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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Update on the Super Awesome Month of Reading

I swear, next year, I’ll get back to talking about running. The Super Awesome Year of Me has been interesting, but it sort of ruined this blog.

But hey, at least I have another crappy blog up and running that dovetails nicely with the Super Awesome Month of Reading. I prefer to keep things in themes, so this blog focuses on general wellness (and next year will hopefully return a heavier focus on running since that’s the think I profess to hate so much), and the other blog focuses on book reviews.

Well, as I’m reading 30 minutes a day, I’m working my way through books. I’m not really reading at a ridiculous pace, but I am reading at a steady pace. I’ve read three books, and I should be able to finish two or three more books by the end of the year.

Like the other months that required me to do something fun for a set time (drawing and playing guitar), I do an ok job on getting this done, but it can still be a little mentally much. I end up missing other things I want to do to make sure I hit my minimum here. And then when I’m on a roll in a book, I really end up losing time on my other activities.

That may be one of the big lesson’s learned this year. Doing something every day is good for building habits, but it’s also very draining. Sometimes you just want to lie on the couch and decompress from the day. BUT, I always am doing something fairly productive. That’s been the other side of the coin. No matter how tired I am, I know I did something. Sort of like a crappy run. I still ran.

I can’t imagine doing this again. Daily goals were too much. I liked my bigger goals spread apart. You have room for hiccups. A headache is borderline debilitating when you’re trying to read, but a headache won’t keep you from prepping for a 5k (unless the headache is the day of).

I should check in (probably) one more time before the new year begins. Either way, know what I will return to my normal complaining about running (especially when I have to start hitting 6 miles on a regular basis). Did I mention I have shin splints?

Until next time, amigos.

-Q

Post-Mortem on the Month of Foam Rolling

This is a dual post. We’re going to recap the month, but we’re also going to talk about one of the prime lessons learned over the Super Awesome Year of Me.

Recapping the Month

Through 16 days, I actually did pretty well. I missed two days and had a massage on a third (so no need for foam rolling). The first miss was election night. The other was a Friday. I don’t have a good excuse for the Friday miss, but it happens.

And then I got sick.

The evening of the 16th, I felt a sore throat starting to come on. The next day, I stayed home to try and get ahead of the cold. I failed in that endeavor and was completely out of it for a couple of days. I wouldn’t feel well until Monday, and then I was traveling.

Being sick and foam rolling is a no-go for me, and I wasn’t going to travel with my roller. Those are excusable. Once the 26th rolled (get it?) around, I have no excuses. I just didn’t foam roll, and that’s really dumb when you consider I ran two more times to close out the month.

Lazy. We’ll get more on that in the next section.

So what did foam rolling do for me? Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not sure two weeks was a enough. In that two weeks, I didn’t really notice too terribly much. The one change was slightly better posture, but I was also working on core strengthening exercises during that time too, so I can’t fully credit the roller. My range of motion wasn’t any better, and I didn’t seem any less achy than usual.

All in all, this was a meh month. I don’t know if it would have been if I hadn’t fallen off halfway through. I guess we’ll never know.

The Big Lesson of the Year

The first loss is the worst loss. This is the big thing I’ve picked up. One loss doesn’t mean I have to quit the whole thing, but I’ve learned once that first loss happens, the second one is easier to make.

I think it’s about the streak. You feel more pressure to keep the streak alive the longer it goes. Once the streak is broken, I don’t feel as bad about letting the others happen.

Now usually, one loss does not mean total failure. Especially early in the year, I’ve usually done a good job of getting back on the wagon. Unfortunately, as the year goes on, my energy has faded, and I’ve had a lot of second halves of months that have been total train wrecks.

And this gets to how we set goals. Last year, my goal was do a 5K every month. I didn’t have to run the whole thing or hit a certain time. I just had to finish. I didn’t have to run X amount of days a week. All that really mattered was the 5K. So whether I had a good running month or a bad running month, it was meaningless as long as I finished my races.

I put myself in a better position to succeed. Of course I was still trying to run a few times a week. I’d be stupid not to. But that wasn’t the goal. If it was rainy, cold, obscenely hot, etc., I could stay inside without risking my goal. If an injury came on (and they did), I could let myself heal as much as possible before lacing up for 3.1 miles.

At the end of the day, I still had to run the race. I made it through two freezing-cold races. I traversed the only hills in the state of Florida. I ran in the rain. I ran when I wasn’t entirely sure if my foot was structurally sound. The process wasn’t easy, but the process was more forgiving than daily goals while still providing a long-term plan that running one big race or time would miss.

