Sunday, November 30, 2014

Owning MY winter wonderland

This weekend I went to Leavenworth, WA with my parents and friend Shawna.  It was a wonderful time - not just because of the great company (and wine), but because of the beauty outside and the peace and understanding it brought me while I was there.  It was so quiet, and the scenery was magnificent.

While I was in Leavenworth I was surrounded by the beauty of the winter.  When we woke up on Saturday it had snowed overnight - the view was breathtaking.  I instantly felt filled with joy and the holiday spirit, as if I was in my own "winter wonderland."  It made me think about winter as a time of renewal and peace, and an opportunity to change my life for the better.

In short, November was a rough month for me (both personally and professionally), due to a series of three very difficult and stressful events.  The stress is not over yet and I will still be troubleshooting a few issues for a while.  However, this weekend I thought about how I can empower myself to move forward with confidence as I live intentionally.  This means taking charge of my life and making decisions that will allow me to achieve the outcomes that I want, rather than focusing on the stress that surrounds me, and the things I can't control.   This weekend I came across a great quote that my friend posted on Facebook, which couldn't better sum up my sentiments:

There really is something to be said about taking ownership of your life and your decisions - sometimes this is not (in the moment) as intuitive to us, especially when we are in high stress situations.  We tend to go into panic mode and throw pity parties for ourselves (which is, for the record, totally okay to a certain extent).  However, imagine if we shift our mind frames and energy to focusing on the positive, while also making changes in our lives that bring us more happiness?

Yesterday I spent some time journaling and thinking about small steps I could take to cultivate more happiness in my life as I finish 2014.  If you're looking to make a few shifts in your life, I would encourage you to take 10 minutes to do the same!  Here were a few ideas that I came up with:

Happiness "Change Agents"
  • Devoting 5 minutes each day to meditate
  • Honoring my weekly practice of yoga and running
  • Cultivating a healthy bedtime routine (now that I have an awesome new mattress and bed!) and getting plenty of sleep 
  • Cleansing my home of clutter
  • Continue to go grocery shopping weekly - go organic whenever possible, and make a healthy breakfast and lunch!
  • Continue using for my monthly budgeting and financial clothes - remove financial clutter!
  • Surround myself with people who life me up - stop tolerating people who do otherwise
  • ENJOY the holiday season - decorate my home, listen to Christmas music, and make time for joyful and quiet moments

Now, here's the catch to all of this: discipline.  All of the things above are great ideas, but they won't happen unless I make them a priority.  In Jillian Michael's book, Slim for Life, she talks about coming up with a vision for your health and your life, and becoming attached to that vision - the key word being "attached."  I have to truly desire these changes and prioritize my time accordingly in order to see the results I want.  For a lot of us, this means doing the things that may not always be easy/comfortable/intuitive etc.   It's a lot easier to sit on the couch instead of work out, go out to eat instead of grocery shopping and cooking a healthy meal in, or to avoid a difficult conversation with a friend instead of having the conversation.  However, the truth is that the positive outcomes (long term) far outweigh the negative emotions and stress we endure when we are unsettled inside.

What are you looking forward to for the rest of 2014?  What are the shifts (large or small) that you are hoping to make in your life?  What do you want your winter wonderland to be?

Monday, November 3, 2014

30 day challenge recap

Tonight I came home with an urge to write (after some time of not feeling inspired to do so).  I am excited to start posting again and share a few updates on my life, the first being a recap of the 30 day challenge that I did with a few friends in September!

The 30 Day Challenge
In late August I shared about my plans to do a 30 day challenge with my cousin Robin (Colorado).  My friends Marianne (Seattle) and Sarah (NYC) decided to join in.  The goal was to try to get moving every day, for 30 days.  It was so much fun doing this challenge with my close girlfriends, and we all learned a lot.  I recorded all of my exercise on a laminated calendar on my fridge, which was super rewarding and motivating each time I wrote something down!  Exercising every day also made me more conscious about my diet and drinking habits, and I saw improvements there as well.

I was successful overall with the challenge minus the very last week when I had my biggest work event of the year.  This involved working until 9:00 PM every night without any breaks, which kind of nixed my exercise routine.  I was a bit disappointed that I didn't do a better job anticipating this challenge and scheduling in smaller morning workouts ahead of time, but I was proud of all I accomplished in the end.  Here were a few of my key findings:

1.  I got my strength (and butt) back!
I decided to focus primarily on strength training during the challenge, because it's what (my mind, body and spirit) was missing the most this Summer.  In addition to trying out a couple classes at my gym, I decided to join The Bar Method by taking advantage of a great new (one month) membership deal.  The classes were a completely new type of exercise for me and truly kicked my butt.  Since the studio is just blocks from my office at work, I went to morning, lunch, and after work classes regularly and loved making it a part of my routine.  After three weeks I looked in the mirror and could definitely notice the difference.  My arms were toned, my core was less poofy, and my butt finally had it's curve back (photo below)!  Pretty gratifying, if you ask me. 

In addition to The Bar Method I got in a good amount of yoga, and also went on walks with friends (instead of the usual go-to happy hour).  It was great to integrate these three practices into my routine.

2.  It feels GREAT to make your health a regular priority
I felt empowered making exercise a daily priority in September.  It was something I scheduled and looked forward to every morning.  What motivated me the most was knowing I was taking care of myself and feeling healthier each day.  The more time I spent exercising, the less stressed I was.  Exercise was "me" time that I cherished.  It allowed me time to reflect and savor peaceful moments - even during the burn!

3.  Exercise every single day may not be a sustainable plan
My one "con" of the 30 day challenge was that after it was done, I went for nearly 2 weeks without consistent exercise.  This could be related to what was going on in my life after the challenge ended, but I have been known to have an "all or nothing" type of personality and I'd rather not make excuses.  While exercising every day was/is a fabulous thing to strive for, I learned that I would rather exercise 5 days a week every week than exercise 30 days straight then go for weeks without any exercise.  I think it's best to be proactive and intentional about exercise, and not get defeated or too off track after taking a break.

4. Cardio AND Strength are key
Before starting the exercise challenge, I did a lot of cardio but was doing virtually no strength training.  During the exercise challenge, I focused so much on strength training that my cardio routines disappeared.  I know that for me to feel truly healthy and get the body shape I desire, I really need both.  So moving forward, I'm trying to be intentional about both practices!

Would I do the 30 day challenge again?  Absolutely.  I got in great shape, learned a lot about myself, and had so much fun connecting with my girlfriends each week.  Do I think that exercising every single day is a realistic plan?  No - but it's something we can certainly strive for :).