Impermanence

Note: This isn’t about running at first glance, but we’ll get there. Eventually.

On the other blog I keep (and the one I’m better about posting on regularly), I recently finished a book that, in part, talked about meditation. One of the concepts covered was impermanence: the idea that nothing lasts and everything changes.

I might be muddling it a bit. I’m not Buddhist. But you get the point.

This was one of those ideas that latched onto the back of my brain and just sat there. Why? Because it was something I implicitly agreed with.

I’ve had this happen before. I loved reading Good to Great and The No Asshole Rule in large part because they were explaining ideas I already believed (who knew people liked to hear things they already agreed with?).

And so it was with the concept of impermanence.

The idea is to live in the now and appreciate it because you know it’s leaving just as soon as it showed up. Where this really comes in for me is trying not to idolize the past.

When I did the Super Awesome Year of Me, there was the Draw Something month. I had a nice little collection of drawings. They weren’t nice drawings, but it was a nice collection. I really appreciated having them, so I gathered up my favorites and mailed them to some friends.

Impermanence.

I did this because I didn’t want to bask in the finished work. The point of doing the work was doing the work. The final drawing was just a byproduct of the process. I was drawing for my own benefit. The final picture was never the point.

Pretty sure I called it disposability of ideas. In part I stole it from this comic by The Oatmeal. By recognizing the impermanence of the art (that sounds so freakin’ pretentious) and the way it made me feel, I would be better able to produce something I liked in the future.

The other area this philosophy shows up is that I don’t have heroes. I’d say it’s like never meet your heroes, but kill your heroes (not literally) might be the better explanation.

I don’t like to idolize people. People are just people. There are aspects about people that wow me, but there’s never been a person I just thought of as the ideal human being that I wanted to emulate. I try to recognize that one piece of awesomeness is usually accompanied by something less than awesome.

This can seem a bit pessimistic at first glance, but it was an important part of being an adult for me. I needed to be able to look around the room and be able to assert who I am without giving ground. In my job, I’m the youngest by more than 5 years as best I can tell. I have to be willing and able to get in arguments with people who get AARP mailings. I can’t afford to idolize the people around the table. They might have good ideas, but I also might have good ideas.

This comes back to impermanence.

I don’t idolize anyone, but I try to listen to everyone, even people I actively dislike. It isn’t easy, but I want to make sure I consider every idea as I hear it. If it’s something that pisses me off in the moment, I try to avoid reacting and let myself digest it for a while.

Nothing exists in a constant state. No one is perfect all of the time. And no one is wrong all of the time. I mostly try to deal with people in the moment without carrying baggage with me. In one moment you might be helping me out. The next you might be hurting me. One isn’t necessarily connected to the other.

So where does this all lead? It leads to living in the moment, enjoying it, and understanding the moment’s going to pass.

This is a fitness blog, so I could post about having to avoid past baggage, including the good (the days I could touch a basketball rim despite being under 6 feet tall) and the bad (the various injuries that have derailed progress over the year). But that’s not 100% what this is about for me. It’s about enjoying the moment. To a certain extent, the baggage doesn’t even exist in this conversation. The moment does.

So what is the moment? It’s running.

I got a new phone earlier this year, and I was deliberate about getting one that was the same size as my last one so I could keep using my arm band. Except the shape was just different enough to make it impossible to continue using the armband. And I’ve dropped the phone a bunch since buying it during my non-running time, so I don’t know how long it’s going to last. I don’t want to buy an armband only to need a new phone a few months later.

So I’m running without my phone. I’m running without music. I’m running without Sam guiding me through a field plagued with zombies.

Instead, I’m shuffling around campus taking in the sights and the sounds. I’m feeling my breath. I’m hearing my steps. I’m more present.

The moment was always going to pass, but at least when I disconnected from technology a bit, I could at least appreciate the moment while it was there.

Impermanence.

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Running Reboot: Revenge of the Knee

In the next 12 months, I will either be almost done with the Super Awesome Year of the 5K 2.0 or I’ll have a gnarly scar on my knee.

villain-spotlight-series-scar-from-the-lion-king-accent

Not that kind of scar.

This decision came about for a few reasons. 1) My weight is creeping up. Me not being able to run isn’t helping. That’s my best cardio option. 2) I’m back to doing almost everything I was before the knee blew up on me. 3) The ortho person I saw here was hesitant to cut off part of my knee cap given what the issue is. He actually listed big scar as one of the down sides like I gave two craps about that.

