My 30 Before 30 List

On July 11, I celebrated my 29th birthday with my husband in Chicago. A few days prior, I completed my “30 before 30” bucket list. In other words, 30 things I want to do before I turn 30. Some of these items are small and manageable. Others are stretch goals. Some may be downright impossible. But I wanted a good mix of all three on my list. Below is my list, with a few items redacted for personal reasons:
  1. Run a 10k: Training in progress!
  2. Run a half marathon
  3. Run a marathon (I know it’s unlikely I’ll run all 3 of these in the span of a year, but I’d at least like to start my marathon training before I turn 30 next year)
  4. *redacted*
  5. Read 30 books: In progress!
  6. Take a solo trip
  7. Go for a hike
  8. Learn another language: In progress!
  9. Begin yoga teacher training
  10. Visit my cousin Jen
  11. Take a spontaneous road trip
  12. Visit a national park
  13. Go camping
  14. Ride a bike
  15. Have a “yes” day
  16. Have a “treat yo’self” day
  17. Take a cooking or knife skills class
  18. *redacted*
  19. Create a Sunday ritual/tradition
  20. Get an essay or article published (DONE! But I hope I can get more than one published)
  21. Travel to a new city
  22. Run in Bellefountaine Cemetery
  23. Start writing my memoir
  24. Write poetry again
  25. Learn a new instrument
  26. Attend a yoga retreat
  27. Learn to make Mom’s chicken and dumplings
  28. Do a handstand
  29. Start a garden
  30. Reduce single-use plastics in my home
I am happy with my list and I think most of the items on here are doable. Some are stretch goals for sure, but hopefully I can make them happen. You only turn 30 once!
Have you ever created a “30 before 30” or similar list? How did you do? Let me know!

Don’t Call it a Comeback

After a 2-month hiatus from running, I hit the pavement again yesterday! My chiropractor finally said I could start testing out exercises like running, so I didn’t waste much time getting out there!

My first run was slow. I was exhausted from little sleep, my left foot felt uncomfortable in my shoe the entire time (a good reminder that I need new shoes), and my knees were achey. Despite all of that, though, I was just so damn happy to be running again, no matter how slow or how many walk breaks I needed (excluding my warm-up and cool-down, I needed about 3 total).

img_3243I ran/walked 1.74 miles with an average turtle pace of 16.12 minutes. That’s a heck of a lot slower than my previous 10 to 12-minute paces a couple months ago, but I was deliberate in my slowness. I knew if I tried to go too fast or too hard on this first run, I’d regret it and maybe even cause a setback. So I’m taking things slow and steady in hopes that I can continue running.

I won’t be taking up my run streak again any time soon. Right now I think I’m going to try to maintain a schedule of running a few days a week up to every other day and see how things go. I don’t have any pace or mileage goals; right now, the only goal is to just keep running.

I’m also doing some moderate upper body/shoulder strength training, too! I’m using resistance bands rather than weights (I’m weak AF after a year of zero upper body training), and it will be a slow recovery process. But it’s progress nonetheless.

In my last post I talked about how little sleep I’ve been getting and my resolve to give up caffeine as a last-resort effort to improve things. I’m happy to report that I’ve moved past the horrible withdrawal headaches I had the first few days. Unfortunately, it seems the caffeine, or lack of, has had little impact on my sleep. I’m still getting less than 5 hours of sleep each night (and less than 4 the last couple nights).

I’m considering giving magnesium another try. Apparently some options come in a lotion form, so maybe I’ll like that better than the spray I bought. I’m also considering switching back to Benadryl from the current antihistamine I use before bed occasionally (usually when I’ve had something for dinner that gave me hives) and trying something like Tylenol PM. My concern is most medications that make other people sleepy seem to have the opposite effect on me and I just feel totally wired.

For now, I’m going to continue with the decaf, because now that I’m past the withdrawals, I don’t see an urgent need to go back to regular coffee. And I’m going to keep running and doing whatever other exercises I can in hopes that might help my sleep, too.

 

Praying for Sleep

I’m not particularly religious, but if I were, I’d be praying to whatever deity for sleep, which has eluded me for months now. 

I started tracking my sleep in January, but I knew that, for at least a couple months prior, I wasn’t getting enough sleep. From January to now, I get an average of about 4 to 5 hours of sleep each night. Sometimes I get as much as 6 or as little as 3, despite being in bed for 7 to 8 hours total.

img_3235
The light blue lines are periods of restfulness and the dark blue is deep sleep. Ugh. 

I’m not wide awake, though. There’s not a million thoughts running through my head (okay, that happens sometimes) and I’m not staring at my ceiling every night wondering why I can’t sleep (that happens sometimes, too). Instead, I’m tossing and turning and just restless in general. I’m exhausted, but I just can’t get comfortable enough to fall asleep and stay asleep.

