Tuesday, January 26, 2021

An Unexpected Outcome

After I finished the Zooma Holiday Challenge, I took a few days off. Then, on January 1st, the Love Run Challenge started. This challenge is basically a run/walk streak. I am running, walking, or biking at least one mile a day until February 14th. Because this challenge began right on the heels of the Holiday Challenge, I've truly gotten into a routine.

According to Strava, I've done 66 miles this month, and that doesn't include the walks.

Usually, I run every-other-day or so. On days I don't run, I do nothing. Sometimes doing nothing leads to a kind of inertia, and one day of rest becomes two, two becomes three, and three becomes a whole week of sitting on the couch. The has forced consistency of this challenge has had an unexpected impact on my mindset.

I'm trying to get on the Peloton at least once a week.

Adding walks to my non-running days has given me mental balance — I no longer feel lazy or depressed on days I don't work out. Plus, when I go on evening walks, Matt tends to join me, so it gives us both a chance to get out of the apartment and spend time together without screens to distract us.

We've explored a couple new parks and our neighborhood on walks this month.

Another thing that has surprised me with the Love Run Challenge so far is how weirdly easy it's been to commit. I never thought a physical tracking chart in plain view would motivate me to keep a commitment to myself, but it really has. The chart is great positive feedback, and at this point completing my daily activity feels non-negotiable. It's just...something I'm going to get done.

Rain or shine, I'm getting it done! At this point I've really weathered my fear of running in cold rain.
Honestly, why did it take me so long to figure out that I'm the kind of person who needs a tracker for accountability?

No matter the weather or time of day, I've made it happen.

Daily exercise has also made adding just a little bit of arms and abs daily feel totally doable. If I'm already moving and warmed up, it's not hard to do a few minutes when I get home, and I feel like doing a little bit a day is more effective than doing a longer set once or twice a week.

The last time I did a run streak was in 2014; I remember feeling committed and I definitely got stronger and faster, but I also felt a little burned out by the time it was over. I hope when this challenge ends, I'll have undergone a true lifestyle change that will stick with me.

The bottom line is that I feel like I'm getting a lot out of this, which I honestly wasn't really expecting, and I'm so glad Skirt Sports merged with Zooma and put it on my radar. Zooma offers these sorts of challenges all year round, and I think I'll stick with it. If I do a challenge every season, who knows where I'll be this time next year?


PS: Skirt Sports is back from its brief hiatus, now with Zooma owner Sarah Ratzlaff at the wheel. You can snap up some of the winter looks and get 20% off with code SKIRTISBACK this week! You may even see a familiar face on the new website if you look hard enough.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Surprise! I Actually Like the Peloton (and its app!)

Right now, the Peloton app is free to try for 2 months — no bike necessary. If you need convincing, read more. If you've been wanting to try it, click here now.

I do not like biking.

Biking difficult terrain is stressful; biking easy terrain is boring. Even if the views are beautiful, I'd much rather run any given route. And don't get me started on attempting to bike in the street with traffic. That level of risk is not for me.


As for spinning...well. I took one spin class in college and swore I'd never put my butt or thighs through that again.

So of course, I didn't buy into the hype of the Peloton when I began to see it all over Instagram. After last year's disastrous commercial I was a skeptic, but runners I follow seemed all-in, so when Scott and Robby told me they'd ordered one, I was intrigued and open to trying it.

Their bike finally arrived in late November; after two rides, I was hooked. Unlike the experience I had back at Stetson in 2004, completing a ride on the Peloton was unexpectedly fun. Despite wanting to die halfway through, I finished each ride with an excellent adrenaline rush and the feeling that I'd completed a hard, worthy workout.

There are a few major reasons I like the Peloton, and most of them have nothing to do with the bike itself.

The Instructors

I like the tone of the instructors, who are encouraging, empathetic, funny, and distracting, not to mention diverse and inclusive in pretty much every way imaginable. They pump you up without taking the "tough love" approach I hate so much. I wasn't expecting the instructors to play such a huge role in my love of the Peloton, but they definitely are the reason to get this app over any other spin app.

You can read about the various instructors to find someone whose fitness philosophy and style meshes with yours. 

If I'm feeling the need for emotional motivation and fulfillment, I tune in for a ride with Robin Arzón or Hannah Frankson. If I want something that will distract me from my pain, Cody Rigsby is my man.

The instructors lead rides and other workouts, so even without the bike you're getting the benefit of their energy and enthusiasm.

