Dream BIGGER

Your satisfaction with life is only as large as the goals you put in front of yourself. It’s okay to be a bit crazy. Push yourself. Dare to do the things that scare you, because every insane step makes the next one look easier. You have the capacity to do more than work and die.

Be the person everyone is talking about. Be the person that you’re jealous of today.

I’m okay – Wait, what?

Show of hands, who has locked themselves in the bathroom to have a minute where no one can see your face?

I know I certainly do it. It’s a chance to let out some tension, take a deep breath, reset yourself, and flip your hair back into something fabulous (or whatever is passing for fabulous on the given day).

Usually, I do this on purpose. Today, however, I was more than a little bemused when I caught myself whispering “it’s okay, you got this,” on what I’d thought was a cut-and-dry bathroom break.

Really, J? You need to do this today? Are you just so conditioned to stress that this is Pavlovian now? Are you going to be telling the bathroom walls you’re okay for the rest of your life?

Well… Yes, probably. About halfway through berating myself, I realized I had been stressed, even if I hadn’t noticed it. And as for a Pavlovian response – telling myself it would be okay had worked. I’d acknowledged the scary task bothering me (hello, leading a training for an out-of-state office) and was ready to move on to actually tackling the task at hand. How cool is that?

I apologized to my subconscious. After all, it’s nice to know she’s got my back even when I don’t know I need it.

And now to plan that damn training….

Home Sweet Stress

I’m wrapping up a two-week hiatus from all things normal. The hubby and I closed on a house two Thursdays ago, and it kicked off all sorts of insanity. Luckily I have a light workload currently, meaning I could leave at noon more often than not last week. The poor kitty got to spend his evenings alone while we got the house ready to move in, and I’m pretty sure we spent more money (and calories) at restaurants in that fortnight than we did in the two months prior. Oops.

I’ve also been running the gamut of emotions. Excitement, stress, exhaustion, annoyance (seriously, did the previous owners not have a vacuum??) and just about every variation in between. Overall, it’s positive, but damn, will I be happy when we’re past the paint-and-unpack stage.

The move has also brought me face to face with several of my demons. I’ve known for a long time that what I am “supposed to do” holds a huge amount of weight with me. If I feel like someone else has expectations of me, then IT IS GOING TO BE DONE. Hard stop. (I was the kindergartener who was terrified of track day, because I was supposed to be fast and win, and what if I failed? Everyone was watching me. They’d all be disappointed.) While that gave me extra motivation in chasing down grades and scholarships and extracurriculars, it’s not the healthiest impulse in, say, life. Or buying a house and then setting it up for the people who live there every day (me and the hubby) opposed to all those people peering down the rose-tinted Pinterest lens.

I have a house now. It needs to look perfect.

On the other hand, I am the daughter of two people who were minimalists a long time before it became a buzz word. My dad cleans and reorganizes for entertainment or when he is stressed, and we had a constant pile of items to be taken to Goodwill. During a seriously rough year in middle school, I think I got rid of half of my possessions. Did it make sense? Probably not. But in my mind, they were holding me back. I was going to run away and escape the annoying realities of being a pre-teen. I wanted a duffle bag and a ticket to anywhere. Freedom.

Of course, to a teenage girl, the other side of minimalism is a lack of the pretty things my friends and cousins had in their houses. Rooms painted something other than white, soft rugs, unnecessary throw pillows. On the days I didn’t want to go nomad, I’d dream about what I could do when I had a house and money of my own. And after a long time of oscillating between these conflicting desires, I’ve finally figured out the key:

When I feel inadequate, I want everything. When I’m stressed, I want nothing.

Which is great, because I’m currently stressed about feeling inadequate.

Luckily, the hubby does not have these opposing desires. He wants a comfortable house with a mad scientist lab in the basement (that’s a whole other story) and he’s pretty good about honing in on what will work for us. Which is why it’s a good thing I drug him along when we went to look at tables. I’m waiting for the stress to die down before I make any other big purchases, but since our last two apartments had a built-in counter and we don’t have a table, this was a pretty high priority.

