Best break for my brain: working out. (“My Morning Routine” – !)

Every once in a while, I go to My Morning Routine to peruse the site and gain some life inspiration. I went there today, and it actually inspired this blog post. I know I’ve shared a daily routine (or two) here before, but I don’t think I’ve filled in a morning routine questionnaire from this site. These questions are pretty much the same across the interviewees, but I’ll see different, additional questions thrown in here and there. I included as many of them as I could find in the few interviews that I read today.

 

1). What is your morning routine?

These days, I wake up anywhere from 5:00 to 6:30am, though most often at 5:30am. I take my morning meds/supplements, pour some coffee, open my laptop, and get into my writing.

 

2). How long have you stuck with this routine so far?

I started dedicating my early-morning brain cells to my writing sometime in the last 12 months. The rest of my routine hasn’t varied in years.

 

3). How has your morning routine changed over recent years?

My “dedicating my early-morning brain cells to my writing” discipline means focusing on my project before filling my mind with anything else of substance. Before, I would multi-task my brain between writing, email, social media, news, and so on. I’ll still scroll through instagram and twitter on my phone while drinking my first cup of coffee, though. I don’t click to read articles on twitter… early in the morning, I’m only there to check for major news headlines and traffic/weather alerts.

 

4). What time do you go to sleep?

Between 11:00 and midnight, usually.

 

5). Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?

No.

 

6). Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?

I do use an alarm, though my internal clock (aka my bladder) will sometimes wake me up before it goes off. I never use a snooze button.

 

7). How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?

If I’m working out that morning, I’ll have breakfast between two and three hours after I wake up. If it’s not a gym morning, I’ll eat four to five hours after waking up. I have the same breakfast every day. Since a month or two ago, it’s been a bowl of plain organic oatmeal (made with water) with light agave syrup and cinnamon. I also have a handful of raw mixed nuts.

 

8). Do you have a morning workout routine?

My morning gym routine is Les Mills Body Pump at the gym. I go three mornings a week.

 

9). Do you have a morning meditation routine, and if so what kind of meditation do you practice?

Working out is my meditation. The 50 or so minutes of continuous physical activity provide the best break for my brain. For the duration of the class, there are no thoughts in my head. There’s music and there’s someone telling me what to do, and I listen and I do it and that’s it. There’s no room for anything else. I try to stay in the workout, where there’s no thinking involved! If distractions enter my mind, I force them out. This is key to any sort of meditation practice.

 

10). Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?

I’m bad at checking email. Let’s just leave it at that.

 

11). Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?

Other than taking my anti-anxiety med and putting on my Fitbit to track the quality and duration of my sleep, no.

 

12). How soon do you check your phone in the morning?

As I’d mentioned above, I usually check instagram and twitter while drinking my first cup of coffee. That’s about 30 minutes after I wake up.

 

13). What are your most important tasks in the morning?

Cleaning Nenette’s litter box and doing my skin-care routine. I water my plants in the morning once a week.

 

14). What and when is your first drink in the morning?

Water, immediately.

 

15). How does your partner fit into your morning routine?

He usually wakes up at the same time as I do, and we have coffee together in the living room. He makes the bed as a part of his getting ready for work routine, and I make his lunch while he’s doing that. We’re a good team.

 

16). Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?

Saturday is the day I’ll wake up at 6:30am, as I usually don’t write before going to the gym that morning. Sundays, I’ll try to sleep in until 7:00-7:30am. I write at different times over the weekend. The routine relaxes.

 

17). On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?

No. If I’m not in my home, I don’t write first thing in the morning.

 

18). What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?

If I fail to follow my routine, there’s a good reason for it, so it doesn’t impact the rest of my day. Whatever changes occur, my daily task list is always there to guide me through. The important thing is that by the end of the day, I’ve checked off as much of that list as possible.

 

Post-gym, seventh of June, two thousand eighteen.

 

Sorry this pic is so dark! Bad lighting and brownish walls aren’t the best for selfies, or anything else, for that matter.

 

The End.

 

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Finding it within. (Fitness update, of sorts.)

We’ve been here before. You’ve heard this from me before, if you’ve been reading my blog for a little while: I want to get more cardio into my life, on different days than my usual workout days. I would love to work out five days per week rather than the four (sometimes three) that I normally do. It’s funny that for all the thinking I’ve done about this, I still haven’t taken action.

