Monday Motivators: When The Mind Is Willing And The Body Is Not

Last week my personal challenge was to walk 65,000 steps, or 13,000 steps a day, in five days.  I knew this would be hard, but the week before I handily accomplished 60,000 and my confidence was high.  Surely, I could sneak in an extra 1,000 steps a day.

Instead, something else snuck up on me.  My weekly total was 53,342.  This sounds like a lot, and it IS a lot.  For me, it was pretty low.  On Monday I woke up feeling pretty tired, but I tried to get in my steps and even did a step aerobic workout when I got home (I live by workout videos).  Even with this effort, I missed the 13,000 mark by 800 steps.  I shrugged it off; the deficit would be made up on Tuesday.  The next morning I felt worse– exhausted, kind of swimmy, with a headache that throbbed behind my left eye, and everything I ate or drank tasted like bile.  I still went to work, hoping that once I got there I would feel better and knowing my job was to chaperone students on a low-maintenence field trip.  I still did not feel better.  This followed for the entire week and culminated on Thursday when my left eye felt like it had looked at the sun too long (even though I was indoors) and could not regain its sight. Nothing was getting done; the papers remained ungraded and the steps remained untaken.  I went home and walked to the couch.  Friday resulted in the same action.  I spent most of the weekend recuperating.  It wasn’t until Saturday evening that it started to abate, and while I feel much better today, I know that it just went into hiding; I’m not out of the woods.

The good news is that I got in a lot of steps today.  I worked out and went for a four-mile walk.  My goal this week is back to 60,000.  My friend Ginger, who also has a FitBit, challenged me to the Workweek Hustle competition to see who can get the most steps.  Hopefully between feeling better and a good dose of friendly competition, I will make it.

Monday Motivators was started by my blogging friend Laura who is motivating herself and others to accomplish the things they want to do for the week.  Go over and check out her blog and be her friend.  She is awesome.

Monday Motivators: 65,000 Steps

Challenges:  They get me in trouble.  I cannot say “no” to them.  So when my blogging buddy Laura started her Monday Motivators to challenge and motivate herself and her friends to do whatever it is they need to do that week, I signed on immediately.  My challenge: walk 60,000 steps in 5 days.

The fitness powers-that-be suggest 10,000 steps a day, but working at a school and being on my feet all day helps me attain almost 6-8,000 steps.  Walking to the mailbox and regular daily living walking helps make up the difference.  That’s not very challenging. 12,000 steps requires more from me, and to reach that goal, I need to come home after being on my feel all day and do a workout.  That is a challenge.

But I made it.  I actually did a little over 60,000 steps and here’s my plan of attack:

1. Wear the FitBit.  My FitBit tracks all of my steps, and sometimes after I shower, I forget to put it on right away.  That means I walk around the house getting ready for work and those steps are not tracked.  This can add up to over 500 steps!

2. Plan ahead.  Last week I knew I had an all-day meeting Wednesday, a book club in the evening Thursday, and a tuckered body on Friday.  These days were going to be low-step days, so I planned to work out Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday afternoons.  On Monday and Tuesday I exceeded 12,000 steps in order to make up for the rest of the week’s deficit.

3. The mini-challenge.  On Thursday and Friday, know that I would need to get in some good steps at work, I gave myself mini-challenges.  For example, during class I checked my steps on my FitBit (I love my FitBit) and challenged myself to walk a certain amount of steps in a limited amount of time.  This had an added benefit of keeping my students on task: at any moment I could be doing a lap around their desks.

4.  Take the long way.  My classroom is close to everything: the front office, the library, the bathroom, the elevator.  Fortunately my room is on the second floor, so there is ample opportunity to take the stairs.  However, with everything so close I often create “long ways” of getting places.  It might take a minute or two longer to get somewhere, but the steps add up quickly (you’d be surprised).

5. A little help from students.  Some of my students know that I am trying to get in my steps.  Some cheer me on, while others are sneaky.  One day a student called me over to him. After walking across the room to see what he needed, he grinned, “Nothing.  Just helping you get in some more steps.”

