The Benefits of Changing it Up!

change ahead

This has been a year of changes for me. Or shall I say I was forced into making some changes, and now I am embracing those changes and making new ones. I am pretty much a routine kinda girl. I find out what works, and I tend to stick to it. Some people call this anal, I tend to prefer the term disciplined. A back injury last year forced me into some physical activities that did not include running. I did not run for 3 months and then slowly added days back in, with rest days in between, a strategy that I am still employing. However, as any runner will tell you, running is addictive once you get past the point of hating every second. And the withdrawal of running also comes with a withdrawl of those little addictive endorphins, which make you feel so good, you actually forget that running is hard and you go on your next run. And so on, and so on.  So for me to go from running 6 days a week without fail(unless sidelined by pretty much death) for years, to NOT running… was going to take some getting used to.

hot yogaLike I said, I was forced to change, so I decided to take up hot yoga. This was intense hot yoga.Not just your average take it easy but the room will be hot yoga. No, it was more like power yoga at 105 degrees where they practically bolt the doors and encourage you “not to drink” if you don’t have to. I chose to ignore that part since it is already hot in Phoenix and I figure as a “runner” I know my body well and I know when it needs water and when it does not. Plus, that’s easy for you to say when you are just standing inthe front of the class telling me not to drink! Anyway, the class was so intense that it made not running a little bit less sad. Plus, part of the class was a flow period where they played four songs and you basically rocked it out as hard as you could until the seated series. I strengthened muscles I didn’t know I had. I intensified my ability to withstand some serious heat while being very activie, and I was able to unload some stress in the meantime.

And then, well, the classes became harder to get to because of my work schedule, and I couldn’t resist not pushing the poses that I wasn’t supposed to push because of my back so I took up something else. Enter CrossFit. If you have not heard of it, CrossFit is a short but intense workout (45-60) minutes that incorporates a lot of power, strength training, elements of gymnastics, fast-twitch muscle fibers, balance and coordination. It wasn’t a ton of cardio, but what we did was intense and fast. Think push ups, jump rope, deadlifts, overhead presses, box jumps, burpees, sprints with weight, etc….I was sore after Every. Single. Session. It really gave me a boost in my overall strength. I was surprised, however, how much weight some of those ladies could handle, but that many of them could not run a half mile without stopping. There was something to be said for not getting so wrapped up in one activity (for me this was running!) that you lost the benefits that come from crosstraining. Soon though, I could not resist the temptation to push myself on exercises that were not good for my back. I needed to make a change.

I then decided to do something that really scared me. I decided that I could no longer be a 6 day a week runner and I needed a new challenge. So I signed up for a half-ironman distance triathlon in Oceanside next March. Yep, I would be swimming 1.2 miles in the ocean, biking 56, and running 13.1. I’ve never been a swimmer before. I dabbled in it once for about 3 months or  a few years ago, but this was going to require some serious prep. And some extra hair washing and drying… that gets really old (yes, I am a girl). But you know what? Yesterday (after my 15th time or so in the pool), I actually enjoyed it! It started to flow and I felt that Zen feeling that I can sometimes get when I run. Don’t get me wrong, I still have goggle issues, I look really dumb in a swim cap and I am super scared for the beginning of that swim. All the hitting and kicking in the face, the feeling of getting pulled under, the shallow out of control breathing at first, it scares the heck out of me. But I think it will make the completion of it that much sweeter.

I also signed up to hike the 7 Summits of Phoenix. It was a one day, 23 mile hike that I had never done before. Normally I would be in marathon training mode and therefore would not have wanted to forgo my Saturday long run for something like this. But I did. And it was great. I did it with some fabulous friends and it was not competitive at all! I don’t even know what our time was. It was great to be physically exhausted without the stress or goals that I usually place on myself when competing.

7 Summits

I signed up to be a pacer for a “Girls on the Run” program where I run next to a 3rd grade girl for her first 5 k! It will feel so great to encourage her to do her best and to give some of my time to hopefully help this girl develop a love for running, or at least make her feel strong and able bodied in hope that she can carry that in her pocket and call on it when she needs to.

Not all my changes have been physically based. I decided to respond honestly when asked “how are you?” I decided not to sweat so much of the small stuff. I am not perfect, I don’t have to be. I can have friends over and be undecided regarding what to make. I can (gasp!), not serve an appetizer. I can let my kids dress themselves in outfits that I don’t particularly like and let them walk out the door. I can skip a workout. I can ask my husband to lighten the load. I can slow down, mess up, and downright suck. It’s okay, the world will not end.

