Recapping the Month of Reading and the Super Awesome Year of Me

Another year bites the dust.

But a year can only end when the month ends, and this month was about reading.

Recapping December: I Read Good Now

I didn’t sweep the month, but I did get a lot of reading done. All in all, I thought I’d actually read more books, but having a couple of graphic novel volumes helped artificially boost my numbers. So without further ado, here are the books I laid waste to over the past 31 days with links to my book review blog:

As a recap, this was my favorite month, though it wasn’t my must useful month (but we’ll talk about the year as a whole later one).

Reading for 30 minutes wasn’t too bad. It’s something I try to do anyway, the only difference being that I was more militant about setting aside time. It also ensured that I wasn’t reading anything I didn’t really want to read. It happens. Sometimes your friends convince you to read Wuthering Heights. Don’t read Wuthering Heights. You’ll just hate people. You can go to Walmart and learn to hate people in 30 minutes. And you can get frozen pizza while you’re there. I recommend Tony’s, personally.

As with the other recreational months, the downside was that my other hobbies tended to take a hit. It’s difficult to make time for everything you want to do, so reading mean that I missed playing guitar sometimes or screwing around on the internet. Missed time on the internet might not be the worst thing, though. And because I don’t like to annoy neighbors, the guitar tends to be an early evening task, while reading tends to be later in the evening, so at least those two hobbies will always be fairly complementary.

Did I learn anything new about myself from this month? Well, no. I like to read. I’ve been a pretty active reader since I was 9 or 10. At some point, I had a teacher say that reading could help you fall asleep, and for some reason I was the 10-year-old equivalent of an insomniac, so I started reading before bed every night in addition to whatever other reading I was doing during the day. I don’t read in bed any more, but I still like to unwind in the last couple of hours of the day.

But that’s ok. This wasn’t my challenging month. This was my reward month for reaching the end of the year. And it’s been a year. But let’s create a new section title for that.

Recapping the Super Awesome Year of Me (and My Super Awesome Weight Fluctuations)

In looking back at the whole year, I’m going to do this a couple of different ways. First, I’m going to give a year-end review of each month. Then I’m going to group the months into themes (you wouldn’t know I do qualitative research for a living). And finally, I’m just going to give a big-picture review of the year, which I’ve done a few times now, but this is the end-of-the-year post, so I have to do it here. It’s like going to Benihana. They’re going to do the egg trick. This is my egg trick.

The months:

  • January and 10,000 steps: This was probably the most important one I did. It kept me active, and that can’t be understated. I was also coming off a foot injury, so walking was the only thing I could do with any real consistency, and it’s one of the reasons I didn’t have a post-5K year lag. I would save that for later.
  • February and no sodas: LOL. I actually did pretty well. I only missed on 6 days. Check back for October’s recap.
  • March and draw something: This is the month where I feel like I grew the most. This was the only truly creative month. When I play guitar, I usually play others’ songs, and even when I’m playing my own, it’s not really creative unless I’m writing. I didn’t write new songs this year, but I did draw a bunch of stuff (and then mailed off my favorites so I wouldn’t glorify past work; I’m weird like that).
  • April and no refined grains: This was the first weight fluctuation. I dropped 5 pounds the first week. The weight stayed off for a while, but that was not cool. The scary thing for this month was how hungry I was when I stayed on goal. Amazing how many calories were coming from crap.
  • May and yoga: Walking was the most important, but yoga has the most visible effects on me. My core strength goes up, so my posture improves quickly. Aesthetically, you get more bang for your bunk than anything else. And for back pain, this is still the only long-term thing I can do that helps. I’ll take it.
  • June and 3 veggie servings: I wasn’t even going after the recommended amount of vegetables, and I still tanked this month. I hit my goal less than half the time, and that was a lot of salads and broccoli. Failure never tasted so sad.
  • July and playing guitar: This was my most successful month. Aside from two travel days, I killed this one. And I needed this month. I had been lagging on my guitar playing the last couple of years, so it was nice to get this jolt to get me back in the habit. This is the only month that lasted the rest of the year.
  • August and 25g of fiber: I actually did ok this month. I probably ingested entirely too many calories most days, but I also was hitting my goals. I wish I was better about tracking fiber, but what are you going to do? I’m still pretty good about eating oatmeal and fruit as a part of my breakfast, so that’s another habit that stuck (though I finally abandoned by legit steel-cut oats for the instant steel-cut oats).
  • September and meditation: This month was a struggle, but it was a good one. It was nice to sit for 10 minutes. Meditation is an active process, but it’s also a process where you’re sitting still and breathing, so you’re forced to slow down. I wish this one would have stuck.
  • October and no calories in drinks: Train wreck. Complete train wreck. October’s are always hectic at work, and I needed caffeine. Caffeine for me comes from Cokes. This was a comically bad month.
  • November and foam rolling: Also a train wreck in the second half. Travel and illness got me, and then I was just done. This was a sad failure of a month.
  • December and reading: Like I said earlier, this was my reward. I needed it.

Ok, so let’s do some grouping.

  • There were some body-oriented months (walking, yoga, and foam rolling). Walking and yoga weren’t always easy to hit, but their benefits were the easiest to see. As whole, I think they’re great goals to track.
  • There were also some food-oriented months (sodas, grains, fiber, vegetables, and calories in drinks). These sucked. For long-term health, they’d be the most important. Unfortunately, I tanked so badly that I would end up making worse decisions as the year went on usually. I stopped being active about cooking with vegetables after June. That’s problematic. Daily goals doesn’t work here. I don’t know how to go after the idea in a different way though.
  • And then there were mental health-oriented goals (drawing, guitar, meditation, and reading). I was most successful for these, but I don’t know how much good they did. That said, they made me feel good. These were my fun months, and sometimes you just want to have fun. It was nice to schedule fun. Shout out to Gretchen Rubin for that basic idea.

As for the year, I’m not doing this again. At least I think I won’t. If I do, I’m leaving out the diet-based goals. I’m not a dieter. I never intended to set diet goals. I was just trying to make non-crappy decisions. Problem is I unintentionally put myself on a diet, and that’s not how I roll. Diets are a terrible idea. Build long-term habits. Those months caused more harm than good I think in the long run.

The other goals weren’t so bad, but I don’t think I could do daily goals again. I might have weeks or something like that. If there’s a hobby I’m not fully engaging in (e.g., I haven’t been drawing very much), I might do a better job of scheduling time, but I don’t want to set daily goals. That was just too much for my year. I need some mental space.

And that gets us to next year. This is my last post of 2016 (though technically it’s 2017 for most of the world already), so let’s look forward. Next year, I’m going back to concentrating on running, and I’m upping distance. Considering my running’s gone to shit, the first 10k that’s less than a month away could be rough. Maybe I should set a 10,000 step daily goal for January again.

See you in the future, changelings.

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