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?

Continue reading

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.

I got punched in the face the other day.

Don’t worry. The guy who hit me was wearing 16-0z boxing gloves, and so was I. I got hit because I was in a boxing seminar, and I’m not very good at boxing.

I learned some skills in that class (and in other martial arts and self-defense classes), but more than that, I learned that I’m not made of glass. I can be hit. I can hit back (or try to, at least). And I can learn where I left the opening.  I’m not saying getting hit is awesome, or super fun, or a good idea to do every day. But it’s instructive to get in that position, to get under the gun, and realize that you’re strong enough to handle it.

Podcasts: The pretty good, the pretty bad, and well, that’s it.

There are a lot of health & fitness podcasts out there. Many of them are garbage, and some of them are part garbage, part good advice. There are probably a few that are mostly good advice. One of the great things about podcasts is also one of the awful things— anyone with a microphone can say anything they want. That means the echo-chamber effect of misinformation-based subcultures can run rampant. It also makes a great place to share information and experiences from people who may be marginilized in mainstream medicine. Most people are ill equipped to tell which thing is happening, though.

It’s also really hard to tell who you’re taking advice from. Anyone can call

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what’s in those headphones?

themselves a trainer or a nutritionist or an expert, and it doesn’t mean they’ve had any training, passed any exams, or gotten any meaningful certification. Lots of people write things in their bios that are so vague you can’t tell if they have a doctorate or never went to high school.  I’m especially wary of anyone who’s giving advice without telling the audience what their background and perspective is. Try it: “I’m Zabby. I’m a doctorally-prepared nurse practitioner working in family practice with a focus on patient-centered care, lifestyle management of chronic disease, and symptom management.” Now you know who I am and where I’m coming from. You know whether what I have to say might be relevent to you and can decide how much to trust me.

Interestingly (tellingly?), iTunes has a “health” category that is separate from it’s “science and medicine” category. This is where I find lots of truly nerdy medical stuff (JAMA summary, anyone?). But it’s not where I go for entertaining or inspiring listens for a long run. I thought I’d let you in on what’s in my ears now and then, and what I think about it. Cool?

  • Ben Greenfield Fitness: Takes a research-based approach to athletic performance and longevity. Very into gadgets and supplements, but in general, scientifically pretty sound. Occasionally mispronounces or misuses a technical/scientific term, but hey, at least he’s going after that level of detail! I get some funny looks when I accidently correct him out loud.
  • Rich Roll: Takes on some health and fitness topics, but not exclusively. Also interested in personal development and spirituality. Talks about plant-based nutrition, meditation, and lifestyle choices a lot. Chooses interesting guests and doesn’t give them a platform to expound on bullshit.
  • Harder to Kill Radio with Steph Gadreau: Focuses on strength training and wellness. Upfront about her proclivities, which are paleo and lifting heavy (which isn’t my bag, but I still enjoy the show). Acknowledges that there are multiple sound approaches to fitness, generally realistic and interesting.
  • Model Health Show with Shawn Stevenson: Focused on positivity and wellness, but goes off the rails on occasion into “woo-woo science” without necessarily flagging it as such. Fun to listen to, but also most likely to engender an eye-roll.
  • No Meat Athlete: It’s a vegan running podcast, what’s not to like? They discuss diet stuff, training stuff, gear stuff, and some other random stuff on occasion. It has an informal feel and isn’t at all into health geekiness or hard science— it’s much more about two guys talking about their experiences as runners and vegans, and offering some tips.

Got any others I might like?