Slippery Soles

I got my first pair of cowboy boots when I was about four years old. They were red, of course, and came with an outfit my mom ordered for me from the Sears and Roebuck catalog; a white skirt and vest with red stitching and fringe, a red cowgirl hat, and the boots. I think I probably wore the outfit to school just frequently enough to set me apart as “unusual”, in kindergarten. That stigma never wore off, completely, but did, eventually, become kind of cool.

My second pair of cowboy boots arrived for my eleventh birthday and were very basic tan leather with suede accents. My eleventh birthday was the birthday I was allowed to spend my entire savings on my own horse. I used my boots almost daily when I went riding, they are practical for that, they have those pointy toes so it’s easy to slip them into the stirrups, and so, if you fall off, your foot will also slip easily out of the stirrups. The fact that there is, traditionally, no tread on the bottom of cowboy boots is also by design, so, again, your feet will slip right out of the stirrups if something goes awry. You really don’t want your foot stuck in a stirrup if you should become somehow detached from the horse, which is alarmingly common. The heels on the boots prevent your foot from sliding clear through the stirrup, again, trapping you should you fall off your horse, causing you to be drug helplessly behind the horse, likely scaring the beast even more, causing it to run even further, faster. Cowboy boots are not only fashionable, but practical. If you’re riding a horse.

As an adult, my own kids about eleven years old, we bought horses. Several. Too many. But that’s another story. So, I bought cowboy boots, too, for all of us. It seemed the practical thing to do. The boots, not the horses.

As a girl, I boarded my horse at a ranch and the people who owned the ranch fed my horse every morning and every night. I just had to show up and ride. Easy peasy.

The first year or so we owned horses, as a family, we boarded our horses, and, again, they were fed by someone else, morning and night. But as our herd grew (out of control), it somehow became more practical to buy a ranch and spend the board money on the additional mortgage payment. This is what we did. Now, we were feeding our own horses, morning and night. That’s when I discovered how treacherous cowboy boots could be. Slippery soles, slippery hay, a slight grade, and a fate nearly as terrifying as having your foot stuck in a stirrup when you become detached from the horse while riding.

So, while cowboy boots are very safe, by design, in one respect, they are equally dangerous in another. We rode horses with cowboy boots and we fed the horses with hiking boots with a robust, sticky tread. Slippery soles and sticky tread, both valuable and practical tools, both, really, necessary.

Let’s consider other tools we employ, not to feed, or ride, horses, but in our never-ending quest for happiness; daily meditation and daily vigorous exercise. Like cowboy boots and hiking boots, both are extremely valuable tools, really, necessary tools, though seemingly opposite. One requires stillness, the other, movement. They both have their purpose, they both fulfill a need. Slippery soles and sticky tread. Stillness and movement. Choose wisely.

Scarlette Letter – 8/28/2015

Today was compelling testimony that frequent, vigorous exercise, good food, a leash on monkey mind, and social activity, or connection, fosters a feeling of well-being and happiness.

After a rewarding hike yesterday evening, I took off on a hot, mid-day, ten-mile hike “for lunch”. It feels so good to move and be outdoors. I love hiking with people, but I really thrive when hiking in solitude.

My hike was followed by a Meet-Up event with the women’s networking group I’ve been sporadically active with over the past couple of years. The group organizer planned an evening for a small group of women where she’d show us how to make Venezuelan arepas. I was the only member who showed up, but we had the loveliest of times preparing yummy food, drinking rum infused “batidos” and catching up on stories of adventure, travel, work, and all those things friends chat about.

I came home and felt accomplished, peaceful, content, and happy and watched a Netflix DVD, “Factory Girl”, which, though tragic, and dark, had no detrimental effect on my joy.

Falling asleep was harder than I expected, as I began to make plans for the next day, but, eventually, I succeeded.

I’m Religious

Religion – a definition:

: the belief in a god or in a group of gods
: an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods
: an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group
: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

“Religious”, then, being the practice or adoption of a religion. Most church-going folk, then, are considered “religious” if only because of the fact they devote some portion of their time, usually on a weekend, to attend a church service. Whether church-going folk are actually practicing their religion is a whole other story. They could be, many do. Some don’t, and the only religion they practice is the exercise of going to church to be in the midst of those more technically religious than they are. Like the holiness, righteousness and salvation of the god-fearing will rub off on the non-god-fearing church attenders. There is a difference between being religious, then, and being virtuous and faithful to one’s chosen god. My point. But I digress a bit.

