Basic Human Maintenance 101

I got an email about classes at my local REI the other day (desert hiking with your dog? yes please!), and among the offerings was bike maintenance. This got me thinking about something I read not long ago:

Kelly Starrett says all human beings should be able to perform basic maintenance on themselves. He’s right! I prefer this way of thinking about it to the ubiquitous “self care”— not that that’s wrong, but it’s been sort of distorted to mean, like, taking bubble baths when you’re stressed out. For me, maintenance is more about getting the basics under control day-to-day.

Dr. Starrett was talking about the tissues of the body. Spend time every day finding the areas that need attention— spots that are a little tight, a little tender, not quite as supple as you’d like—  and work on them for 10 or 15 minutes. Do this daily, and you can prevent a lot of major problems in your musculoskeletal system. This just makes sense! Little things are easy to fix. Little things that you don’t fix turn into big things.

What else can you do as maintenance on your human self? What little things can you do every day to head off major life fails?

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Getting healthier– how to start if you don’t think you can start.

So many people feel lousy most of the time. And don’t know how to fix it. It’s easy to feel like wellness just a hobby for the privileged. Aside from the Gwyneth Paltrow crowd surrounded by juice bars and jade eggs, even just the idea of taking time and energy to focus on basic wellness can be a challenge for many of us. While we might think of the CEOs as busy people who can’t find time for good food and exercise, no one works harder than shift workers,  minimum-wage (or less) workers supporting families, folks with more than one job. (And yes, there are health risks associated with being poor). Feeling crappy is a problem facing all kinds of people. It’s not always as simple as joining a gym, hiring a trainer, signing up for a meal delivery service. The reality is that some folks’ lives are challenging in ways others don’t have to think about.

I was thinking about this when I stopped at a Circle K on my way home from work yesterday. Continue reading

The joys of being a beginner

For many of us, the older we get, the less we do new things. We might learn a new hobby in college, but after that, it kind of levels off. If we’ve always been into running, we might still run. If we’re into sci fi, we read more sci fi. We already know what we like, goes the thinking, so we’re good. Why spend the effort to learn an entirely new thing? Isn’t being a raw beginner frustrating and difficult and just kind of not worth it? I find the opposite is true— being a beginner is freeing, and, dare I say, fun?

In zen Buddhism, there’s a concept called shoshin, or “Beginner’s Mind.” Continue reading

Hacks, Trends, and Distractions

There’s a new thing in the health and wellness space about every five minutes, no? A superfood, a supplement, a piece of equiment, some new game-changer. It’s usually expensive, weird-sounding, and above all, new. (And as always with the brand-new, lacking credible evidence). And they just seem so promising! Like this could be the solution— the things that’s finally going to help me get a PR, lose five pounds, be amazing. So sign me up, take my money!

And some of these things probably work. They do lead to some small improvement. But here’s the catch: the added benefit of a hack like this pales in comparison to just doing the work. You can’t add acai to your McDonalds diet and become a new person. There’s so much low-hanging fruit— and that’s where the real magic happens. Start with the tried-and-true basics. Figure out your movement. Your sleep. Your diet. Your stress. If you have those basics truly dialed in and you want to mess around with tweaks and bonuses here and there, you have my blessing. Those fun little gadgets and tonics might give you a tiny boost if you’re already at the pointy end of performance and an ounce or a millisecond is of the essence. But sorry–  you can’t buy health from a link on instagram.

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psst. want some of this? it’ll really help.

I see peeps at my gym fall into this trap– they just need the right creatine or BCAA supplement, and then they’ll get their butt in gear. Meanwhile, they’re hitting the drive through on the way home from class. Or they’re not at class at all. They get frustrated with their lack of immediate and complete transformation. . . and then they fall off the wagon. GUYS. Spend your hard-earned cash on veggies, not vitamins, and call me in a few months. I guarantee you’ll be better off. Also you will have more money, and lots of beneficial side effects. Win-win!

Running, Thrills, and Awesome

It’s THRILLING to accomplish something you weren’t certain you could do. For all the babble out there and instagram quotes about comfort zones and breakthroughs and whatnot, that central truth remains. And to accomplish something you aren’t certain you can do, you have to, well, do something you aren’t sure you can do. For people who are risk-averse creatures of habit, this can be a huge leap— but so, so worth it. There are roller-coaster thrills, and then there are life-changing thrills. On the roller coaster, you know you’re on there for five minutes and everything’s been safety-checked. For the other kind, there’s no net— you don’t know what will happen.

Last weekend, I ran a Ragnar Relay with my sister and a bunch of other lawyers.

the van

what could go wrong?

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on chasing two rabbits

She who chases two rabbits catches neither one– and I’m a compulsive rabbit-chaser. As soon as that sucker takes off, I want to go after it. I want to catch all the rabbits!

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Syllabus of bad-assery

I’m training for a krag maga level 1 test. That means lots of technique, lots of intensity, and lots of anaerobic conditioning and strength (burpees! more burpees!). That’s a different beast from my usual trail running antics. Yikes.

But when my sweet friend (hi Robin!) asked who wanted to train for a fall half marathon with her, my heart said “ME! I DO!” but then my brain woke up and said “girl, you’re crazy. You need to chill.” Good call, brain.

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maybe next year?

Yes, it’s good to be well-rounded and versitile, and yes, fitness and athleticism are, to some degree, transferrable. but training for a big goal takes focus. the body can adapt, but it will happen better and faster if the demands build consistently along one axis. Otherwise, it starts to be a problem of competing demands: I have an hour before work. Do I run, or do conditioning circuits? Should I go to the running group or the krav calss this evening? Should I do a long, slow run or try to do some sprint intervals to help my conditioning? And then I’d wind up overworked overall, but under-committed to each of my goals. Oops.

This isn’t a new problem for me. I’m the one who decided to do my clinical doctorate and my research doctorate at the same time. I got it done, but I felt a constant tension between the two. I felt like I had my two feet planted on two different platforms and they were moving independently of each other. I would have probably benefitted from some better long-range planning to align the two better.

So, I didn’t sign up for the half marathon this year. Maybe that’s progress? It’s on my “things I want to do, and soon” list, but I’m saving it for a time when it aligns better with my other goals. And I have to tell myself, a lot, that I had a reason. that saying no was really actually saying yes to something else. and i’m going to kick ass on that krav test! (I’ll keep you posted).

So if you’re prone to chasing every rabbit that catches your eye, maybe a little reflection and focus is just what the doctor ordered.