But if he’s hesitant to cut me open, then I might as well be too (even though I’ve basically been delaying surgery since March).

So we’re rebooting the Super Awesome Year of the 5K.

Some ground rules before we get rolling:

  1. Same as before, one a month. It’s not about doing 12 5Ks. It’s about staying consistent with running.
  2. Keep up the physical therapy-oriented activities of lifting and yoga. Part of the reason for the weight creep was the lifting and the ensuing spike in appetite, but I need to keep my legs strong.
  3. Cap my runs at 4 miles. 10Ks seem to be beyond the limit of my knee, and that’s ok, but if I can cover 3-4 miles on a regular basis, I can live with that.

That last one is a bit of a bummer considering this was supposed to be the Super Awesome Year of the 10K, but maybe my knee isn’t built for 10Ks. I was looking forward to seeing what I could do; my knee was not.

But this is all ok if I can regain my level of activity. So the journey started this week. I got my running shoes on for the first time in Oklahoma and got ready for a run/walk rotation to easy myself back into things.

Some notes:

  • They use Woodway treadmills where I’m at, and I’ve missed these bad boys. Treadmills are evil. Woodway treadmills are slightly less evil. I can’t remember which university I was at (I think UF) that had them, but I knew they were magical then. Just not as jarring to use.
  • Less jarring means less pain, but there was still some pain. It was within my regaining form threshold, so it’s nothing to note. Certainly better than I was when I was doing PT, so either things are better or the treadmill really is making a difference.
  • My cardio is crap. I knew this, but it’s a different thing to feel it.

But that was day 1. And now I live in Oklahoma where winters are winter. I’m going to miss Mississippi when I’m freezing my ass off in January. At least I’ll be running (or my knee will have fallen off and I’ll get that stupid surgery)

-Q

Adventures in Physical Therapy

On Friday, I completed my last day of physical therapy. I’m not magically cured, and I probably won’t be in running shape for a long time (if ever without surgery), but I’m getting around just fine, so we’ll call a win a win.

Let’s start with the basics: Physical therapy is where you go when you don’t want to or can’t have surgery. It’s also the place you go after surgery. All of this so you can get better.

This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve done PT before. I had a chest injury three and a half years ago, and I finally decided to do something about my back last year.

I’ve played this game before, but each round has its own quirks, so I wanted to dive in a bit.

What stayed the same?

The biggest thing is the focus on getting to muscles you’re not used to getting. When I was dealing with the chest injury, I was trying to pull my shoulders back, so there were a lot of pulling exercises that got behind my shoulder blade in a way I wasn’t used to (I actually got nauseous the first day). And that trend continued. This time I was hitting my glutes and hips in weird ways (more on the actual exercises later).

Next, there was the assumption I’d do the exercises on my own. That lasted a full week here. The problem was (kind of) yoga (ok, the problem was me being lazy). The idea is they’re little exercises you can do on your own, and long-term, that’s what you’ll have to do.

And finally, I got a new band.

rolls_web3

The first time I did PT, I got a yellow band. I was SO psyched they gave me a free thing (never mind I was paying for said free thing). Eventually, I got blue and black. This time, I didn’t get a band in the beginning. I was actually let down, but I already had three at home. But on the last day, they saved me and gave me a red one. Now I just need green.

I wonder if these colors are universal?

What changed?

The big difference was the clinic itself. Before, I’d done PT on campus. The first PT group I was with had a regular clinic off campus I went to once, but they were across the street from my office on campus in a smaller setup once a week, so that was a no brainer. This is the first time I’d been in a clinic. It was interesting. There was equipment everywhere (awesome) and people too (not awesome, especially when you’re doing stupid human tricks).

The people make up the next point. In a bigger clinic, there’s a bigger staff. Even when I’m only working with one person, there are 4-5 other PTs going, usually a similar number of PTAs. We’re in a bigger room but not that much bigger. There are also the staffers who handle the clerical work. I was used to the first place where there was a PT and a PT student. That’s it. Having so many people around meant you weren’t going to lack for access to people, but it also meant there was always someone who could see if you messed up (Exhibit A: on the penultimate day, I almost ate it trying to get an exercise band off my legs. And that’s how a conversation with a PT I’ve never talked to got started). I actually worked with two PTs and two PTAs. Never knew who I would see day to day.

