Friday, July 14, 2017

Fitness Friday: Mental Health Days

There has been a lot of talk since I was a kid about the pace of life and how strenuous it is. I remember being in first grade and wishing for the weekend. From the time we start perceiving time, we realize that most of our time is spent on “responsibilities”. We feel indignant at the knowledge that most of our time isn’t actually ours. We have to get ready for school, go to school, get home from school, do our homework, do our chores, THEN we get to have a little time for ourselves until we have to get ready for, and then go to, bed. Our whole day is taken before we wake.

When we get older we get a little break from that pace, sort of. I wouldn’t really call college a break from anything except sanity. Whether you are a party animal or a dedicated student, your time evaporates quickly. Classes, studying, partying, sleeping (a little), and trying every hangover remedy in the book, fills every second of every day. Not exactly “free” time.

Then we enter the workforce. 40 hours a week we go to a job. Those 40 hours means we can pay our bills, eat, and provide for ourselves the basic necessities of life. Usually that means a commute of roughly an hour each way. Now we are up to 50 hours a week. If you are a well-adjusted, responsible adult (you can stop laughing now) you get a full 8 hours of sleep every night (okay, go ahead a laugh a little more). Pretending that we actually sleep as much as we’re supposed to, that is 56 hours of sleep a week. Which puts us at 106 hours of spoken for time each week. But now we’re adults and we have to do adult things like cook our own meals, go to the store for ourselves, do our own laundry, mop the floor, vacuum, dust, etc… And suddenly the 168 hours in a week are completely gone. Spoken for in the same ways for the rest of our careers. And we still don’t have “free time”.

I won’t complicate this timeline by adding kids and their various activities throughout their childhood to the mix. I think we all get the picture by now. But, they do have a habit of claiming the last few seconds of the day.

There are numerous websites that warn about the dangers of not sleeping enough. It is an epidemic in our country. And yet, if we want any time to ourselves, we have to sacrifice sleep in order to get it. We are good at this too. Seriously good at it. I know people who have trained themselves to operate on 5 hours of sleep a night. Those people have 3 extra hours every day. What?!

I’ve heard of a few employers who have “Mental Health Days”. These are magic sick days you can use at anytime for any reason. You only get 2 or 3 of them a year, but you can call in to work and say you won’t be there. Kablammo! You have 24 hours to yourself. Pretty cool idea, but there’s a catch.

Here’s the problem with that solution. Most of us would sit on our butts, eat junk food, and watch the TV until our eyes blurred. As lazy as that day sounds, it actually doesn’t help much of anything. You are still sitting which is hard on your body. Consuming too many calories, which is also stressful to your system. And getting artificial stimulus that tires your brain into a waking coma.

Instead of sitting on our butts all day, a better thing to do is cross something off our “if only I had the time” list. Everyone has one of these. It’s a list of projects, aspirations, old dreams that never quite died, etc. Things that a lot of retirees look at and lament never doing while they were younger. Things that take free time and enthusiasm. Things that “I always wished I could do”.

My question to you is: why wait? True, that garage isn’t going to clean itself. True, the laundry and dishes aren’t going to get done without intervention. But is it really necessary to fill your day so full that you run everywhere but go nowhere? Is it really better to buy that new extra toy that is parked on your front lawn because your garage is so full of stuff, there’s no space for living? Is it really better to spend all that money on a new shiny thing instead of that trip of a lifetime that you always wanted to take?

I think everyone deserves mental health days. I think everyone deserves the chance to complete their “if I only had time” lists. I think everyone wants to. We’ve just all forgotten over the years how to play and have fun and be a little selfish. Children have that down. We just forgot we can do anything we want if we want it enough and work for it.

So, what are you going to cross off your list this weekend? Personally, I’m going to go zip lining. It's something I've always wanted to do and I have the opportunity, so I'm doing it!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Randomness Wednesday: Book Format Announcement

I have a HUGE announcement.

This is big you guys.

You ready?

You sure?


I’m taking down my paperback books. I know! It’s a polarized topic. Personally, I love holding a book in my hands. The feel, the smell, the tactile enjoyment of turning a page. Ah! That’s a little bit of heaven right there. BUT, every book out there is a dead tree. Every copy I’ve sold is one new member of a forest that will never reach for sunshine. And that thought is heartbreaking to my inner hippie.

The truth is, as much as I love reading from a paperback, I love hiking in the woods with an audiobook more. I love swinging in my hammock reading an ebook more. I love nature. In particular, I love oceanside forests. There is nothing that says paradise more than laying in a hammock, listening to the waves crash against the shore, feeling that breeze that rocks me gently, and smelling the mineral heavy air as I sigh. That is my paradise. And I can have that with an ebook or audiobook.