I have “reasons,” of course. Time – there’s always something more urgent to do. Transportation – I usually don’t have the car on my “off” gym days, ruling out cardio at the gym. Medical – I’m supposed to avoid the sun as much as possible because of my new medication, ruling out the outdoors (walking, running, hiking). Heat – there’s no A/C in the garage, ruling out jump-roping at home. Space – we have nowhere to put a treadmill, ruling out steady-state cardio in the house.

Being honest with myself, I know that all of these reasons amount to excuses, because there are

Things I COULD do:

1). “No equipment necessary” cardio workouts here in the house.

All I need to do is bypass the thinking about it part and go straight to the GET IT DONE part (favorite motivational motto; thank you, Funk Roberts). My workout subscription (Les Mills On Demand) offers a plethora of workouts along with Body Combat, my cardio workout of choice.

If I didn’t have that subscription, I could go to YouTube and enter “cardio workout” in the space field. My head would spin looking at the list that pops up and trying to decide which workout to try first. There are limited-space workouts, no-equipment-necessary workouts, beginner workouts, advanced workouts, 15-minute workouts, low-impact, high-impact, HIIT, Abs and core, cardio, strength-training, and you name it – all free on YouTube.

When I think about my reasons for not achieving my fitness goal of adding at least one cardio morning to my weekly schedule, I realize that they really are just excuses. I have the tools I need to get it done: Space in a room. A screen. The internet.

The awesome thing is that there are so many different get it done tools. I have one badass friend who incorporated fitness into his week by getting a bike and making a habit of riding it to work.

Maybe you have fitness goals, too, and you’re not meeting them because, like me, (insert your “reasons” here). Your budget doesn’t allow for the expense of a gym membership, for instance. Your life is a huge time-crunch. You feel unwell a lot of the time (I know it’s hard to get motivated when you’re dealing with chronic illnesses or medications that cause nausea, fatigue, pain). You feel overwhelmed by the idea of starting a fitness routine and “failing.” Sidenote: There’s no failing involved when you start a fitness routine. If you miss a day or a week, if you can only do five minutes at a time, if you can only exercise one part of your body, whatever the case may be, you’re still doing something, and that is never a fail.

There really are work-arounds for most obstacles. It’s my belief that if you allow yourself to fall in love with exercise, you’ll find them.

 

Possible mid-life crisis sighting: new glasses?! (+ 1st cardio class on new meds!)

I stepped on my glasses yesterday. They were laying on the ground, on the brick pavement part of our back patio, because I’m a brilliant genius. That’s right. Not just any kind of genius. A brilliant genius. Luckily, I was wearing cloth house slippers. The damage could’ve been worse. My expensive progressive lens sat perfectly unharmed – not even scratched – within frames that were bent like a flimsy wire hanger from the dry cleaner’s.

A few hours later, I headed to my optometrist with hopes that the frames could be fixed. While I was there, I did what people naturally do when they’re in a room surrounded by glasses frames: I checked out the glasses frames.

To my dismay, I found a pair that I really, really liked. The entire room, I lamented to Callaghan, is like the cash register lane where they stock things they know you’ll consider buying just because you’re stuck in line with nothing to do but look at them.

I do not need an additional pair of glasses. I just felt like I needed them. My replacement frames were on order (100% covered by the warranty), and I was still sitting there staring wistfully at the unnecessary glasses frames. Callaghan coaxed me away so we could leave. “Allez, allez! On y va!” He said as he walked away from me, leaving me no choice but to follow him. (Classic French husband move.)

So here’s what I’m thinking: I’ve been waiting for and wondering about and anticipating my well-earned mid-life crisis so much that now, every time I get a wild hair up my ass, I think, could this be it?

Maybe this glasses thing is my mid-life crisis, since it fits the cliché: I have this sudden, strong desire to blow a stupid amount of money on something I don’t need. (“Stupid amount of money on something I don’t need ” converted to U.S. currency = anything more than $25.00, maybe $30.00 if you include shipping and tax.)

If this is it, I’m disappointed. The object of my irrational desire should be something more mid-life-crisis-ish. If this isn’t it, then what will it be, and when? Will I reach the end of my natural lifespan and finally realize that I need a Maybach? I do tend to be a late bloomer.

Totally unrelated because I wanted to post a pic and didn’t know what and I wanted to share this small victory with you, anyway: I have a selfie I took yesterday evening when I came back from Body Combat, significant because it marks the first cardio I’ve done in while.

I mean, okay, it’d only been two weeks since my last Combat class, but it seemed longer. Yesterday was the first time in a long time I could get through class without feeling like it was an exercise in dragging myself through wet cement.

