Perks of the Move

Moving is stressful.

Let me repeat that, moving is stressful.

Ok, got it? Good.

When you fill out those life stress forms, moving is high on the list. And because moving usually entails other life stress, those forms generally predict you’re going to die in a week. That’s not good. Seriously, I just took the stupid test, and I feel into the highest category.

But we’re not going to focus on that. We’re going to focus on the positive.

When you’re going into a new job, you’re supposed to look into the benefits. I did no such thing. I looked at the job. I looked at the people. And that was it. After I accepted the job, then I started worrying about benefits.

Not how they recommend doing things.

But sometimes you dumb your way into a good situation. In my (until yesterday) current job, I basically got no real health benefits beyond normal insurance. I was able to see a doctor on campus (did I mention I’m a faculty member?), and that was about the max I got on the convenience scale. At my last job, mostly the same, though because there was an attached medical school, my health insurance was all basically in-house and comprehensive. But mostly just normal stuff.

The new job? It’s got some perks. The one I did know about from my interview was that the rec center on campus was free to use. Due to injury issues, I knew I couldn’t get the most out of a gym membership, so I hadn’t been going. This means I can do my PT exercises and whatever else my body allows. It also means I get free yoga classes, albeit probably not the type of classes I want to take. But they’re there (I’ll still give a real yoga studio a try in town).

That’s pretty nice. No gym fees, and it’ll be half a mile from my office. But that’s not all.

Wait for it.

They have massage therapy on campus.

I cannot adequately convey how happy that makes me. I had to convey it in gif form.

One of the things I am not looking forward to is having to find a new MT. If this works out, I’ll have one that is a 10-minute walk from my office. And it’s cheaper than what I pay now.

So they’ll be closer, which will cost me less time (about an hour just for travel) and gas (3 gallons of gas, so $6, give or take), and it will literally cost less (about $20 less for the same time). Please return to the above gif. I’m still in that state.

If it works out. It might not. But then again it just might.

I might start getting massages more than once a month. I always said if time and money weren’t an issue, I’d get them weekly. Maybe the universe is testing how much money counts as “not an issue.”

So free gym. Free yoga. And massage 10 minutes away from my desk. I think this could work out alright.

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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.

Recapping The Month of Fiber & Other Tidbits

We’ve got a multi-part post.

Recapping Month of Fiber

20 for 31 is the final count for my month of fiber, and it was honestly worse than that. A lot of the days where I met my goal, I did so by overeating (though I wasn’t overeating to hit my fiber goal; that was incidental).

If nothing else, I know how to hit 25 grams pretty easily. Actually doing it? Turns out I’m not so good at that.

See what had happened was I would eat well in the morning (some days) by going with steel-cut oats with berries, a bowl of fruit, and two eggs. And then I would have a good dinner planned, like red beans and rice. Then I would let all hell break loose at lunch. One day because Panda Express was out of healthy options, I had fried rice (they had no brown or steamed rice), crab rangoons, veggie spring rolls, and orange chicken (there was no broccoli beef or string bean chicken).

And that’s not my worst story. That happened yesterday.

For breakfast, I had instant oatmeal and two eggs. For lunch, red beans and rice with shrimp. So far, so good. Then I had a pizza as a snack. Then I had a burger and funyuns. AND THEN I had a burger and Doritos. I hit my fiber goal, but I also made myself prediabetic in the process.

I was making a good decision (or planning to make a good decision), and then letting myself run off the rails the rest of the day. Not a good philosophy.

It was an interesting month, and solidified that my diet-based months were bad ideas. I think they caused more harm than good. I’m actually against dieting, so these months went against my preferred decision-making processes, and they promptly bit me in the ass. In the future, I’m going to stick with non-dietary goals (after this year, of course) and just try to make good decisions when I eat instead of limiting myself to one type of good decision for a month at a time.

Post-Massage Bliss

Our next bit of miscellany is the massage I got yesterday. I get one every month or two to help keep my back pain in check.

Yesterday was magic.

Normally, I get the massage, and it keeps the pain in check, but the aches, twinges, etc., never fully go away, even the day of the massage. I’m just dealing with constant aches.

Yesterday, I got my massage, and afterward the MT said the left side of my back was in interesting shape (I forget the exact phrasing), and that I was going to be sore, drink lots of water, etc.

That soreness has never really set in. What did happen was I went ache, twinge, etc. -free for 8-10 hours. That hasn’t happened in an obscene amount of time. I was walking around in this hazy bliss and in a stupidly good mood. It was like being on drugs. I’ve never had that happen post-massage.

And it was the best.

The sad part was when I started wondering if that’s what everyone else felt like all the time. I don’t know what it’s like to be without back pain. Ever since I was 17-18, I’ve dealt with aches and pains, and over the years, it just got more persistent. I’m taking steps to dial the pain back, but it’s still there.

Chronic pain is for real.

I knew it affected my mood. I could see in action. After yesterday, I’m starting to realize it affects my mood even more than I realized. I’m not sure I can convey what it feels like to go pain-free for even a few hours after daily aches and pains for so long.

Again, yesterday was magic.

Upcoming Running Plans

But this is technically a running blog, so I’ll update you on my running plans.

I’m currently trying to get back up to speed. The past couple of months have not been running-friendly. I’ve let my weight start creeping up (bad), and I wasn’t able to run much (badder) because some bodily revolutions (baddest).

Luckily, I got the all-clear last week, and I’m trying to get back on the wagon of running (or am I trying to pull the wagon if I’m running?).

I’ve gone back to my Zombies, Run! 5K app to get my mileage back safely. It’s been a slog, but I’m 4 workouts in (out of about 30).

More importantly, I’ve signed up for my next 5K. I’ll still be in the process of getting my mileage back up, but I needed to set a goal to keep me on track. The next goal after that will be a fall 10K in October or November. I’m not sure yet, but I’ll find something. Probably.

But that’s all for now, sports fans. Tomorrow starts the Super Awesome Month of Meditation, which will be interesting. Maybe I’ll learn to move things with mind. Or maybe I’ll learn to not care that I can’t move things with my mind.