Basically, this is going to affect my goals moving forward. Next year is 6 1oKs. The one downer is that I’m not setting an every other month rule, so I could technically finish at any time, but I don’t expect that to occur. 1) It was hard enough to find 5Ks, so 10Ks will be even more of a problem. 2) 5Ks beat me up, and 10Ks kick me when I’m down, so there’s a healthy amount of fear here to keep from running them too close together. This will also help ensure I don’t rest too much between races. I can eke out 3.1; I can’t eke out 6.2. I have to truly prep. This will ensure I keep putting shoes to pavement.

But that’s a tomorrow problem. For now, I need to get back to this final month and read some books.

-Q

Planning Out the Super Awesome Year of the 10K

Last year, I did the Super Awesome Year of the 5K. Even with an injury at the tail end, I’d still call it a success. I did all 12 races, even if I stopped making progress in April. If nothing else, I stayed active.

This year, I set different types of monthly goals for the year, but I also set a running goal: complete a 10K. And I did. I also ran an entire 5K for the first time preparing for the 10K.

All good, right?

Nope.

After the 10K, things slowly ebbed before going to hell altogether. In July, my body betrayed me, and I wasn’t able to get back in the swing of things for more than a month. After running a 10K in May, I was back to square one in August.

And it nagged at me.

I couldn’t figure out what went wrong. I think I might have finally figured it out after I worked a solution (without knowing the cause first).

You’ll recall (or probably not) that I set the goal of 5Ks last year to ensure I stayed active. I didn’t set time goals, just completion goals. I knew I just needed a penalty in place to ensure I kept putting feet to pavement. For the same reason, running a 10K this year wasn’t my goal because it could be completed at any time, so I opted for the Super Awesome Year of Me to ensure I was doing something all year. I try to stay on brand with my nomenclature.

For the coming year, I decided that 6 10Ks would be ample motivation. I decided against 12 because finding enough 5Ks without traveling all over was hard enough as it was (hint: turns out there aren’t many races in the South in the middle of the summer). And 10Ks require more recovery time, so the notion of back-to-back weekends of 10Ks seemed unnecessary. Every other month would give plenty of space and would still be looming enough that I (hopefully) can’t slack off after any individual race.

And that’s what was missing this year. Consistent goals.

If you want results, you need consistency. Fad and extreme diets don’t exhibit long-term results for a reason: You’re not going to continue the lifestyle, so you’re going to regress. I don’t diet. There have been a couple of diet-oriented months this year (vegetables, no refined grains) where I was just trying to start good habits, and they were miserable failures. They weren’t sustainable. I know this now. It’s why I never did Atkins, paleo, etc.

For some reason, I wasn’t appreciating this with my workouts. Setting the complete a 10K goal wasn’t forcing a sustained lifestyle change. The Year of the 5K did it, and the Year of the 10K will continue the progress.

And I do mean progress. A few years ago, 3 miles was terrifying. I had a comfortable 2.5-mile loop that I would have been happy to run all of and couldn’t. Not until after I did my first 5K anyway.

And then I thought 3.1 was my max. 10Ks were terrifying. I was still happy to complete 2-mile runs. And then the Super Awesome Year of the 5K came about, and all of a sudden 3-mile runs were the new normal. Occasionally, I would even cross 4 miles.

And then I went after a 10K. I crossed 5 miles for the first time a week before the race, and then I crossed 6 miles for the only time during the race.

As I was slogging my way through my run this morning, I kept thinking of the 6.2 miles that are coming up in January and how hard that is going to be. This was as I covered 4.1 miles. This time two years ago, I could barely cover a mile without my body revolting.

Progress.

But let’s get to that Super Awesome Year of the 10K. I’m hoping to run a race every other month to keep steady activity and no over-work myself. Because I’m a hyper-paranoid person, I’m not going to tell you what races or when (’cause you might steal my copy of The Hobbit while I’m gone), but I will say I’ve got three races tentatively selected already. I’m hoping to find a cool destination race or two, but I’ll keep you posted (after the fact, obviously).

But that’s all I have to say about that.

And now an update on foam rolling: I’ve rolled all 6 days so far. Not a bad goal to set.

But for real, that’s the point of this and a couple of other months. These are self-care months, which is all the rage these days. I’m hell on my body during workouts, especially when I’m running. My quads and calves get eaten alive, and foam rolling helps keep me functioning. It’ll be interesting to see how daily rolling affects me.

-Q

A Short Post In Defeat

I bombed this month.

I had a good week, and then the wheels fell off. #superawesomeyearofme

A post shared by Quisto Settle (@applications_of_randomness) on

We’re not going to dwell on this long. October’s always a rough month at the university, so I needed caffeine. Also, explainer on the extra marks. Bottom-right is for no cokes (the source of bombing the big marks). Bottom-left is doing maintenance: stretching, core, foam rolling, and/or yoga.

