Category Archives: Physical Challenge

My Loosey Goosey Goal

There’s a theory about setting and reaching goals that says to not only set your goal, but make it quantifiable and also chart out the path you’ll need to take to reach the goal.  As I lay in bed this morning thinking about the day ahead, I realized I have not charted a path for this month’s “someday” of learning Italian and I’m struggling to make any progress.

In November my “someday” was to write and publish a short non-fiction book.  I didn’t reach my goal, but it’s still in progress and, now that I think of it, I realize I didn’t have a charted plan for how to reach it – not even so much as “write for an hour a day”.  December my “someday” was to establish a meditation practice.  That in itself is a plan.  To establish the practice, you have to meditate – and I did (and still do).  On January 1st I began a 1200-mile walking/running challenge.  I calculated I would need to run/walk four miles per day, six days per week in order to reach 1200 miles by the end of the year.  I set up a spreadsheet to input my miles and to calculate how far ahead or behind I am (right now I’m 20 miles ahead of plan).  That’s a completely quantifiable plan.  Then I came to February and my “someday” is to “learn Italian”.  Really?  Learn Italian?  Obviously I’m not going to become fluent in a month, so what is my real goal for the month?  I didn’t set one!  I didn’t set a quantifiable goal and I didn’t set out a plan for how I would achieve my loosey goosey goal.

I had hoped I could “learn Italian” by listening to audiobooks during my many hours in the car.  That didn’t work, so I bought a book and some grammar aids, but I still didn’t set a plan of when and how I would use them (they’ve been sitting on the counter, untouched, for a week).  Now, here I am, right about halfway through the month and I realize I messed this up.  I need an actual goal and a plan.

So, here we go.  My goal for learning Italian will be to be able to count to ten and carry on a simple “get to know you” conversation.  My plan to get there will be to set a time period for studying Italian.  I’m a morning person, so I do my other practices first thing in the morning:  writing, meditating, walking/running.  Once I’m up and taking care of business during the day, it’s hard to stop.  However, just before I go to bed, I spend time browsing social media and playing Sudoku.  I can give up that routine and allocate the time to studying Italian and, research shows, sleep helps cement what you’ve learned right before bedtime.  I’m going to get my Italian book off the counter and put it on my nightstand right now.  I will now study Italian for at least a half-hour every weeknight.  And, who knows, not using an iPad before bed might help me sleep better.  Retain Italian and sleep better – this could be a double win.

A New Sense of Calm

I was humming a tune
Photo credit: Me

This week I’ve noticed a foreign sense of calm within myself.  Once I realized it, I looked back to see if I could pinpoint when it began.  I can’t pinpoint a date, but I do know it’s been building for the last few weeks.  I say it’s foreign because my mind is usually racing, my nerves tied up with plans and worry, and something else – perhaps a heightened negative sense of some sort.  Now, my mind is still functioning, but it feels like it’s gently flowing, not racing.  My nerves?  I think of nerves as stress – again, flowing, not stressful.  And the “something else” is now this overall sense of calm.

I wonder if this is simply a matter of aging.  I’ve read that people tend to feel happier as they get older.  Is this new sense of calm simply me getting older?  As I read the research on this phenomenon, I really don’t think it applies to me right now.  One of the reasons people tend to get happier as they age is because they lower their expectations and accept their achievements.  Here I am, in the midst of my 366 Somedays tackling new goals every month, so I haven’t really lowered my expectations and accepted my past achievements as all inclusive.

I’m almost afraid to say it, but I think my new calm stems from the activities of my 366 Somedays.  I think my meditation practice, especially the loving kindness meditation, is having a positive effect on me.  I know daily exercise makes me feel good, but adding in the singing last week has changed my walks from exercise to a spiritual experience.  And yesterday I noticed that, when I’m not singing, I’m humming and humming also has therapeutic benefits.

I hoped the challenges of my 366 Somedays would bring satisfaction, but I wasn’t expecting calm.  This is another sign that stepping out and trying something new is good for us.  Now, if I could just whistle.  I read that whistling is also good for the body and mind.  Maybe learning to whistle should be one of my “somedays”.  No, let’s not push it!  I’ll meditate, I’ll sing a happy song, and I’ll hum a tune, but I don’t need to also whistle while I work.  Especially since, with all due respect to Lauren Bacall, there seems to be a lot more to it than “just put your lips together and blow.”

Singin’ in the Snow

I was surprised yesterday morning when I woke up and realized it was already after 6:30.  I’m normally up between 4:00 and 5:00, so 6:30 was sleeping in for me.  Since it was so late, I decided not to do my ten-minute meditation session right then.  I thought I’d do it later in the day, though I knew in my heart I probably wouldn’t.  A few hours later, out on my walk, I realized I had the opportunity to practice mindfulness, making it a walking meditation.  The area where I live is still covered in snow.  The trails are clear in places, but I’m still wearing my cleated shoe covers.  As I walked I paid attention to the sound my cleats make: click-click on the bare pavement, crack-crack on the ice, and crunch-crunch on the snow.  I listened to the sound of the slight wind in my ears and the greater sound of the wind in the trees.  I looked up into the trees, hoping for a porcupine, owl, eagle, or hawk sighting.  I eventually shifted my walking meditation to a loving kindness meditation.  Normally, I do my recitation in my head, but since I was trying something new, I said my phrases out loud.  It felt good to hear myself saying the words.  Then I started singing out loud.

