Practicing Self Care

It’s been an emotional week.

Last week, I attended a professional development session on Wednesday afternoon, and as it was a State holiday on Friday, I decided to make an extra long weekend out of it.  Chris and I had discussed day-tripping (or even overnighting) somewhere, but given everything we’ve had going on in our lives we both found we were content to staycation.  I had registered for the Wednesday event and asked for the additional time off before I knew what the outcome of the election would be.

If you know me personally or even just follow me on Twitter, my political leanings are no secret. However, this isn’t a blog about politics, nor do I want it to be.

Self care is so very important, and it is not something many of us are very good at. I am not going to pretend I wasn’t really emotionally gutted from Tuesday’s results, and at the end of the day I feel no need to justify this to anyone who doesn’t agree that I should be gutted. Emotions are very personal, and while examining them from a logical lens is important, it is also important to acknowledge what we feel and why we feel it, as allow ourselves to feel these things. Everyone processes grief differently.

This is not to say, it gives one permission to treat someone else badly because you feel badly yourself, or use it as an excuse to shirk responsibilities. Rather, allowing yourself to feel the feels and process the bad news you’ve received in a way that helps you move forward (however that may be), is a vitally important piece of self care. And this is true if your beloved pet dies, if a parent or loved one dies, if you have a bad breakup (friend or romantic), or if your country has taken a direction you fear is a step back. It really doesn’t matter what the cause of your grief is – what matters is that you permit yourself to begin healing once it occurs.

There are hundreds of good articles on the importance of self care for your physical and mental well-being. Greatist breaks down 25 Science-Backed Ways to Change Your Life by Taking Better Care of Yourself. Dozens of scientific studies have been conducted to this effect as well, indicating that this is vital for our well-being, and yet we don’t do it nearly enough. We are conditioned as a society to think that every moment should be scheduled with something meaningful, and social media certainly hasn’t helped in that regard. In my time off last week, I kept thinking we needed to do something, plan something, go somewhere … but we didn’t, and the unscheduled time was restorative.

Part of my self care is exercising. It didn’t used to be. I have had a stressful year with a lot of personal loss, and I have been channeling a lot of my grief and stress through working out and/or being outside. On Thursday, I went to the gym and completed a tough workout with more effort than I have done in some time – or at least, that’s how it felt – and the adrenaline and endorphins felt great. It didn’t change anything about my circumstances, but for a moment in time I felt like I was in control of something, and that mattered. On Friday, I did a double with my mother, and we were both pretty sore (in good ways!) on Saturday, when we opted for a long walk on the bike path.

My grandfather – with whom I was very close, and who was like a father to me growing up – passed away 11 years ago. This was long before I began my personal fitness journey. In hindsight, I wasn’t the best at self care at that point, though I was also very new to grief and loss. I wish I had in my life then what I have now, if only to gift my younger self that coping mechanism. But we all learn and grow from these experiences, and each time we maybe take a step further on our own personal journeys in how to help ourselves heal.

I recognize that some of this comes from a place of privilege – that not everyone has sufficient outlets to channel their grief in healthy ways and practice self care effectively. However, I urge you to cultivate these in any way that you can. It doesn’t have to be exercise. It doesn’t even have to be time off. It can be a couple hours of mindless, trashy TV. It can be preparing a new recipe, or losing yourself for an hour in a good book. It could even just be a long walk in a beautiful place. Or, for some, it can be attending a protest. For others, it may be more quietly volunteering for an organization doing work you believe in. There are many ways to practice self care, and I urge you to find these things and give yourself permission to access them.

Saturday Shorts: Are you exercising TOO much?

I was pointed to a Well + Good piece that ran earlier this year on overexercising and metabolism.  I’ve been thinking really thoughtfully on how best to incorporate all the things I love and be healthy, and this definitely spoke to many things that trip me up when trying to do All The Things!  (FOMO is real, friends.)
I was SORE this week, guys.  Sore in a good way!  I mixed up my routine a bit from the last couple of weeks solely for scheduling reasons, and it proved to be just enough to keep me on my toes.  I like to keep my weekly workout schedule somewhat consistent for planning purposes, but really this week proved why it’s totally worth it to switch gears on occasion.  With Chris away this week, I was trying to make sure I maximized my time at home with Finnegan, so I opted for morning HIIT classes and an earlier evening spin class (on a different day, with a different instructor).  This meant missing a format I really like, however it also meant attending a couple of other formats I really like that I haven’t been to in some time.  I struggled through the workouts in a good way because I hadn’t done them in a while!
Also, apparently according to the article, mornings really are the best time to burn!
Of course, if I don’t go in the evening with my mom at least once a week or so, she’ll be really sad.  She is not a morning person and won’t hit up 6:15am with me!