Now that’s over, we’re onto November. I’m foam rolling.

I have no idea what this will be like. I’ve only been a foam roller (well, I’m not an actual foam roller; I mean I’m a person who foam rolls) after workouts, and I’m certainly not working out every day.

Got a race coming up and have to start gearing up for the Super Awesome Year of the 10K.

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.

Halfway Point of the Super Awesome Month of Fiber

I’ve been neglecting you guys and just when things are getting interesting. That’s right, we’re talking about dietary fiber.

But first a mea culpa. I use this mostly as an outlet for writing, but I also keep a couple of other blogs up for the same reason, including one on reviewing books, and I’ve been finishing a lot of books the past few days. I’d made 6 posts, including 5 book reviews in the two weeks since I’ve posted here. So I’m not just neglecting you; I’m showing favoritism. Now don’t you feel like a red-headed stepchild?

But you know I kid (mostly).

As usual, I’m tracking on my calendar, including logging the day’s final grams of fiber count. I’m doing ok, for the most part. I had a trip to visit a friend last weekend, so things were kind of a wash then, but I’ve otherwise behaved fairly well. This has allowed me to learn a few things.

Getting Fiber is a Series of Good Choices

The first thing is the same thing as most of the other months. No one decision really does the trick. I have to get fiber throughout the day. My best days involve steel-cut oatmeal and berries in the morning, chased with something that has beans with it at night.

Unfortunately I don’t always have my best days. Today, for instance, has involved about 3,000 calories of bad decisions with an orange thrown in at the end to just barely hit 25g. This is not how you make good choices.

Not exactly the most efficient way to reach 25g of fiber. #superawesomeyearofme

A post shared by Quisto Settle (@applications_of_randomness) on

Brown rice and quinoa are other friends of mine, along with apples and oranges. I’ve had to keep good-tasting snacks out of my place of residence. This has led to some residual anger. Yesterday morning I wanted nothing more than to buy a bag of Hot Fries.

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There was a time I used to eat a bag of these a day. Needless to say, my GI tract vetoed that option a few years ago.

Getting Fiber Leads to Exclusion of Good Things

Unless I eat 3,000 calories like I did today.

The thing about fiber is that you usually have to get it in your own home, with some exceptions. Fast food is not noted for its preponderance of fibrous options. There are some exceptions, notably burrito places, but burritos get old. Panda Express isn’t bad if they have brown rice, but the anarchists haven’t all summer where I’m at.

If you go back to point one, you’ll see that to eat good things, I have to work backward. I can have a tasty lunch if I make good choices at breakfast and supper.

Using My Other Months’ Goals Helps

And finally, to work the system better, I’m having to incorporate other month’s goals, most notably April (no refined grains), June (3 servings of veggies), and October (no calories in drinks).

April is obvious because refined grains don’t do much for fiber. Quinoa, brown rice, and whole wheat bread don’t suck, so I’ve had some of each pretty much every day.

June is the same. Vegetables are better (for me) than whatever else I’d be eating. While Panda Express isn’t a great choice, it’s my best lunch option because I can pick up broccoli beef and string bean chicken instead of orange chicken.

And October? We haven’t gotten there yet, but when you can’t drink calories, that generally is pure exclusion. Except where vitamin C is concerned.

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Not that Vitamin C.

I drink orange juice every day. Have since I was a kid. I’m allergic to milk, so OJ was the second-most normal morning beverage. And once they started fortifying with calcium and vitamin D, it was no longer optional as far as my mom was concerned. Turns out breaking bones is a fear parents have for their children (side note, I actually had a doctor once ask how I hadn’t broken any bones when he started asking me if I ate calcium-rich foods as he listed them off, and I’d said I didn’t eat any of them; this was before calcium-fortified OJ was out)

The OJ habit stuck. I would drink one of those little OJ bottles every morning in college before I was adulting well enough to have real glasses, not just travel mugs. And I’ve noticed when I traveled and didn’t get my OJ, I was getting sick as often as not. This was a problem. I’m now militant about getting OJ every day.

But OJ isn’t the only source of vitamin C.

I think you can see where this is going.

An orange also has vitamin C (though not as much) and comes with the added benefit of fiber, which just so happens to be this month’s theme. I’m trying to eat fruit in the morning instead of drinking juice. I actually didn’t buy any juice for the week to force the issue. I’d actually forgotten about the until just now.

 

Oh well. I’ll live. Probably.

But that’s all I have for you kids today. Hopefully I’ll be better about keeping this bad boy up to date.