So, by the same standard, then, there are folks who don’t attend some church building on a routine basis who are religious in the god-fearing, worshipping, virtuous and faithful way. The act of routinely visiting some building with hundreds of other “believers” does not, then, make one saved. The non-church-going god worshippers are also religious in their belief and practices surrounding their chosen methods of worship of the god they have faith in.

In common, everyday, language, some people refer to a set of secular practices, performed regularly and with a certain amount of devotion as being “religious”. Even godless, non-church-going folk may do some activity “religiously”.  Pagans.

So, then, I contend that someone can be “religious” whether they go to church, or not, and whether they actually believe in and worship some god, or not. When we say we do something “religiously”, we mean that we believe in and practice in some way, something we feel strongly about. We are devoted. I know folks who are religious about watching certain television shows. I am acquainted with people who are religious about swearing and using profanity. I have friends who are religious about adopting stray cats. And, not unlike the god-worshipping devotees, the religious, though some of them may beg to differ, we are imperfect, always, in our practice. Whether god-fearing, church going, or not, we are all sinners, however “religious” we may be.

I am religious.

Non-secularly; I am a believer in and worshipper of some higher power. So I have a belief and a practice. Of sorts. I like to think I live a fairly virtuous life, and may even “qualify” by some standards for an “after-life” or “eternal salvation”. I won’t get into details beyond that. But, aside from worship, godly powers and eternal salvation, I am religious. I have many secular, pagan, beliefs and practices that I follow regularly, that I am devoted and faithful to.

I eat clean. I buy organic, sustainably grown, locally grown, fairly traded and humanely treated food. I buy food as close to its natural state as possible. I not only read ingredients, I try to figure out just how many processes an item of food has undergone before I put it in my basket. The fewer the better. I avoid additives and unnecessary processes, I avoid unnecessary packaging and other practices I feel are detrimental to the environment, my health, or the purity of the product. About this, I am religious. It is a belief and a practice that I embrace, daily, that I am devoted to and follow faithfully. But, I do sin. I am imperfect. Occasionally, I eat crap, a Double-Double at In-N-Out, just because, or I eat M&M’s on a long drive to keep awake and alive. In my travels, I often have to eat in restaurants where I can only hope the food is a fraction as wholesome, unprocessed and pure as I’d like. My sin, my imperfection, however, does not in any way negate my belief and my practice. I don’t just stop believing and practicing eating clean because I sin now and then, by choice or out of necessity.

I exercise. I believe in, and practice, vigorous exercise on a regular basis. Daily would be my preference. I run, I do cardio at the gym, I do strength training, I practice yoga, I attend spin class, and I lead an active lifestyle beyond just my exercise regime. I am religious about exercise. But I am imperfect. I am slender, but still carry extra weight in a few “trouble spots”. I lack the desired muscle tone in other places. And I sin. It is humanly impossible to work out absolutely everyday. And there are those days, too, where I just don’t wanna. My sin and imperfection as a religious exerciser does not mean I am any less a believer in the virtues of exercise in my life. That I sometimes just don’t want to exercise some day or another does not mean I have abandoned the practice. I am still religious about it.

I meditate. I am religious about it. I believe and practice meditation. Not nearly as much, or as regularly, as I’d like. It is a newer belief and practice and I am still trying to integrate it into my “daily routine”. Like clean eating and regular, vigorous, exercise, I believe that meditation offers many benefits for health and wellness and general happiness.

On another note, I’m pretty religious about craft beer, red wine, and ice cream, perhaps a little more religious in my practice than I should be. Hallelujah! Praise the lord! Amen! Pass the offering plate!

I read. I write. I pray. I work really, really, really, hard. I post lots of food pictures to Facebook. All things I am fanatically religious about. All that, and my “daily routine”. I am religious about my “daily routine”. I make lists to help me accomplish all that I hope to in my “daily routine”, but, without fail, the routine is never completed, on any, one, day. Ever. I am imperfect, a sinner. Do I give up on my “daily routine”? No. I believe in it and practice it and it will never be complete or perfect. But it is still good, and I still try. What I don’t accomplish one day, I may the next, and I am better for it, just like clean eating, regular, vigorous exercise and meditating.

