Monday, April 16, 2018

Book Report: The Confidence Code for Girls

Another book report?  I know, it's crazy.  This is a short and sweet one - The Confidence Code for Girls by journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.  Kay and Shipman previously authored The Confidence Code, geared toward woman in 2014.  They broke down tons of research, interviews, and social science to discuss all the ways in which women struggle to build confidence and the ways in which they can overcome internal obstacles to build more.  They came out with their second version, targeted toward girls 8 and up, just this year.

I read this book after my friend & boss Shari loaned it to me - we both teach Girl Power Yoga classes at Karma Kids Yoga, and this is absolutely perfect for that and for pretty much any girl anywhere.

I had never heard of and still haven't read the adult version of The Confidence Code, but having read their book for tweens I both really want to read it - and almost feel like I don't have to, because this book is so thorough and still completely relatable, even for those of us out of those middle school years.

Through clear and relatable writing and impressive illustrations, comics, and graphics, the authors break down what they see as the three top elements to a confidence code - 1. Risk More 2. Think Less 3. Be Yourself.

It's that second one that definitely resonates the most with me - and also at first glance, sounds like the opposite of any advice we would ever want to give our kids.  We want them to always be using their brains, learning, and thinking more, right?  What the "Think Less" key actually addresses is the over-thinking and catastrophizing that so many women and girls do about so many things every single day. 

As women, we can so easily get in our own heads and get in our own way and hold ourselves back from doing the things we want to do because our high emotional intelligence has a way of seeing a risk from every angle, sometimes emphasizing the scary parts.  When we just do it - as opposed to overthinking and psyching ourselves out - we take the action necessary to gain more confidence.

I highly, highly, highly recommend this book to basically everyone - men, women, parents, kids.  Everyone is someone or knows someone who can benefit from the keys and fascinating research outlined in this book.  I know I would have devoured this book as a kid, and I think it would have really pushed me to be more of a risk-taker.

Check out a news segment on the book here, and happy Monday - especially a happy Marathon Monday to everyone out in Boston this morning!  Fight through this nasty weather and make it a beautiful day!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Book Report: Rising Strong by Brene Brown

Last year, I wrote a blog that wasn't quite a book report because I was too overwhelmed by the book to fully write about it.  The book was Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection, and it remains something I feel the need to turn to over and over and over again because it's just so chock full of wisdom.  I felt the same about her book Daring Greatly.

In Costa Rica, one of my missions was to do little else besides read in the sunshine.  I'm very proud to say that I accomplished that goal, and the only book of the stack that wasn't fiction or memoir was Brown's Rising Strong, the next of her works.  I wasn't sure if I was even going to read it at all, because I knew it would be a lot to digest and I was on vacation, after all.  Hardly the place you feel like delving into such topics as fear, vulnerability, shame, and failure.

But in typical Brene Brown fashion, once I picked the book up, I could. not. put. it. down.  The combination of her academic research and credentials and her gift for storytelling and Texan wit makes her books the kind that you know you should read slowly but you just can't stop.  I feel like highlighting the whole damn thing.

When a book makes you feel that way - and makes you feel like maybe you should start therapy - it can be hard to write about it a simple bloggy book report-y "I liked it!" kind of way.  I'll do my best to briefly summarize some of her key points, and leave you with some of my favorite quotes.

The cornerstone of this book is the idea of dealing with our failures or simply those moments that trigger a deep emotional response in us by slowing down and getting curious about what we're feeling and why - instead of whatever our typical reaction might be, such as lashing out or blaming others or wallowing.  She breaks this process down into the 3 R's - the Reckoning, the Rumble, and the Revolution.

The Reckoning is that moment when you know something needs to be addressed - maybe it's a very obvious and big failure at work, or maybe it's just a smaller moment where something emotional gets triggered by something seemingly innocuous.  The Revolution is applying what you learn in the rumble to live more wholeheartedly.

The book focuses on the middle part - the Rumble.  She writes, "The goal of the rumble is to get honest about the stories we're making up about our struggles, to revisit, challenge, and reality-check these narratives as we dig into topics such as boundaries, shame, blame, resentment, heartbreak, generosity, and forgiveness."  Part of the work of this is writing our "shitty first drafts" of what we're feeling when we're feeling it, a term borrowed by the inimitable Anne Lamott.  Not looking to be right, just looking to be as honest as possible, even if that brings up less-than-lovely qualities in ourselves or total irrationality.

