Don’t Rush Ahead

Do you remember going for walks or bike rides with your family as a kid? Were you the one who always went as far as you possibly could because you were just too excited to hold back? Did your parents have to tell you to stop and wait for them to catch up, to not go any farther than they could see?

I don’t think I really did that when I was a kid. I have always been really cautious when it comes to things like that. But I do think I take a similar approach to other things in my adult life.

I want to know what’s coming. I want to be prepared. And, if at all possible, I want to get ahead. I want to feel like I’m buying myself extra time by skipping steps or getting things done faster now so I can have a buffer later. And I certainly don’t want to feel like I’m wasting my time doing things that I don’t need to be doing.

I don’t like waiting. I don’t like doing the foundational work that feels like nothing at all. I want to get to the big, fun, challenging, heart-of-the-work things that produce results and give me something to show for all my work.

I have a bad habit of cheating myself out of my stretching before and after my workouts. I do stretch some, but not nearly as much as I should. And, of course, I never realize it until the next day when my muscles are sore and tight because I didn’t take the time to stretch them properly.

The problem is that I don’t give stretching its due. It feels useless. I have limited time allotted for working out, and I don’t want to “waste” it on stretching when I could otherwise be doing cardio or strength training- things that make my heart beat harder or strain my muscles in ways that I can feel in a more tangible way right then in the moment.

When I was in school, I always loved the professors who gave out course calendars and detailed rubrics for projects ahead of time. I loved knowing what was coming and what was expected of me. It allowed me to plan out my time and energy efficiently. In courses where I didn’t have a clear view of what came next, I found myself wondering what laid ahead.

And I’m finding myself in that place once again. I started a writing course a couple weeks ago, and I’m having a really (REALLY) hard time not rushing ahead. I did the prewriting exercises faster than the standard course timeline laid it out, but now I’m finding myself itching to look at material I’m not slated to encounter for a few more weeks yet. And I really don’t need it until then. But this little part of me just wants to know it all. To be prepared. To avoid surprises.

The more I think about it, the more I come to realize I do that with all of life. I want to avoid big surprises. I want to know what’s coming. I want to be prepared.

But life’s unpredictable. And if I run ahead, I might encounter something sooner than I’m meant to, and I might not be prepared to handle it because I didn’t let the waiting do its work. If I skip steps in my writing, I can most likely come back to them later. If I forget to stretch, I’ll be sore the next day, but I’ll survive just fine. But if I skip steps or rush ahead in life, I might make wrong turns, poor and uninformed decisions, and find myself ill-equipped to handle obstacles because I didn’t let my character grow before plowing forward. And if I knew everything all at once, I would certainly get overwhelmed.

I know it’s important to take things one step at a time. The steps exist for a reason– they make the journey easier, allowing me to tackle just one at a time instead of the whole staircase. I just sometimes need the reminder to not skip steps and try to rush ahead without doing the important foundational work first.

So today I’m reminding myself: Take life one step at a time. Don’t rush the process. Don’t skip steps just because you can’t see why they’re important right now.

 

Do you tend to run ahead? Do you have any tips for taking things one step at a time? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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Just Keep Moving

It’s been hard for me to figure out how to exercise the way I want to as the weather continues to get colder. I love running outside, but I seem to have a particularly low threshold for cold weather this winter, leaving me unable to bear the temperatures outside.

Honestly, that was a hard blow to my heart, since I enjoy running so much, but it forced me to think outside the box and search for new fitness options. It also opened my eyes to the high value I had placed on running in terms of fitness.

I did enjoy running, but it wasn’t always my main motivator, and sometimes I had a really bad attitude about it as I reluctantly walked out the door into the cold, as if running had become an unenjoyable form of personal punishment once the weather got too cold.

“The best way to avoid this type of self-sabotage is to view your runs themselves as rewards rather than as chores to be gotten through and rewarded…

[Y]ou should do whatever you need to do to enhance your enjoyment of running. Studies have shown that when people manipulate their workouts in ways that make them more fun, they are more likely to stick with their programs. If you enjoy running with music, run with music. If you prefer running with a friend or group, do that. If you like running in the park, run in the park. There’s really no wrong way to run for weight loss if you’re having fun.” – myfitnesspal article

While there is by no means anything inherently bad about making fitness, exercise, or running a big par of one’s life, it isn’t the only way to exercise. This winter has challenged me to rethink my approach to fitness, just like I’m doing with nutrition. I want to live a healthy lifestyle, not one that feels confined or treats fitness like an obligation or punishment. I want to really enjoy what I’m doing, and running in the bitterly cold weather just doesn’t fit into that.