This week has less demands on my time, so my goal is to reach 65,000 steps.

Readers, if you have not met my lovely friend, Laura, click on the link above and check out her blog.  Let her motivate you, too!

The Summer Sanity Survival Guide

Summer break is a joyous time.  No students, no schedule, no papers to grade, and endless amounts of time loafing about in pajamas.  After 180 days of teaching, countless meetings, unending emails, and trying to make heads or tails out of teenagers, it is well-deserved.  I love having my alone time and could easily veg out and watch A&E and TLC all day.  However, for someone like me who is susceptible to melancholy and ennui (and sometimes flat-out depression), lying on the couch staring at the ceiling is not necessarily a good thing.  After having gotten to know myself for a while now, I’ve come up with some strategies that keep me happy and healthy until school starts back up in a couple of months.

1.  Eat breakfast.  This is a no-brainer.  Everyone is told to eat the most important meal of the day, and there’s a reason for it.  It works.  For me it levels out my blood sugar, elevates my mood, and keeps me full most of the day.  I’m not talking about grabbing a breakfast bar on your way out the door in the morning to be inhaled in the car.  I’m talking about taking the time to sit down and eat a meal.  Mine consists of oatmeal with dried cranberries (or diced apple), walnuts, and cinnamon, a glass of OJ, and a cup of coffee.

The right start to the morning!

2. Fish oil.  Fish oil has many benefits from making your skin and hair look nice to aiding a healthy heart.  It also has the benefit of stabilizing mood and alleviating symptoms of depression.

3.  Work out.  I once read that the best type of exercise out there was the one that you would actually do.  Going to the gym is a hassle to me.  Getting cleaned up to go somewhere else to work out and then come home to get cleaned up again (cleaning up around strangers doesn’t appeal to me) doesn’t make any sense.  Instead every morning my living room becomes my home gym as I pop in a workout video and work out for an hour.  I don’t have to worry about being in anyone else’s space, share equipment, or wait my turn.  Plus, with a multitude of videos, I can choose which workout “class” I want and when I want it.  Today it was yoga and strength.  Tomorrow it will be cardio and strength.  The benefit of working out is huge.  I feel better about myself and proud that I can hold balance poses and do plank push-ups.  Feeling strong gives me mental and psychological strength.  Being strong has provided other benefits, too, such as when one of my male students, for who knows why, decided to play tough-guy and flex his bicep at me (he wasn’t being playful).  I walked up to him, pulled up my sleeve, flexed mine as he said, “Holy crap!”  I didn’t have a problem with him after that.

Who needs to drive to a gym and pay a monthly fee?

4. Go outside and go for a walk.  After working out and eating breakfast, I will head out for my walk.  I have two routes: a two-miler and a four-miler.  If I am short on time, I walk two miles, but almost always it’s four.  Nothing clears my head better than a walk.  I can say helllo to the neighboors, see what people are doing to their yards, and feel the sun on my skin.  For an added bonus and extra geekiness, I also use walking poles.  They cause people to give me funny looks (although today a woman with a cane really wanted to know if they helped me walk better), but they scare away dogs and little children.  Using walking poles improves posture, works the arms, and burns more calories– and if I’m going to be out there for an hour, I want to get the most out of it.  An unexpected result of using them is the killer ab workout they provide, and any ab work I can do that is not a crunchie is freaking awesome in my book.  They also provide a great way to relieve tension since I can whack the ground with them.

Those sticks are made for walkin’. And that’s just what they’ll do…

5.  Read.  Can the benefits of reading be overstated?  I think not.  I belong to three book clubs, and this gives reading new purpose.  I pay closer attention to what I read and develop more opinions about the topic.  A variety of genres appeal to me, but my favorites are histories, biographies and memoirs about people overcoming great odds and danger.  My favorite book in this category is The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey.  Books like these help me put my own life into perspective.

