Finding Zen Experiment: Savoring

Recap (Week 4)

During Week 3, I realized that I was savoring multiple things each day, without making a concerted effort to do so. In fact, it became harder to pick just one thing as the week went on. In Week 4, I savored a number of things each day: tasks, chores, activities, quiet time, meals… I found myself slipping almost automatically into a focused state quite frequently, which was really neat.

When I chose this experiment, I had hoped it would give me some tools for dealing with my tendency to rely heavily on escapism. At the beginning, in Week 1, I needed to specifically pick something each day to savor, and then walk myself through the steps of savoring the activity. As the days went on during Week 2, while I was still choosing a specific thing to savor each day, I found I was no longer consciously following the steps. It became much easier to flow into the savoring mentality. By Week 3, I was mid-savor before I realized what I was doing, so I was pretty much deciding upon my daily choice post-savor!

During the final week – Week 4 – I found myself simply savoring things frequently throughout the day, without consciously deciding to savor anything in particular. That’s why I stopped posting daily updates on Facebook and Twitter, and why I am not including a daily recap of items savored in this final recap of the experiment. I was simply savoring too many things to choose just one, every single day.

That was a glorious discovery – realizing that I could savor without deciding to savor. It meant that I had reached a comfort level with myself, since savoring requires that you accept that you’re doing the exact right thing at any given moment.

This experiment has given me more than I’d hoped to get out of it, and I intend to continue to be mindful of opportunities to savor each day. However, my hope is that I am able to simply flow into the savoring mindset frequently throughout the day, without having to consciously choose. I feel as though that would be a step back, but I’ll certainly keep tabs on it, and will do my best to keep practicing these new skills, so that I don’t end up where I started. I like where I’m at now too much to let myself backslide.

Thanks for coming on this journey of discovery with me!

This is the last post in this series – what did you think? Would you like me to try another experiment? What would you be interested in seeing me do?

Preparing for a beast of a race

Photo credit: phoenixblue0

I signed up last fall for the Spartan Sprint in NY in June. At the time, it seemed so far away (I had approximately 6 months to train for it). Since then, the weather turned cold, I got the flu, and my incredible cross training routine fell to shit.

Now, the race is in three months, I am less fit than I was when I signed up, and the prospect of RUNNING UP A SKI HILL suddenly has me crapping my pants with fear.

And that doesn’t even touch the obstacles – jumping over fire?! Climbing shit? Army crawling through mud? BURPEES????

I honestly don’t know what the hell I was thinking. But, I’m committed – not only have I purchased my spot in the race, and joined a team, but I bought tickets and pre-paid for a hotel room. So I’m GOING to the race. I’m going to BE IN the race.

The only question is: Will I survive it?

Yes.

I have to train for it. I have to run up and down stairs, and then big, big hills. I have to buy trail shoes, and break them in on actual trails. I have to lift weights, and do burpees, and run some more.

I have to do all of this very, very soon. I need to start as soon as possible, or I will not only be letting myself down, but my teammates, too.

Hey, if you’re up for it, let me know if you want to help me train! I’m in desperate need of some local accountability and training partners.

Finding Zen Experiment: Savoring

Update: Week 3

I observed myself living more in the moment on a day to day basis, wondering less about what else I should be doing at any given minute, and instead focusing more on what I was actually doing. This was good for me, but not as good for the experiment, as I didn’t feel as much of a need to savor a specific thing each day – I was truly savoring everything more than I ever have before.

Saturday, February 16

My little girl missed her mama this week while I was in San Diego, and she did not want to let go of my hand as she slept for her nap. She was in her own bed, and didn’t fuss about napping, but she refused to let go of my hand. Even after she passed out completely, she had a firm grip on me. Initially, I tried to extract myself, but then I realized that this was a prime example of something I should simply accept, and enjoy. My daughter needed me, and I needed to slow down. I sat on the floor next to her little bed, and held her hand, stroked her hair, and thanked God for the sweet, perfect little girl I have been blessed with.