Probably not coincidentally, it was my first cardio workout since starting my new medication. It seems that my new treatment plan is working! Despite side effects, I felt much better in class yesterday, and not just because I held back a little on the hardcore. Before the new medication, each Combat class felt successively more impossible; the last one was a disaster.

 

(02 May 2018 – commemorating my first cardio class since the addition of my new medication! It seems to be working.)

 

This wraps up my eventful day yesterday. Here’s to a year with improved physical condition… and only one pair of glasses.

Medical first-world problem. (Ft. See’s)

My rheumatologist added a med to my treatment plan, and I’ve been having some side effects, mainly on-and-off dizziness and lightedness, muscle fatigue, and mild nausea. I’m also experiencing THIRST, which makes no sense when you guzzle water all day. I drink a glass of water and five minutes later I’m hit with a crazy pang of thirst like I need water NOW and if I don’t get water NOW I’m going to die, as if I hadn’t had water for hours. What else… my appetite is somewhat different. I crave sweet things (which I normally don’t) and salty things (which I normally do) while having no appetite.

If this is it for side effects, I said to myself after a week, then this is nothing. This is easy. I can handle this for a year!

Then Callaghan came home from work yesterday.

A client brought me a gift, he said. I’m giving it to you, he said. He opened his backpack and removed a bag I knew very well. My reaction at the sight of it was instantaneous and visceral. I backed away while yelling: “OH MY GOD NO!!! GET IT AWAY FROM ME!!!!”

As if the bag contained roaches, right? Plot twist: the bag contained a half-pound box of See’s Candies. Furthermore, since I tend to assume the worst when I’m down, I knew that the box would contain mixed nuts and chews, my favorites… AND IT DID. To this, my reaction was: “AAARGH NO I’M DOOMED.”

At least the worst of worst-case scenarios didn’t happen. There were no scotchmallows in the box. Our neighbors would not have to hear me screaming in the street.

Callaghan’s response: “Hahahahahaha!!!! But they’re your fav – ”

“No no no no no!! Thank you, but no.”

“You mean you’re not going to eat them? Haha!”

But he knew that I wouldn’t. I was starting to see the whole thing as a prank.

 

Why. Are these. In the house.

 

I’d lost my taste for sugary sweets ages ago, since I quit eating them. I don’t want to start eating them again. I wasn’t a sugar person in the first place, but there were a few sweets that I’d crave, and the number one thing on that short list was See’s Candies. The dark chocolate scotchmallows were my downfall, as some of you may remember.

So I’m alone in the house with the box of See’s Candies in the kitchen. No, they’re not vegan. This never mattered, because I’d eat them pretending that I didn’t know. My See’s Candies weakness was that bad. 

Since I quit eating sugar, I’ve had no problem avoiding it once it was out of my system. It’s been a non-issue. I don’t even “resist” sugary things. I just don’t want them. Now, THIS. And by the way… See’s Candies aside… it’s just weird to crave something without having an appetite. For me it is, anyway.

Truly, though, I’m very grateful. A lot of people suffer horrible side effects from the medication I’m taking, even at the low dose that I take, and I’m feeling mostly fine in comparison. This See’s Candies “problem” is a new one for me. It’s a medical first-world problem.

 

The silver lining of a bad day is the day after.

This has been a week. I’m sure you can all relate to this: there is no day as good as the day after a really bad day. The great thing about today is that yesterday was a day of epic fuckery such that today can only be better. For one thing, I was able to get to the gym this morning. I couldn’t go on Tuesday or yesterday, so you can bet that today’s workout made an immense difference.

For me, everything about working out makes everything better, even an aspect as simple as setting up whatever area I use. I took this pic weeks ago when a friend pointed out how I always organize my area, with my backpack and water bottle to the left:

 

Organized crime.

 

I took this picture jokingly, but it’s soothing to see it because I see habit, and habit can be a balm. It’s a way of feeling in control; in this case, it’s a healthy way.

This post comes from a place of gratitude. Yesterday is over. Today is a new day. I have yet another doctor’s appointment this afternoon (my third this week) – one of my medical specialists – but this is a good thing. Today’s doctor will be different, and I’m very optimistic that whatever he does, the experience will be the opposite of the one I had on Tuesday. I’m talking about ophthalmology, the only medical specialty not available at our V.A., by the way.

Yesterday, man. There was just something about it. Callaghan had a Very Bad Day yesterday, too, for reasons different than mine. It was awesome that we didn’t get into it despite our equally bad moods!

