase my ability to go a longer distance at the same time.
This book gave me permission to slow down and stop trying to run fast right away. Instead, I now know that it is better (because science) to run slow for about 80% of the time I train, and faster for only 20% of my workouts. By finding a running pace that was sustainable for longer, I was able to run for extended periods of time without burning out. It also helped correct my general mindset about exercise. I think I always need to push myself to work harder and stretch myself each and every time I work out. This book reinforced the value of being deliberate and planful rather than always pushing. Had I not read this book, I do not think I would have been able to run the whole 5K.
After my second RunBet was complete, I had one week until my 5K. I was a little concerned because I had not run the full 3.2 miles. In short, I did pretty much all of my running inside, and, well, running on a treadmill is REALLY BORING for going more than about a half hour at a shot. I ran outside to make sure that I was able to run 5K. I went at a reasonable pace and was able to run the entire distance. I also spent most of my time the week before the event taking it slow. I ran one day, walked 3.2 miles another day, did some yoga, and rested. This recovery helped me to do well the day of the event.
I Ran 5K!
The day of the event, my husband and I ran together. He is a big advocate of long slow distance when it comes to running, so I went at his pace. Running with him helped me slow down and find a pace that was sustainable for the whole distance. He and I even had a good conversation during the event, and I enjoyed the crowd, the other runners, and seeing people achieve a their goals whether it was beating a personal record, running a race, or walking with family members. At the end, I got my very first finisher medal. It was a nice milestone to end this part of the training.
What Do You Think?
How have you prepared for a 5K or other athletic event? Share your thoughts in the comments.
My 3 Phase Inline Marathon Training Plan
I am officially skating an inline marathon! I'm signed up for the Northshore Inline Marathon in Duluth, MN on September 14, 2019. Click here for actual proof of enrollment!
In a previous blog post, I talked about my previous half-baked inline half marathon plan of days gone by. I learned the hard way that I need a solid training plan to reach my goals. In order to get me from being an adult with a relatively okay level of fitness to an inline marathon completer was going to take some doing. Here is my three phase training plan to do just that:
Phase I: Building a Base Level of Fitness
Phase I is all about me getting from being generally active to being more legitimately physically fit. This meant upping my game from my then-haphazard workout regime. Specifically, I needed to do the following:
Building the Exercise Habit
As long as I go to the gym 8 times per month, my employer pays for the cost of my membership. Consequently, I always ALWAYS go to the gym 8 times per month. At that time, I would typically take a yoga class or do a little walking on the treadmill. Even thought I did go to the gym, I needed to make it more deliberate and productive.
To help with that, I joined a 60 day challenge at my gym. This helped me by having me do an initial fitness assessment, build a more consistent fitness habit, and do a final assessment to note progress. It got me to the gym to take classes and try out a few new activities and improve my diet. I also starting doing a couple of home workouts to give me options for when the gym wasn't as convenient.
Making exercise a more consistent habit also included identifying and mitigating factors that would prevent me from being active. This included keeping workout clothes in my car, touring the gym near work so I would feel more comfortable working out there, and incorporating activity into social time with friends. Being more active became the norm rather than a sometimes event.
I have had a FitBit for years, and at that point, I was more concerned with tracking my sleep than paying much attention to steps. Unfortunately, my step count was way down from where I wanted it to be. If I was going to be able to skate 26.2 miles, I needed to be able to walk, then run, long distances. Enter StepBet to help me with goal setting and motivation.
StepBet is and app that organizes 6-week challenges to help individuals increase their overall step count. Based on the current average number of steps you take, StepBet sets two goals for you. One is the goal you need to hit 4 days per week, and a stretch goal you need to hit 2 days per week. The cost to enter a StepBet challenge is $40.00. As long as you complete the StepBet challenge by meeting your goals for each week, you're guaranteed to earn back your $40.00. In most cases, not everyone successfully completes the challenge, meaning that those people who did finish earn back a little extra. In my case, I won just over $50. StepBet established an achievable goal that still pushed me to do more than before, and prepare me to work on cardio.