Instead, I’ve upped my strength training. I’ve been doing some strength training for a long time now, but I’ve been incorporating more HIIT and regular cardio into the routines and extending the length of time of my workouts as I get more into them and build endurance. While this option seemed second-best to running initially, I’ve grown to like it for this season. I have a wide variety of video workouts to choose from that keep me continually challenged and never bored.

When I consider long-term goals and motivation, I don’t seek to be able to lift a certain weight or run at a certain pace. Instead, I just want to keep moving. This idea dawned on me while I was watching a video by FitnessBlender, one of my favorite workout channels. The couple who hosts the videos regularly reminds viewers to take breaks when necessary, but to always keep moving. It’s not as important to complete the full HIIT or cardio or strength workout as it is to respect your limits, and you’re still reaping great benefits as long as you keep moving.

That is exactly what I want to do: grow stronger, continually challenging myself to move forward toward new heights, recognizing and respecting my limits as necessary for preventing injuries that would cause setbacks, but being willing to try new things and push myself outside of my comfort zone to avoid getting stuck in a rut, making sure I enjoy what I’m doing.

And oddly enough, this concept is true for the rest of life as well. No matter what comes my way, trips me up, distracts me, demands my attention, threatens to steal my joy, or hinders me from reaching my goals, I want to just keep moving. Even if it’s just one little baby step at a time, I will keep moving, keep striving for new heights, trying to figure out what works for me, and refusing to give up. Because I believe greater things like ahead than any I can leave behind.

Motivation

It’s easy to begin the year with a set of noble goals, and find that as time goes on, life chokes out our best intentions, and we fall back into old patterns of behavior. This is why gyms are packed in January and nearly empty by September. It’s why many people lose weight initially with a diet plan, but gain the weight back later when they just can’t keep up with it anymore. That plan of attack just isn’t sustainable.

When our motivation doesn’t go deep enough, we are apt to give up more easily. I don’t know about you, but I’m in this for the long haul. This is my health, my life, I’m talking about, and I don’t want to take that too lightly.

Of course, I don’t want to take it too seriously either, and motivate myself to strive for my goals in unhealthy ways. Just as positive thoughts can push me to new heights, so can negative ones. But the outcome isn’t the same. Telling myself I can succeed allows me to see my progress, encourage myself, build up my self-esteem, and focus on making positive choices. Highlighting past failures, comparing myself to others, creating strict and unrealistic boundaries, and not respecting appropriate limits causes me to begin spiraling into negativity, frustration, potential injury, and ultimately a loss of motivation when I think I’ll never reach my goals.

I have been trying to decipher what my personal motivations for fitness and nutrition have been recently. I’ll admit they’re not all as pure as they could be. I definitely admire toned muscles and lean figures of fitness experts and aspire to that in some sense. But if that was my only motivator, I would find myself thinking negative thoughts when I fail to measure up, constantly comparing myself to others and falling short at every turn.

Instead, I am choosing to focus on a greater motivation: my well-being and health. I’m seeking to pursue things that ultimately will make me feel good, not in a hedonistic sense of pleasure-seeking, but in terms of a few different things. I ask myself:

  1. What choice will make me physically feel good later?
  2. What choice would I be proud of having made?
  3. What choice would I recommend to someone else in my position?

These questions, and the choices that I make when considering them, have propelled me toward higher aspirations. I’ve considered my limitations, both in terms of figuring out when and where I should stop short of my initial goal, and understanding when I still have more to give and can press past what I thought I could accomplish. It’s truly encouraging when I realize I can lift a heavier amount of weight, run farther, or use more self-control to avoid foods that won’t make me feel good. Growth is sometimes slow in coming, but it is coming.

I remind myself with each step that I’m making a choice about how I want to live my life, about who I want to be. It’s not about the number on the scale or my jeans or about the number of squats I can do before my legs turn to Jell-O; it’s about making healthier choices I can feel good about so that I can live a full life. Both have been proven to lower risk for disease, exercise can reduce stress, and I truly believe that life is better when I make good choices about fitness and nutrition.

Of course, I still sometimes don’t challenge myself enough in my workouts and know I could give more effort. I still find myself caving and eating foods that I know I really shouldn’t. But I’m making progress, and that’s enough for me.

June Favorites

I thought it would be fun if I took a moment each month to let you know what things are currently striking my fancy, so here goes the June installment!