I like to sit down while I eat my food, don’t you?

It was an “inadequate” type of day, and I made a beeline for the dark wood tables with extra leaves for entertaining and matching chairs with leather upholstery. We’re adults now. We need a nice table. People will judge us by our table.

The hubby let me go over the finer points of the “good” tables for a few minutes, then turned decisively to one I’d bypassed without a second though. “I like this one.”

It didn’t have optional leaves or fancy stools. It wasn’t bar-height. The best way to describe it, in fact, was an indoor picnic table. The light golden top was a single piece of wood with slightly wavy live edges supported by simple black metal legs, and it came with two matching benches. “It’s like your parents’ table,” the hubby went on. “That was always one of my favorite things at their house.”

I took a look around the show room again, visions of fancy dinner parties slowly fading. The picnic table matched our golden oak cabinets and trim. The lovely espresso bar-height monstrosity to my right, gorgeous as it was, did not. Could I make it work, or would it just look out of place? My husband wasn’t the only person to say they’d loved my parents’ table. This was subtly different, but all the highlights were the same.

Slowly, I made my way over and sat down on the bench, running a hand along the raw edge as I pictured this table against our newly-painted blue wall. In my head, it looked lovely. I sighed and thought about a normal day: work bags dropped on one of the benches, mail and magazines scattered around coffee mugs and brunch plates. We could still fit 6-8 people around the table for a party, sure. But on every other day of the year, this table would be exactly what we needed.

Punchline: we bought the table. We even paid to have someone bring it inside since getting a solid slab of wood through the door at a weird angle sounds like a recipe for disaster. I’m re-creating my visions for our future kitchen/dining room.

And honestly, I think this option might end up making me a lot happier.

Step by Step

We bought a house today. Signed the documents, pocketed the keys. I have my very own garage door opener for the first time ever.

And it was, at least the parts we did today, mind-bogglingly EASY, which feels at complete odds with the magnitude of the overall event. I mean, someone out there looked at me and decided I was adult enough to have a house. I still have a hard time not lumping myself with “the kids” in any given conversation.

In any case, we’re homeowners, and in my sentimental ponderings today I thought back to the day we got our very first apartment – and realized I didn’t feel ready for that, either. In fact, I may have felt less sure of myself that day with a single-year lease and a heck of a lot less money and responsibility on the line.

Maybe I’m looking at this house wrong. It’s not the grand final decision in my life any more than that first apartment was. It’s just the next step – in life, but also out of my comfort zone.

So I’m super excited for the house (and may have paint colors pulled up as we speak… blue-grey or egg-shell??) but I’m also excited to see where this house takes me.

Blue-grey. Definitely.

TrainerRoad post #2

I’ve completed the second and third rides on my TrainerRoad training plan.

The good news: I got my own trainer and the hubby and I can ride side-by-side now!

The bad news: I spend the first half of my hour ride on Thursday night seriously pissed off at the setup.

In all honestly, I doubt I did the calibration correctly. Since the hubby started using both the trainer and TrainerRoad before me, I had him help with setup and I was able to get by with less-than-stellar prep. It’s one of those situations I’ve been noticing recently, where I have taught myself to rely on him and it ends up biting me in the butt. Oops.

I also didn’t have a cadence sensor for the ride on Thursday. I’d ordered one, since biking at the same time makes it hard to share the one we already have, but it still hadn’t arrived. I’m pretty sure these two items were the cause of my main frustration, and while they’re both very fixable, it didn’t help my mood for Thursday.

So, what was the problem? Remember my comment in my previous post that I was spinning at about half the recommended cadence on my first ride? Having noticed the deficiency, I didn’t like the idea of returning to a bad habit. However, in order to bring my power down to the correct level when I was recovering between intervals, I had to slow my cadence considerably. Even shifting to a lower gear didn’t help. Take a look at the graph below. The blue is the target power output and the yellow line is what I actually achieved. Not exactly on-target.