Sunday, February 17

On Sunday, I took my daughter on our big monthly grocery shopping trip, and we hit up four stores which took us three and a half hours. I wouldn’t say that I savored this trip, precisely, so much as I marveled at how incredibly well behaved Emma was the whole time we were out. She entertained herself, she obeyed my instructions, and she was simply amazing all day long. It was one of the most delightful shopping excursions we’ve ever been on, and I wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that I was fully present in the moment throughout the trip, responding to her questions, talking with her about what we were doing, engaging her as we walked around each store. I’ve done these kinds of things on other trips, but my mind has typically been on other things as we shopped. This time, I didn’t worry about anything else – I just took my daughter shopping for groceries, and it was actually fun!

Monday, February 18

A couple friends of mine and I were off work on Monday, and we decided to take our kids to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago for the day. One of the moms and I carpooled, which gave us a wonderful opportunity to talk, while our daughters chatted away in the back seat. We talked about all kinds of stuff, from ourselves, to our husbands, to our homes, and cars… We talked a little bit about the kids, but not as much as one would expect. I focused on my friend, and really truly enjoyed getting to know her better.

Tuesday, February 19

My husband and I were both feeling under the weather, so I made chicken tortilla soup for dinner. It takes a long time to make, so I let Emma watch a movie while I cooked. The methodical rhythm of cutting up all the vegetables and chicken that go into the soup was therapeutic, and a few minutes into it, I realized that I was savoring the experience without consciously deciding to do so. Time seemed to slow down as I moved from one step to the next, stirring, measuring, tasting, seasoning… The soup was delicious, and I took great pleasure in making it.

Wednesday, February 20

Godiva makes some incredible chocolate, and I hadn’t savored any since the beginning of this experiment, so that’s precisely what I did! Bite by delicious bite, I closed my eyes, held the chocolate on my tongue, and just let the flavors and texture transport me to a place I like to call Bliss.

Thursday, February 21

I’d been fighting a cold all week, and my productivity at work has suffered. On Thursday, I dove into work in order to get a few really urgent things accomplished, and it was interesting how easy it was to do them, once I chose to make them my “savoring” for the day. Savoring work is different than savoring chocolate, in that it’s not inherently pleasurable. However, the “savoring” manifests itself in the blocking out of the rest of the world; the exclusive focus on the task at hand. It wasn’t precisely “fun”, but I did actually end up enjoying myself, without meaning to do so.

Friday, February 22

Oh, spicy, creamy, sweet creation known as the Chipotle Steak Burrito, why has it been so long since I last ate you? I savored the hell outta that burrito!

What did you savor this week?

How to pick your daily calorie target

myfitnesspal

myfitnesspal (Photo credit: jiten.a)

I’m in the process of losing 50 pounds. I’ve lost around 30 so far. I’ve been counting calories since June 2012, and it has made it really easy to lose weight (well, that and the support of some amazing friends!).

The calorie counting is super simple using MyFitnessPal (MFP), though there are a bunch of similar sites out there. The idea is that you figure out how many calories you need to eat each day to maintain your current weight, and then you eat around 500-700 calories less than that each day (this will theoretically give you a 1-2 pound loss per week, which is safe and sustainable).

The figuring of the caloric intake often confuses people, and if you use the recommendation from MFP, you could be eating as little as 1,200 calories a day. For most people, that’s too few. I used MFP’s suggestions until they dropped me to around 1,400, and then I started feeling hungry all the time, losing my hair, and generally feeling run down. I listened to what my body was telling me, and I looked into different methods of determining daily caloric needs.

The most popular alternative on MFP (alternative to MFP’s own method, that is), is to determine your TDEE and BMR, and eat approximately 20% below your TDEE, so long as it’s not below your BMR.

Now that we’ve got that settled, good luck with your weight loss!

Just kidding! I’ll actually explain those acronyms… TDEE is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, and BMR is your Basal Metabolic Rate.

Your BMR is how many calories you would burn daily if you were basically in a coma. It’s how many calories you burn in a day without moving. Your body needs at least this amount of calories each day, or you risk damaging your vital organs. My BMR is 1,371.

Your TDEE takes into account your average daily activity level (if you sit at a desk all day, and don’t get any other exercise, you’re sedentary; if you sit at a desk all day, but run 3-5 miles several times a week, then you’re moderately active, and there are a few other levels you could fall into, as well). This number is how many calories you burn in an average day, taking into account both how you spend your day (work/school/home), as well as your typical exercise exertion. I work a desk job and either run 2-3 times per week (lightly active with a TDEE of 1,882), or don’t run at all (sedentary with a TDEE of 1,643).