Increasing Flexibility and Strength
I also knew I needed to increase my strength and flexibility along with my ability to walk further and longer. In addition to doing weekly weight lifting at the gym, I also incorporate more yoga and stretching. Doing more yoga included me creating a 20 minute routine focusing on hips and legs that I could do on a daily basis before bed. I also attended weekly yoga classes at the gym focusing on Yin yoga. In addition, knowing that stretching and recovery would be important, I took a foam roller class to learn to supplement my monthly massages to help minimize injury risks. The stress reduction benefits and the improvement to my sleep were reason enough to keep going.
Getting Used to Inline Skates
For me, spending a lot of time on roller skates is easy. On inline skates, though, just standing up takes more effort. They also put way more stress on the middle of the food, whereas roller skates distribute weight more evenly. I knew I needed to increase leg strength in my feet, hips, and ankles to be successful.
To accomplish this, I went skating at a roller skating rink about every other week. I started skating 10 minutes at a time for 30 minutes per trip. I worked up to being able to skate at least 30 minutes at a time. While there and not skating, I would stand on my inline skates to get my body used to how it felt. I also had three longer skates. During these sessions at US Bank Stadium, I skated for 60-90 minutes at a time and got in about 4 miles of skating per time.
In addition to skating, I also did exercises to build up my ankles. These included ankle circles, heal raises, and standing on one foot. All of these activities helped build up my ability to inline skate for a more extended period of time.
What Do You Think?
What have you done to build up your base level of fitness? Include your thoughts in the comments.
I'm Skating an Inline Marathon!
I am officially skating an inline marathon! I'm signed up for the Northshore Inline Marathon in Duluth, MN on September 14, 2019. Click here for actual proof of enrollment!
Lessons from Failed Half-Marathons Past (aka My Half-Baked, Half-Marathon "Training Plan")
Last August, I was sign up to skate a half marathon. To call what I had a “training plan” is way overstating my level of planning and commitment. Here’s about how it went:
Lessons Learned: Make For-Reals Training Plan
So when did the wheels come off this whole thing? I can point back to the very beginning where I told myself “I could TOTALLY do a half marathon without any training” and promptly did pretty close to NO actual training. My non-existent training plan, and lack of good old fashioned “I’ll white knuckle my way through it” willpower contributed to my failure. Also--I seemed to think that announcing my intention to do the half marathon was enough to get me to actually, well, do it.
Inline Marathon 2019: High Level Plan
I call "do-over."
This past fall, I signed up for the Northshore Inline Marathon. Even before I enrolled, I started planning for my success. Here’s my basic plan.
Phase I: Fitness (October - January)
Goals: Build a base level of fitness.
Phase II: Cardio (February - April)
Goals: Increase my endurance.
Phase III: Skating Distance (May - August)
Goals: Skate longer distances outside on uneven terrain.
I'll elaborate on specific tasks and milestones in my inline marathon training plan in future blog articles.
What Do You Think?
When training for an event, what kind of strategy have you used to be successful? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Why a Whole Foods Plant Based (WFPB) Diet?
I started eating a predominantly Whole Foods Plants Based (WFPB) Diet a few months ago. I did this for health reasons motivated by my ongoing quest to improve my health, and after reading the book How Not to Die. In short, a diet that minimizes (or eliminates) animal based foods tends to help greatly reduce the risk of multiple health conditions including heart disease, multiple types of cancer, infections, depression, and more. As I look at people in my family who have struggled with health issues, I'm taking proactive steps to help maintain and improve my overall health and well-being.
Is Whole Foods Plant Based (WFPB) the same as Vegan?
My best answer to this question is "it depends on who you ask." Some will define being a vegan as including political views as well as dietary habits. Many vegans also champion causes against animal cruelty and beliefs impact well beyond diet to include choices in personal care products and clothing.
In addition, while vegan's don't consume animal products, they may eat process animal product substitutes like Tofurky, Morningstar, almond milk, or cheese made from cashews. People following a WFPB diet stay away from processed foods, and some may even still eat some animal based products, but in moderation. Some WFPB diet followers also avoid sugar and oil for health reasons. In short, WFPB and vegan aren't necessarily the same, but there is a lot of shared ground on the dietary front.
What's My Label?
When it comes to dietary choices, much like political parties, some people are strong enforcers of being a purist. Vegans must hold the corresponding societal views. WFPB followers must eschew oil and sugar. Some are strong advocates of eliminating dairy, meat, and eggs altogether. There are also varying degrees of acceptance on protein powders. Most are adamant on no meet whatsoever.