Part of my reading list.
More tales of overcoming obstacles.
If you haven’t read this, stop reading my blog and go get it! I lent it to my mother and once she finished it, she called me to say thank you for making her read it. via Goodreads

6.  Blog/Write.  For the last few months as a blogger, my anxiety has gone down a lot.  Although blogging can bring about new and unexpected forms of anxiety, it forces me to focus on the positive and allows me to process my day.  Blogging has introduced me to a wide variety of funny, inspiring, and talented people.

WordPress is ready. Are you?

7.  Learn something new.  If you have a ton of time on your hands, why not learn something new?  When else are you going to learn it?  Plus, you may develop a new hobby and meet new people.

You say you want a Con-sti-tu-tion, All Right! (This is what I want to learn about this summer).

8.  Plan something.  Planning is fun.  It means that something is going to happen in the future and right now you can work towards that outcome.  Next fall I will teach U.S. History for the first time, so this summer I will plan my course and implement new strategies that I haven’t been able to try in my English class. But planning doesn’t have to be work related, you can plan what you’re going to build next, what new piece of music you want to learn, or plan a trip.  Which brings me to my next point…

I’m planning on making history. What’s your plan?

9.  Go somewhere.  Planning a trip is the best kind of planning (to me) and nothing lifts the spirits more than getting away.  It doesn’t have to be far away, but just a change of scenery.  Traveling challenges you and you learn new things about people, places, and culture.  Sometimes if you feel down in the dumps, the best way to feel better is to leave the dump.

All of my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…

10. Hang out with friends.  Good friends aren’t going to let you feel sad and mopey.  They’re going to make you laugh, get you out of the house, and have a good time.  Everyone knows that one of the most important things to good mental well-being is having a strong social network, whether it be two friends or two hundred.

I look like I’m one sip away from singing the South Pacific songbook. (“I’m going to wash that man right out of my hair…”) Someone will have to put me in the car before I get to “Bali Hai”.

11.  Sleep.  As much as I don’t like my regimented schedule when I teach (lights out at 9, wake up at 3:45), keeping a standard sleep schedule is so important for my mental health.  In the summer I fall asleep at 10 and wake up around 6.  By following this schedule, I get enough sleep and don’t lounge around in bed all day.  Getting up at 6 allows me to work out and walk while the weather is still cool, and I still have the rest of the day ahead of me.  I also try to get a nap in everyday.  Nothing beats a good nap.  Being well-rested helps keeps the doldrums away.

Toby and Molly are my sleep role-models. There should be an Olympic event just for them. If curling’s a sport, why not sleeping?

These are the things I do to stay positive in the summer months.  What do you do to keep your spirits up?

What To Do, What To Do…

Alright fellow bloggers and readers, I need your input and advice. I have been feeling very melancholy and reflective of late as the graduation of the class of 2012 nears.  Of all the graduating classes I’ve taught, I have connected to this class the most, and I am sad to think of going to work next year and not having all of their friendly faces around me.  Then there is also the intimidation of two months of blogging a post a day without my source material.  Like my students, I need some summer “work”.  Left to my own devices I may just write about my daily routine all summer long (yoga, oatmeal, walking, reading, nap), and this might get really old for all of you really quick– especially if you’re working and not doing yoga or napping.  I don’t want you shun my blog thinking, “My gosh, it’s yet another pigeon pose post!”  While I have some ideas floating around my noggin, I’d like to get some from you for my brain to play with.  So fess up and give me some suggestions of things to write about, things that inspire writing, or ask a question.  Thanks!

Am I Really Walking In The Desert?

Thanks to my internal clock that refuses to let me sleep in, I was fortunate enough to partake in my favorite Palm Springs activity: my morning walk.  Palm Springs’ morning walks differ from others because you really need to get out there before the sun is too high in the sky and you dry up and no one notices your chalky bones on the ground because everyone thinks they’re part of the desert decor.  Every morning around 7 I slipped out the door and out of the gated community to explore other neighborhoods on foot while my husband steadily snored away.