My lunch. See?
My lunch. See?

My point. Whatever your religion, whatever you believe in and practice, you cannot, will not, no matter what, ever be perfect and sin-free. Don’t ever abandon your belief and practice of something you find worthwhile because you stray. Be religious and you shall find salvation!

Hallelujah! Amen!

 

 

 

Spin Spin Spin

I went to another spin class at my gym the other day, triumphant and inspired after my first, successful spin class. I learned a lot in my first spin class. I learned that I wasn’t going to die, I learned how to size the bike, I learned the basics of the digital display, how to switch stages and where to monitor RPMs. Most importantly, I learned that I could have fun and get a good work out, all in a spin class.

My second spin class was a bit different. First of all, the class was packed, almost every bike was taken. I overheard one participant say, about the instructor, before the instructor arrived, “she terrifies me.” Now, I was a wee bit terrified, too. Moments later, in bounced the instructor, a tiny-framed woman, with lean, extremely well defined musculature. She was my age, I’d say, at least, but more fit that I’ve ever been in my life, at any age. She looked familiar, and though I have yet to verify it, I think I went to high school with her. She resembles someone, a year ahead of me, who was, even way back then, small-framed, with lean, extremely well defined musculature. We’re talking the front cover of a body building magazine muscle definition. She could stand at the front of a classroom and be put to good use as a visual aid in naming every muscle in the human body. And I truly mean this with the utmost admiration, respect and a touch of jealousy.

The instructor straddled her bike on the pedestal at the front of the classroom, cranked up the tunes and gave us explicit instructions. We were going “uphill” as soon as our “warm up” was over. If I had a dollar for every time she said, “add some gear”, I wouldn’t have to pay my gym fees for the next year! She knew many of the people in the class by name and even included songs in her playlist she knew they, specifically, would enjoy. Three minutes in and I was already dripping sweat onto the floor around my bike. Yikes. We were still going uphill. As a matter of fact, I think we went uphill pretty much the entire time. Who picked this ride?

Though, it seemed, much of the class consisted of regulars, the instructor seemed attuned to the fact that there was some “fresh meat” in with the veterans. Me, for example. With this in mind, she provided very precise, explicit and valuable information on the use of the digital display, every number being given a meaning, a use, and a measure. At the end of the class, I somehow survived, I felt far more informed and in mastery of the bike, the gearing of the bike and how it all related to the digital display and, ultimately, to the best workout I’ve had in a very long time.

As I understand it, this all translates to actual cycling, too. Having grown up in a “cycling” family, my dad being a cyclist for most of his youth, and owning a bicycle shop for most of my youth, I have some vague knowledge of the sport of cycling. I know that the goal is to maintain a steady cadence. There, that’s the depth of my cycling knowledge. You shift gears to maintain that desired cadence. Got it. What I learned in this spin class is how to “make room, add gear, gain power.” This makes sense and it works. As it was explained, several times throughout the class, you have a cadence range, between so many revolutions per minute and about ten more revolutions per minute. You pedal furiously and as you reach the upper end of that range, in other words, you make room, then you add gear, giving you more power. You continue to pedal furiously after adding gear, which, logically, causes your revolutions per minute to drop towards the lower end of the range. Pedal more, get closer to the upper end of the range, making more room, add more gear. The “power” is measured by the “watts” readout on the digital display. By the end of our mostly uphill ride, we were pedaling at about the same RPMs we started our ride with, but we were generating far more power. The watts I generated more than tripled, even though my cadence was the same, during the course of this exercise. I know this all translates to the street, to real riding, to real hills, and I find it fascinating. Power excites me!

I thought about this a lot throughout the day; making room, adding gear, more power and repeat. I think this method can also be applied to life; to our goals and to our evolution as an individual. Think about it.

We have a goal. Some folks never get past the setting of the goal. Others of us plink away at our goals a little bit, here and there, kind of like pedaling the old Schwinn Varsity around the block. And for some of us, that’s it. The seat makes our butt hurt, we get winded, the chain falls off, the tire goes flat and the old Schwinn Varsity reclaims its dusty post at the back of the garage with the car washing towels draped over it, perpetually drying. Am I right?

pedal, pedal, pedal, make room, add gear, gain more power to get up that hill. Repeat.
pedal, pedal, pedal, make room, add gear, gain more power to get up that hill. Repeat.