I’ll try to remember to repeat this mantra on future bad days: tomorrow is a new day. Some sayings make profound sense, and there’s nothing like experience to appreciate a tired old adage as something more than a tired old adage. Everyone is different. It’s good to hone in on adages that help get us through. For me, “things can always be worse” is a good reminder, but it isn’t as reassuring as “tomorrow is a new day.”

 

Insert snazzy title here. (March Favorites!)

Hello, and welcome to the “Little Things” I enjoyed in March. Since I’m again later than I’d wanted to be with this post, I’m offering a streamlined version of Monthly Favorites… meaning, with no further ado…

 

1). Jessica Jones (T.V. series, Netflix)

 

 

Jessica Jones is back for season 2 (Netflix), and Callaghan and I both like this season even better than the first. The writers infused the story with deeper intrigue, along with emphasis on character development. The effort left us with tantalizing fodder for speculation… we have a million questions, ideas, and theories regarding what will unfold in season three. It’s going to be a long wait!

 

2). Tabula Rasa (T.V. series, Netflix)

 

 

This series from Belgium is simply stunning. If you like horror/thrillers such as The Sixth Sense and Fatal Attraction, there’s a strong chance that you’ll like Tabula Rasa. As always, we watched it in its original language (Flemish), which I recommend. Honestly, this series was creepier to me than most horror movies I’ve seen. There was an effective wink or two at The Ring, I might add! Loved this series.

 

3). The Americans (T.V. series)

 

 

March brought season 6 of my favorite series, FX’s Cold War drama/thriller The Americans. Sadly, it’s its last. We’re looking forward to seeing how things wind up for the hottest pair of fictional deep-cover Soviet agents ever to pose as ordinary Americans. (Hyperbole totally deserved, in my opinion.) We’ll have to get our Washington D.C. Russian spy fix elsewhere on T.V. after this. Oh, wait….

 

4). The Good Fight (T.V. series)

 

 

Thus begins another excellent second season… The Good Fight continues. Its characters roll with the proverbial punches, as hard-boiled Chicago lawyers do. We hated to see the end of The Good Wife, so it’s been satisfying to watch its spin-off carry on the madness so well. We’re here for it!

 

5). Sumo March Grand Tournament (Honbasho) and rikishi Kaisei.

 

There’s a Grand Sumo Tournament (Honbasho) in every odd month, so we got to enjoy 15 days of Sumo in March. The Honbasho isn’t an organization, but it is to Sumo what a UFC card is to MMA – the combat sport’s highest level of competition. This time, we set our early sights on Kaisei, the rikishi (fighter) from Brazil. We’ve always been fans, but Kaisei came out swinging this tournament and got us all hyped about the possibility of a Brazilian (go New World!) winning the Yusho to take the Emperor’s Cup. Spoiler alert: he didn’t, but he got close.

 

Let’s get into food…

6). Archer Farms raw, unsalted mixed nuts.

 

Archer Farms (Target) raw, unsalted mixed nuts

 

Contrary to what I say sometimes when I’m waxing enthusiastic about nuts being great carriers for salt, I do cycle through periods of eating lots of raw, unsalted nuts. I do enjoy them! For weeks now – since early February, in fact – I’ve been eating a big handful of these nuts every day, usually at breakfast.

 

7). Trader Joe’s Multigrain Sourdough with Sunflower & Sesame Seeds bread.

 

Trader Joe’s multigrain sourdough bread with sunflower and sesame seeds

 

I’ve posted a couple of other brands of sourdough bread here before. Trader Joe’s multigrain sourdough with sunflower and sesame seeds is one that I always go back to. Trader Joe’s makes several varieties of their sourdough (plain, whole wheat, etc.), and they’re all good, but this multigrain version is my favorite! I’ve eaten two or three slices of this bread every day since the beginning of the year, though I’m just posting it now. It goes without saying that bread is always one of my “favorite things.”

 

8). Emmy’s Organic Vanilla Bean Coconut Cookies.

 

Emmy’s Organic Vanilla Bean Coconut Cookies

 

I’m not big on dessert-type foods anymore, but I thought I’d try these “cookies” (I wouldn’t call them that, personally) because sometimes I get a hankering for chewy-sweet coconut concoctions. These are nice. They’re slightly too sweet for me, since I’m not used to sweets anymore, so I probably won’t get these again. I did enjoy them, though.

 

9). Derma-e firming DMAE Eye Lift and Moisturizer.