This book much more than her previous two includes a ton of stories - both her own and those of people who have given her permission to share them - about struggles with work, family, relationships, and more - the big face-down failures and the small day-to-day frustrations.  She uses all of these different stories to illustrate how we can use the process of the shitty first draft and of delving deeper into learning the delta (or the difference) between what we initially think and feel versus what the reality of the situation is.  Are we assuming the worst about other people and ignoring our own share of the blame?  Or are we stuck in a shame spiral, when the reality is that we're being too hard on ourselves?

This book covers BIG topics.  I just finished reading it again, a little slower (and with a highlighter) after devouring it in Costa Rica, and I still feel like it needs a couple more rereads to get all the way into my heart and my brain.  So I'll simply insist that you get your hands on a copy ASAP and read it cover to cover a minimum of two times, and leave you with some of my favorite quotes:

"When we stop caring what people think, we lose our capacity for connection.  But when we are defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable"

"Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty."

"They [compassionate folks she interviewed] assume that other people are doing the best they can, but they also ask for what they need and they don't put up with a lot of crap." (most compassionate people I interviewed had most well defined/respected boundaries)...I lived the opposite way:  I assumed that people weren't doing their best so I judged them and constantly fought being disappointed, which was easier than setting boundaries.  Boundaries are hard when you want to be liked and when you are a pleaser hell-bent on being easy, fun, and flexible."

This last pull quote is actually not from Brown, but from a passage of Desmond Tutu's book that she quoted.  This hit me very, very hard - for most people, I think forgiveness is one of the hardest topics to grapple with, and she writes beautifully about it.  My favorite excerpt, though, is the Tutu passage:

"To forgive is not just to be altruistic.  It is the best form of self interest.  It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and hanger.  These emotions are all part of being human...However, when I talk of forgiveness, I mean the believe that you can come out of the other side a better person.  A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred.  Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator.  If you can find it in yourself to forgive, then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator."

This book came out three years ago, in 2015, and I still have to catch up to Braving the Wilderness, her most recent book which came out last year.  I'm so thrilled that someone with so many powerful messages is getting the success that she's getting, and I really think this world would be a better place if we all dove into the hard topics she covers in her books.

**Edited to add - check out her SuperSoul conversation about Rising Strong with Oprah Winfrey!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Back from Heaven

This morning, I had a three mile run planned, as being back in NYC means being back to my training plan for the Brooklyn Half this coming May.  And naturally, it being April and spring, there were at least three inches of snow on the ground waiting for me.

So, thanks for that welcome home, New York!

Today is our first day back at work after a beyond heavenly time in Costa Rica.  One of the most important things about breaking out of your regular routine, aside from resting and recharging and getting a tan, is removing yourself from your routine.  Our lives go through so many stages and phases, and it's important to remove yourself from your current identity - your job, your schedule, your apartment, your goals - and reconnect with that part of you that is not your current phase in life. 

We're trying to take back lessons and fit them into our crazy NYC life as best as we can - lessons you know intellectually are true and learn over and over, but are harder in practice than in theory.

Do less. Read more.  Doing nothing is not just okay, your brain needs it sometimes.  Sunshine is everything.

Nothing humbles you or brings you closer together as a couple than eating bad produce and dying of the stomach plague together.

Catch sunrises and sunsets whenever humanly possible.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Music Share - Spring + Love

Two (!!!) days until we leave for our first just-the-two-of-us vacation since our honeymoon, and there is too much to do and not enough time to do it.  Plus it wouldn't be the lead up to a vacation without a minor work crisis to make the last 48 hours exciting.  How on earth did I ever deal with stress before running??

So instead of my planned entry, I'm doing a copout quickie music share!  I get nostalgic at the start of each spring since our wedding thinking about that incredible day, and created a playlist filled with music that reminds me of the spring we got engaged and the spring we got married - plus a new favorite, Oh My Love by Bearfoot.

It's a mix of eras and artists, from Billie Holiday to Carole King to Jason Mraz.  Enjoy, and I'll be back on the blog in April!!!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Guide to a Hungover Monday Run

I absolutely, unapologetically love awards shows.  Despite how trite or arbitrary it might be, I just love them - I'm a sucker for someone overwhelmed with emotion thanking their family.  So for me, the Oscars are very, very exciting.  And also often an event where I completely lose track of how much I'm drinking.

While this year was nowhere near as rough as last year (don't ever switch to tequila after red wine...or was it the other way around? - either way, DON'T), I still had stayed up too late, ate too much, drank too much, and of course had a blast.  Although at least I stuck to wine exclusively this year.  Baby steps!

With a training run on my schedule for today, though, there was absolutely no question of skipping it.  I did try to keep drinking water throughout the night, and I made sure to pound a glass before bed.

