Hello again: Work / Life Balance

I’ll skip the part where I list all the reasons excuses for why I have posted in a while. I’ll also accept your forgiveness for my absence and my learning to write again. My paucity in posts could essentially be boiled down into one reason: a lack of work / life balance. This blog was never work but more about life; it lost out when I took on more responsibilities at work. Over the past month, I have recognized the problem and am taking necessary steps to resolve the issue.

The past year I have become immersed in work. This is due, but not limited, to an excitement about the possibilities, an inability to say no, an avoidance of other potential problems in my life and a lack of a fixed schedule. Being so involved in work meant losing out on relationships, events and most of the enjoyment that came along with them. Don’t get me wrong, I was still enjoying work but unhealthily neglecting everything else; even to the point of beginning to resent the work.

Recently, I have take a few steps to remedy this. Recognizing the problem is a big part of resolution, so I am on the right track. I have also begun meeting with a mentor, that understands the work that I do. He had some good advice regarding some beginning steps to take.

  1. Do not be an item on somebody else’s to do list. I would reply to texts, phone calls, and emails immediately, regardless of the urgency, time or day. One could argue that I was almost waiting for the next one to come through. Moving forward: I will have a certain time of day where I check and reply to emails. I will update my settings to eliminate every email from coming to my phone will put my phone away at night, only responding to personal (non-work) calls and texts. These two actions are combined with the new expectations and boundaries I will set with colleagues and clients.
  2. Take some time for yourself. I did not have a regular day off; a day that I could take care of me, relax, explore, learn or enjoy. I plan to take at least one day a week and also capitalize on the time I have during the summer.
  3. Set a schedule. I had failed to define a daily schedule. So I was flexible, which is good (yes, very go with the flow), but it also allowed me to fall victim to the flow. It didn’t give me any reason to say no – which meant I was overeager and vulnerable to overuse. My schedule will be another post altogether but involves: running, coffee, writing, learning, community, etc.
  4. Live with a Growth Mindset. In some aspects of life, I felt I was open to change or development. With others, I was closed off, thinking it is what it is. This topic is also post in and of itself. I look to continue to nurture that mindset and a “not yet” mentality.

An additional bonus is that for my job next year, I will be at set location so my vehicle will no longer be a storage unit. It will be nice to have my vehicle and my life back.

Looking forward to finding that balance.

running

Running is an essential part of my life. It is so much more to me than exercise; it is a drug that allows me to remain balanced in a number of ways. When I fall into a running rut, I will run every day for a week; much like I am doing this week with the blog. The regularity gets me back on track, helps me get back to where I want to be.

For the remainder of March, after the ½ I ran in Little Rock back, my running had struggled. I was still running three or four times a week but without much purpose; meaning without much promise as well. Going into April, I knew I needed to get back to running more regularly. My brother and running partners have helped with this in several different ways.

My brother, Joe David, is a Physical Therapist at the Texas Physical Therapy Specialist Bee Caves location. He invited me to try out their AlterG machine. As you can read more about if you click on the link, this machine fights gravity – taking away your weight – allowing you to run while your body recovers. I started with running on the treadmill with 100% of my weight then took it down to 85 – then to 70 which is really where I could begin to feel any stress on my joints begin to disappear. I continued to increase the speed and eventually the incline. At 50% of my body weight I compared the way I felt while running to that of my youth soccer players. By the end of my run, I was running with only 30% of my body weight.

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The AlterG also has cameras surrounding the legs to allow its user, and the doctors standing nearby, to analyze stride, foot-strike and balance, among other things. The side view showed my stride or gait to be pretty well in sync with what I though it should be. The view from the front just looked like someone was going to trample my face. I found the rear view to be the most helpful. With this angle, I noticed that my left foot falls out a little as a step. My anatomical and functional training as a massage therapist interprets this to mean that I need to strengthen core, gluts, and hips to remedy this. Honestly really returning to full body strength training altogether will help.

In addition to that strength training, I am also getting back to running regularly in general. Currently I am focused on building up mileage.  Primarily I have been running with Sarah a 3:16 marathoner that prefers, and excels accordingly so, to run the half. My other regular running companion is Lesley a 3:19 marathoner. Off the road, I am part of a regular-texting-group of guys that are very serious about running. They keep me excited, motivated and accountable.

The thing that has proven to keep me more responsible to running regularly is a race on my calendar. I am leaning toward the Chosen: Marathon for Adoption in New Braunfels. Though an out-and-back course, it is beautiful, peaceful and for a great cause. This year our Ninja Running Team will compete in order to support our friends, Chad and Cris Yarbrough, in their adoption.

 

zero acclimation and zero accumulation: a report of an Austin winter

Warning: I’m going to have to stand on my soapbox ice box for a hot second here and, unfortunately, talk about the weather; this post is less refreshing and more of a rebuttal.