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After the disaster of a warm-up and the first recovery period, I gritted my teeth and decided I’d just have to deal with the slow cadence. Unfortunately, that didn’t work well either. Every time I lowered the cadence enough to match the target power, TrainerRoad would pause the workout with an infuriating message: “pedal to resume.”

Yes, thank you for the note. That’s a great idea. Oh, wait, I AM PEDALING.

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The same problem occurred after the five-second sprints. Since I almost doubled my power output during these intervals, the subsequent spin-down left the back wheel and trainer spinning at high RPMs. Without the cadence sensor, TrainerRoad had no way to tell if I actually was pedaling, or if I had simply decided to “coast.” Cue yet another “workout paused, pedal to resume” message.

Luckily this problem only lasted for a few seconds after each interval, but it still frustrated me enough to take any enjoyment out of the workout. I finished the hour feeling more relieved to be done than accomplished.

Amazon reported that my cadence sensor wouldn’t be here until after my Saturday ride, so I was pleasantly surprised to find the package waiting for me after work on Friday. I calibrated the trainer on the TrainerRoad and the Wahoo apps, and spent some time confirming that all of my devices were labeled “Jen’s” in the TrainerRoad app. The last thing I wanted was to end up using the data from the hubby’s heart rate monitor or cadence sensor!

With all of the technology set up, I still had to face one more big challenge: the third ride every week on this training plan is an hour and a half – which is not only the longest I’d ever been on a trainer, but longer than my average trainer session by, oh, about an hour. Yikes.

Screenshot_20190216-162440.jpgThanks to the improved set-up, Saturday’s experience was similar to my first ride, and I got through a lot of it by focusing on the tips and exercises in the app.  Still, the ride was composed of five ten-minute intervals just below my FTP, and by the last one I really didn’t give a damn about engaging extra muscle groups by kicking through the top-stroke.  I just wanted to collapse on the couch with the cat, who clearly thought 90 minutes was the perfect amount of time for a nap.

Finally, blissfully, it was done.  It had been a week of milestones: first official training plan, longest trainer ride, first ride on my own trainer, and the first time setting up my own equipment totally on my own. There had been hard parts, of the frustrating, painful, and exhausting categories, but as of this moment, all of those have only made me want to push harder, not give up.

We’ll see what next week brings. Right now, though, I’m wondering if I might be tougher than I think.

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Kitty’s hour and a half looked a bit different than mine.

Valentine’s Our Way

I hope you had a lovely 14th of February, however you spent it and whomever you were with.

The hubby and I ended up celebrating last night, which isn’t something we always do. But some other plans got canceled and we’ve been meaning to go on a date for a while, so we took advantage of the open evening and decided to check out Dumpling Darling, a new restaurant not far from us.

Patience is a virtue I only sometimes possess, so I loved that we weren’t fighting the Valentine’s crowds.  We got a dumpling flight, which let us sample all their steamed dumplings.  To my surprise, my favorite was the kimchi dumpling, although all of them were delicious.  We debated trying the dessert dumplings, but in the end decided in favor of Molly’s Cupcakes, which is right across the street. The hubby got a German chocolate cupcake; I had a peach cobbler one.  Since the dumplings were not particularly filling, it was the perfect end to the meal.

All other things aside, I’m in love with those cupcakes. Heavenly.

It we’d stopped here, it might have gone down as our most traditional Valentine’s Day in years. We’d gone to dinner early, though, and had time to kill.  Our post-cupcake destination is a place we love dearly, but very few people would consider romantic: REI.  We left with a similarly-beloved-but-not-romantic present for me: my own Wahoo Kickr Snap bike trainer.

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I was just a little excited.

Of course, you could argue that the second Kickr Snap is an instrument for marital felicity.  No more do the hubby and I have to argue over who gets the trainer first; like toddlers, it seems that we only want to use it when the other one is already planning on doing so, and we have literally raced each other to get our leg over the bike on occasion.  How many people can say they were gifted the end to a recurring argument for Valentine’s Day?