It's not exclusive to hangovers, of course - a sleepless night or just not feeling it can potentially derail your training.  So here are the steps I took to survive - and dare I say thrive? - a run after a night of too much fun.  Obviously it's hangover specific, but these are great for all kinds of less-than-ideal circumstances going into a run:

1. Lots of water and 3 Advil before bed.

2. Sleep as long as you can get away with  - 6 hours at least if you can.

3. Slowly transition to the waking world with restorative yoga.  I borrowed heavily from this wonderful sequence - Yoga Poses for a Hangover - and just tweaked it a little for myself:
--Legs Up the Wall with my head on a block and two Yoga TuneUp balls under my head to put soothing pressure on the base of my skull
--Child's Pose with my head on a block - keep your head level with or above your heart.  And for the love of God, do not do a Downdog!
--Get moving with a little cat & cow, squat with a twist, and any seated forward fold that floats your boat.  I did Diamond Pose with my head supported by the block on its highest height.
--Supta Baddha Konasana.  AKA Reclined Bound Angle Pose.  AKA Heaven.  I use props for mine - lay back on two pillows to mimic a bolster and roll a blanket into a skinny roll to go around my feet and under my thighs for support - plus my trusty eye pillow.

4. Dissolve a tablet of Nuun in a big glass of water and drink every last drop.  Hydration, electrolytes - that stuff is magic for distance runners and for folks with a hangover!

5. Light and dry pre-run snack.

6. Depending on what your workout plan was, change it!  Go from 3 miles to 2, from 4 miles to 30 minutes, whatever you need to do - but cut something out so you aren't overdoing it, especially in warmer months.

7. Warm up - bridges, clamshells, and theraband work on my ankles to get them awake.  Some light mock jump rope - nothing too crazy.

8. No music, no headphones!  Stay as connected as possible to breath and body.

9. Run easy and walk at regular intervals - walk breaks are beneficial all the time for many reasons, but especially when you aren't operating at 100%.

10. Be restored by the fresh air, and filled with pride and gratitude that you stuck to your commitment to yourself! 

Finally, after stretching, take a delicious, hot shower...and then right at the end, torture yourself with a minute of ice cold water.

Voila, you are awake and ready to tackle anything!

Obviously, if you're hungover the point of being barely mobile...maybe just stay in bed.  But this all works for me - what do you do to get yourself into gear after an ill-advised night?

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Music Share - Calm, Folk, Indie Bluegrass & Love

Early quickie post this week, due to our thrilling Monday morning meeting with our H & R Block tax professional tomorrow!  May the Gods of freelance and 1099's be with us...

I also happened to have finally finished a yoga playlist I started a zillion years ago.  The inspiration / missing musical pieces of the puzzle were brought to me a couple of weeks ago when I had the absolute privilege of attending a friend and doula client's birth.  She and her husband are musicians, and music played a huge part in the labor and birth.  We have similar (and similarly eclectic) tastes and we had a great time figuring out the "push playlist" or the right song for any particular adventure of the induction process.

So this list is a mish-mash of a few favorite love songs, some covers, and some beautiful music from that incredible birth experience.  It runs about an hour and is great for background to Sunday chores or a mellow yoga practice.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 19, 2018

The sound of silence (sort of)

A lot of runners, particularly runners my age, can't imagine running without listening to something - music, a podcast, a book on tape.  Some actually prefer to only ever run without anything in their ears, using it as their opportunity to escape from the endless, endless input of information coming at us at all hours these days.

I fall somewhere in between.  If I'm not putting any particular thought into it, there's always a playlist I'd like to listen to (it helps me keep my pace up) or a podcast in my endless queue to be heard.  I have to remind myself that I actually not only like to run with nothing, but it's so unbelievably good for me and necessary for my brain. 

My word for 2018, Listen, is partly because in lieu of listening to my own brain (which is quite interesting all by itself), I feel constantly compelled to listen to something.  There is so much incredible material out there for consumption, and it's so easy to just let your headphones be glued to your ears for every single commute, every errand, every chore, every time you're not interacting with another human being (and even sometimes when you are).

As a result, I have a hard time remembering the simplest things, and when I suddenly stop all this input to do something like, say, meditate, my brain jumps at the chance to have a little free space, and that's when the planning and the processing of memories and the, "Remember we're out of apples!" all comes flying at me at once.

Running unplugged is unbelievably freeing.  Having the chance for my mind to wander - and yes, it spends a big chunk of the time planning and organizing and predicting - is so valuable to sanity.  I can keep my breath in a steady rhythm, pay deep attention to my form and to any little pains that might pop up, and it also gives my brain a chance to come up with brand new mantras for myself to push me through.  It may not have the relentlessly driving beat of Eminem, but it has something so much deeper.