Also, the playlists are great — I've been living for the 90s and early 2000s rock and pop lately. I like being able to choose a ride based on its difficulty level (on a scale to 10) and adjust my cadence and resistance to what will work for me.

The App

Because I don't have a Peloton of my own, I use the app more than I ride. It's filled with full-body home workouts that are updated daily. I've found the arm and core workouts to be really excellent. I haven't tried the running workouts yet, but I'm planning to give them a try soon.

There are workouts that focus on specific areas; there's even meditation and yoga.

The app includes individual classes, programs (from a marathon training program to a meditation program designed to help you sleep better), challenges, and collections (workouts grouped by category, like "no equipment necessary" or "Beyoncé"). Seriously, there is so much there, I haven't even scratched the surface.

I wouldn't bother writing this post if not for this: right now, you can get the Peloton app for free for two months and cancel anytime if you're not impressed. After the trial ends, the app costs $12.99 a month, which is cheaper than most gym memberships — and with the current COVID situation I wouldn't step into a gym anytime soon anyway.

Peloton Bike "Hack"

If you want the full spinning experience but don't want to shell out $2000 for a bike, there's a less expensive option. You can buy a less expensive spin bike and the monthly Peloton app membership to get basically the same experience. If you have an iPad already (or know how to cast your phone app to your TV), you'll even have a nice big screen like on the Peloton bikes.

You'll be missing some data but it may be worth the price difference to ride by feel rather than numbers. For more details on this hack, click here.

Honestly, I can't speak highly enough about this weird, motivational cult Peloton has managed to suck me into. It's kind of annoying, really. But honestly, with two months free, it's worth testing out for yourself. What do you have to lose?


Friday, January 1, 2021

A Year Like No Other

Well, this certainly isn't a year we'll easily forget. 

For one thing, it was the longest year on record; I'm pretty sure that's science. 
I Googled "the longest year on record" as a joke and this came up, so TIL I guess!
There were a lot of lows in 2020, but it's worth looking back and summing up the year, perhaps even more than usual because of its historical significance. I haven't written much about the pandemic and how it's affected me, but I can't help thinking I'll be thankful for a post like this when 2030 rolls around and I want to look back and remember what 2020 was really like.

This Year in Review post is going to be pretty different from those I've written in the past, but I guess that's to be expected!

January: 2020 started off like most years do. I was glad to see 2019 end and was feeling hopeful. I started the year with an emotionally charged first run and a plan to race again in 2020.
Then, I had a bad flu and struggled with getting back to running after it resolved, but friends helped me through. Kristina sent me her husband's A1A 5k medal to get me moving, and my desire to see Jessie kicked my Gasparilla training into gear.

I don't think I had COVID in January, as some have suggested, but this was the first time I've had the flu in years and I had forgotten how bad it is for my asthma. When COVID rolled around in March, my experience in January fed into how seriously I took it.

February: I managed to cobble together a training plan for Gasparilla and celebrated a wonderful birthday with friends. I had clued them in to the likelihood of our move, swearing them to secrecy, and knowing it might be my last chance to celebrate with them in person made it extra meaningful.
My last run with Elizabeth.
When Gasparilla came around, I felt ready, and so glad I hadn't backed out. I had a blast hanging out with Jessie and surprised myself on race day! It was a great weekend.
Early February was also when I finally I broke the news that I may be moving to my principal; I promised to keep her in the loop as far as that decision went. This was the scariest professional conversation I've ever had to have, but it went well and I left the meeting feeling relieved and excited for the future.

At the time, our LAC team was still scheduled for the ASCD conference in LA; it hadn't yet been canceled despite COVID in the area. My parents voiced their concerns about me going. A week later, our team canceled our plans to attend, and then the conference itself canceled as well. COVID was very much in the news, but felt far away.

March: March 2020 was...a lot.

This month, concerns about COVID began to mount; it no longer felt abstract or far away.

Just before things got serious, we listed our house. I remember we met with our real estate agent without masks on, but by the time showings began, we were asking potential buyers to use Clorox wipes. Details about how COVID spread were still unclear.
On March 13th, we left school for spring break with notice that we would not be returning to campus the following week. We thought we'd be out until April 15, but we ended up never returning that school year.

Rather than spend the week off relaxing, my teachers and I spent a lot of time prepping for a sudden shift to virtual learning. Things were absolutely hectic and stressful, but if I'm entirely honest, the chance to work from home was welcome. Having been on the fence about leaving my job and feeling burnt out, this gave me a bit of a reprieve and a way to refocus my mindset. The adjustment was hard, but there were perks.