Frequency of visits was the other big adjustment. I went three times a week for six weeks. I was used to weekly appointments. That was a much bigger time commitment, especially when I was having to drive 15 minutes (and more when they upped the intensity and I had to start going home to shower). The plus was I was basically forced into three workouts a week. There are worse things than exercising three times a week (plus 1-2 more when I was able to get into the yoga studio).

The last difference was the exercises themselves. But let’s give that a full section.

So what were you doing?

I was doing all the things.

The one consistent thing was a warmup. It started with an exercise bike, which actually hurt my left knee the first couple of times. Then they moved me to an elliptical. I hate ellipticals (and irony dictates that was one of the main final recommendations for me to do on my own).

This was sufficient to get me warm and make me a little self-conscious about returning to work without showering. Just not self-conscious enough.

Then the real work began. The real work changed a lot.

At first, it was just weird little exercises. One where I was bending my knee like was taking a step down. This progressed to standing on an actual step. And then a slightly bigger step.

Another that was an extremely abbreviate pistol squat. As I got that down, they had me dipping lower. It doesn’t sound like much, but 25 half squats on one leg get tiring.

One where I bent forward with one leg on the ground and one rising up like I was picking up a golf ball (or a screwy-looking warrior III from yoga). The weird part is they had me progress to an easier version of this for the longest time where I didn’t reach down as far. And then they added weight the last day. That fried my hammies.

I hated it the first day, but after that my favorite activity was the BOSU ball.

The first day was the wobbles. The wobbles make you feel like you’re about to be pitched off. I never got pitched off by a horse, but I was in danger of being pitched off by a piece of plastic. After that, I was a champ. The wobbles went away, and I could own that junk.

And then they had me balance on one foot. This wasn’t as bad as the first day, but when they stick you on the round side and say stand on one foot, you don’t necessarily think, “This will end well.”

The last week, I moved to using the leg press and a machine that was like an assisted jumping machine. Google tells me it was a shuttle machine. Basically, you lie down and then jump. It’s weird.

And then the core stuff. I hate the core stuff.

The core stuff was just 5-second planks for 20 rounds and then a side plank variation that consisted of me moving my leg forward and backward. That sound you heard was my glute/hip area experiencing post-traumatic stress. Eventually core got upped to doing side plank raise (or dying mermaid, as the PTA called it). That was brutal. Then another one that was a plank where I just touched alternating shoulders with alternating hands.

And finally, there was running. The last 4 weeks involved some running. Remember how I wouldn’t shower? That stopped the second they put me on the treadmill. One day, I was sweating so bad, I had to ask for a towel. I got a towel every day after that. And water.

Ultimately, I was in PT so I could run. My day-to-day life was returning to normal, but I want to be able to run (bet you never thought I’d say that with this blog title).

This is when the knee pain started to return. I wasn’t used to running, and my body couldn’t take it at first.

It wasn’t just my knee. My feet and ankles were also unappreciative of the endeavor. The first day was in cross-trainers. That was the last day for the cross-trainers. I moved to running shoes after that. Slowly (oh so slowly), the running got better and knee pain dissipated but didn’t fully go away. The way I put it to the PT was if I was running a race, I’d keep going, but if I was just on a run, I would stop. This never really got upped in the four weeks; I just got mildly better about the little they gave me.

They also gave me an extended warmup routine that will make me look like a goober if I ever do it in public.

But what about yoga and PT?

I’m glad you (didn’t actually) ask. Yoga will make you look like a champ at PT.

For real, do yoga, and then go to PT. They have you do planks and weird little exercises. If you know both, then you know I’m talking about both. The best was the BOSU ball. Aside from the first-day wobbles, I could keep pretty still, enough so to get attention from people working there who weren’t actually working with me.

That will be the extent I brag about being a PT champ.

All in all

I’d call it a 65-70% win. I’m not running yet and probably won’t for quite a while, but I got a lot of good exercises I can do on my own, and my range of motion and flexibility got a lot better over the period of PT.

Hopefully I can maintain where I’m at and maybe make a little progress as I move out of state, but you’ll just have to stay tuned.

Q and His Treacherous Knee

Or Q and His Knee Jerk Reaction

Or Q and Why Does My Knee Hurt?

This was my weekend a week ago:

Nothing like unexplained knee pain to liven up the weekend #thuglife #thisis30

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And this was me less than a week ago:

There’s a theme here. I’m a week and half into unexplained knee pain. I know what’s happening (tendonitis), but I don’t know why (unless we accept that my knee is an a-hole argument).