While I appreciate the keepers of the definition, I don't neatly fall into a category. I eat predominantly vegetarian but I don't scour ingredients lists for any trace of animal products. I eat avocados, which sometimes get labeled as "not vegan" due to bee involvement in production. I have whole cow's milk in my lattes because, honestly, soy milk and almond milk both taste yucky to me. I have accidentally eaten a bacon bit or two when picking through a salad ordered for a group of people at work. I have had a battered fried cheese curd or two because I enjoy them. I also know that I can't eat much meat or cheese because my body has next to no tolerance for those things. I also have not attempted to remove all oil or sugar from my diet because I've made so very many dietary changes so far that I want to give myself a break from perfection.
My label? I tend to say I'm "just this side of vegan" and call it a day. And yes, some groups that I follow online chastise one another for not buying organic, or completely eliminating oil, or eating meat occasionally. I'm not a purist because I don't think that's helpful for me. In short, I try to eat better for my own health, not to completely fulfill someone else's ideal version of whatever label is in vogue now.
So What Do I Eat?
What Do You Think?
How do you define how you eat? What are your healthy favorites? Include your thoughts in the comments.
There are several days each year where people typically look back and assess their lives. This could be the anniversary of a death, a holiday full or memories, or your birthday. For me, the day I look back at my life is Groundhog’s Day.
February 2, 2006
Early in 2006, my life was at a crossroads. My then-husband and I were in the process of getting divorced, and I was figuring out how to transition from a house to two houses and what co-parenting my 2-year old daughter would be like. The one stable thing I had was my job. I was happy to have one thing that I could count on not changing.
…and then February 2 happened.
That morning, I went to work. I took a few minutes between meeting to create a spreadsheet to figure out if I could afford to buy a condo I’d looked at the night before on my own. As I saved, I got a tap on the shoulder that I had an impromptu meeting. I grabbed a pen and a legal pad and walked into a conference room full of executives who informed me that position was eliminated due to restructuring because of the company being acquired. I was in shock. I returned to my desk, deleted the spreadsheet of my financial plans (which in just a few minutes had become irrelevant), told my coworker Brad “I’m gone,” and found myself sitting in my car with a box containing all of my formerly workly possessions.
From the parking lot of my ex-workplace, I called my soon to be ex-husband to tell him that I was now unemployed. His only response was “huh.”
Then It Got a Little Worse
That weekend, I was on a road trip to visit some of my high school friends for a fun weekend of reminiscing and going to the Snowflake Ski Jump. On my way there, a local cop pulled me over for speeding. As I sat there, I glanced at the notification I’d just received from unemployment sitting in my passenger seat—the one that said I’d receive less money than the previous time I’d been laid off—meaning I wouldn’t be bringing enough money in to cover my half of the mortgage. As the officer came to my window, I could feel the tears well up. I could not get a ticket, too. I would cry (as I often heard people threaten to do), but this was no empty threat that would come to bear only through theatrics. I was legit going to fall apart if this happened.
This moment—sitting in the car with indications of my life failures greatest hits smacking me in the face, was a low point in my life—second only to my dad’s unexpected death.
Then It Got a Little Better
Fortunately, I think because of my street cred, which included being a native of a town nearby, I drove away ticket free. One thing had gone okay. Then I got to see friends, connect with new people, and spend more time with my daughter. I also had the time and space to figure out what to do with myself now.
The Transition Begins
It was an ugly, ugly few months.
I applied for countless jobs. I put our house up for sale. My daughter’s dad (new language from Mom’s House, Dad’s House) and I decided to move in tandem to Minneapolis, Minnesota from Madison, Wisconsin. I looked for jobs, made business connections, and stayed with friends on the way to and from my regular trips to Minneapolis. I didn’t sleep well for months. A tree fell down in my front yard the day of my open house, so I figure out how to have a giant tree removed while driving on I-90 from a job interview.
That May, I found a job, a pre-school for my daughter, a new place to live, and reconnected with one of my best friends from high school. Later, her dad found a job and moved, too, with his new girlfriend (who was a lovely person who was good to my daughter). Then, I totaled my car, dated and broke up with a couple of people, and got Shingles three times in a row. Some days, after work, I would lie on my floor and look at the ceiling in my apartment, my low-cost therapy as I adjusted to all of the life changes. I adjusted to my new normal after going through every major life change (save a death in the family) I could think to experience.