My shoulder pain may be partly to blame, and I assume stress is also to blame. I’m doing everything I can to reduce those (seeing a chiropractor, more self-care, etc.), but there’s only so much I can do. I feel like I’ve tried everything people suggest to sleep better. I’ve tried:

  • Going to bed early
  • Getting up early
  • Going to bed/waking up at the same time every day
  • Turning off screens at least 30 minutes before bed
  • Reading before bed
  • Drinking herbal tea before bed (relaxing, yes, but I usually have to get up to pee)
  • Diffusing lavender and other calming essential oils in my bedroom
  • Getting more magnesium
  • Exercising regularly
  • Meditating
  • Not drinking caffeine after noon (more on this later)

I even got so desperate that I tried taking melatonin and Zquil. Neither worked. In fact, both of them made me feel exhausted but also completely wired (I’ve had the same experience with muscle relaxers in the past). And one of my main motivations for doing the Whole30 in January was to improve my sleep. While I saw a whole slew of other non-scale victories, better sleep wasn’t one of them.

So, desperate times call for desperate measures. In addition to praying to the Universe for sleep, I’m also giving up caffeine. Because caffeine can stay in your system for so long, I stuck to the hard and fast rule of no caffeine after 12 p.m., but that hasn’t helped. And I had previously tried going a couple days without my  morning coffee, but didn’t notice a difference so I quickly gave up. This time, I’m going to stick it out for a couple weeks at least and see what happens.

It’s the only other thing I can think to do. So I’ve traded in my beloved, caffeinated, bulletproof coffee for a decaf version. As of this posting, I’m four days caffeine-free and these four days have been entirely unpleasant. The first day I had a mild headache. No biggie.

By the second day, that headache was a full-blown migraine with a side of nausea for good measure. I was grateful to have a light workload because I spent most of the afternoon just laying on the couch. I ate very little and watched a whole lot of Netflix. I thought things were really looking up when I fell asleep relatively quickly and wasn’t tossing and turning, but then Penny started whining.

I checked the clock. 2:45 a.m. Ugh. I got up and let the dogs out. She definitely needed to go, so the whining was justified. I put them back in their kennels and went back to bed. Couldn’t get comfortable. I turned on some meditation music to help me fall back asleep. Didn’t work. Played a dumb game on my phone for a while until I was tired again. Finally fell asleep around 5. Alarm went off at 6:30. Decided to sleep in an extra half hour. Slept until 8 instead.

Despite the lack of sleep (I should be used to it by now), I actually felt a little better on day 3. My headache and nausea were gone. I made my decaf bulletproof coffee and ate a banana for breakfast to play it safe. Now I just have to wait and see how much sleep I get.

img_3230By the way, if you aren’t sure what bulletproof coffee is, it’s a pretty popular morning drink. It’s traditionally made with regular (ie caffeinated) coffee with grassfed butter and coconut (or MCT) oil blended in. Previously, I simply added ghee to mine, omitting the coconut oil, although I have done both in the past. More recently, I’ve added collagen peptides (check back for a post on this later) and ghee, and starting this week, I use decaf coffee. Then I top it off with a little dairy-free creamer and use a frother to mix it all up. It’s a delicious morning tradition I just couldn’t part with (hence the decaf).

Have you ever struggled to get a good night’s sleep? What are your best tips for falling–and staying–asleep? Are you a fan of bulletproof coffee or do you prefer yours black? Let me know in the comments!

PS: This post contains affiliate links.

Happiness Boost: Curate Your Social Media Feeds

Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. SnapChat. Etc. Whatever platform(s) you use on a regular basis, you probably spend more time on them than you’d like to admit (I know I do). If you’re like me, your social media feeds probably have a big impact on your mood (especially if you follow any news sites. ugh.). It’s not just the news, though. The posts from your friends and family (or even complete strangers) can put you in a bad mood, too. We’re constantly viewing everyone else’s highlight reel and wondering why our lives can’t be like that.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” –Theodore Roosevelt

We get stuck in a cycle of comparing our real lives to everyone else’s highlight reel, and that’s a surefire way to dampen your mood and make you feel like you don’t have enough, you’re not good enough, etc. The first step to a better experience on social media is understanding that few people show their real life on there. Some show their “behind-the-scenes” so people understand that the pretty Instagram photos don’t show everything, but many don’t. So you have to take everything you see and put it in perspective.

That food blogger who always takes pictures with perfect lighting on a marble countertop may have none of that. I’ve seen the behind the scenes of a few food bloggers who use a small piece of marble and set it up next to a window with lots of natural light to get the perfect shot.