I spent a week on steroids and that seemed to help, but then I tweaked it on day 5 of steroids, and three days later, I’m back in the kind of pain I was in before starting the steroids.

With a couple of other things, I’m now two and half weeks removed from my last run, which was just a light jaunt to shake out the post-10K creaks.

My goal was a 10K every other month, and it’s already in jeopardy, and not the cool Ken Jennings kind.

If I go after the race I’m targeting, I’m looking at basically 5 weeks to go from 0 to 10K.

That’s probably not going to happen.

This is going to be an interesting year.

-Q

#ihaterunning

First 10K of the year is in the books

1:13:30. I lapped everyone on the couch. I also got lapped by the winner of the half-marathon.

Twice.

Other than that, things went pretty well. I knew I wasn’t going to have a blistering time. The plan was to do a 1:1 run/walk ratio on minute intervals.

Pre-Race

I am vengeance. I am the night. I am, well, you get the idea. #ihaterunning #batman

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Prep for this race was actually more obnoxious than usual because of the temperature. It was supposed to be high 30s to start and mid-40s when I would finish.

This is generally jacket weather for me. My lungs don’t appreciate cold air, and it gets worse if my torso is cold. Because it was in the 30s to start, I figured I would get one of my thicker long-sleeve shirts. And then I couldn’t find it.

I have three thicker shirts. The one I wanted wasn’t in the office, so I knew it was at home. And then I couldn’t find it at home. I really have no idea where that thing is. Luckily, I have a thinner cold-weather shirt that’s ok. With the jacket, I would be fine.

The next worry for me was parking. It was downtown in a relatively small town. If the race was packed, parking could become a problem pretty quickly. There ended up being about 400 people across the three distances running today. I had to leave a bit early to park where I wanted.

Of course, I then got to find out people have no sense of politeness when it comes to parallel parking spots. Two big SUVs decided to park as far forward in their spots as they could and for some unholy reason didn’t pull into the spots the farthest forward, so I got to do an awkward backing in to get my spot. It was fine, but it was obnoxious parking. Of course, they were Ole Miss and Bama fans, so I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything better from them.

Now for a pet peeve of mine. Pretty much every race I go to says to bring ID to pick up your packet. I think the only time I’ve actually shown ID to get my packet was Disney (and I’m not even sure if I actually showed ID). They say it and never ask for ID when you actually show up. Luckily, I’ve stopped bringing my ID along to the booths. I figure if it ever gets asked for, I’ll tell them to Google my name. Perks of having a weird name. The only person who shows up in the results is me.

Other than that, not much was atypical about the setup. You have the usual lacking number of port-a-potties. You have loud music. You’ve got people who didn’t know there was a race going on trying to go about their usual Saturday routine as runners are crawling all over the place with nervous energy.

I just basked in the sun waiting for the race to start. And then I got hot. Uh oh.

If I was hot standing in the sun, this wasn’t going to bode well for running. I was honestly afraid I was going to be a little on the cold side to start because I had on the thinner long-sleeve shirt underneath. Now I was about to ditch my jacket and was again having to worry about being cold in just two shirts because 6.2 miles of overheating wasn’t about to happen.

Luckily, my Batman shirt was a tight fit, so it helped trap heat in and acted as an extra buffer for the wind.

Unluckily, I hadn’t brought my arm band, and I didn’t trust myself to hold my phone for 6.2 miles. I was going sans music (well, podcast. I was going to listen to a Nerdist episode during my fat kid shuffle).

The rest of my attire was fine. I wear the same cap in the heat and the cold. Of my two viable pairs of running shoes (I have Adidas that are in good shape, but a foot injury rules them out for now), I only race in my Asics, so there was never a debate there. I also had a new pair of Goodr sunglasses to wear for the race.

I was in the red-framed glasses. It’s hard to tell in the picture, but they are the most obnoxious color scheme: blue lenses, red frames, and yellow ear pieces. I thought I’d never wear them (they came bundled with the other two I got in the Kickstarter). And then I realized the obnoxious color scheme went well with the obnoxiously colored shirts I wear to avoid getting hit by cars. Turns out the pair I looked forward to the least are going to be my priority pair for running.

I was dressed for success and ready to gol

The halfers took off, and then the 10K and 5K runners lined up together.