Then It Kept Getting Better
In October, on the same day, I was approved for a car loan and found out that my house in Madison had new owners. Over time, I made two great friends from my job and still spend time with them regularly. I got comfortable in a new city. I started dating someone who was great—then bought a house with and married that guy (who my daughter still calls “Mikey.”)
I got laid off again and got another good job, then got laid off again and got an even better job. My husband and I celebrate our 10th anniversary this year, my daughter is doing well, and my best friend and I get together most weeks to catch up. Life is pretty damn good.
A Frame of Reference for Gratitude
Sometimes, I see people who don’t seem happy with what they have. The strange upside of having gone through rough times is that it gives you a frame of reference. It reminds me to be grateful for the house that I love, my husband sitting in the living room with our two cats in his lap, my healthy, happy teenage daughter (including her brown, purple and blond hair), and my challenging job that I absolutely love.
’m grateful for being active, able-bodied, and having a strong sense of well-being. I am grateful for heat in the winter, air conditioning in the summer, and automatic garage door openers. I treasure mother/daughter movie night, trips to the skating rink, and even playing chauffeur on the girl’s friend outings. I value my roller derby skates, my outside roller skates, and my inline skates. I appreciate my cats, Zippy and Meathook, and the combination of disdain and affection they have for me. I am genuinely grateful for it all. Groundhogs Day is my annual reminder to remember all these things.
What Do You Think?
What reminds you to take time to be grateful? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Gearing Up for Roller Derby
In roller derby, pads are not for if you fall, but for WHEN you fall. Keep this in mind as you pick out your first roller derby gear.
Having the right safety equipment is a prerequisite for even entering practice. Your gear will be checked to make sure you're wearing all the pieces and that it's all on correctly. Missing equipment means that you don't get to skate.
Being a sport that not just everyone knows about, it takes a little bit of research to figure out what to buy, how to buy it, and where to buy each item. Here are a few tips to get you started.
What to Buy: Roller Derby Gear List
Here is the gear you need before you can set skate in a roller derby practice or fresh meat program:
Guiding Principles for Buying Gear
How to Choose: What to Look For in Roller Derby Gear
You're looking for roller derby skates, not inline skates or artistic roller skates. Roller derby skates usually have a lower boot than the skates roller skating rinks have for rent. Derby skates are typically sized in men's sizes, and for women, buying 1 size smaller is recommended. Here are few popular skates for fresh meat (roller derby newcomers) that run about $100-$175 : Reidell Dart, SureGrip GT-50 and Reidell R3.
Since concussions are prevalent in roller derby, getting a quality helmet is important. Helmets used for roller derby are not the same as bicycle helmets. Typically a skateboard helmet or hockey helmet works. Measure your head, and use those measurements to make sure you purchase the right sized helmet. A helmet will probably be at least $30. Triple 8, Pro-Tec and S-1 are frequently purchased brands. Personally, I got the Triple 8 Helmet with Sweatsaver Lining.
You can pick up a sports mouth guard at a drug store or big box department store for under $10. Many roller derby skaters grab a mouth guard by SISU. They are lighter weight and you can drink and speak more effectively with one in. These may run around $30 and come in a variety of fun colors.
You need a set of elbow pads with hard plastic on the elbows. Popular brands are Triple 8, 187 and Pro-Tec. Make sure they fit snugly on your elbows. When talking with derby folk about gear, many people have strong preference on nearly everything--except elbow pads. I went with these Triple 8 Elbow Pads.
You need a set of wrist guards that have braces on the fronts. (If you see roller derby skaters clapping, they are usually hitting their wrist guards together.) Ideally, wrist guards should have a brace on both sides for additional stability and protection. I own two sets of Triple 8 wrist guards--one pair of slide ons and one pair that wrap around. It's pretty much personal preference.
Knee Pads: Spend Your Money Here
In roller derby, falling is inevitable, and I almost always fall on my knees. There are also several skills that require you to land on or tap your knee pads. Consequently, knee pads are a good place to buy better gear right away.
Personally, I started with low end Triple 8 knee pads , and I quickly upgraded. I went with 187 Killer Pro Knee Pads. While I ended up spending about twice as much on the nicer knee pads, not damaging my knees is worth way more than that. Some people don't like how far the 187s stick out, so try out different brands or talk with other skaters to see what they like. Pro-Tec, Smith Scabs and Deadbolts are just a few other brands to check out. See the Learn More section for a link to an article including knee pad reviews.