On the house-selling front, we had an offer on the table a week after spring break ended, after our second showing. (I spent some "working from home" time working in my car in a parking lot during showings!) After some back-and-forth, we accepted an offer; knowing we wouldn't be ready to leave Florida until summer, we began the desperate search for a short-term rental we could get into before we closed on the sale, which would have been incredibly stressful even without the added unknown of COVID. Still, we made it work and somehow took that next big step toward Seattle.

At the time, our plans weren't set in stone. Pretty much every night between March and July, Matt and I discussed waiting one more year (because, COVID) or just taking the leap and making the move.
Running became all about unwinding.
During this time, stores were facing a toilet paper shortage. The previous week, I'd bought a pack because we needed it; it was funny to feel really secure in knowing I was all set on paper products and Clorox wipes. At this point we still believed we'd be in a two-week lockdown and then things would return to normal. I was sure we were prepared for two weeks of solitude. The innocence, seriously!

I canceled my trip to see Stephanie, Gordon, and Wyatt, thinking it would be safer to see them in the summer before we left. Of course, this didn't happen, and I regret not seeing them when it was still relatively safe to do so. 

Also in March, I took over the Skirt Sports Instagram and my interview aired on Nicole DeBoom's podcast. I got a ton of positive feedback from people who felt impacted by my story; it was definitely kind of nerve-wracking but I enjoyed the outcome. 

So basically March can be summed up by that old saying: growth is what happens when you step outside your comfort zone.

April: Lockdown continued. Working from home continued. I came to terms with the fact that my relationship with running was in a different place now, and that I was kind of over building distance and doing races. When I look at my stats for April-September, I see a drastic decrease in mileage. I was pretty much running two miles a few times a week to unwind, but that was all.
Despite this huge dip, I never felt like I was slacking off. Priorities and needs shifted a lot this year.
With closing looming, we got rid of tons of things, downsizing all our furniture and various things that just seem to collect when you have the space to store it all. On the day we closed and moved out, I sat in Zoom meetings in the morning while Matt dealt with the movers, then helped schlep a few carloads of things to the condo.

At 3:00pm on April 31st, we said goodbye to our first home.
May: More lockdown, now in our rented two-bedroom condo. Our quest to downsize continued as the school year drew to a close.

I was getting Zoom fatigue from hour-long meetings four or five times a day, and running continued to be an outlet. Matt and I did well in our new tiny space, and spent lots of time looking for places to rent in Seattle while watching Bones reruns. I never got into baking sourdough, but I did make a couple loaves of banana bread.
My biggest personal stressor was deciding if Seattle was happening or not. I just wanted a plan. I couldn't deal with the uncertainty anymore. Finally, I pulled the trigger; I told Matt we had sold the house and were renting this condo until the end of July, and that meant we were moving. We had to find a place and make it work.

I let my principal know and she planned for my last official day to be July 31st. After 11 years at BSCS, I was moving on; telling her made it real. I told my closest friends and my parents that the decision had been made. Seattle was underway, but was mostly still a secret.

June: I came clean (mostly via social media) about leaving my school and Florida, and finished out the end of a very weird school year. I was spending hours of my days job searching in Seattle, but decided in June that it was time to take a breather. After months of constant worry and anxiety, it was time to just go with the flow.
Now that the decision had been made, whether or not I had a job waiting for me, I felt like a burden had been lifted.
July: July was a whirlwind! After months of online searches and FaceTime tours, Matt and I got lucky and found a place we wanted to rent; Scott and Robby vetted it for us and we made our deposit via Venmo to secure it that same day. Knowing we had a teeny tiny studio waiting for us, the move felt more real.

We began decluttering in earnest, planning the logistics of moving, and preparing to say goodbye. Looking forward to an uncertain future, I found myself constantly soul-searching. Who was I, if not a teacher? What would be next?

All the while, COVID was spreading like wildfire. The idea of driving across the country really freaked me out, but we researched how to travel safely during COVID and felt we could make it work.