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We rearranged the living room last night to accommodate both trainers, where they have displaced our couch and will stay until we move in a couple weeks – I can’t wait to have space for both trainers AND the couch!  And so, Valentine’s Day evening found us both pedaling away, headphones in and not particularly pleased with each other.  (I didn’t have the trainer set up to my satisfaction and was not impressed with the subsequent workout.  In turn, the hubby was unimpressed with me.  I’m going to be magnanimous and say we both had a point.)

It’s an evening that would have horrified several of my girlfriends, and I can only hope they spent their Valentine’s Day in a way that brought them joy.  That said, it’s no less fair to put down my unconventional enjoyment than it would be to demean a day filled with flowers and chocolates and wine.

True love is about being yourself, about understanding each other, and about finding ways to make each other happy.  Tonight, our love was an hour sweating four feet apart from each other and an order to stop complaining.  And honestly, I might appreciate that even more than cupcakes.

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Cool down!  Kitty wants to know why it’s been a full hour since we pet him.

On the Ball

20190212_073129.jpgI broke out the exercise ball at work. To clarify, I moved back to our main office from my previous location onsite and finally got around to re-inflating it to use as my chair. I’d been pretty hesitant – the guys onsite didn’t give me a hard time about it, but some people in my office are quick to tease. Did I want to open that can of worms?

In the end, I decided my continued health and happiness was worth a bit of teasing, if it came to that. And so far, no one has said a thing. This morning, though, I heard the sound of a bouncing object pass my cubicle and went to investigate. Someone else in the office is now, as my mother phrases it, “on the ball.” Maybe not everyone thinks I’m crazy, after all.

Don’t be afraid to be the odd one out. You never know who else might join you once you take that first step.

Comfort or Complacency?

 

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“It is hard to get comfortable people to do anything when it might cost them their comfort.” – Tamora Pierce, Trickster’s Queen

This quote has been running through my mind a lot lately.  Okay, it’s been running through my mind intermittently ever since I read Trickster’s Queen in 2012, but lately I’ve been pondering more and more how it applies to me.  I’m not planning to overthrow the government and put a thirteen-year-old on the throne, after all.  So why has it stuck with me so clearly?

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been questioning my own comfort, and the necessity of it, quite frequently over the past few weeks.  I’ve come to the conclusion that comfort, in and of itself, is not bad.  It can be pretty dang good, actually – who doesn’t love curling up after a long day, or a hard ride, and letting yourself relax at last?

It’s holding yourself back for the sake of comfort that can become problematic.  Before long, you aren’t just comfortable; you’re complacent.  Why push yourself harder on your run?  Why speak up and ask for more stimulating tasks at work?  Why travel somewhere new when it’s so easy, so comfortable, to go back to the same beach you’ve walked a thousand times?  Of course, if there is a reason to stay where you are, then make note of it and move on.

I keep wondering, though, how often I’ve stopped myself short of asking that crucial question – why? – and how often I’ve traded in opportunity for familiarity.  Comfort should be a refuge, not a cage.

So have the presence of mind to appreciate comfort for what it is – and the courage to leave it behind when something else is more important.

TrainerRoad post #1

I just got done with my first actual workout on TrainerRoad and, since I have a feeling this is going to change a lot about how I bike, I’m going to track my thoughts and progress over the course of the 6-week plan that I’m following. I actually wish I would have written down some thoughts before I started the workout, because a a significant amount already changed during that hour on the trainer.

A big part of the idea behind starting this blog was about being 100% honest, both with other people and myself. Especially myself. And I really didn’t like admitting it, but I did not want to start that workout. Part of this was thanks to TrainerRoad’s Ramp Test, which, to quote their website, is set up to “give you the most accurate estimate of your current fitness and establish a benchmark for tracking progress.” I did the ramp test a couple days ago, and the number it spit out for me was 122. Divide that by my weight in kilograms, and I get a ratio (FTP, or Functional Threshold Power) around 1.93. In other words, low. On a chart containing ranges of “fair” to “world class,” that literally puts me on the line that goes from “fair” DOWN to a section called “untrained/non-racer.”