Others of us work a little harder at our goals. We sit on that spin cycle in class and just pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal. We pay no attention to the numbers on the display. We show up, we pedal and pedal and pedal and you know what? We end up right where we started. We could attend spin class and pedal mindlessly and never increase our effort, never stand to pedal, never add gear, never gain any power, assuming we are making a difference, but we find that we never make any progress. That goal is always there, in the same exact position, never changing, never closer, truly like trying to reach it by riding a stationary bicycle.

Perhaps if we set a “cadence” for our work towards our goal, some kind of measure of achievement, of progress, and, as we work towards the first measure, we “add a little gear”, maybe some intermediate or clarifying goals towards the bigger goal, making it, initially harder, but through which we gain some energy, some power, making reaching the next level not only possible, but, in fact, a bit easier. We add more gear, gain more power, make more progress, and so forth. You see?

So, yes, I encourage you to check out a spin class because it’s hecka fun and a real sweat fest. And, I also encourage you to apply some of the principles of spinning, or cycling, to the goals you’ve set for yourself. Keep up a good pace, make some room by setting intermediate goals or meaningful measures of progress towards the ultimate goal. As you approach each of those intermediate goals or measures, increase your effort and use the power to propel you towards the next intermediate goal or measure. Watch as you quickly and powerfully crest that hill and reach your goal!

Grab your yellow jersey, wave it over your head triumphantly, bask in the glory, and enter another race!

Scarlett’s Letter August 5, 2013

I re-read my own article on self-esteem. I determined that I need to go to rehab. No, not what you’re thinking, but I do need to rehabilitate some of my healthy practices in order to maintain my healthy self-esteem.

I have fallen “off program” a bit lately, with work-related travel to New York City, immediately followed by a two-week vacation to Alaska, followed by a mourning period of returning to my “normal” life after two weeks in NYC and two weeks in Alaska. Then there was the birthday celebration, which lasted for a week. Or two. And, wow, it’s August and I’m feeling a little pudgy, lethargic and have caught myself with a few self-critical thoughts and actions as a result. Like calling myself “muffin top” in the mirror and patting my belly and going “ugh”. I don’t like the way my jeans are fitting and I can still only do twelve push-ups. My goal is 100. And there is that full marathon coming up in December.

So back on track. I am making an effort to read thirty minutes of self-esteem bolstering material a day. I am currently in the middle of “How to Light Up a Room: 55 Techniques to Help You Increase Your Charisma, Build Rapport, and Make People Like You” by Kate Kennedy. I’m on technique #37.  I’ve also decided to make an effort to study for at least thirty minutes a day for a professional certificate I hope to obtain to allow me a bit more flexibility career-wise in the next few years. And, of course, I have vowed to mend my wicked ways, as follows:

  1. One serving of bread per week
  2. One dessert per week
  3. One adult beverage per day
  4. Portion control
  5. Detox

I love bread. Who doesn’t? But when I was busy shedding those fifty unwanted pounds and plateaued, by eliminating my daily serving(s) of bread and replacing it/them with whole grains like quinoa or bulgur, I immediately dropped another fifteen pounds. My daughter has suffered from eczema on her legs for much of her life. When she moved in with me over the summer between college semesters, she also gave up bread and her eczema immediately and permanently disappeared. There is definitely something to the bread intensive American diet that has many of us on the brink of dietary destruction. I would rather enjoy one exquisite piece of bread per week than loaves and loaves of ordinary bread and the related health consequences.

Dessert. Ditto. One amazing dessert per week is so much more worth it than a bunch of mediocre sweets that only destroy my well-intended efforts everywhere else. Total elimination of treats is a prescription for failure and complete denial is always only temporary. But looking forward to, anticipating and planning for that one, epic, epicurean dessert delicacy makes the whole experience so much better. And with good results, too.

Number three. We’ll see. Who am I kidding? Maybe one beer and one wine per day. To start. Hmph.