SingingI saw this on a friend’s Facebook page yesterday morning so, as I walked and finished up my meditation, I thought I might as well give it a try.  I’m notorious for not knowing the lyrics to songs, so figuring out what to sing was a problem.  I can sing along to songs on the radio because I can just mumble-mumble through the words I don’t know.  Singing out loud without music and not knowing the words is a little harder.  I realized while I often have a song running through my head, it’s just a portion of the song.  I don’t know very many songs from beginning to end.  However, from somewhere deep inside my brain, I began singing some of the songs sung regularly when I was a Camp Fire Girl some forty years ago.  I sang Flicker of the Campfire and Kumbaya.  Let me tell you, singing Kumbaya while walking in the snowy silence…pretty profound.

Luckily there aren’t many people out on the trails this time of year and luckily my dogs love me enough not to mind my poor singing.  Like grandchildren, my dogs think my singing is wonderful.  And that’s a good thing – they might just be hearing more of it.

New Month, New “Someday”

The calendar has flipped over to a new month which means it’s time to add a new “someday” to my journey.  This month I’m going to begin learning Italian in earnest.  I’ve piddled around with language in the past, but it’s not something that comes easily to my brain.  I’ve tried for a week or so (much like dieting), but I’ve always given up.  I love Italy.  I love the pace and the beauty of Italy.  I love traveling in Italy.  I would love to speak Italian so I can communicate better when I am there and also to keep a piece of Italy with me.

Reviewing the last three months, writing, for my blogs and in my journal, is moving along smoothly; writing my book (November’s “someday”) is lagging.  However, I have been giving the book’s content a lot of thought and my writing is usually done in my brain before I even begin to put words to screen.  I am meditating regularly (December’s “someday”) and feel the practice has taken hold as part of my daily routine.  I am walking and/or running daily and I am ahead of plan on the 1200-mile annual challenge I started last month (118.76 miles to date).  Now, it’s time to add language lessons and practice.

To begin this month’s “someday”, I’ve downloaded an Italian language program to listen to in my car.  I’m in my car a lot, so that seems the most reasonable way to get started.  I also joined an online language program I’ll use to supplement the audio program.

I’ll keep you posted.  For now, ciao!

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring…

I awoke this morning to the sound of rain on the roof.  Having lived my entire life in the Pacific Northwest, I’m used to waking up to the sound of rain.  I snuggled deeper into my blankets, letting the sound lull me in my cocoon.  It was lovely – until I realized I needed to get out and put in my four miles.  Four miles in the rain.  Four miles in the dark.

One of the benefits (if you can call it that) of having this 1200-mile goal for the year is I don’t want to miss a day.  I don’t want to fall behind in my mileage.  If I wasn’t participating in this 1200-mile challenge, I probably would have settled back in to bed and listened to the rain.  Or, I might have been really ambitious – I might have actually gotten out of bed to sit snuggled by the window with my coffee while watching the rain come down.  But, no, I didn’t do either of those.  Instead, I got up, put on my rain clothes and headed out the door into the predawn darkness.

It wasn’t just wet; I soon realized it was colder than I had expected.  I hadn’t brought gloves and my hands were soon wet and frigid.  I was wearing a baseball cap to keep the rain off my face, but it was raining too hard for that to be very effective.  I wasn’t sure if the moisture dripping off my nose was rain or snot.

The trail I walk on is a well used trail, but I didn’t meet any other walkers or runners this morning in the dark and with the rain coming down hard.  I did see four other people standing outside, in the dark, in the rain, but they weren’t out for exercise.  Each of them was outside for a cigarette break!  Really??  I had to pull my butt out of bed to force myself outside for reasons of health and fitness and here these folks were standing outside, in the rain, to smoke a cigarette?  Unbelievable!

I normally do an out and back and then head out again for a shorter out and back to get in my four miles.  Like a horse that heads back to the barn too quickly, I knew I couldn’t tempt myself with a return to the house until the full four miles was done, so I had to plan my route to take me far enough away to make it less likely I’d cut the walk short.  As I walked, I thought about what I’d write for this blog and the blog became a motivator.  After all, it wouldn’t do to write about walking four miles in the rain if I didn’t actually finish the four miles.

According to the nursery rhyme, it’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring.  Not for me!  My version:  It’s raining, it’s pouring, my mileage is soaring.

10 in the Bank

As of yesterday morning, I have ten reserve miles built up for my 1200-mile challenge.  Actually, it’s almost eleven miles, but that doesn’t sound as good for a title.  My plan for reaching the 1200-miles this year is to walk or run four miles a day, six days a week.  While I haven’t yet taken a skip day, there have been days when I’ve done a little less than four miles.  However, because I have had a few days when I’ve gone longer and since I haven’t taken a skip day, my mileage has stayed on track and now I have a nice, ten-mile reserve.