November check-in: Modified goals

Taking a break on the London trip report. It’s gotten longer and more unwieldy than I anticipated, and I’ve started chunking it out based on experiences rather than timeline – it seems to flow better that way.

Anyway, as I mentioned previously I have been scaling back the amount and intensity of my workouts – HIIT limited to 3x/week, no committing to races I hadn’t already signed up for through the end of the year (this one is hard – a lot of friends are running Stockadeathon and that race is a perennial favorite of mine), and trying to incorporate meaningful cross-training (i.e., spin, yoga). I did join a step challenge for the month of November, with a personal goal of 15,000 steps/day. Yesterday I got over 23,000 – this included two long walks with Finnegan, walk to and from work, and a 3 mile run. Today, no run and I had to drive, so I’m worried I won’t break 10,000. I am planning on taking Finnegan for a walk after my board meeting tonight, as the weather is nice. Tomorrow it’s going to rain. This will be a tough goal, but that’s why I set it.

finnegan-bed
While Chris is away, these are the types of pleading looks I get to take him on a walk!

I mentioned that I hadn’t been feeling as much pain in my hip. I ran the Squirrelly Six Miler on Sunday with some friends (I had previously signed up!), and I took it relatively slow. It was a trail race and I hadn’t run trails since Ragnar, and it was quite muddy making the downhills – where I typically like to make up time after speed-hiking the uphills – mildly treacherous. The last 3/4 of a mile, after the last big downhill, are relatively flat (if anything, still slightly downhill, but not steep), so I took off at that point.

thacher
This view. Even on a cloudy day. Hard not to stop and take it in.

I did feel some soreness in my hip toward the end, telling me that I had made the right call in continuing my stepped-back (for me) schedule as I am clearly not 100 percent healed. But I am getting there! In fact, after All The Steps yesterday, my OTHER hip/glute had some mild soreness – nothing that persisted, but maybe a sign that everything is finally starting to equalize? One step at a time, as they say.

I was supposed to run with a couple of friends Tuesday night, but both had separate work issues come up end of day, so I ended up running by myself. Truth be told, I didn’t have the best day at work myself and was pretty upset, so I decided to use the solo run as therapy. As always, it helped, and helped me work through a liveable solution and centered me. However, I was watching the clock pretty closely on this run and was pretty frustrated with my speed. I know there are good reasons I’ve slowed down some and it’s going to take me some time to get back to where I was before, but it was still disheartening. (Though, overall, the run was healing.)

And then Wednesday morning happened. I did a HIIT class before work, and our “Afterburn” – the last 2-4 min of class that is an all-out exercise once our circuit is complete – included a 60s push up hold. A push up hold is similar to a plank, except you bend your elbows. Even the instructor said this was tough and advised to do what we could and then drop to our knees. I’ve been struggling with core strength lately, but my push ups have been stronger recently (thanks to the 22 Push Up Challenge that I completed in August). I got into position, and thought, “OK, this is hard, but let’s see if I can hold this for at least 30 seconds.” Then we got to 30 seconds (sooner than I thought based on my internal counting – apparently that slows down when my brain is focused on a tough exercise!), and I thought, maybe 45 seconds? “GOOD, Jen!” the instructor says, and though I don’t look up, I wonder if I’m the only one left on my toes. “TEN SECONDS!” she shouts. OMG, I’ve GOT THIS.

I collapsed when she said we were done. But I stayed up for the full 60s. On my toes. I still don’t know if I was the only one in class that did it, but part of me wants to pretend that I was.

Later that morning, I pulled up Timehop and found this:

timehop

4 years ago, I did 20 minute workout videos a 2-3 times a week and could run 5 miles max. And look at me now. It’s been a long road, but it’s a worthwhile one, and sometimes the uphills are steep and the downhills are muddy, but then sometimes that finisher is primed for coasting.