Where to Buy New Gear
Ideally, you'd get a chance to try on gear before you buy it. Be sure to see if there is a roller derby shop in your area. In the Twin Cities, check out Wheels on Wheels. (The owners are involved in roller derby and work by appointment.) General sports stores, or skateboard shops, may have some equipment, but not necessarily the best derby specific gear.
For beginning derby skates, you may want to check out the pro shop at your local roller skating rink. The selection is typically not huge, but you may have a chance to try on skates.
Online, there are approximately 4 bijillion places where you can buy derby gear, including Amazon. In addition, here are a few derby specific shops:
Where to Buy Used Gear
Be sure to check with other skaters. They may have gear that they want to get rid of that can get you started.
Facebook also has several different groups to buy, sell and trade roller derby gear. Here are a few:
What Do You Think?
What are your roller derby gear preferences? Include your thoughts in the comments.
Please note that I'm not receiving incentives from any organization to promote or suggest one product or website over another. These are just my personal opinions, for your consideration. Here are places where you can learn other people's opinions:
The Challenge of Behavioral Change
About a year ago, I began driving to and from work on a daily basis. Consequently, I have become an avid audiobook listener. I enjoy reading non-fiction, and I focus on topics including business, management, social science, and health.
I've read a lot of books focused on personal improvement. While the information is always beneficial, here are three books that stood above the rest. They include convincing arguments for making positive life changes, straight talk about personal accountability, and specific steps to take to take needed action. In fact, each of these books was so helpful that I initially listened to them, then bought them in a hard copy to have access to the exercises and as a reference moving forward. Here they are in the order that helped me to take best advantage of the information.
1. Emotional Well-Being: Not Nice
Full book title:
Not Nice: Stop People Pleasing, Staying Silent, & Feeling Guilty... And Start Speaking Up, Saying No, Asking Boldly, And Unapologetically Being Yourself
Dr Aziz Gazipura
What I expected:
I was looking for a book on being a better conversationalist. After a couple of false starts with other books that focused on rehearsing conversations and strategies for coping with severe social anxiety, I stumbled across this book.
What I got:
This book is about being more authentic as a person, which can increase personal confidence and make it easier to move freely about the world--including having conversations with people you don't know very well. At it's core, it is about our misconceptions about being nice, and how we "nice" ourselves into insecurity, resentment, and unhappiness.
Dr. Aziz's personal stories resonated with me, and encouraged me to reexamine my attitudes and behaviors. The book includes exercises on everything from evaluating your personal "rules" for interacting with others to thinking through alternative ways to handle common situations. After going through these exercises, I am better at prioritizing what matters to me and living more authentically. As an extra added bonus, having a better sense of myself is helping me commit to the life changes I want to make. By giving myself permission to say no to things that don't appeal to me, and feeling more comfortable really committing to what I care about most, I'm making progress towards healthy eating and fitness.
2. Nutrition: How Not to Die
Full book title:
How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease
Michael Greger, MD
What I Expected:
I was looking for a book about nutrition. While I knew the basics, I wanted to eat better, and I thought having more information on nutrition would help. I also thought it had a high probability of being painfully boring.
What I Got:
I got nutritional information formatted in a way that I cared about it and decided to change my whole diet. Given family history of obesity, pain management, and limited mobility, I wanted to take positive steps to position myself for a long, healthy life where I could skip having to take multiple medications, increase my overall level of fitness, and bypass health issues.
This book guides the reader through health conditions and studies showing how healthier eating can minimize chances of getting the disease, or even provide treatment. Using scientific studies, and even acknowledging the shortcomings of some of them, this book lays out the "why" for the way of eating it advocates. The "why" is positioned not as fear mongering or shaming the reader into making positive life changes, but on the benefits of making eating changes that are completely within your control.
The author, Dr Greger, is an advocate for a Whole Foods Plant Based (WFPB) diet, which emphasizes leafy greens and lots of fruits and vegetables. He also mentions that even if people don't become strict in their adherence to this diet, including more fruits and vegetables will have positive results. I would have never seen myself completely change my eating, but this book gave tangible, specific reasons to upgrade my diet for the better and never look back.