In order to figure out your TDEE and BMR, you’ll need to know your body fat percentage. To figure this out, my MFP friend Dan suggests that you grab a measuring tape, and visit http://www.fat2fitradio.com/tools/. Use the military body fat percentage calculator. Then, use the site’s BMR calculator, and make note of the Katch-McArdle BMR figure. After you’ve noted that, scroll down and find your level of activity, and note the figure next to that. That number is your TDEE.

Now that you have your TDEE, take 20% off it. As long as it’s higher than your BMR, you can use that as your new calorie goal for losing between 1-2 pounds a week. If 20% lower than your TDEE is lower than your BMR, try 10% instead.

Once you have this figure, you can start logging everything you put in your mouth, and try not to eat more than your goal calories. If you do eat more than your goal calories, exercise so that you burn enough calories to bring you back to within goal.

It’s that simple. Truly. Nothing could be easier. And yet, it’s so hard to stay the course, because it takes time. Weeks and weeks and months and months, depending upon how much you have to lose.

How much do you want to lose? How much have you lost already?

Finding Zen Experiment: Savoring

Update: Week 2

I found it easier to savor moments this week than I did last week, and was able to block out the outside world much more readily than before.

Saturday, February 9

I can’t remember the last time I had Skittles. But, we had them in the house left over from Halloween, and I have been ignoring them ever since. That is, I ignored them until Saturday, when I tore open a fun-size package of the little devils, and nearly inhaled them. I was already four Skittles in before I realized what I was doing, and made myself slow down and savor them. The crunchy candy coating, the firm but chewy inside, the sugary sweet-yet-tart flavors… They brought me back to my childhood, and put me in such a happy mood that it became impossible to deny that savoring is a worthwhile practice.

Sunday, February 10

I savored everything about Sunday morning, knowing that I would be flying out that afternoon and wouldn’t see my daughter and husband for four days. I snuggled with my little girl for a good long while in bed, before heading downstairs for a hearty breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes, bacon and cheesy hash browns, with orange juice and coffee. We enjoyed an early afternoon movie together as a family, before sending Emma upstairs for a nap. She was surprisingly willing to sleep, and I could not have been more grateful. Leaving on a sour note would have been heartbreaking. When it was time to take me to the airport, we were all feeling glad to have had such a nice day together.

Monday, February 11

It is rare for me to just walk anymore. If I have extra time on my hands and it’s nice enough to be outside, I always seem to run these days. However, since I’d already had a run on Monday morning, I decided that a leisurely stroll would be great. I was not disappointed. I walked along the Embarcadero, pausing at a picnic table to sit and enjoy a 10 minute guided meditation (using an app on my phone) before continuing on back to the hotel. The walk and meditation left me feeling revitalized, yet more relaxed than when I began.

Tuesday, February 12

It was a lovely morning in San Diego – sunny and cool. I took advantage of the brisk weather to savor a 5k run along the waterfront. What fun, running past incredible private yachts, a retired aircraft carrier (the Midway), through the Embarcadero, and along Seaport Village. I listened to myself breathing, felt my heart beating, and paid attention to the rhythm of my footsteps, while taking in the sights (and smells) of the seaside. I was surprised to find that I maintained a steady pace throughout the run, simply by losing myself in the run. Usually, I am trying to distract myself, and my pace is generally all over the place. This time, I took the opposite tack, and was rewarded with a very steady run. I’m looking forward to trying this again in the near future.

2013-02-13 12.32.31Wednesday, February 13

I savored an extended period of time on Wednesday – a private, behind the scenes tour of several exhibits at the San Diego Zoo. I am an avid animal-lover, and seeing a lion this close (about 7 feet away) was simply amazing. Our host was delightful, sharing insights about the animals, exhibits, plants, and zookeepers. It was an unique experience, and I made sure to keep myself firmly in the moment throughout our exciting visit.