The project I am working on is all about climate change. I’ve read so many articles and done so much research on our slow murder of the planet that I cannot morally justify printing copies of my books anymore. I just can’t. My heart is heavy thinking of all the damage I cause by printing and shipping books.

SO, I will only be releasing books in digital or audio formats from now on. My previously released works will be taken out of print at the end of the month. AND, a portion of the proceeds from every sale of my books from now on will be donated to the National Park Foundation to help maintain, protect, and promote our national parks.

Look for news about this new project that is changing my mind next week! I may have a nice little surprise for you.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Martial Arts Monday: Perseverance

Martial arts has the unique opportunity to teach a person how to truly get back up after being knocked down. First, because you literally get knocked, thrown, tripped, or taken down by your friends in the gym or dojo. Second, because everyone, every single person who trains, has bad days. We do. There are days where nothing works. Where you know you have skills far above where you are performing that day. Days when every move is, or feels like, the wrong one. And these rough patches are made even more so by the simple fact that we are actively engaged in a sport with physical ramifications to our actions.

If you dodge the wrong way, you get a shiner. If you turn the wrong way, you get thrown, taken down, or have to tap out. If you try a risky escape or counter to a choke, you very well may be taking a nap for a few seconds. Even though we are practicing with our friends and everyone knows to pull the punches, let go when they tap, and spot your partner so they don’t slam the mat, there are accidents and any martial art is a very physical sport. Even the best of the best have had their fair share of bad days training. It is something that everyone has to confront and move past.

You fall down, you get back up. 100 times in one night. And, the next day you are right back there doing it again. Almost everyone I know that trains in any martial art admits, maybe only when no one else is around, that they get frustrated on days like that. It happens. You’re trying your best and it just isn’t coming together the way you know it can. Frustration is a natural part of this process.

So is anger. A lot of coaches will try to skirt around this one because they want to encourage their students. Which is the right thing to do. You don’t want to bring them down when they are already feeling borderline vulnerable. But trust me when I say that sometimes you get downright fuckin’ pissed. Especially if there is nothing you can do about it. When I feel powerless to change the fact that I’m not performing at my peak, it sets me off.

Case in point, I have asthma. It sucks. Most of the time it is just a minor annoyance that I can easily manage. Sometimes, a few times a year, it decides that I am done with an activity and calls it quits. It says, “I know you’re not even warmed up yet, and you’re super excited to get your sweat on, but right now I need a little TV time. Soo… screw you.” Sometimes it is the full-on, Hollywood style, asthma attack with the wheezing and coughing and theatrics. Most of the time, it is a subtle loss of oxygen. It sneaks up and takes away my strength. I get weaker and weaker, more and more dizzy, until my chest is tight and I am shallow breathing wondering what the hell is going on. It’s like a boa constrictor settled around my chest and hugged a millimeter at a time until the discomfort was enough to force my attention to it.

The truth is, when I am working hard, and especially when I’m grappling in jiu jitsu, I don’t notice the slow depletion of oxygen. I just think I’m working really hard, because I am. It’s only when the round stops and I can’t catch my breath that I realize I’m in trouble. At that moment, in that brief second when my brain finally understands what my body is saying, I get insta-pissed. I am embarrassed, humiliated by my body’s weakness, livid that I have to stop doing something that I love, and all these emotions make me so frustrated I cry. Yep. My tear ducts are hardwired to frustration and anger. Which, naturally, exacerbates the situation. In case you’re curious, trying to catch your breath in an asthma attack while crying is extraordinarily difficult.

At this point you are probably wondering what an asthma tangent has to do with martial arts teaching you perseverance. Well, when you are at your lowest point, when your body no longer functions in one of its most basic tasks, you are completely vulnerable. There is nothing you can do to defend yourself physically and emotionally. Enter the dojo community. These people you have already established a system of trust with, have your back. Most of them have no clue what is going on, but they rush to your side anyway. Your coach knows, and takes action. I may be sitting there ugly crying in my humiliation, but these guys aren’t going to tease me about it… well, not until I am breathing again and can take a joke.

No matter how bad an attack is, no matter how frustrated, or angry, or injured, or tumultuous a training session is, the real triumph, the real test of strength is how soon you jump back up. It may take a few tries. It may take a few days, even a few weeks. But eventually you lean on the stubbornness training and uncoil from your puddle of pain and misery and self-loathing. Beaten, scratched, swollen, and bruised you stand tall and proud to say, “that was fun. Let’s do it again!”