Portion control. I’ve got this under control. I don’t do seconds. What is it with seconds? Did it not taste good enough the first time? Eating more of something doesn’t make it better, it makes it overeating. And as far as portion size goes, I buy my lean protein servings and simply repackage them into four-ounce servings and freeze them individually. As for everything else; I use itty-bitty bowls. A portion of most foods should not exceed in size, the size of your fist. Hopefully you don’t have mutant, jolly green giant fists. My itty-bitty bowls eliminate any guesswork there. If it fits in the bowl, it is likely a reasonable serving, unless it is a serving of caramel and fudge with whipped cream and marshmallow topping. Ew, anyway. But still, I seem to be overeating. My dinner plate is mostly vegetables, but I have been eating to the point beyond feeling full and that should never be. I need to learn to cook only as many vegetables as I can fit into my little bowl, but, it is hard to get the large variety of veggies I like to fit into a tiny portion. Something to work at.

Detox. I need to detox my thoughts and my self-speak. I have caught a few self-critical thought sneak by, I have slipped out of living in the “now”, now and then, and I have had less than wonderful sleep cycles lately, being plagued with stupid insecurities, petty and fruitless anxieties and annoying song lyrics for a few hours per night when I should be in dream cycles so HGH can naturally release into my bloodstream. Focusing once again on meditation, yoga, cardio and living in the present is a sure cure for all that ails me here.

So, after my run, and my glass of wine, I am going to read a chapter or two in my book, maybe write a little, and nestle down for a restful night’s sleep. Rehab isn’t so bad.

 

My itty-bitty bowls. And plates. They serve two purposes; portion control and making food more fun and enjoyable. And I enjoy finding and buying new, colorful, cheap, little bowls when I see them!
My itty-bitty bowls. And plates. They serve two purposes; portion control and making food more fun and enjoyable. And I enjoy finding and buying new, colorful, cheap, little bowls when I see them!

 

Happy Place

I have been so grumpy lately. Me, the person who preaches “positive mental attitude” and always being “in charge of your own feelings”. Hey, at least I’m honest! No amount of wine seems to help. Truth? It just makes me grumpier when morning rolls around. And I’ve fallen into that vicious cycle of “one more glass of wine” in the evening, which then results in “one more cup of coffee” in the morning. I’ve switched to half-caf in an effort to regain control, as of yesterday, and I was nearly homicidal. Today I made it a little less half and a little more caf and so far no one has cowered when I’ve tried to “explain or clarify” something.

I know I’ve mentioned in previous articles, but I have moved five times in as many years. Maybe more. I may have lost count. I’ve packed and unpacked the same boxes several times and they all, finally, fell apart. Now I have $300 worth of nice, sturdy boxes, piled four high in my room, my office, and in the garage. Partly due to my independence, my freedom and my autonomy, all of which I cherish and nurture, I am the “floating family member”, moving in to assist with rent when my son’s roommates moved on to other schools, and now, moving in with Mom to help her keep up with the house I grew up in. Can you imagine the culture shock moving from a house with a twenty-something and friends to a house with someone on the far side of octogenarian? My life has gone from trips to the gym and the pub in the same evening to a brisk ten minute escorted walk down the toothpaste aisle at Target. I know that moving in to help my son, and then my mom, is the right thing to do, given my flexibility and adaptability, but geez. I also preach that “change is good”. Well, then, I should be in excellent fricking shape! Change is all I’ve had! Constant upheaval, a complete change of locale, having to find my “vibe”, places to shop, to work out, to hang out, and the constant packing and unpacking, temporarily take their toll on my usually sunny disposition.

The move in with Mom has been much harder than I anticipated. We are both very strong willed, opinionated women with slightly, or not so slightly, different outlooks on life. True, and she realizes it, the circumstances have provided quite a bit of good blog fodder. And made me really, really out of sorts. I feel like I am reeling to regain my balance, teetering, not sure if I’m going to land on my ass, on my face, or on my feet.

The recent relocation has been the most difficult. I love Sacramento. I miss Sacramento. I know it may seem like a weird place to love and to miss, but I do. It is a “just right” town. I left Napa for Sacramento thirty some years ago, for a reason. Sacramento is just big enough without being too big. There is plenty of really decent shopping, lots of nice new developments, a great restaurant scene, lots and lots and lots of outdoor recreation possibilities and a decent wine region an hour in any direction. On a clear day there’s a view of the Sierras to the east and the coastal range to the west. How cool is that? Okay, so you can count the number of clear days per year on your fingers and toes, but they are that amazing. And really, the three or four months of hundred degree temperatures aren’t really that bad.

