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Mindful workouts.

Mindful workouts.

Mindful is one of those trendy words used a lot in yoga studios and self-help books, and while I hate to be that trendy, all natural, yoga pants wearing, hippy chick, I just sort of am these days.  I’m even wearing yoga pants right now.  So… I’m going to go ahead and just bite the bullet and use the word “mindful” even if I sound lame.  I’m not really even sure how other people use the word mindful but I use to  mean “in the moment,” like, you’re thinking about the task at hand and not the seventy other things on your to do list.  Here’s what I’ve learned.  If you’re not mindful about your workouts, you’re probably wasting your time at the gym.

Have you ever gone to the gym with no real plan and you can’t decide exactly what you want to do?  You start out jogging on the treadmill but you get sick of that, because it’s a treadmill, and then you decide to lift some weights.  So, you do a few squats but you haven’t lifted in a while so it doesn’t feel that great, and then you decide to do some push-ups.  You do about three push-ups and three sit-ups and then you realize you’ve been wandering around the gym like a moron for half an hour doing nothing whatsoever for your fitness, so you give up and sit in the steam room for another half hour. Sound familiar?  No?  Maybe it’s just me.  But here’s the deal.  Unless you’re way ahead of me and well on the path to a slower and simpler life, you’re probably pretty busy, and it’s probably tough to find time to make it to the gym.  So don’t waste the time you have.  Otherwise you feel really lame afterward.  Trust me.

If you haven’t already made a workout plan, make one as soon as you arrive at the gym.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  It could be “jog on the treadmill for 30 minutes.”  But commit to it.  Don’t quit after 28 minutes and call it good because 28 will turn into 26 will turn into 10.  If you’re going to lift, you need a slightly more in depth plan but it doesn’t have to be rocket science.

Here’s an example of a workout I might do at the YMCA.

Warm-up/cardio – On the treadmill (because I’m not allowed to leave the building while my son is at Kid’s Club) – Jog one mile easy, one mile at a fairly hard pace, and one mile at a moderate pace.

Dynamic stretching if needed – Generally, I’m not a huge fan of stretching before a workout but as I’ve gotten older, my body seems to need a little more loosening up.  I still don’t believe in doing long, static stretches before a workout.  It makes me feel slow and sluggish and if you’re too loose, you may actually increase your chances of getting injured.  Here’s an example of a short, simple dynamic stretching routine…

10 inchworms w/ 2 push-ups at the bottom

10 air squats, stay at the bottom of your last squat for one minute

20 lunges (10 each side) w/ upper body rotation

arm swings forward and backward until it feels good

That’s pretty quick and simple but if I get too complicated, I just won’t do it.  If I’m going to run hard, I do the dynamic stretching after the first mile of the run, but if it’s an easy run, I like to do it afterward because my muscles feel all warm and bendy.

Simple Strength Training –  I generally have an hour to workout including getting dressed and undressed so I make this part quick.  Unless I’m going to commit to doing at least a month or two of lifting, I stick to mostly body weight training, with maybe some light kettlebells or dumbbells thrown in there.  Something like this…

10 rounds, no resting, of…

10 tricep push-ups (elbows against your rib cage)

10 reverse crunches on the bench (Lay on the bench with your butt hanging off the end and your feet lat on the ground.  Hold on next to your ears.  Bring your knees up to touch your nose.  Slowly bring your feet back to the floor but don’t touch it.  Repeat.)

2 slow pullups

15 supermans

No, this does not come close to working out all muscle groups but I workout several times a week so  I will get to them eventually.  Plus, if I’m running a lot, I don’t need to do a ton of lower body work because running makes your legs pretty strong, especially if you include some sprints.

So, that’s a typical YMCA workout for me.  It’s not perfect but it’s quick and it’s simple.  When you take care of an energetic two year old all day, the super high-intensity, leave you puking in the corner, workouts are just not appealing.  James does not feel sorry for me if I’m sore and tired.  I throw in some higher intensity workouts on the weekend when my husband is around to share the load but during the week, I keep it simple.  My main goal right is now is just being healthy and feeling good so there’s no reason to kill it every workout.  The most important things are: (1) having a plan so you don’t look like an idiot wandering around the gym; and (2) being mindful of what you’re doing so that you stay focused and actually finish the workout you planned.

That’s my advice, for what it’s worth.  I’m not in the best shape of my life, and I haven’t won any races lately but I do manage to workout regularly and stay healthy and active.

 

 

 

 

The busy boycott.

The busy boycott.

Do you ever have moments where everything seems to come together?  Have you ever noticed when those moments happen?  For me, they happen when I step back and allow them to happen.  When I take a break from the craziness that we call a life.  When I take the time to reflect on who I am and what I want to do with the short time I have here on earth.  And as my thirties race by, I’m starting to realize just how quickly the rest of my days are going to fly by.  This morning I took a few minutes to browse other blogs that promote the “simple life” and I came across this video.  It was exactly what I needed to hear.  By the time I got to the end of the video, I literally sighed a sigh of relief.  The funny thing is, my sister and brother in law told me pretty much the exact same thing just the other day.  They said, “Lauren, relax.  You’ve done a lot in the last five years.  Just give yourself a break.  You’ve done enough.”  If I wasn’t such a hardass, I probably would have cried because I always feel like I’m not doing enough.  Like being a mom isn’t enough.  We live in a society where there is so much pressure.  Where you feel like nothing you do is ever going to be enough.  But it is.  No one can live up to the expectations that we have created.  No one.  So, if you feel like you’re not doing enough, not making enough money, not busy enough.  Just stop.  It’s enough.