I got more than a dry book on nutrition. Instead, I got the motivation and key strategies I needed to make positive, healthy lifestyle changes. As an extra bonus, the Daily Dozen (also available as an app) is a helpful tool to make sure I'm planning my diet around these core requirements.
3. Fitness: The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation
Full book title:
The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation
What I expected:
I will be completing an inline marathon later on this year, and I am making plans for my workouts leading up to the event. I also know that the last time I signed up for an inline half marathon, I managed to not make a training plan and ended up not even doing the event. I went in looking for motivation (and not even really knowing what I expected that to be). I was also not entirely convinced that I could get motivation from a book, but I was willing to give it a shot.
What I got:
This book is the stern talking to I needed to commit to a goal, take steps to motivate me to achieve it, and the "just do it" mentality to take action towards that goal. The focus is not just on thinking positive thoughts, but on doing the work to make success happen. Like with many books focused on personal improvement, there aren't a lot of new and unusual ideas. It does, however, bring together useful ideas and package them together to motivate action. It includes useful tools and exercises to get from "I should maybe sort of kind of do a thing" to "I'm going to the gym right now, and I'll continue to fine-tune my plan as I go."
There are a few helpful exercises to help empower people to get out of their own way. So often, people sort of, kind of commit to a goal, then find every reason not to follow through. Personally, I think of all the excuses I can come up with for not going to the gym. Using the techniques included in the book, helped me to eliminate many of those lame excuses and motivate myself to go even if I don't totally feel like it on a given day.
What Do You Think?
What books have influenced you to make positive life changes? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Feeling Behind? This Can Help.
I work at a fast-paced software company that is growing like crazy. That means that no matter how much I accomplish, there are always things left undone, and I feel like I should be able to figure out how to do more. In a meeting with my manager, where I shared this frustration, she told me that needed to remind myself of what I DID get done. She challenged me to take time each week to list out my successes. I've been doing that for about a month now, and it'a amazing what a difference it makes. Instead of focusing on the negatives, taking a moment to appreciate, and be grateful, for all the things I've accomplished really helped.
Applying Work to the Rest of Life
While completing this exercise for my job, I also included a few successes from life in my list. I quickly realized that, as at work, I get way more life things done than I realize. I decided to go bigger with my list. At this time of year--when we so often focus on all of the things we're going to totally change in our lives--I decided to take stock of what all I accomplished this year first. Here are 50 things I did this year.
26. Joined a gym.
27. Made my first smoothie in my very own smoothie maker.
28. Painted the living room walls red and gray (again, mostly my lovely husband).
29. Planned an upcoming vacation to New Orleans.
30. Read 13 audiobooks.
31. Rode the train from Duluth, MN to Two Harbors, MN.
32. Rolled over my old retirement account.
33. Roller skated at US Bank Stadium for the first time.
34. Saved money for retirement in a 401(k) and Roth 401(k).
35. Saw "Singing in the Rain" at the Heights Theater.
36. Shared my employment success story with the White Box Club.
37, Shopped for and bought my first inline skates.
38. Signed up for my first inline marathon.
39. Started a new job as a training department manager at a growing SaaS software start-up.
40. Stood in two states at once – Iowa and Nebraska.
41. Switched banks.
42. Took a foam roller class.
43. Traveled to 13 US states.
44. Treated myself to monthly massages.
45. Visited my mom and had mother/daughter/granddaughter holiday lefse making day.
46. Walked along the beach and watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
47. Watched "Lethal Weapon" at the Parkway Theatre.
48. Went to the gym at least eight times a month from April through December.
49. Won two Step Bets to and increased my overall activity level.
50. Worked my first learning and development contracting gig.
Whoa. I did accomplish a few things. I love that I had milestones including health, adventures, and garden-variety adulting. Seeing this list helped me remind myself of the amazing things I can do. Taking a moment to celebrate, and be grateful for, these successes has me excited to plan for next year's adventures!
What Do You Think?
What did you accomplish this year? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
'Tis the Season for Movie Watching
It's the time of year when it's cold outside, but warm and generally festive inside. The girl (now 15) and I have mother/daughter movie night on a regular basis. 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.
I learn for a living. I distill my research into useful blog entries. Geek, parent, knitter, yogi, writer, educator, businessperson, health advocate, & skating nerd.