Moving back to Napa is hard. I know, I know. Everyone I meet is so jealous, “you live in Napa?” Um. Yah. No big. True, there are better than stellar wineries within an hour and the restaurant scene is world class. So, too, are the prices. Shopping? Nothing. You either have to go to San Francisco, an hour and some, or, Sacramento, an hour and some. My gyms, all three, “national chains”, don’t have facilities here, causing me to have to pay to end my contracts early and find a local, “single location” gym. I know. First world problems. I’m a spoiled rotten bitch.

Work has had me a bit out of sorts, too. I’ve been dreading the go-go busy travel season, which begins, um, Monday and ends, maybe, in December. It has been our “slow season”, meaning we’ve been working from home re-writing our class materials. It has been nice working from home, I guess, though I don’t really feel quite at home, living out of boxes and all. And the work, re-writing materials? Mind numbing doesn’t even begin to describe the pain and suffering involved. So, beginning next week, I guess I’ll just unpack my boxes into my suitcases and, well, see ya. My life becomes a travelling road show. Ironically, my first two weeks of travel are to Sacramento! I’m making a list of restaurants and shopping and work-outs and hikes and visits and …

Today, however, marked a change. Maybe even a paradigm shift, a much needed paradigm shift. First of all, I worked with a client on the phone and web, providing eight hours of software training. I dreaded getting up at 5:00 AM to call in on time, but once I was online and talking and joking and providing a valued service to these happy and appreciative people, it kind of rekindled what it is about my job I love. The people. Bonus, not monetary, no, but a figurative bonus. Beginning that early, I got to end my workday early, and begin “my day” while it was still bright and sunny outside! The veil of grumpiness budged, ever so slightly.

I went on a mission last week to try to figure out which of the three local gyms I am going to sign my paychecks over to. I toured them all and was given a couple free passes to each. It’s kind of like Goldilocks and the three bears, Scarlett and the three gyms.

The first one was nice, clean, had a decent offering of classes, including Zumba and yoga and spinning. But, the equipment wasn’t all that and it was affiliated with the local hospital, which, when approaching the age of fifty, is not something I really wanted to think about. I mean, most gyms have defibrillator devices posted on the wall, here and there, but I don’t think they actually ever get used. This gym had, like, crash carts, and the staff all wore surgical scrubs and stethoscopes and it was a little too close to the emergency room for my comfort.

The second gym was in the “supposed-to-be-trendy” downtown Napa area. Downtown Napa is about four blocks long and two blocks wide and consists of nice restaurants that open for a few months, then close, leaving the investors in ruin, a few short-lived tasting rooms, and a couple of really scary and totally desperate shopping venues aimed at, well, my mother. There are a ton of vacancies, and in an effort to keep up appearances for the tourists, the windows are full of displays of local artists. It all looks quite nice, but is an illusion. There, in the midst of all this “splendor”, a gym, that used to be a Woolworths, complete with a breakfast counter serving, somehow, greasy pancakes, for most of my childhood. As I toured the gym with the overmedicated customer service representative who reminded me of Joan Cusack, in character as an overmedicated, struggling not to be middle-aged woman, all I could smell was an overwhelming deodorizer-slash-air-freshener, with underlying tones of musty sweat and somehow greasy pancakes. To top this delight to my overactive olfactory senses, they were missing a crucial piece of equipment, the stair climber. I refuse to even use my free passes there, even they smell like strong air deodorizer, musty sweat and greasy pancakes. It is hard to hold your breath and pant at the same time.

The third gym is what I would call a “glitz palace”. A showcase. It is modern, bright, light and vibrant. Appointed with expensive tile half way up all the walls and nice, expensive, shock absorbent flooring. There are windows everywhere, and beautiful, clean, state of the art equipment in several locations throughout, each with a different view. So I can work out and overlook the pool one day, the basketball court another and the free weight room another. I love a workout with a view! All this and only thirty dollars more per month than the other two gyms. But, it was extremely well ventilated, had free Wi-Fi and two stair climbers. The class offering was decent and the clientele did not look like they’d be in need of resuscitation any time soon. I used my second and final free pass today. After an hour of intense cardio and a good day of working with actual people, my foul temper was, yes, almost as sunny and warm as the weather outside.