If you aren't a runner, try an unplugged walk.  If you live in the city, you won't be treated to the sound of silence (unless you have fancy noise canceling headphones) but you'll be treated to the sound of something so much better - total, unfiltered you.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Beginning Again (and again and again and again)

For a yoga teacher, I'm sometimes a very inflexible person.  I can get extremely agitated, impatient, and ridiculously bent out of shape when faced with obstacles and detours in my path.  Injury, illness, obligations - these things have come and knocked my plans off the shelf many times. 

I always seem to have a sense that someday they won't - similar to the arrival fallacy in happiness research. (I'll be happy once I...fill in the blank).  It's that sense that someday I'll get to my starting line, and it'll be the last starting line I ever have because I'll go on a smooth, uninterrupted, lifelong streak of good health and complete control over my schedule.

I'm almost embarrassed to write that because it's so unbelievably laughable.

Life is interruption, chaos, disappointment, and adapting to what gets thrown at you.  It could be something profoundly huge and life altering like cancer, or something not so profound like a temporary injury or illness.  Pregnancy and new parenthood is a great way to introduce utter chaos and throw your expectations out the window.  Achieving your goal can be what sends you back to a place of beginning again - unless you're a professional athlete, you're probably not going to pop back up and run 18 miles the week after completing a marathon.  You back off, recover, and if it's still your passion - you begin again.

Even something like a work, family, or friend emergency that takes up time that you'd previously blocked up as yours will throw you off your best laid plans, your carefully drawn path, and in my case, your painstakingly OCD race training plan.  Time passes, fitness gets lost, and you're back to square one.

Is it the end of the world?  Of course not.  But for me at least, it is a lesson that needs to be learned over and over and over again, and a mental resilience and adjustment that constantly feels new.  I can get so rigid in my desires and expectations that I sometimes fall apart in the face of these adversities instead of sitting back and surrendering to circumstances out of my control - riding out the wave until I can grasp the reins again and take back over, at least for awhile.

I'm about to officially start training for what I hope to be a year of racing triumphs - the Brooklyn Half Marathon on May 19th, and my long awaited shot at the New York City Marathon on November 4th, both with my work wife and sole-sister Laura Frye by my side (check out her awesome YouTube channel to follow her running adventures!).  More than in any previous year, I'm building in injury prevention strategies to keep myself strong, mobile, and on top of any nagging issues before they become bigger issues.

This bout of the flu I recently recovered from pushed the start date two weeks, and it also (re)taught me the invaluable lesson that applies not just to fitness but pretty much everything - life requires the serenity prayer.  We need the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and most importantly, the wisdom to know the difference.  We need wisdom not to push ourselves when life is stepping in to tell us to take a different path, and we need wisdom to push ourselves when we're perfectly capable of hopping over an obstacle that shouldn't get in our way.

Life is a series of starting lines.  The closer I get to accepting that - with all due reverence to the holy Indigo Girls - the closer I am to fine.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Flu 2, Me 0

I was sooooo inspired and ready to go...

I've been knocked out of commission the last two weeks by a flu that just won't quit.  It wasn't the scary strain, I don't think - no hospital visits for me - but my last two weeks has basically been a cycle of sleep as much as possible, work, collapse on the couch with Breaking Bad, cough throughout, repeat.

Needless to say, it hasn't been a great breeding ground for blog inspiration - or inspiration of any kind, really, except for how freaking inspiring it is to watch the best show of all time again.

I'm still not 100%, but I made my first foray back into the land of the living today with a chill yoga class that was just my speed.

I'd really love to share the semi-restorative class which was the only thing I was able to bring my sick, exhausted body to practice the last couple of weeks - but first, get yourself a free trial of Yoga Glo - it's worth it!

This class, Get Grounded When Deeply Fatigued and Depletedis an absolute must for this flu season.  So sleep, hydrate, and wash your hands.  And if it attacks you - the only answer is to surrender to it.

Here's hoping I'll be back to my inspired and energized self soon!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Running Inspiration

This morning, I finally went out for a cold-weather run in the cold cold weather - wind chill of 8 degrees.  I think my mildly asthmatic lungs have finally adjusted to the absolute bitterness of the cold, and last week's brief holiday into the 50's finally swept away all the dangerous snow and ice.

Adding to that the burst of energy from being nearly halfway through Whole30 (and inspired by my husband's first time doing it) and the general optimism that flows through a New Year, and there was no way I wasn't dragging myself out of my warm bed for a run this morning.  It was freezing cold and the bottom part of my face felt numb by the end, but my God it also felt fantastic.

