Walking the hills

I have been a runner for a while now, off and on since I was about 15 years old. In my mid 30’s I met my husband while I was starting to ramp up my distance, going from 10k runs to 10-milers and half marathons. One crazy year (2011) I opted to run a full marathon, and was relieved to check that off my bucket list. It certainly was a feeling of accomplishment. I started wondering what else I could do if I simply put together a training plan and followed it.

When we trained, sometimes friends would get together and run “hill repeats,” workouts in which we would run repeatedly up hills to build strength and stamina for those long races. We would “power up” those hills, maintaining the speed you would have kept up on the flat surface. They were intervals, not continuously run, and they also helped build confidence for those times in a race when a hill would loom ahead.

hill with flowers
Photo credit link

These days I am not so interested in improving my running times, but rather just staying fit and enjoying the experience. When I am training, I take walk breaks, particularly on the hills, rather than “powering up” and maintaining the pace. I find that slowing a bit gives me time to take in the view, and to ensure that I’m maintaining good form.

On my run yesterday I started thinking that this is a metaphor for life. We have a challenge (hill) ahead, and some of us want to keep running, to keep making relentless forward progress. But I have gotten increasingly comfortable with walking up that hill, taking in the beauty of the view, appreciating the journey in a new way.

There is no rush. Finishing faster does not necessarily mean better. At some point, on the other side of that hill, likely there will be a downhill angle, where the momentum will allow us to run back down with less effort. By not getting stuck in one speed, we allow our bodies the flexibility to adjust to circumstances. In life too, we so often want to keep going at a fast clip. And sometimes slowing down helps us know when we want to turn off to explore a different area, or perhaps even change direction.

We may not have realized there is a path that was there all along, only we never saw it before. Suddenly the old route is new again. We see it in a new light. We arrive at our destination with a renewed perspective.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Seasonality

Today was a trip down memory lane in a way, but at the opposite side of the season in which I was married a year and a half ago (September).

Gooseberry Falls
Gooseberry Falls – still quite icy but flowing as well

I reflected on how different Gooseberry Falls State Park appears when it is covered in snow and ice, but also with strong and flowing currents. Seasons change, and nature has cycles. And yet humans so often want to keep push, push, pushing forward rather than allowing time for stepping back, reflecting, and renewing.

My biggest takeaway from this current phase in my life is that these “winters” of our souls are healthy and necessary for our growth. As I contemplated my gratitude for this time, I realized that I have no regrets.

I appreciate the nature of the cycles in my life.  There are ways in which I take in knowledge and wisdom and then process them. I use them as raw materials to create the next phase of my life. And even if I have a vision for what that might become 5 years out, I can only take the next step in front of me. I need not know every step along the way.

Spring is a season of re-birth and re-discovery. We do love our Spring in Minnesota. We emerge from the cozy habitats we have occupied for the winter, renew our connections to other people. We are prepared for new journeys, and turn our attention toward a new set of activities. There is so much beauty in allowing and appreciating those cycles.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Taking time to reflect

I just finished teaching the final session of my “Nurturing Your Feminine Leadership” course. I had intended to write a post to capture my take-aways from the experience, and some lessons learned about how I might do things differently next time.

Then I realized as I was reflecting tonight that overall I am happy and satisfied with this first round. I also need a night or two of reflection to put together more coherent thoughts on that topic. Some of us require more processing time to filter and let things settle before we are reading to “share out” our observations.

Rest and digest.jpg

It occurs to me that this is why every team meeting I have either hosted or participated in, I always get a little wary of the final group share-out process. Typically after 2 or 3 days of meetings my introvert brain is running on empty. So even though I muster the courage to say what occurs to me when required at the meeting’s end, I know that once I get a few nights of sleep, the important stuff will emerge and the “noise” will dissipate.

So I am being generous and compassionate with myself and allowing that time. That’s the great thing about being the “boss” of yourself – you make the rules!

Cheers, all. Happy Tuesday.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Work sprints

I found myself with another short article-writing project on Wednesday, due on Friday. I am getting used to these quick-turnaround pieces, and rather enjoy them. Though the pay is not large, they are good practice for my “journalistic” style and for working with an editor.

It reminded me of a strategy I used to use when I used to procrastinate on a project, and I think I learned it from Martha Beck back in the day when I was in grad school. It involves taking a huge project and breaking it into short chunks of only 15-30 minutes at a time, especially if we are avoiding just getting started. Often, just starting and gaining  momentum is the hardest part.

Nowadays, I can usually set a timer for 60-90 minutes of uninterrupted work at a time because I have worked up to that. The idea is that you set everything else aside and just focus on that one thing. It is harder to do that in an era when we often feel tied to our inboxes and phones.

sprinters.JPG
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But really: email is not urgent. If someone cannot wait a day or two for a response, they should call you on the phone. We need to de-condition people to getting automatic responses from email, social media and all the other distractions.

After my 60-90 minute sprint, I typically take a break of 20-30 minutes. Research shows that few humans can focus behind 90 minutes anyway, due to our ultradian cycles. These are basic rest-activity cycles discovered in the 1950’s. When we respect these rhythms of focus and rest, we can better manage the ebbs and flows of our energy and be much more productive.

I think that is one problem with corporate work environments. Typically they are built around an 8+ hour workday, and are not sensitive to human rhythms or people’s individual chronotypes, which also influence their productivity. When I complete 3 of these focused 60-90 segments in a day I typically get a mountain of work produced, more than I ever did in a corporate day that was highly interrupted. I am so very grateful for being able to manage that and design these “work sprints” for myself.

What is your cycle for accomplishing your best work? How can you plan to incorporate that cycle into more of your days?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Quiet times of the year

I think we are fortunate in Minnesota that there is very little doubt about that distinct feeling of winter. The cold bites at us, and we notice. It will get down to single digits this week and it is inescapable.

Calvin on Dad.jpg
Our fat cat Calvin loves to use my husband as furniture in the winter. Shamelessly.

I have come appreciated quiet times of the year, when I take my time. There are less events, though some people attend holiday parties (I manage to avoid most). There are some family gatherings at the holidays, but right now feels like a nice quiet opportunity for reflection. I enjoy my peppermint tea with a dash of eggnog in it, and I snuggle with my cats.

Working from home, some days I am not required to go anywhere. I typically make it outside at least once for a yoga class, a dance class or a walk (at the very least a trip to the mail box). My grandmother used to say she enjoyed winter because there were a lot less yard work chores, and plenty of time for reading. I agree. SO many good books on my shelves.

What is your favorite way to spend quiet times of the year?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Wellness Wednesday – the power of the pause

This week I am taking my own advice and taking a pause on my usual Wednesday feature. I have writing assignment due Thursday, and I just completed two projects with Monday deadlines. So because my blog is not “required” for any reason other than my compulsivity (yup, I know), today it shall rest. 

I plan to be back next week with this regularly scheduled column. 

Enjoy reading the abundance of other amazing things to read out on the internets! I shall be back soon. Hasta luego!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com