Monday, August 26, 2013

I've Learned to Listen to My Body

When I entered 7th grade English, one of our very first assignments was to create a slip of paper with something that we had learned about life on it (our teacher had been inspired by some book she read that summer).  Mine looked something like this:

In gymnastics, we were constantly told to listen to our bodies.  As competitive athletes, we tried to push ourselves beyond our limits, only to often end up with a greater injury that set us back even further.  I thought my "learned" advice was really wise... until I saw everyone else's hanging up on the wall, and then I thought mine was stupid.  I cringed when I saw it next to the giddy middle school sayings about smiles and silver linings to clouds all in some sort of curlicue font.  Mine just didn't seem to fit in.  I'm pretty sure I used Times New Roman.  

It was too simple.

So I thought.

These days, I realize how valuable my "learned" advice was, and how even now, I have not really learned what it means to listen to my body.  I've gotten better; I've learned some quirks that my body has, but still I sometimes push it beyond its healthy limit.  This past week has been a rude awakening to the lesson of listening to my body.

It started Tuesday morning... actually, no, rewind.  It started a few weeks ago.  In middle-end of July, I spent an entire week on my feet at work.  Since high school, I've had a bad back (stress fracture combined with a strain and an excessively curved lower back), and standing or walking for long periods of time tends to aggravate it.  That Wednesday (I remember because I had to run rats), I couldn't bend over because of my back pains.  I eased up for a bit and felt myself getting better.  Now, fast forward to this past Tuesday morning (since I'm a morning exerciser now)...

I decided to do this Fitness Magazine workout, which was not more intense than other workouts I've been doing recently, so I didn't think anything of it.  I texted Nick in the middle of the day, saying my back was tensing up, and I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to bend over in another few hours.  Sure enough, I was right (unfortunately).  Well, Tuesday evening through Friday evening I was unable to bend forward any more than like 5 degrees.  It was worse than last time- a sneeze nearly brought tears.  I used a heating pad and avoided exercise-- pretty much all movements involve your core and most were painful, so I listened to my body and took a break.  By Saturday, my back was finally beginning to feel the benefits of rest, just in time for my stomach to kick in.

Friday evening, I attended a happy hour, had plenty of wine and ate some catered food I'm not accustomed to.  Sometime between my last bite of food and 2am, my intestines decided to form a coup and overthrow everything inside.  Holy cow.  I spent the night getting up every 10-20 minutes for the bathroom, praying for the pain to stop.  I was sweaty and miserable.  Somehow Nick slept through all this.  All day Saturday I laid in bed with a pillow (or was in the bathroom).  I struggled in making the decision to stay home or go sailing.  I held out as long as I could in making the decision and then realized that sun mixed with dehydration and being stranded in the water with no bathroom could be a disaster.  I'm glad I stayed home.  By Sunday I ventured to the couch and analyzed some data for my research, only to find out my project has been a huge bust.  I made the call last night at about 11pm to stay home from work today.  I wasn't sure if I'd be up for it.  If not a physical rest day, I at least needed a mental rest day.  I found out today that I needed both.  I was hoping to feel well enough to at least be productive at home today-- maybe go to the post office, clean, etc.  I learned this morning that I don't think I'm quite ready to venture out of the apartment for an extended period of time.  Hopefully tomorrow I should be well enough to resume normal life.  

Until then, I am learning to listen to my body.  My physical body, my mental body, my spiritual body, my emotional body.  It's all telling me it needs a break, and at this point, I don't have much of a choice but to listen.  Too many weekends worked, not enough stretching, too little relaxation, not enough deep breaths.  I need rest, and my body is forcing it upon me.  And I'm trying to convince myself that it's not something to feel guilty about.    

What is your body telling you?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

TED Talks App- 20 Minutes of Inspiration for 24 Hours

One month ago (exactly), a friend posted a TED talk on Facebook (this one happened to be about non-profits and how we should stop treating them differently in terms of business plans and expenses than a for-profit).  I listened to it as I was walking to work.  It really was insightful, and not the type of TED talk I would normally pick out myself.  Which got me thinking...

I've been a TED fan for a little while, but recently, they had slipped my mind.  Being that they are short talks, it's interesting to listen to ones on areas outside of my expertise.  As I soaked in that talk on my way to work, I realized that TED must have a phone app.  Sure enough, they do!  I also realized that every day I have a 20-25 minute walk to and from work, a time when I do nothing else but walk.  I immediately put 2 and 2 together, downloaded the app, and put it to use.

As one might expect, the app has a collection of TED talks (short talks that range from just a few minutes to ~20 minutes) on a huge variety of topics.  You can search, watch featured or popular talks, or (my favorite feature) tell the app what you are in the mood for (inspiration, fascination, beauty, funny, etc.) and how much time you have... and *POOF* it gives you a suggestion.  Perfect for hopeless decision-makers, like me.

 Home page (left) and "Inspire Me" feature (right) of the TED app.

One talk I listened to yesterday was called "There are no scraps of men."  It is a story about keeping an open heart, applying your talents and skills to help others who could benefit, and not making assumptions about other people's abilities.

Another oldie but goodie is the speech that Steve Jobs gave to Stanford graduates in 2005.  Although this isn't exactly a TED talk, it popped up on my app the other day.  It's the kind of speech that gives you goosebumps (to use the word of my Italian friend).

This is why I love TED talks.  Twenty minutes can inspire you for 24 hours.
I encourage you to be inspired.

What is your favorite TED talk?  How are you inspired?  Leave your comments below- I'd love to check out some new TED talks!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Philadelphia Eagles Line Drill Warm-Up

Last Sunday (July 28), Nick and I went to the Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp-- their first public practice.  It was my first time watching a professional football practice (or actually, any football practice), so I found it really interesting!  Honestly, I enjoyed watching all their drills more than watching a game.  They had such intense music blasting the entire practice, and everything seemed so well-orchestrated.  I turned to Nick at one point and said that watching them reminded me of watching the movie Fantasia.  Who else remembers that scene where there are a bunch of brooms running around?  

Ok, watching that scene again after like 20 years... maybe the football players weren't exactly like the brooms, but still.  You get the point.  Right?  They were all over the field doing a million different drills.  It really was like a symphony... in massive, sweaty, football player form.  And hardcore, stereotypical weight room pump-up music in place of violins.  

For most of the practice, the players were split into groups based on their positions.  The only time they were really all together was at the very beginning when they were doing their line drill warm-up.  

<Blast from the past: how many hours of my life have I spent doing line drills across the gymnastics floor?  Too many to count.  Handstand walks, handstand forward roll to a pike stand (bend your legs ever and you get yelled at), back extension rolls, cartwheels both sides, back-walkovers, front-walkovers, back-handsprings, etc. etc.  Pretty much every practice, with the emphasis on form for these basics.>

I used the unique opportunity to learn some new agility drills from the players, and I jotted down their line drill warm-up.  It really was neat learning some skills from another sport.  

I incorporated this warm-up into my own work-out one morning.  It did its job to get my heart pumping and joints loosened up.  

In other news, 3 weeks down and I'm STILL going strong in my morning workouts!  I've consistently worked out from 6:15-7am for 5-6 days for the past 3 weeks (1 or 2 days for rest each week).  Much better record than when I was trying to exercise in the evenings.  I'm still sleeping in my exercise clothes and prepping the night before- it really helps me motivate myself to get out of bed in the morning.  

What other line drills do you do?  Do you incorporate any football drills into your exercise routine?  Have you challenged yourself to morning workouts yet?