Matt and I had been talking for years about having a big 10th anniversary party, and in early 2020 we thought an anniversary/goodbye bash would be a great idea. Obviously that was scrapped. (We celebrated our anniversary with a homemade cake, nice wine, and Hamilton on Disney+.)
I had a couple masked/outdoor/distanced goodbye parties, gave away the last of our big furniture, then packed our cars and our cube and hit the road for Sarasota. I made so many little trips to bring things to Elizabeth, it almost felt like I was forgetting them on purpose to have an excuse to see her. After one final trip to give her a coat and some purses, we broke down and hugged each other before I left for good.
Here's a detail I don't want to forget: when throwing things out that final night, I was wearing Matt's wedding band on my forefinger. I realized, after throwing the last bag of garbage into the dumpster, that the ring was missing. I retraced my steps in the dark, but couldn't find it. I went to Matt, sobbing, apologizing for losing his ring.

I hadn't heard the ring make a sound when it came off, so I assumed it had landed gently in one of the garbage bags I had been stuffing, particularly one with old bedding in it. We decided to check the garbage bags I'd put in the dumpster, starting with the most recent. Pretty much the moment we tore open the bag, Matt spotted it. It had slipped off my finger into the bag and was sitting neatly on top. That's good luck!
It's also ten years since he last lost it on a beach on St. Augustine at dusk, and miraculously found it. I guess we have this to look forward to every ten years.

August: We spent a little more than a week in Sarasota, staying with my parents. It was hard to spend time with family and see people to say goodbye with the concern about COVID. Our plan to have a ten year anniversary/goodbye party was squashed.

Leaving Sarasota was bittersweet. After so much time at my parents', I felt ready to leave, but my mind was kind of in denial that we'd be going so far away. I was excited for my adventure, but leaving Sarasota felt less final than leaving Fort Myers.
Matt and I drove separately, which wasn't as tough as everyone expected it to be. I listened to music and my audiobook and annoyed him over the walkie-talkie. It was great!

After an eight-day cross-country trip that included visits to national parks and seeing an old friend, Matt and I arrived in Seattle. We were lucky that all the things that can go wrong on a 3000 mile road trip...didn't.
The process of moving in was a lot — we spent the first few nights on an inflatable mattress from Scott and Robby — but eventually we got things in order. There were some moments that we really worried we wouldn't fit everything in the studio, but finally things were in their places and we were so relieved and happy to be home.
Within days of arriving we experienced some of this summer's protests, as a small but vocal group of protestors were escorted down our residential street by SPD, who were clearing a vigil.

With COVID restrictions in place, we didn't get to explore the city or anything, but we checked out local parks (where one of the first things we saw was naked people playing Ultimate Frisbee) and immediately took advantage of the nice weather to start fulfilling all our hiking dreams.
September: We experienced our first fire season, staying cooped up inside for days on end because of the smoke. September also brought more job searching, the decision to freelance more seriously, and a return to running.

The rest of fall and winter passed uneventfully. I finally found some places to run and my legs and lungs acclimated to the hills and cooler weather. Matt has been paddling constantly and meeting new people through his paddling groups — always at least six feet apart.
I spent most of September and October completely wowed by the changing leaves. I was still in awe that we had actually made this move and live here now!
We had our first holiday season here, which was welcome in a way. Rather than interrupting the process of settling in with a visit to Florida, it gave us a chance to do things our way in our new city.

In the best of times, we had hoped moving to Seattle would mean a chance to immediately indulge in life in the city, exploring local bars and restaurants, finding live music, etc. Instead, we've been very isolated. We see Scott and Robby and no one else. There hasn't been a chance for me to make friends in local running groups or anything yet. I'm not lonely, but I feel like I'm back in a holding-pattern, which is frustrating.

But hopefully in 2021, that will change.
We are hopeful that we'll get our vaccines soon and that life can return to some semblance of normal, and that we'll finally be able to take advantage of our new state. Being in lockdown has made time simultaneously slow down and speed up; it's hard to believe we've been here almost five months!

As for 2021, I'm unwilling to make any plans or set any goals. One thing I appreciated about 2020 was that it gave me an opportunity to finally chill out for a bit. Being unemployed and stuck inside forced me to finally unwind after an exhausting decade and a mentally traumatizing last four years.

This New Year, we sat on the front porch and kept our eyes peeled for fireworks while drinking Prosecco. We stayed out for nearly an hour, just enjoying the night and taking it all in. We're starting the new year in Seattle after years of wishful thinking. Whatever 2021 brings, I know it will be different from anything we've experienced before.
I wrote a little while ago about feeling like I'm finally rediscovering myself, and I know that's definitely true. I feel like a different person from who I've been, but in a more authentic way. It's like waking up.

I'm taking this mindset of embracing freedom and going with the flow into the new year. 

We'll see what 2021 has in store, but I'm not really thinking about it too much. For now, I'm just living in the present.