Now all I had to do was run. And then walk. And then run. And then walk. Etc.

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Actual Race

As usual, some walkers made their way to the front. I’m starting to think they can’t help themselves. If this was a track meet, someone would spike them in the back of their legs.

I hung out in back because I knew I wasn’t going to finish in front of many people. I had to let myself run longer in the beginning than I intended just because of the mess of walkers around. I don’t dislike walkers, but when they start in the middle and front, they’re an obstruction. Think of the person hanging out in the left lane in traffic who isn’t passing the car on the right. That’s what they’re doing.

The weather was beautiful, though I wasn’t quite dressed correctly. I really did need a little bit thicker shirt. I was ok, but not 100% comfortable to start. Luckily, the day came to me. Unfortunately, my hands weren’t in great shape. I don’t wear gloves when I run, and my hands stay cold naturally, so they got stiff pretty fast. It’s not like I needed to compose a letter, but it’s never fun to basically have your hands become useless for the better part of an hour.

I don’t have any über-weird stories to tell about the other runners. I had my typical crowd that I would yo-yo with. At least they were also alternating between running and walking. The only mildly interesting stories come past the halfway point. One runner turned to ask if I was dying too. I think they were feeling social. Or maybe they’d never seen the dark knight in person before. Who knows.

The other interesting thing was someone who kept yelling in frustration. I’ve done a fair amount of races now (21 is my best guess), and this is the first time I’ve had that happen. I think they were in that “I’m exhausted and going on fumes” mode. The last time I remember hearing people do that was during football workouts. Usually these were the people who didn’t really want to play football and were there because someone made them be there. I hope that wasn’t the case. It sounded like someone was running with them and encouraging them, but this is kind of a dangerous game to play. I’m not fond of running, but I don’t feel the need to yell. If they do, maybe they’d be better off with a different hobby. Again, I don’t know what was going on. I just know it was weird.

The running and walking went fairly well. I knew I couldn’t put together a blistering pace. I was vaguely optimistic that I’d be feeling good at the end and could extend my running segments.

That did not happen.

It wasn’t a brutal course by any means, but there were a good amount of climbs to make. These were mostly halfway and later, so they gassed me pretty good. But I did survive. My lungs went first because that’s what they do, but my legs were dead by the end too.

And to pour salt on the wounds, there was a steady climb to finish the race. You never notice the grade of a road until you’re actually running it. I always thought of it as a fairly level stretch until today. This is also when the half winner flew past me for the second time.

But I finished and I high-fived a couple of cows. All in all, it could have gone worse.

Post-Race

There’s not much to say post-race. For once I finished in a weird spot where there wasn’t a mess of people at the end. Only one half-marathoner had finished. All of the 5K runners were done. And I was far enough back in the 10K that there weren’t many of them left either.

I snagged a couple of slices of pizza before walking around as my inadequate cool-down. I then went to my car to switch to a dry shirt and get my watered-down bottle of Gatorade. Of course, I had to get two more slices of pizza before I left, so I went back to the finish line for that. A few coworkers were running other races and I vaguely thought of sticking around, but then I realized I wanted to continue making bad decisions more than I wanted to hang out in the wind with sweat salt caking my face.

The bingeing continued with a some Sonic: 5-piece chicken strip meal, with tater tots, toast, an onion ring, and Coke. I left two pieces of chicken behind for later and ate the rest. After all this mess, I had gained 2 pounds compared to my pre-10K weight.

I really am good at turning good decisions into terrible mistakes.

At least I had enough sense to foam roll after I ate. I’m also icing my knee as I type to prevent further problems.

The aftermath. #ihaterunning

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But that’s all I have for you, party people. I’ve got 5 more of these to go for the year, and I have no idea when any of them will be yet. I’m hoping for every other month, but I haven’t locked into a March race yet.

-Q

#ihaterunning

Let’s Talk About Self-Care

It takes a lot of work to keep me functioning. I don’t mean it takes me a lot of work like it takes a lot of work to maintain a pristine physique (it does require a lot of work, I’m told, but I wouldn’t have any clue about that. Fatty likes his food.). No, I’m talking about the work it takes to maintain basic functionality.