Exercising is very important, not only for my long-term health, my ability to fit into my nice jeans I rewarded myself with over a year ago for reaching my weight loss goal, to my energy and my productivity, but, probably most importantly, to my disposition. My mom isn’t in tune with this, yet. But K-man, my good, good man from the far, far north, he knows. He can tell within the first two words of a conversation with me whether I’ve managed to exercise that day, or not. If I am sad, or mad, or out of sorts, he will often say something like “why don’t you go for a run, or go to the gym, you know you’ll feel better.” He is right, always. I do feel better.

Tomorrow, my last day for mind-numbing project work. Ugh. I will drink my half CAF and fuss with headers and footers and pagination, page breaks and font size, consistent indentations for bullet lists and things that are not at all natural for an accountant to be doing. But with mind numbing project work and no scheduled class to teach, I will have the freedom and flexibility to go to the “glitz palace” gym and tithe a portion of my earnings and partake in a much needed attitude adjustment. I have found my new happy place!

Morning Exercise

For those of you who hate mornings, and Monday mornings in particular, may I try to offer you a little inspiration?

First, mornings are necessary, there is no avoiding them, and so my recommendation is to meet them head on, tackle them and conquer them. True, if you sleep until noon you technically miss morning, but, you still have to accomplish all you need to for the day, and you have way less time to do it! Think of mornings as the foundation for your day. Use morning to build yourself a solid base for the rest of the day to rest on. I have a couple of different morning exercises, if you will, depending on my work schedule and the day of the week. Whatever day it is, wherever I am, and no matter what time I have to get up and be at work, I have a plan to get my day started on the right foot.

I find that by having a plan, by following it, a bare minimum routine, that I can accomplish more than if I just wing it. I find solace in a routine, and as I am often on opposite coasts during the week than on the weekend, anything that provides consistency is a good thing. And I think that applies for people who don’t flit around quite as much as I do, too. I really benefit from a routine, appreciate it, actually, even when I’m home for a while.

This time of year I am working from home more often than not. I am working on projects more than I am meeting with customers. My days and weeks are littered with project team meetings (conference calls) and maybe a training session or two per week via the web. I, generally speaking, have all the time in the morning I need to accomplish all I desire. I take advantage of this slower time of year to get re-focused on my goals, my fitness, and my health.

My alarm is usually set for a respectable hour, 6:30 or 7:00. I am usually awake before my alarm goes off and I find great benefit from just laying in bed a few moments, quietly reflecting, just sort of being still and letting my mind empty. I don’t call this “meditation” because that seems to put way too much pressure on it for me. As soon as my brain focuses on “meditation” I become completely incapable of just being and breathing. “Reflection” seems to work; I breathe, I be, I am in the present, I am still. There is no time set for reflection, I’m probably lucky to be awake but still for five minutes before my brain springs into action and I leap out of bed.

Once I’m up, my fastidious side likes to make the bed immediately upon touching feet to the floor. Then I’m downstairs to fix coffee and a small healthy breakfast. I bring my journal and after breakfast, I fill a page with “affirmations” and another with “gratitude”. My affirmations are single sentences, affirming to myself, my strengths, qualities I seek to enhance in myself, qualities that boost my self-esteem, each one beginning with “I am”. The next page is reserved for noting down all the things I am grateful for. This entire exercise takes about five minutes and really sets me in the right frame of mind for the day. I first read about this in a book many, many years ago. Since then, nearly every author on self-improvement heralds this method. I whole-heartedly agree. The days I miss this morning exercise, I find myself in a less than optimal mood, unfocused, easily agitated, frustrated and generally, just out of sorts. I follow journaling with a challenging workout video, a shower and the whole beauty routine that ensues.

Crazy, insane mornings where I have to get up super early for work are my “minimalist” mornings. There are things I must accomplish, in addition to shower, hair and makeup, no matter the day, no matter the demands of the day. My minimalist routine consists of writing in my journal and eating a healthy breakfast. Whether I am traveling or at home, if it is an early and rushed morning, I make sure my alarm is set, and obeyed, with adequate time to accomplish these tasks. I will avoid defeat by setting out as much the night before for my breakfast and for getting ready in the morning. Be your own best friend, not your own worst enemy. Workouts, I really, really try to make them happen in the evening, but when flying coast to coast and switching time zones on myself constantly, admittedly, sometimes I fail. This is something I’m working on, affirming.