I have lived in Nebraska, endured winters there and even visited colder climates during cold times. I’ve run in the cold or the wind or the rain, which proved to be not much a problem for me. I have backpacked in 20* temperatures and colder, and survived without complaint. However, the weather in Austin lately has been unbearable. I accredit this to the lack of my ability to acclimate. Colder climates, basically anywhere north of here, ease into winter months. During my eight plus years in Austin, as I wrote a little over a year ago, winter has not been a season but a cold front. The variance of temperatures, 85 last Friday to wind chills of 15 today, do not allow us Austinites to become accustomed to the low temps making every difference in degree detrimental.

Schools are shutting down because of a chance of icy roads. Since the two icy days we had in January resulted in over 500 wrecks, I feel the closures are valid. What I see on the internet about our circumstances are less valid. The “school’s closed because it’s cold” cry that I am seeing across the internet seems legit because, of course, we all hiked to school through four feet of snow – uphill – against the wind – both ways. Truth is, there is a difference in driving in snow and driving on ice. I don’t expect writing about the weather conditions will help people understand that we experience a different kind of cold down here. Nor do I expect anyone will look to us with great sympathy, but I do hope that northerners can at least see what we mean.

I know cold! I know that Austin could be colder. I also know that cold is more enjoyable with the element of snow and all things fun: sledding, snowball fights, snowmen and snow angels. I recognize my living in Austin means I do not get to experience that. That is a reason I do not live north, many have it worse but they choose to live in said climate. I know that some southern cities, like Atlanta, have been hit with harder winter moments than we have here. My point is simply that without accumulation of snow and the acclimation to the cold, things are far less bearable, enjoyable and manageable.

a heart filled weekend

Heart Ball_4Last weekend, I took a quick trip to Little Rock, Arkansas for the American Heart Association Heart Ball. As you have probably presumed, this is a fundraising, black-tie, gala of an affair. My connection with this particular heart association is my mother, Roxana Whitner. She served on the committee for years organizing the sweethearts (teenage girls that volunteer hundreds of service hours). This year, the association honored her with the Worthen-Cornett Award. As a family, we attended to celebrate and recognize her. The ball raised money for the association through tickets, donations and an auction. My mother even made a beautiful heart-themed quilt which brought in over $3,000 for the AHA. Visit the AHA website to donate and even specify a particular branch, maybe local to you, where you wish the money to help.  Local heart balls can also be found on the website or possibly just googling heart ball in your area.

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Lindsey and I had an amazing evening and enjoyed our time with family but I should point out that the ball means so much more to me. The American Heart Association is important to me in a deeper way, more personal even than its relation to my mother. I was born with a congenial heart defect – Pectus Excavatum, which also affects the respiratory system. I had successful corrective surgery and now run marathons. My story seems so familiar that I feel it pales in comparison to that of my younger brother. This past weekend was spent with my mother’s side (or three sisters’ side) of my family but on my dad’s side I have four brothers. My brother Robert was born with a heart condition Tricuspid Atresia. He underwent many surgeries as an infant and was prescribed a daily medicine. He couldn’t play contact sports in a town that bled football but maintained a sport’s identity by excelling in tennis and baseball. Now a college graduate, he is entering into his second year as a landscape architect in Houston. Though his condition still affects some areas of his life, the research, operations, and medications, often products of organizations like the AHA, have allowed him to live. Combined with his personal strength and strong personality, they have helped him to become an active, vibrant young man.

stand up for your-health (at work)

Last summer, I read an article from Runner’s World entitled “sitting is the new smoking.

When the article was published, I was working primarily as a massage therapist, a job that you do not perform while seated. I was also working as a soccer coach, once again a standing & moving profession. This is one reason why I did not share this with my readers then. Another reason is the fact that I have decided to try it out when I write. Sometimes I sit, others I stand, but I never sit for too long at a time. I am learning that blood flow, movement, and activity can change the way I think, work, and feel.

Earlier this week, CBS New York ran this story: Sitting At Work For Hours Can Be As Unhealthy As Smoking « CBS New York. The video says it all but the write-up (which is basically the script) may be easier for those of you (probably sitting) at work now.

After doing a little more searching, a friend of mine posted this article from the Washington Post on Facebook today.

So I decided it was time to pass it onto to you. I even wrote this particular post while standing. So try it out – sit less, move more. I know that it will make a difference, feel free to share how things improved for you.

i am going to…

What comes to mind when I say that it is that time of year? Your answer to that question would give you some insight into your priorities. Most likely, it is not a time of year but a collection of times of year for you. Christmas shopping, decorating, sweater wearing, & caroling time? MLB trade time? NFL playoff contention time? Annual giving time? Year end review time? Time to start thinking about next year? Time to get cozy with friends and family?