Here’s the thing. You can’t let other people’s seemingly “perfect” photos keep you from sharing what you love. Who cares if you don’t have the perfect lighting or even a slab of marble or granite? Take your food pictures under your fluorescent lighting on your laminate countertop and be proud of your creation.

If what other people are posting affects your mood, however, it’s time to curate a social media feed that brings you joy instead of feelings of “not enough”. How do you curate your social media feeds? Here’s a few tips I’ve used myself to ensure when I log in to Instagram or Facebook, what I see generally makes me happier:

  1. Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow. Give yourself permission to unfollow any social media accounts that don’t bring you joy for whatever reason. On Facebook, you can unfollow people but still remain friends (so no one gets their feelings hurt). On Instagram, there’s not an option to stay “friends” when you unfollow, but sometimes unfollowing is the best thing you can do for yourself. If you’re real-life friends, great. Stay in touch–call, email, text, grab coffee, etc. But don’t follow them on social media if doing so makes you feel less than. For the people you don’t know in real life, well, don’t feel bad about unfollowing them.
  2. Connect with others who have similar goals. If your goal is to lose weight, connect with other people who want to lose weight. If you want to run a marathon, connect with other runners. If you want to save money, maybe unfollow those bloggers who are always posting about their new bags or shoes or whatever. Find bloggers who thrift or are always on the hunt for sales instead. For me, running, mental health, and eating healthy are all really important to me. So I’m friends with/follow other runners. I’m even in a couple runners’ groups on Facebook. I follow accounts on Instagram that regularly share self-care tips and ways to boost mental health. I follow a lot of accounts that are associated with the Whole30 in one way or another. My Instagram feed includes a lot of Whole30 recipes, kitchen and grocery shopping tips/hacks, and other healthy products. I don’t follow accounts like McDonald’s or bloggers who are constantly making choices that would not be healthy for me. I follow accounts that bring me joy and bring me closer to my goals.
  3. Set limits. For those accounts you just can’t unfollow for whatever reason, set limits. I still follow several news sites because I want to be informed. But I don’t let myself get lost in a sea of bad news. Instead I’ll read one or two news stories (and skim a few other headlines/snippets) before moving on to happier things, like posts about dogs or some new recipes to try. Unfortunately, there’s no easy “hack” for this. You have to have some self-control and know your own limits. I’m learning that when it comes to social media (at least for me), less is more. I’ve also implemented a social media “curfew” for myself recently. I stop checking/mindlessly scrolling through social media at 8pm every day. I’ve been doing this for over a month now and although there have been a few exceptions where I either forgot or lost track of time, I’ve stuck with it. Even better, it has helped. Quitting social media altogether or taking a hiatus (however long) just wasn’t realistic for me. But logging off by 8pm every night has been relatively easy. Plus, it gives me more time to wind down before bed.

Social media seems to be a blessing and a curse for most people. We’re more connected to others than ever, but it can also lead to feelings of isolation and “not enough”. Taking control of your social media feeds by changing who you follow and how you use it just might give you a happiness boost when you log in.

If you try any or all of these tips, let me know if they help! If you have any other tips to share, I’d love to hear them!

Missing Running

Things have been a little quiet on the blog lately, mostly because my personal life has been chaotic. I’ve been struggling both mentally and physically since I had to stop running over a month ago (chiropractor’s orders). I had plans to run a 10k at the end of May and that’s just not going to happen. Maybe if I got cleared to run in the next week I could pull off a 5k, but I think the 10k is out of reach at this point. So that’s frustrating.

On top of that, I really have had zero physical activity over the past month. I went to the gym once and did the elliptical and it was awful. Way worse than the “dreadmill”. So I’m not getting much exercise, I’ve been sore from my adjustments and muscle work at the chiropractor, and I feel like I’m not making much progress with it. My shoulder still hurts and although they tried to have me do exercises last week, I was so sore afterwards that they’ll probably delay those even longer.

I know it will eventually get better and I’ll be able to do more than I could do this time last year, but the waiting is hard. Especially since running was about so much more than staying in shape for me. First and foremost, it got me out of the house at least once every day (work from home problems). But it’s also an outlet for anger, frustration, sadness, writing blocks, and so much more. So now I have all these pent-up feelings and I don’t have a way to release them.

IMG_3169.jpgThe past month or so has been hard for lots of other reasons, too. My freelance work was slow for a while, which really stresses me out (and I couldn’t run to relieve that stress!). Then, my grandpa passed away, so I had to cut back on the little bit of work I did have so I could be with my family. It was all hard and exhausting, but the amount of people who came to the visitation and/or funeral was incredible and I’m so grateful to everyone who stood in line for almost an hour or more just to say hi and chat for a minute.