On leisurely weekend mornings, when I don’t have a running engagement (I’m in a running club that meets on Saturdays most of the year) or other early morning activity, I allow myself to sleep in without benefit of an alarm. Which means I may sleep until 7:00, sometimes even 8:00. I follow my weekly routine, but perhaps a bit more slowly. I have discovered that if I have all morning to complete my routine, I am going to take all morning to complete my routine. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Now, Mondays, let’s talk about Mondays. Much like mornings are the foundation of your day, Mondays are the foundation of your week. I think of Mondays as sort of a mini-springtime, time for renewal and growth. We’ve had the weekend to recover and recuperate, or to party and completely destroy ourselves, but no matter, Monday is when our week begins fresh and we can make it what we want by spending a little time getting it pointed in the right direction.

So, to employ another analogy; think of mornings as the New Years of the day, time to make another attempt at our resolutions. Mondays, likewise, are the New Years of the week, time to make another attempt at our resolutions. What you write in your journal, those are your resolutions, and by focusing on them at the beginning of the day, the beginning of the week, we are much more likely to stick with them throughout the day, the week, the months, the year. A small step in truly achieving what you hope to achieve.

I know it all sounds so ideal; get up when the alarm goes off, eat breakfast, write in your journal, work out, get ready, go to work and a perfect day is made. I will be the first to admit that this rarely goes exactly according to plan.

Today, for instance; I had two mid-morning meetings, so I figured, when I set my alarm last night, that I’d allow an hour to eat, journal, clean up after breakfast, text K-Man (my significant other), check facebook, finish my coffee, jot down some blog fodder and dilly dally in a few other ways. I’d allow an hour for my workout video, and, finally, an hour to shower, do my hair and makeup and get to the office (the third bedroom in my house, so, lucky for me, commute equals three steps down the hallway).

I awoke well before my alarm went off and figured I’d get the day started early so I could take my morning even more leisurely. Somehow, that seemed to put my internal timer on relaxed, weekend morning mode. The whole breakfast/journal/facebook/coffee/blog fodder/text K-Man thing ended up taking nearly two hours, putting me about a half an hour behind schedule. Before heading upstairs for phase two of my morning plan, I choked down my vitamins and finished my first tall glass of water for the day.

You know how Mondays can be? As I was taking my vitamins, I dropped one. Typical. My first lightning quick thought was, “yup, it’s Monday”, so negative, but I reached out my hand as the vitamin bounced off the table and headed for the floor, and I caught it. My whole perspective changed in an instant. Did I just conquer Monday? Then I dropped the vitamin a second time. And caught it between my knees. Yes, Monday was mine, I owned it!

Phase two; I was half an hour behind schedule, but I was not about to let myself wimp out or postpone my workout, because once the shower/hair/makeup is done, there is severe resistance to the whole workout thing until late in the evening, and I have an appointment tonight. I really, really don’t like compromising the workout schedule on Mondays, it just really sets the wrong precedence for the rest of the week. Especially after this weekend’s dietary indiscretions!

I ran upstairs, threw on my work out clothes, and loaded my Insanity Plyometric Cardio Circuit DVD into the player. I panted and sweat along with Shaun T. and all those perfectly fit people on the screen, who are all about thirty years younger than me. It’s supposed to be a sixty day program, I’m thinking it’ll take me more like six months to be able to accomplish the Level I Drill, once, let alone the entire set of exercises. But, hey, I make a little progress each day. That’s the point. Now, since I’m new to Insanity, and old in years, my thirty second breaks sometimes stretch to sixty, or so. I usually have a good “reason”, need a(nother) towel, (more) water, etc., but when you start to multiply that across all the breaks, a forty-five minute workout becomes more like an hour.

Now I’m really late. As a matter of fact, as I step into the shower, and by God, I’ve GOT to shower, I have less than fifteen minutes until my first conference call begins. Shaun T.’s voice is still echoing in my head, and I swear as I grab the shampoo bottle I hear him yell “Shampoo! Squirt! Lather! Four, three, two, one! Rinse! Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one! Conference call is in ten minutes people! Let’s go! Soap on loofah! Scrub! Eight, seven, six, five! Four more! Three, two, one! Towel!”

I made it to my meeting on time, squeaky clean, glowing from my workout out, and totally owning Monday, and the whole week!