One question that has been on my mind lately, really goes in stride with this time (the end of one year, beginning of another). It is a question of self-evaluation and a call to improve. What are you “going to start doing”? Close to a New Year’s resolution, the question motivates me to eliminate the future aspect and DO versus plan on doing. Popular answers that come to mind include eating better, exercising more, drinking more water (less of other liquids), sleeping more, listening more, writing or reading more, staying in touch, and so on and so on. Setting goals is a great way for us to measure our successes and learn from our failures.

Cruciferous & Color: 10 Vegetable Superfoods

When considering which vegetables to eat, I have adopted the phrase “Cruciferous and colorful.” Cruciferous is another name for the vegetables belonging to the cabbage or mustard family. They are especially high in Vitamins K a natural anti-inflammatory, Vitamin A that eliminates free-radicals, more popular Vitamins B6 & C, folate which keeps the heart healthy, fiber and disease (especially Cancer) fighting phytochemicals. Kale, broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts are just a few examples of these super-vegetables.

Kale is super for it’s high percentages of Vitamins K, A, & C, as well as manganese and fiber.  Manganese helps keeps the body’s systems balanced and bones strong and healthy.

Kale Salad Recipe:

Trim raw Kale, massage in olive oil, mix in sliced cucumbers and halved cherry tomatoes

Broccoli is higher in Vitamins A and C than Kale and has very good levels of Vitamin B6 and potassium.

Brussel Sprouts have more glucosinolates than the other cruciferous vegetables. These enhance their disease fighting ability, through a complicated chemical detoxification. They also contain Omega-3s.

 Brussel Sprouts Recipe:

1- 1.5 lb Brussel Sprouts (Trimmed, Quartered)

6* slices of Bacon

1 Medium Shallot, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon lemon juice, squeezed

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup Golden Raisins

Begin with the bacon (must use self-control when you have ready-to-eat bacon nearby while you cook the rest of the meal; I fried an extra piece* or two because I knew I would fall short). Set the crispy bacon aside and throw the finely chopped shallots into the bacon-greased skillet. With the stove on a low – medium heat, carefully place the quartered brussel sprouts onto the skillet to let one of the flat open faces brown. While they cook, break your bacon up (eat one of the extra pieces*) into small pieces. With one side browned, turn your sprouts over onto the other flat surface and let them simmer for just a minute. Remove these sprouts and place them in a separate bowl. If you have more sprouts to cook: Use the rest of your shallots; place the rest of the sprouts. In a separate pot, brown the butter. Add the browned butter to the lemon juice and mix with a pinch of salt. Once second batch is finished, place all brussel sprouts in the pot used to brown the butter. Add raisins, bacon, salt & pepper, and the lemon/butter vinaigrette. Simmering for a minute or two will allow the new ingredients to cook into the mix.

Cauliflower rounds out my cruciferous choices and adds Vitamin B5 to the rest of the ever-present nutrients its super-family. Lately, I have become increasingly excited about this vegetable, especially in the mashed varietal.

Color, the second part of my motto, comes from two sources. Registered Dietician and Nutritionist at Life Time Fitness, Melanie Reyes says, “[When eating healthy] think about the rainbow… the more colors present in the vegetables you are eating, the more variety in nutrients.” The second source of the drive for color in my diet comes from ‘mothers everywhere’ – “A colorful plate is a healthy plate.” As we age and grow wiser we are learn that our mothers were right when they told us to eat our veggies. Additionally, if you are to cook them, I recommend only lightly steaming them to retain their nutrients.

Beets, a colorful cancer fighter, also an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Spinach, a leafy-green that needs no introduction, is chalk full of essentially every essential.

Bell Peppers, red or yellow or orange – enhance your palate while coloring your plate. These feature 30 different carotenoids, heart healthy nutrients like lycopene and folic acid.

Sweet Potatoes, Vitamins A, C & B6 just like the cruciferous bunch, but also include beta-carotene and can be prepared in a number of ways.

Grilled Sweet Potatoes:

Wash then boil till easily pierced with a fork – Allow to cool – Slice long ways

Mix ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon paprika (or blend incl. paprika), 1-teaspoon salt,

Add ¼ cup olive oil to dry ingredients – mix again

Brush on & Grill (till quality indentations on each side)

Squash, though I particularly prefer the summer Squash, other nutrient-packed varieties can be found throughout the year.

Eggplant receives its deep purple color from its nasunin, which protects it from the environmental damage. Similarly this antioxident and phytonutrient provides protection for our brain and nervous system.

When planning your next meal, think cruciferous and color – it will make your body stronger, healthier and happier. It may make mom happy too.