Aside from those things taking away any more excuses to get out there, I have been so deeply, deeply inspired recently by four great runners and people, all of whose praises I have sung on the blog before.  But it's my blog and I get to sing them again if I want to!

For starters on the running inspiration front, my beautiful friend Laura achieved her crazy goal of completing not only her very first marathon but the Goofy Challenge - aka a half marathon on a Saturday and a full marathon the very next day.  Check out her video recap (which I'm going to catch up on for myself tonight!) here, as well as a ton of other fun and inspiring videos about her running journey.

Then, my favorite podcast of all time, Two Gomers Run for Their Lives, came upon a momentous occasion yesterday!  One of the two Gomers finally achieved a goal they've had their eyes on for many years - to run a sub-5 hour marathon.  These guys have so deeply inspired and entertained me over the years, and their completely open and unselfish love and support of each other is a truly beautiful thing to behold.  They're also hilarious.  If you haven't already jumped on board the Gomer Nation, you absolutely have to listen to this podcast.  They're truly incredible people.

Finally, this weekend I saw my friend Lu give an absolutely thrilling performance that still gives me goosebumps when I think about.  She wrote and produced her own live Cabaret - The Big C Cabaret -  all about what she's gone through the last three and a half years from being ready to pursue her dream of acting in NYC, to being diagnosed with cancer, through treatment and side effects and obstacles I can't even begin to imagine overcoming - and overcoming them.  She has survived and is thriving.  She crushed the NYC Marathon this past November, as well as her fundraising goal for Memorial Sloan-Kettering, and on top of it all, her singing voice is out of this world.  She was luminous, and getting to experience her triumphant performance next to my wonderful husband and her wonderful husband, one of my oldest and most precious friends, just brings me to tears when I think about it.  Read Lu's beautifully written blog and follow her adventures here.

I think one of the most important lessons that I continually learn over and over about running and life is that you're usually just one inspiring story away from a better outlook, a better mood, and the ability to pick yourself up off the floor and move.  We have so much power over our own mood and health, even when we feel powerless with regards to other circumstances in our lives.  Sometimes we just need a little help from our friends.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Listen (2018)

The last three weeks feel like an eternity!  It's amazing how time never quite passes normally over December / early January for me.  The time in the city leading up to my visit down south seemed to fly at warp speed.  Being down with my sister and her kids was like heaven.  Exhausting, draining, heaven.  Each day is a billion years and two seconds long.

Coming back to the city, our first week was packed.  Work, in-laws visiting, New Year's celebrations, Whole30 prep, work, a snow-ish day, and finally - the absolute gift of a weekend.  A real, live weekend - two whole days just for me and for Marc, being productive on the stuff we needed to be productive on, and relaxing for a change.  (And also taking our very first boxing class, which was one of the most fun and brutal things ever)

So now we are back to reality, back to the blog, and having finally found time to catch my breath, get centered, and re-calibrate, I'm ready to tackle 2018.  We are on Day 7 of Whole30 - my fifth round, and Marc's very first.  He is rocking it so far, and already he's feeling and seeing changes in himself.  As anyone who's ever done Whole30 knows, it's a huge commitment and upheaval, and he's been 110% with it.  I'm really proud.

Although New Year's Day was just last Monday, it feels like it's been an eternity since then.  This morning, however, is flying by, so I will keep this New Year's inspired entry short and sweet.

For the past nine years, I've chosen one word or phrase as an intention for the year.  They've run the gamut, and had various degrees of success sticking in my consciousness throughout or having the sort of effect I hope.  I wasn't 100% confident in this word, until it was mentioned in my all-time favorite podcast, Two Gomers Run for Their Lives which you MUST check out now, in their New Year's episode when they shared their listener feedback for listener words of the year.  (They choose "one word"'s too) Hearing my podcast heroes affirm the value of my choice set it in stone.  Shallow and insecure?  Perhaps.  But whatever - I'll take it.

My word this year is Listen.  As I explained it in response to the Gomer survey:

I need to listen better to others rather than just waiting for my turn to talk. 

I need to listen to my body (hello injury prevention)

I need to listen to what I truly want and need instead of numbing with constant media consumption.

So there you go.  We'll see how I do, how it shapes little day and and day out actions and decisions, and what effect it may or may not have.  Anyone else do "one word" or "one phrase" intentions for the year?  I'm pretty sure I cribbed the idea from America's Queen, aka the one and only Oprah.

Happy 2018, everyone.  May it be better than the last!

Book Report: The Confidence Code for Girls

Another book report?  I know, it's crazy.  This is a short and sweet one - The Confidence Code for Girls  by journalists Katty Kay and C...