Current favorites:

Song: Holy Spirit by Francesca Battistelli. I have realized over the last couple years that my favorite portion of most songs is the bridge. They tend to be catchy and heartfelt, the climax of the song. This one is no different. While I resonate with the entire song, the bridge is my favorite part. It simply repeats “Let us become more aware of Your presence; let us experience the glory of Your goodness” over and over. It serves to remind me that His presence is all around me, if only I would pay more attention to it, and He is infinitely good.

Book: The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. I read these books as a child and have been re-reading them lately. Going back to these stories makes me feel like a kid again, and I think the books are simply fabulously written. My copies are illustrated, too, so that adds even more entertainment value to them. I have been devouring the stories of all the interesting characters and enjoying the parallels that can be drawn to Scripture.

Blog: Half Baked Harvest. I’m not entirely sure how I stumbled upon this gem of a blog (how do any of us happen upon half the things we read on the internet?), but I’m glad I did. Tieghan, the author of the blog, seems similar to me in many ways, except that she spends here time making and blogging about delicious culinary creations. I want to be more like her in that. Her posts are really detailed, and all the food looks so amazing!

Food: Curry. I know, I know, that’s like saying I like soup. It’s really generic. But it’s different every time I make it, since I always end up tweaking the recipe based on what I have on hand or what ingredients I like/don’t like. This is the most recent one I tried. I omitted the chicken since I didn’t have much left, and did about 1.5 times the amounts called for so I could have leftovers.

TV Show: I know it’s been years since it was airing new episodes, but Friends will forever be one of my favorite TV shows. I didn’t jump on the bandwagon with Friends until high school, but quickly fell in love with the charismatic characters of the show, and I haven’t looked back since. Two of my roommates have the complete series on DVD, and now that the show is on Netflix, I can say I’ve seen all of the episodes at least twice.

YouTube Channel: FitnessBlender. I use this channel to mix and match workout videos to target different areas (cardio, legs, arms, abs, etc.). I really like the fact that the trainers emphasize the inclusion of active rest periods so that you can get a breather between moves without completely stopping and standing still, interrupting your workout flow. I also like the wide variety of videos and exercises available. They’re really challenging, but it’s the kind of challenge that gives me a sense of accomplishment when I’m finished and sometimes leaves me sore the next day, so I’m a big fan of it. I also just ventured over to their website, which has some delicious-looking recipes!

Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite things?

Feelin Fit

Healthy living is very important to me. I see it as a way to respect my Creator, by taking care of the body and life He has entrusted me with.

One of my coworkers has been generous enough to let me use an extra FitBit she had at her house, so I have recently taken to tracking my fitness, food intake, water intake, and sleep with that program. It has been good to track my progress and ensure that I am working toward maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I have been logging my workouts and runs for a couple years now with other programs like MapMyRun, but have now added a few more aspects of healthy living to the mix.

I like that my steps, stairs, and calories burned are recorded for me so that I can continually challenge myself to improve in those areas. Having these numbers right at my fingertips has motivated me to park a little farther away at the grocery store, take that extra trip upstairs to retrieve something instead of putting it off until later, and make sure I don’t sit for too long at my desk without taking a break. Coupled with regular workouts and healthier eating, I feel that these more subtle changes are helping me live the healthier lifestyle that I aspire to.

Through this process, I also have become more aware of how much water I consume, making sure that I drink enough every day to stay properly hydrated. I have been paying more attention to how much sleep I’m getting, too, and can monitor the trends over time to see if I need to make any changes to my habits.

I can monitor my food and activity alongside one another to see if I am maintaining a relatively even input and output of energy, too. Entering food items with a long list of ingredients can be time-consuming, but I primarily eat whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. I try to stay away from heavily processed foods that have ingredients I can’t pronounce and incredibly high levels of sodium and sugar. I have noticed that I don’t feel too great when I consume too much sugar or processed grain, so I have begun limiting my intake of those substances in order to feel my best. Healthier foods pair well with regular exercise, getting me one step closer to living the life that I’m aiming for. As I see the list of my frequently-logged foods grow to include more produce and lean protein, I feel better about the things I decide to fuel my body with, knowing I’m making good choices.

Having a way to document my activity levels pushes me to continue working hard to pursue a healthy and fit lifestyle.It’s been fun to challenge myself to climb more flights of stairs or walk more miles than I did the previous day. When I see that I’ve been steadily increasing the distance of my runs or the amount of weight I can lift, I’m encouraged to continue growing and striving for new goals.

What steps can you take to live a healthier lifestyle?