 

Derma-e firming DMAE Eye Lift and Moisturizer

 

I used up my daytime eye cream and moisturizer in March, so I picked these up. I use several other Derma-e products, and they’re all fabulous. These two products follow suit. I’ll definitely repurchase these! They’re vegan and cruelty-free, of course.

 

10). The Body Shop Colour Crush lipstick.

I’d jokingly said that Jessica Jones inspired me to look for new lipsticks, but that was partially true. I’d been wanting to broaden my color range out from the one color I wear. I love all three shades I got from The Body Shop’s Colour Crush lipstick line, and they’re all quite moisturizing, too. I love the way these feel!

This morning, I put on #240 “Damson in Distress,” a blue-toned, medium berry shade. Later, I took a selfie to show how it looked after six hours of being out, running around, talking, eating, drinking water, chewing gum, and applying colorless lip balm. I did not reapply the lipcolor. This is how the remaining lipstick looks on my bare face (I wore no other make-up today):

 

The Body Shop Colour Crush lipstick in 240 (Damson in Distress)

 

(As usual, there’s no filter on this selfie; this is the lipcolor exactly as the daylight captured it.)

There’s just a hint of color remaining, but I love the faint stain as much as I love the lipstick when it’s freshly applied. I’d blotted it before I left, so I didn’t start the day with a heavy layer, either. This lipstick wears well, feels great, and the colors are great. They’re vegetarian and cruelty-free.

 

That’s it! I hope you all have a great month ahead.

 

The Fitbit and my sleep progress. (New Year’s Resolution check-in!)

We’re three months into the new year, and usually by now I’ve done some sort of New Year’s resolution check-in post, so I figured why not today.

My resolution to get more sleep has been going okay. I think what’s happening is I’m approaching it in slow steps, starting with setting up the Fitbit that Callaghan gave me over the holidays. (Christmas? Birthday? I can’t remember now, so it’s “the holidays.”) Though I’d resolved to get to bed earlier starting on January 1st, it took me until the end of January to start tracking my sleep. The first time I used the Fitbit to track my sleep (the only reason I wanted it, and the only thing I use it for) was on January 30th.

I haven’t yet made the successful jump from tracking my sleep to actually getting more sleep on a regular basis. It’s been enlightening to see my sleep schedules and patterns in digital display, though, and it gives me an idea of my natural, “before success” sleep schedule.

I set my sleep goal to 7 hrs/night, to start. (Baby steps.) The Fitbit tells you when you’ve hit your goal.

Progress: I’ve been tracking my sleep for 61 days. I hit my sleep goal 8 times out of the 61.

That’s right… I got 7 hours of sleep only 8 nights out of 61, and I know that there’s been a slight improvement. Using the Fitbit has verified that my lack of sleep situation was as bad as I’d thought it was. That’s a start, right? And that, my friends, is the whole point of the Fitbit. It’s going to hold me accountable and make it difficult for me to shrug off the effort.

Looking at the Fitbit’s “benchmark” view, I can compare my sleep to that of other women my age. I almost feel weird about sharing this, but it’s of interest to me in terms of my resolution, so here’s how I compare in terms of the minutes I spend in each of the four sleep stages:

  • Awake:* overwhelmingly less than average
  • R.E.M.: above average almost half the time
  • Light: overwhelmingly within the average range
  • Deep: above average half the time

*About the awake stage, since you may not be aware (I wasn’t, until I got the Fitbit): “It’s normal to see ‘awake’ minutes in your sleep stages; studies have shown a typical adult could wake up briefly between 10-30 times per night. You may not remember waking up since you likely fell right back to sleep, especially if you were awake for less than 2-3 minutes at a time. If you wake up in the morning feeling like you had a restless night, you may notice more ‘awake’ minutes in your sleep stages as compared to other nights.”

My “awake” minutes were much less than average. They only fell within the average range 6 out of 61 nights. Also, half of the time, I got more sleep than average in the R.E.M. and deep sleep stages. The anti-anxiety med I take before going to bed (Klonopin) knocks me out, and I stay out. It’s doing its job. (For reference: I take 0.5mg, and I weigh 115 lbs.)

I haven’t noticed that my more alert mornings correlate logically to the amount of sleep I got, or to the time I’d spent in certain sleep stages. I do notice that it’s harder for me to wake up when I’m in R.E.M. when the alarm goes off. If I’m dreaming when that alarm sounds, I’m groggy for half the day, it seems. I didn’t need the Fitbit to tell me this, though.

Now to ramp up my efforts to get to bed earlier! This is where I start setting an alarm to tell me to get ready for bed. If you see me on social media after 9:30pm, ask me why.