Thursday, February 14

For Valentine’s Day, I received a half dozen cupcakes from Sweety Pies, a local bakery. I ate one for breakfast, and should have taken a photo of it before I dove in, because it was beautiful. The frosting was extra-thick and rich; a vanilla-y cream masterpiece that seemed to go on and on. The cupcake itself was a marble, chocolate chip numminess that was bursting with flavor. Truly, the breakfast of champions! It was easy to lose myself in that cupcake – time seemed to stop every time I took a bite. I enjoyed that single cupcake so thoroughly, it was really easy to share the rest of them with my coworkers, and not feel the need to keep them all for myself.

Friday, February 15

My daughter wanted to ride her little bicycle around the block, and I wanted to spend time with her. So! I dressed in my warm-weather running gear, and jogged beside her as she pedaled her little heart out. Super fun, and we both appreciated the one-on-one time together. When we made it back home, she didn’t want to go inside – she wanted me to push her in her old stroller! How could I say no? So we went around once more, chatting about the birds, melting ice, snow, and a few dogs we saw along the way. A great way to end the week!

What did you savor this week?

Morning meditations

I am not a “morning person”, but after my daughter was born, I took advantage of the opportunity to work flexible hours and opted to work 7am – 3:30pm, so I could spend more time with her in the afternoon/evening. This means getting up at 5:30am, which doesn’t come naturally to me.

In order to get up at that hour, I try to be in bed by 9pm. I am a night owl, so I’m fighting my body’s natural tendencies to live this way, and it’s not easy. But, the payoff is time with my precious girl, so I have a huge incentive to make it work.

Working out on a regular basis really helped with getting to bed at a decent hour, as I was actually tired enough to hit the sack at 9pm, and I believe the quality of sleep was better, as well. After a decent amount of restful sleep, waking up is much easier.

An article on Goodlifezen.com that I read very recently also has had a positive effect on my mornings. Once I read it, I practically smacked my head, the advice was so obvious and spot on. The article, by Robert D. Smith, was about how to start the day with maximum focus. The very first piece of advice he had was to start the day with gratitude.

That one nugget right there changed a lot for me. Robert points out that waking up isn’t something we should take for granted – it’s not guaranteed to us when we go to bed each night – and we should be grateful for the chance we are given each morning. I use my iPhone alarm as my morning alarm clock, and I’ve changed the messages on my alarms to notes of gratitude. They serve as reminders to stop feeling entitled to a few more minutes of sleep, and to simply be glad that I woke up.

Robert also recommends meditating on the things you want to happen that day. I love this idea, though I haven’t incorporated it yet. I think it will be helpful in setting my intention for each day, much like I set my intentions with the Feng Shui experiment at work. I feel like that worked out really well for me, so I look forward to beginning my morning meditations, in order to help shape my days in a more direct way.

I’ll be setting my alarms a little earlier starting next week so that I can take a few minutes each morning to explore these morning meditations. I’m not yet quite sure what they will look or feel like, but I think they’re going to be good for me.

Do you make time each morning to set your intentions? Or are you more like me, just going through the morning motions?

Just get moving

The hardest part of an exercise program, for me, is simply getting started with it. If I can only get moving, I find it much easier to keep up with the routine of working out. Somehow, I forget how good it feels to move my body with purpose, if I let too much time elapse between workouts.

When it was warm out, I ran three times a week, and after my busy season at work was over, I added weightlifting twice a week, too. I was moving my body at least five days a week, and sometimes six times a week, and it felt wonderful.

And, then the weather turned colder, and I lost my gym card. And, I have used both as excuses not to work out. When I happened to be in Orlando for work a few weeks ago, I took advantage of the warm weather and went on a 3 mile run. When the weather warmed up here, I went on a nearly 4 mile run. I am in San Diego this week for work, and I’ve made it a point to run while here, too. So I know that I’m still capable of enjoying running, and that I haven’t lost my passion for it, but I am not scheduling workouts like I had been, and I need to get back to that.

This post is a reminder to me as much as anything, to just get moving. Hey Krys: go replace that gym membership card, go run on the track at the gym, go lift weights, practice yoga at home, find a body weight resistance workout on YouTube, or go run (once the streets are safe again)… Just get moving!

How do you keep yourself on track with workouts? When circumstances change, and you can’t use sheer momentum?