This trip I took my camera with me with the intention of creating a cutting edge photo-blog of my explorations.  Donning my best photo-journalist air, I scouted opportunities for shots that would reveal the real Palm Springs.  I crouched low to the ground, played with angles, ran off little boys who were in my way, all in the effort of creating a masterpiece.  My husband downloaded my pieces of art into the computer and I began to review my work.  My work reminded me of something… mostly the fact that I have zero photography experience or knowledge, and that my requirements for my new camera were that it be small, cute, and preferably pink.

While most of my efforts I would not even show my family, you know, the people who will patiently look at all pictures presented to them, my best attempts are what I will only share with you, dear reader.

The San Jacinto Mountains. They look like cardboard cut-outs pasted to the sky.
This hummingbird had the right idea to cool off. It was warm!
I really liked the delicate features of the leaves as the sun filtered through (their shade was also much appreciated).
The convergence of the desert and an immaculately manicured golf course that abuts the San Jacinto.
Brown-Eyed Susans grow in an empty lot. I often think of palm trees and Brown-Eyed Susans together, don't you?
This one turned out so well. I have no idea what I did. It caught my attention because it matched my camera.
These untamed wildflowers are so not Palm Springs, where everything is just-so, that I had to take multiple pictures of them.
The scroll of the plant climbing the walls reminded my of the intricate wrought-iron windows in the French Quarter.
It's taken me years to learn to love Palm Springs, but it is the barrenness of the San Jacinto range that I love the most. They remain rugged and untouched from all the development in the valley. As much as the desert is covered up, they remind us where we are.

Where are  your favorite places to wander?  What places have you learned to love?  What color is your camera?

The Thrill Of The Hunt

The thing was, I didn’t know if I’d get over it.  I told myself the usual platitude that I’m a grown up, and really, how many grown ups hunt for Easter eggs?  By themselves?  My lower lip quivered as I whined to myself, “I do!  I hunt Easter eggs.”  And the Easter Bunny didn’t show up.  Actually, the Easter Bunny informed me the night before that he had forgotten it was Easter– how that’s possible when all of the stores are decked out in plastic grass and pastels, I’ll never know– and he followed it up with, “I’m such a bad husband!” Like that’s supposed to console me.  Now there’s no Easter AND I have a bad husband.

On Easter morning I put out his card and Reese’s Reester Bunny that I remembered to purchase, and he groaned when he saw them. “I woke remembering that I didn’t get you any Cadbury mini-eggs.  I’m such a bad husband.”  I think we covered that base thoroughly now, thank you.  It was becoming increasingly difficult not to pout; how was it that I had to console HIM, when I was the one deprived of my annual hunt?  He apologized and asked if there was anything he could do to make up for this.  Attempting to wrap my mind around the fact that in the scheme of wars, famine, and API scores, this was really No. Big. Deal.  “No. Everything’s fine. I’m fine.”  Then trying not to mope, but failing, I grabbed my walking poles and left for my four mile walk.

As I walked I tried to snap out of it by working out my aggression by thwacking my poles on the asphalt.  Sure, I was disappointed; people do occasionally forget holidays.  Who those people are, I don’t know, but I’ve heard of it happening. Apparently, my husband was now one those minions.  Thwack!  My annoyance escalated as people drove by craning their necks to ogle my poles.  Obviously, one has to be a skier or blind to use them.  Yesterday two different people informed me that there was not any snow on the ground.  I had answered with my usual cheerfulness, but today… Oh today, they would feel the wrath of my poles.  Thwack!  A teenager walking to his car stared at my poles incredulously as he tried to equate them with the balmy sixty degree weather. Glaring at him from behind my sunglasses, I sent him a telepathic rebuttal: “If it’s so warm, then why are you wearing a ski cap?”  Thwack!  A mile later I walked by a man cheerfully hiding eggs in his front yard.  There’s a hunt happening at his house.  Thwack! Thwack! Thwack!