There are a few factors at play that caused this:

  • One, I have back issues. If you’ve never had back issues, I can’t full explain it, but this is what I can tell you: I can’t remember the last time I went 24 hours without any type of pain. I went 8 hours pain-free in August, and it felt like I was on drugs. I was giddy. There are days where I just want to lie down on the floor. They’re rare, but they exist.
  • Two, I’m just injury-prone in general. This is a product of lifestyle, which is brings us to
  • Three, I work a desk job. Desk job’s are great in a lot of ways, but they are also a significant contributor to the decline of physical health of Americans.
  • Four, I have a stressful job. There are more stressful jobs in the world, but I have a “make your own stress” job, which is great because
  • Five, I like to make my own stress. I think A LOT. Most of my hobbies are about getting my brain to shut down or to keep it so focused it’s not running off on its own. Think of my brain like a border collie. Great when it’s focused and the possibility of being a real jerk if it has nothing better to do.

All of this results in me doing a few things just to keep my mind and body in check. Basically, I’m going to run through all of the big and little things I do to stay in one piece. If you find something you’ve never tried, give it a go. Every person has their own needs. These are just the things that help me. You’ll notice a good chunk of them were featured in the Super Awesome Year of Me.

Running

Hey, that’s why we’re here. I run even though I complain about it because it’s necessary. I don’t have a better way to get cardio work in quickly, and cardio’s necessary, especially if I drop from a heart attack and would like to recover.

But in all seriousness, running allows me to burn off the wrong kind of energy, that nervous energy that has zero chance of being productive. Plus, I get a lot of t-shirts.

Reading

This is a default for me when I’m overwhelmed. I like to dive into a good book and hide there. Not always the healthiest coping mechanism, but it helps. And if you’re going to engage in an activity for the wrong reason, at least engage in one that’s good for you. And because writers are the biggest bunch of dorks who include the most random bits of information, you also get to learn the most random bits of information. You’re gonna kill it at trivia night.

Writing

This is the other reason we’re here. I enjoy writing. I write for a living, but I don’t write fun stuff for a living. I write research papers. Not fun. Interesting but not fun.

This is about fun. This is about taking the time to put thoughts on a screen illuminated by the magic of technology. I can put jokes in here. I can put my thoughts here. And I can (hopefully) stretch my ability as a writer. This blog (and my other blog) are about allowing me to write under the guise of providing useful information for other people.

As a teenager, I wrote a lot. I don’t know what good it did or what good I thought it would do, but I enjoyed writing. Slowly, I got older and wrote less. This was my chance to take some of that back. I’m probably not going to write the next great American novel, but I can still write.

Yoga

This was the first piece of deliberate self-care I ever engaged in. I was doing most of the others, but I did them for fun. They just happened to be beneficial. I started doing yoga for my back. And it worked. I didn’t know why it worked; it just did.

Later, I would figure out it wasn’t just the stretching and that the core work was a contributor, but it didn’t matter. I found something that worked.

I don’t practice as often as I should, but I’m a yoga convert of 8 years. I don’t believe I’m flushing out toxins or finding (much) inner peace, but my body’s happier when I do yoga, so my brain’s happier too. And when I’m running, yoga’s the only thing that allows me to keep living a normal life.

Stretching

Not the same as yoga. For those of you keeping score, yoga includes stretching. It is not about stretching. And frankly, sometimes yoga isn’t all that great for stretching. Yoga classes and routines aren’t prescriptions. They don’t help my specific issues. I steal what I learn from yoga for my own use, but I have to do pretty deliberate stretching. At this point, it’s a full-body stretch routine, but I’ve had PTs who gave me specific stretches for back pain and costochondritis. Basically, I do stretches to help me with back pain.

Drawing

I should have put this caveat in earlier, but just because I enjoy doing something, that doesn’t mean I actually am any good at it. I’ve always enjoyed drawing. If you leave me alone, I’m doodling or making elaborate patterns.

While I always liked it, I didn’t realize what it was doing to my brain. When I did the Super Awesome Month of Drawing, I was a lot more calm after each picture was done. The concentration of drawing was downright meditative.

Music

This one goes two ways. The easiest to see is that I almost constantly have music going. I wake up and turn on Spotify. I have music going all day while I work. My commute has satellite radio. My walk to the office features me wearing earbuds. And of course, I run to a soundtrack now. Music is life.

Really, though, it’s the second aspect that’s most important. I play guitar. I’m not as good about playing every day as I’d like to be, but I play more days than not. Everyone should make music and preferably learn an instrument. It’s something to concentrate on, and if you’re brave, you can even write your own stuff. And that’s pretty damn cool.