It’s a little like dealing with finances.  I now have a little money in the bank.  Do I spend a little bit here and a little bit there, letting it whittle down to nothing or, perhaps even going into debt?  Or do I save my money for a big expenditure – a vacation perhaps?  I’m actually feeling a little miserly about it.  If I don’t spend any of my saved miles and I continue to put in extra miles, I’ll continue to grow my reserve.  I may become the running/walking version of Scrooge McDuck.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Year of Running Minus One

I’m not Facebook friends with Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, but it was pointed out to me that a couple of days ago he posted his New Year’s physical challenge to run 365 miles this year.  He’s calling it A Year of Running and states that it’s a mile a day.  My first reaction was…Wimp!  My second thought – he must be taking a rest day since there are 366 days in 2016.

Zuckerberg already has more than 87,000 people signed up to join him in tackling this goal.  That’s great!  Many of those folks are probably already runners, but I’m sure many of them are couch potatoes who are inspired by a goal that sounds doable.  I hope that the true couch potatoes aren’t turned off by the running goal.  I’d like it better if it was a running or walking goal.  That’s not the point, though.  It is a goal and, for many people, it will be a challenge.  I do wonder how much of a challenge it really is for a guy like Zuckerberg, who is probably already a runner.  I may be wrong on that, but he looks like a runner.  Maybe he just has good genes and this goal really is a challenge for him.

Actually, I think I need to take off my Snide Hat and acknowledge that it’s good anytime a person takes on a physical challenge whether it’s training for a marathon or getting out of bed to use the bathroom after a medical event.  I applaud Mark Zuckerberg for putting his goal out there and, because he reaches millions of people, for encouraging others to join him in setting a physical goal.

Now I’m out the door to do my mile (x4).

Have Challenge, Will Walk

Today is four days into my 1200-mile challenge and I’ve walked/run over sixteen miles, staying on pace with my plan of four miles/day, six days/week.  The temperature where I live has been very cold, dipping down into the negatives early in the mornings.  There is a lot of snow on my walking trail along with some icy spots, so this is not exactly power walking, but it is definitely a workout – my legs feel the effort!

I have to admit I would probably have bagged the idea of walking four miles on January 1st and 2nd if it hadn’t been for the formality of signing up for this challenge with Oregon Road Runners Club.  It would have been easy to simply sit inside looking out at the beautiful white winter wonderland and put off a workout until “someday” when the conditions were better.  However, knowing I’ve signed up for this challenge and my mileage will be posted on the ORRC website and with the companionship and support of my husband and two visiting friends, I got out there and walked…and walked…and walked.

My husband put together an Excel spreadsheet for me to track my mileage.  Seeing the numbers for the first three days along with the miles left to go and the projected mileage at my current pace was encouraging.  Yesterday, it was much easier to get out the door.  Today, it wasn’t even a question.  I’m on my way!

In with the New

Out with the old; in with the new.  Except the old, in terms of my 366 Somedays journey, is writing and meditation, neither of which is going “out”.  I’m ready for the new “new”, though!  Today begins my 1200 Challenge:  running/walking 1200 miles this year.  That averages out to four miles per day, six days per week.  Having been sick last month – yes, December is now considered “last month” – I slacked off on my regular exercise schedule.  I normally run and/or walk daily, but the outings for the last month have been infrequent at best and for a couple of weeks were not at all.

I’ve wanted to take on a physical challenge “someday”.  Someday is now and I’m ready for the new challenge and excited to get started.

Whether we want them or not, the new year will bring new challenges.

Whether we seize them or not, the new year will bring new opportunities.

–Michael Josephson

Post-script:  I wrote this early this morning, but didn’t get it posted.  Since then I did a 4.8 mile walk.  Day 1 done.

12 Months of Somedays

As I think about my plan of tackling a “someday” every month for a year, I realize I’ve created something similar to the 12 Days of Christmas where each day something new is added and all become cumulative.  Day One:  Partridge in a Pear Tree.  Day Two:  Two Turtle Doves AND a Partridge in a Pear Tree.  For me it’s Month One:  Daily Writing Practice.  Month Two:  Daily Meditation Practice AND Daily Writing Practice.  Next month I’ll be adding in the physical challenge of a daily four mile walk/run and it goes on from there.  I see myself at the end of the year getting up in the morning and spending the first four hours writing, meditating, walking, playing the drums (I’ll need to save that until everyone else in the house is awake), practicing Italian, etc.  This could become crazy.

I have always said “Embrace the Crazy”.  Many have said my family and I lead crazy, busy lives.  But additional craziness isn’t really on my “someday” list.  Perhaps my 366 Somedays only seems a prescription for crazy.  Perhaps it is the route to sanity…wait, would that mean my life is already crazy?

Sigh.  What a year this is shaping up to be.