Probably most of you won’t take the twelve minutes to watch this video because you’re too busy.  But what kind of life do we have if we can’t spare 12 minutes?  This is how I want to feel.  This lady’s voice is so calming because she’s so at peace with who she is and what she believes in.  In starting this blog, I’ve struggled to put into words exactly what I’m searching for, but this is pretty much it.  If you can spare the 12 minutes, watch it.

I want to boycott busy.  It’s exhausting and I know it’s effecting my health.  I never had acne as a kid but starting in my early twenties when life started to get confusing and stressful, it started.  I’ve also had painful stomach problems at various times during my life that I’m sure were just a manifestation of the stress I was feeling.  I talk to people all the time who have undiagnosed, lingering health problems and I would be willing to bet that stress is the underlying cause of most of those problems.  The two months I spent in Costa Rica were the only two months of my adult life that I have been acne free.  I don’t think that’s a coincidence.  Although I think the salt water helped too.  I really like the idea of measuring my self-worth by the way I treat other people.  I want to have the energy and clarity to engage in meaningful conversations with my son about dinosaurs.  I want to take more of an interest in my husband’s hobbies and career goals.  I want to spend a day helping my sister and brother-in-law fix up their new house.  I want to cook my mom lunch.  I want to have time for the people who matter the most to me.  I want to feel relaxed at least most of the time.  Is anyone else tired of being busy?

Serenity prayer not just for alcoholics.

Serenity prayer not just for alcoholics.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can;

and the wisdom to know the difference.”

This is perhaps the most intelligent sentence ever written.  If you have no other form of guidance in your life, at least remind yourself of the serenity prayer once a day.  It’s especially great if you tend to be a bit of a perfectionist and tend to criticize those who don’t live up to your perfect expectations.  I’m not saying that’s me.  I’m just saying, if you happen to have that particular personality trait, you might find this quote useful.

Like for instance, if you are striving to create a better life for your family and decide to dedicate yourself to living simply and cutting down on spending, and you work really hard to put together meal plans each week and feed the whole family on $150 a week, and your husband shows no appreciation or enthusiasm whatsoever and complains that there’s not enough to eat even though the fridge is stocked full of food…  If you had something like that going on in your life, you might want to write out this serenity prayer and stick it on your fridge or something.  Because you can control the things you buy.  You can control the food you make.  You can control the food your child eats, to some degree.  But, you can’t make your husband get excited about the new simple eating plan.  So, you just do what you can do, and let the rest go.  That’s really all you can do.  So, if you run into a problem like that in your life, you can use this prayer.  That’s all I’m saying.

The beginning of simple.

The beginning of simple.

So, I’m a little crazy.  I know that.  And I’m fine with it.  It keeps life interesting.  I have a tendency to get these crazy ideas and put a lot of work into them, sometimes with little to no return.  But I’m okay with my craziness.  It’s just the way I figure life out.  I say this pretty often, but I think this idea is really good!  I’ve been thinking a lot about life and what’s important and what’s not important.  And here’s what I think…

I think that most of the things we spend time and money on are not important.  I think that most of us are suffering from an overload of stimulation.  We have this crazy drive to make the most of every second of our life but it’s too much.  We get so busy planning and executing our adventures that we don’t have time to enjoy them.  We don’t need to be busy every second of the day.  It’s okay to step to back and enjoy a sunny day or spend two hours talking about dinosaurs with your two year old.  The problem is that there are too many things to do and buy.  We have to have the latest clothes.  The latest sports equipment.  The best gym membership.  We have to go to concerts and take big, exciting vacations.  It used to be that people had one or two “things” or hobbies that they focused on.  Some people played guitar.  Some people liked to travel.  Some people were into fashion.  Some people played soccer.  Now, everyone feels like they have to do everything.  And I’m worse than any of you!  I like to knit, sew baby clothes, play guitar, workout, cook homemade meals, play soccer and hockey, go to self defense class, box, keep the house perfectly organized, take my son to the park and the library and the zoo and the museum, spend time with my sister and my mom.  And make time for concerts and nights out with friends.  That doesn’t even include work.  No wonder I’m exhausted all the time!

I need to simplify my life, decide what’s important to me and let everything else go.  I need to accept the fact that no matter organized and motivated I try to be, I just can’t do everything.  So instead of driving myself crazy trying, I am going to simplify.  I’m exiting the rat race.  I’m done!  Stuff doesn’t make me happy.  Money doesn’t make me happy.  What I need the most are people to love, time spent in nature, and a belief in something bigger than myself.

Recently I’ve been trying to make some career choices and I’ve been having a hard time figuring out what to do for money.  Part of the problem is that, in order to maintain our lifestyle, we have to make quite a bit of money.  And I don’t want to work in any of the jobs that pay that much money.  So instead of trying to earn more and more, why not just need less?  If I can make my life smaller so that I don’t need everything, maybe I can find a job I really enjoy and not be stressed if it doesn’t pay that well.  Maybe I can actually be happier with less.  Can I do that?  Is that allowed?  Yes, I have a degree in accounting and a law degree and I am licensed to practice law in Colorado, but do I have to?  Do I have to abandon my child for 50 hours a week and let him be raised by strangers so I can prove my worth to the rest of the upper-middle class?  Is it okay if I choose to be poor?  Are there other people out there with these same thoughts and ideas?