I knew I was being silly and petulant.  I knew that it was just a bunch of eggs with candy inside– the very same candy that my parents sent me a bag of and that I could also buy for 75% off the following day, so it wasn’t like I was deprived.  I knew that I am married to a man who can look at any menu and know exactly what I would order.  Who leaves articles about Downton Abbey out for me to read.  Who brings home chicken soup, Saltines, and 7-Up when I’m sick.  Who makes me a special dinner every weekend.  Who… you get the picture.  I knew that a real grown-up would stop being a spoiled brat and just get over it.

I returned home, still disappointed, but less so.  But, I really wasn’t looking forward to a day consoling the “man who forgot Easter.”  I slunk into the house and put my poles away.  “Did you put those poles away correctly?” he asked.  Wondering why he cared about them, I opened the door to reveal upright poles and shut the door.  Again, he questioned my pole-storage technique.  Restraining from declaring that I know how to put my own poles away, I humored him and opened the door again.  “See?” he pointed out, “Are the handles supposed to look like that?”  I glanced the handles and on the shelf above them peeked a bright green plastic egg.  My heart soared as I opened it greedily to reveal my Cadbury mini-eggs.  I gave my beloved Easter Bunny a hug as I reverted to being a kid again to enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

Photos: and

Full of Mini-Eggs!

Walk! Don’t Run.

Being hard of hearing makes playing team sports a bit difficult, especially if you happen to think that rules are somewhat irrelevant and can’t keep them straight. Once playing softball for P.E. in elementary school I remember being on 2nd base (how I made it all the way there must have been nothing short of a miracle).  It’s really tricky playing softball because even though the batter hits the ball, it didn’t necessarily mean I should run to third.  There were nuances to this beyond my comprehension.  Anyway, the batter hit the ball and I saw my classmates on the sidelines waving their arms this way and that.  Hmm.  Do I go?  Do I stay? I made to go and their hands shot up.  I edged back to the base; their hands shot forward, I made to go again. One of my classmates cut through the mixed signals and screamed, “Run, stupid!”. It was no wonder that I was the proverbial last person chosen for a team.

My dad really wanted me to be in sports.  He got me a softball bat and a ball (which booked a direct flight to my nose), we played frisbee, we tossed around a football, and he tried in vain to teach me how to play golf.  To make him proud, I joined cross country. I could at least run straight.  He was very pleased at my ambition to be a runner and took me to the mall to find the best running shoes. He weighed each potential shoe in his hand for lightness and bent each for flexibility before settling on the perfect pair.  I went to trainings where we ran. And ran. And ran.  My parents were flummoxed at my lack of speed; they figured that being such a little person, I’d excel at cross country.  My feet , they determined, were made of cement (which explains a lot about my driving).  I also quickly learned that if someone were not chasing me or if I was not chasing Alex P. Keaton (sigh), there really was no logical reason to run.

Looking out over Ashland.

Somewhere along the line, I “discovered” walking (it’s akin to looking for your glasses when you’re wearing them).  This I could do.  I can even walk fast, so that I’m marginally athletic.  There are no rules to walking besides looking both ways before crossing the street, and my side doesn’t cramp up. Not only that, research also supports my choice.  It’s nice to the joints and it’s weight-bearing so my spine won’t curve over and make me shorter than I already am.

Scene from Independence walk.

Walking has many benefits besides having a healthy heart.  It allows one to think and reflect.  You can take time to see how your body feels and changes through the walk.  I feel a sense of gratitude that I am able to put one foot in front of the other and move freely. You can observe things in nature or even in your neighborhood.  You can slow down or stop to admire a lovely garden or paint trim.  You can walk anywhere.  Last year I had some amazing walks: I walked around Independence, MO on the very same sidewalks Harry Truman walked.  In Portland I took morning walks in Pier Park, a hilly wooded area that was quiet and peaceful.  On the Fourth of July I had a morning walk through Ashland, OR and saw the town prepare for the parade– including the fire department shining up the fire truck.  It was such a slice of small town Americana that I really felt the sense of community.  It was because of my love of walking that I sought all of that out.  You can’t get all of this on a softball field or whizzing right by it running.

They say that the best kind of exercise is one that you’ll do, so readers, what exercise do you love?