In spite of all the sadness and stress and exhaustion, good things are in the works. My freelance work is picking back up and I’ve got some promising full-time opportunities on the horizon as well. It’s been hard to stay positive lately, but I’m trying.

For now, I’m going to keep working hard, and maybe try to write a blog post more than once a month! I’ve got some other posts I’m working on so be on the lookout for those!

The End of an Era

My run streak has come to an end.

That probably sounds a little dramatic, but it’s how I feel right now. I finally went to see a chiropractor to find out if they could do anything to help with the shoulder pain I’ve been dealing with for over a year now. Turns out, my shoulder pain is probably the result of some neck problems, which were probably the result of one or more concussions I had in high school and college.

So the chiropractor is going to start working on my neck, which should relieve my shoulder pain and will probably help quite a few other issues I’ve had over the years. Unfortunately, that means ending my run streak. I asked him twice, just to make sure I actually had to end it. [And I thought briefly about continuing it anyway, but decided I’d rather be pain free and re-start my run streak at a later date.]

Not only do I have to end my run streak, but I can’t do many other physical activities either. He said I could still go to the gym and do things like the stationary bike or elliptical as long as I’m not moving my arms and I’m not hunched over. Those sound worse than the treadmill, to be honest. After about a week or two of adjustments, I should be able to start running again, but it will be a while before I’m doing upper-body work again (not that I was doing much to begin with).

So my 4.5 mile run on Tuesday was my last for a while. I made it 218 days and ran over 370 miles. That run streak pulled me out of a depression that had lasted most of last summer. It showed me just how strong I am. And it reminded me how much I love running. Over those 218 days and 370 miles, I got faster and ran farther.

Now I have to let it go and put my goals on hold. It’s frustrating to say the least. I’m trying to remind myself that a healthy, pain-free shoulder will be a good thing. Because eventually I’ll be able to do other exercises I haven’t done in over a year. Like yoga and lifting weights. I’ll eventually have some upper body strength again, which I completely lost over the past year. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally be able to achieve my goal of doing a headstand.

It was hard starting the past two days without a run. I’ve started the majority of the last 218 days that way and it’s been amazing. I’ve seen a lot of sunrises. I’ve run in the heat and freezing cold; in the snow and rain. I’ve put a lot of miles on my two pairs of running shoes, which are in dire need of retirement. I’ve found money on my runs and seen a car accident. I’ve run on vacations and overcame my hatred of the treadmill. I’ve run through soreness and head colds and on holidays and weekends. I’ve run through every possible excuse to not run.

It’s hard to let it go, even though it’s only for a week or two. But I know when I come back, I’ll make even bigger gains in my training. Once my shoulder is feeling better and I can start doing upper-body exercises again, I’ll be able to cross-train properly, which will make a huge difference in my endurance, speed, and overall strength.

Doing what’s right for your body isn’t always easy, but I’m choosing to take this time to rest and regroup so I can come back better than ever, even if I am starting over at day 1.

200 Days of Running!

Last Friday was a milestone: My run streak made it to day 200. As of today, I’m on day 206.

To be honest, there were times in the weeks leading up to that day I wasn’t sure I’d make it. I was having random pains. I was tired. I felt sluggish. But I pushed through to the other side, and here I am on day 206 feeling great again (and in need of new shoes!).

I’ve done things in last 200+ days I never thought I could. I’ve run at least a mile each day (though lately it’s at least 1.5 – 3 miles). I ran while I was on vacation. I ran 2 5ks and PR’d the second. My speed has improved. I’m training for a 10k (and eventually a half marathon!). I’ve been harassed.

I ran in single-digit temperatures. I ran in the snow on Christmas Eve. I ran on the treadmill at the gym when I could. not. take. the cold anymore. I’ve lost weight and I’ve got some definite muscle definition in my legs (eating Whole30 for the first 45 days of the year definitely helped in this department).

More important than the physical gains, however, is the mental strength I’ve gained. I’ve learned I can push through and keep going, even when things are hard, even when it hurts. I can do hard things and I can do them with confidence.

That strength and confidence has spilled over into other areas of my life. I’ve finally made both my mental and physical health a priority.  I’m asking for what I want. I have a more positive outlook, despite facing some serious obstacles and hardships. I know I’ll survive because I already know I can do hard things and I can keep going, even when it hurts.

I only wish I had started this run streak sooner. I feel like I have grown so much in the past 200 days. I’m physically and mentally stronger. I’m taking more risks and trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone. Running has done so much for me already. I can’t wait to see what the next 100 days bring.

Happy running!