Okay, fine. I’m untrained. I’m not exactly a racer. That just means I have more room to improve, right? Well, that’s part of the problem. For a multitude of reasons that I’m not going to go into on this post, I have very little faith in my ability to improve significantly – and that made me very hesitant to start any sort of training plan. No matter what I told myself rationally, I was pretty much convinced that I would either be in excruciating pain for the entire experience, or literally nothing would change. Great – I’d be paying $15 a month just to prove that I’m a failure.

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But I digress. I’d picked the base phase “Low Volume II” training plan, and since I completed the Ramp Test previously, that meant I started with the Ebbetts workout. Looking at it didn’t help my nerves. An hour? Of intervals? Made to push my specific limits? And did I mention it meant an hour on the trainer? I usually manage to get about half an hour on the trainer before the pain in my legs and my boredom both become so acute I throw in the towel. (Okay, if I’m being totally honest, the boredom usually tips the scale more than the pain.) Either way, the fact that all the rides in this plan were at least an hour long made me apprehensive.

I made one other change on this ride, and that was the addition of a cadence monitor. The hubby really wanted this – I thought it was essentially unnecessary.  After all, our trainer (Wahoo Kickr Snap, will review later) already tells us heart rate, speed, and power – how much difference can cadence make?

You bikers are shaking your heads at me, I can see it. It turns out, cadence can make a big difference, and this was the start of my evening revelations. The hubby had previously been listening to a playlist with 90 bpm songs to keep his tempo correct; TrainerRoad suggested I keep my tempo at 85 bpm or higher. When I started the ride and settled into what I thought was a decent cadence, I was biking at about 50 bpm. Oops.

To my extreme relief, the workout didn’t kill me in the first three minutes. In fact, it actually began at a far slower pace than I would have started myself, at 50% of my FTP, before gradually ramping up. (Hey, I actually did a proper warm-up!) By the time I got to the main intervals, I’d decided I could finish the hour – and I was already eleven minutes in! By the second interval, I’d figured out how to read the entire display, and over twenty minutes had passed. For perhaps the first time ever, I’d worked up a decent sweat on the trainer without fighting boredom.

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It was around this time that I started to pay more attention to the tips on the screen.  I’d expected things like “pedal faster” or “go harder now.”  I didn’t expect the mix of tips showing me how to engage more muscles (“focus on pedaling horizontally for a while”), motivation (“Just be relaxed and make it look easy, and even YOU will begin to believe it”), and gentle reminders (“fatigue is never an excuse for poor form”).  Waiting to see what would pop up next, I forgot to focus on the seconds dragging past.  After countless hours of training alone with only my own , the commentary was a novel concept – and I loved it.

The other thing I noticed and appreciated is that TrainerRoad takes the mental aspect out of going harder.  There was no need to muster my willpower to do the sprints – the target power went up, and I matched it.  It told me when I could rest, but only at a certain level with a certain cadence for a certain amount of time.  While I can see this being annoying for more advanced riders, I’ve known for a long time that I’m bad at pushing myself.  I’d been curious to see if a preset plan would help or not.  Since it definitely did, I’m very excited to see what I can actually do with someone else setting the bar.

Writing this post has been another revelation in and of itself: every issue that has held me back previously has not been physical.  Confidence, boredom, and willpower are my biggest enemies, not the muscle or lack thereof in my legs.  In that context, improving doesn’t seem quite so daunting after all.

Choose Your Day

What stories do you tell yourself? This morning, because I’ve been paying attention, I’ve caught “I hate calling people,” “I’m such an awkward person,” and “today is just bleh.”

In other words, I’ve got a lot of excuses to do less than my best work and settle for having a “bleh” day. And while I can’t change the weather, the rest of that is all my decision.

What stories do you tell yourself? Do they push you forward, or are they holding you back?

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You might not be on a beach, but you can focus on the positives.