Massage

And this is the one that has me outside of my comfort zone. I’m not a fan of strangers touching me, especially when I’m wearing almost no clothing. Let’s just not, thanks.

But I had back pain flare up that was lasting more than a week. When I asked the physical therapist what I could do, massage was their best recommendation. So I gave it a try. I went to a n0-frills sports massage place and proceeded to have a stranger make a valiant attempt at making me cry. And it was fantastic.

I was able to go back there one more time before I moved, and then I began my odyssey in Mississippi of finding a good massage. I had to make it to my 3rd location and even then it was my second MT before I found someone I was happy with. Now, every month or two, someone half my size digs their elbows into my back to buy me a few hours of relief.

And the thing I wish I did more of? Meditating.

I do things that hit some of the same points of meditating, but like running being the best cardio I can access, meditating is the best I can do to hit the brain.

5-10 minutes is all I need, and I can’t make myself do it. It’s hard. Trying to focus on your breathing and letting stray thoughts drift on by without dwelling on them is an enormous task as far as I’m concerned. But man, I feel fantastic after a good session. Unfortunately, I can’t stick with it long enough to see if there are long-term benefits. Maybe one day.

Running Past Your Comfort Zone

Something I keep coming back to in life is finding joy in being uncomfortable.

When I was a kid, my dad had this pillow that was only nominally such. It was hard as a rock (I still don’t know what the filling was), and no one else in the family would voluntarily use it except me. Any time I needed to travel with a pillow, that was my pick. There was also this scratchy yellow blanket of his that I used to use. There was a blue one that looked identical but wasn’t scratchy. I wanted the yellow blanket. At some point, I decided that not having creature comforts was what being a man was about.

This notion stuck around. I slept for weeks on a box-spring (I have no idea why I didn’t have a mattress that long) that had a piece of metal sticking out that I had to avoid rolling into. In high school and college, I wouldn’t wear a jacket if I didn’t have to (I went a full year without wearing a jacket to school. Granted, I lived on the Texas/Mexico border). I went without AC in my truck for the better part of a year (possibly, this was just me being cheap).

I could make do.

And more than that, I relished being uncomfortable. I still do. Last night I was sleeping on a 5-year-old Walmart futon with a throw instead of a real blanket or quilt, despite having plenty. And I was happy reflecting on it.

This shows up when I’m working out, too. I’ve said it before, but there’s a masochistic part of me that likes running when conditions are less than ideal. Whether it’s rain, heat, or cold, I like being out there when other people aren’t. I hate spring and fall when the sidewalks and paths are crowded with (what I believe are) weak-willed runners who find their treadmills, TVs, and air conditioning when they retreat indoors.

In the book A Good Year, which became a movie that was only marginally like the book, the opening chapter includes the main character running when no one but the most hardcore runners would because it was too rainy. This was an idea I could appreciate and gave entirely too much emphasis too within the grand scheme of what the book was about.

And so it goes. When I’m in miserable conditions and suffering, I’m kind of happy. I believe this is when I’m growing the most. And it’s always been this way. Every great workout I’ve had was miserable, but when I got to the end, I was glad to have survived. I looked forward to the binge. I looked forward to cutting in line in the cafeteria for pizza and tater tots after miserable football workouts in high school. I earned that pizza.

When I’m running, I go until something gives, usually my lungs. And if I’m hitting the end of a workout and I’m feeling good, I run faster until I’m not. I love striding to end runs (this week included striding past all the cars stuck in 5 o’clock traffic just to mock them and their internal combustion engines).

And yoga is basically one gigantic session of being uncomfortable (the good kind, not the bad kind; If you’re not sure, the good kind is like a deep tissue massage that hurts but feels good, and the bad kind is like banging your knee into the desk drawer when you turn in your chair, just hurts). You’re constantly trying to put yourself to the edge of your comfort zone. This is how you get better.

Even playing guitar is an exercise is discomfort. I like playing until my fingertips hurt from the strings. And then next time I can play a little longer or harder before they hurt.

I want to earn my sleep. Working until exhaustion has been the easiest way to do this. It’s not the healthiest behavior, but at least I know when I’m thrown into a less-than-ideal situation I can survive (see races with ice warning, snow on the ground, on muddy course and the only hills in Florida, with rain, and every Star Wars fan in Central Florida).

And this is when I grow.

-Q