Elenor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing per day that scares you.” And although one per day may be pushing it for me, I think there is something to be said for shaking things up a bit. It makes you sit a little straighter, pay more attention and be more adaptable. And if I fail? Well, the failure really is in the not trying.

Five Ways to Make a Problem an Opportunity

I recently went to a women’s event with an inspiring speaker.  There were some great lessons I learned that I wanted to share with you…Inspiration point

The event was sponsored and hosted by Soul at Work.  According to their website, Soul at Work helps cultivate, connect and inspire “strong women to lead in their own terms and create more Soul at Work.” Organizer, Michelle Gonzalez, hosts events with inspiring speakers who simply share their story.  Michelle then helps the audience pick out themes that are interesting, challenging or inspiring. Each theme is created into the form of a question and then placed at each table to promote discussions by attendees.   The speaker that night was Navyn Salem of Edesia, Global Nutrition Solutions .  The mission of this non-profit  mission is to decrease malnutrition and it’s long term effects in children.  Her quest started in Tanzania but continues to expand.plumpynut

How Navyn accomplished her goal is a very interesting and inspiring story.  She is married with 4 kids (which in itself can be admirable). She also had a dream that she was able to make a reality. She was able to create a program in Tanzania, Africa that helps malnourished children.  You can imagine the immense task of raising funds and starting a program in another country. But she did it and she also was asked to create a factory in RI to create the product that helps malnourished children called Plumpy’nut®. 

While there are many lessons to be learned from her journey, one thing I readily noticed was Navyn’s attitude. She actually gets excited when there is a problem. She loves the challenge.  This is a very different perspective than some of us may have when our very big efforts lead to very big setbacks.   So my question is, “How do you make a problem an opportunity and not just a set back?”  Here’s what I learned from her story but I’d also love to hear your answer to this question.

What do I love in this?  Navyn looked for what she loved and followed her passion.  Sometimes solving the biggest problems starts with focusing on one small part that is deeply connected to your passion. In Navyn’s case, when she first visited Tanzania she could have become overwhelmed by all the help that was needed. Instead, she clarified what her passion was ( kids) and started to find a way to help from there. 

Hooray I don’t know this! That means I can learn something!  As I previously indicated, Navyn gets excited when there’s a road block. She loves a challenge and knows she will learn from it. I try to teach my kids that too.  There’s always going to be in life some homework or some problem in general that they get frustrated with.  We try to re-frame a problem in our house and in a joking manner say “That’s exciting, that means you get to learn something new!”.  Ok, it doesn’t always work with my kids. But I also get them laughing by referring to a silly movie called “Meet the Robinsons” which has the same message.  There’s a focus in that movie on an excitement of learning and not giving up when you fail, just “keep moving forward.”

Confidence in a skill VSSuccess Image confidence in your ability to learn. Navyn did not initially have the skills she needed to accomplish all she needed to accomplish.  She could have stopped there and said, “I don’t know enough to do this”. But she didn’t say that. She realized that while she didn’t have confidence in her skills yet, she DID have confidence in her ability to learn.  How often do we not try something because we don’t think we know enough? 

Let go of your ego. Sometimes you don’t have the time to learn everything. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Navyn started the project herself but now has a team of people who each have a different background. She pools their knowledge and expertise together to trouble shoot problems and accomplish their goals.  

Sometimes a setback is an opportunity in disguise. While we’re talking about egos, Navyn shared an interesting story where she didn’t let her ego get the best of her. As a result, things worked out better than she imagined.  Navyn had the exciting experience of having her non-profit written up by a well known newspaper.  However,  she went from big excitement to a big disappointment.  In response to her article, someone prominent in her field wrote a derogatory article challenging her and her non-profit.  This was someone whose books she had read and been inspired by.   Imagine having one of your role models publicly put you and your project down.  Some people might have written an angry response from their hurt or let themselves feel beaten down. However, Navyn let it sit and gave herself some time to process before responding.  Realizing  that the author misunderstood some things,  Navyn  wrote a respectful letter back to him.  She  truthfully indicated how she had been inspired by him to start her non-profit.  She also clarified her message (that the reporter had altered) and shared some quotes from his own books to support her points.  The author quickly apologized!  He also wanted to meet her and offered his help with her project.  What looked initially like a roadblock turned into a new pathway.

Ultimately, Navyn’s story was a great reminder to me to not limit my goals and dreams to who I think I am or what I think I can do.  I just need to focus on where I want to go and learn how to get there.  I’m sure along the way I’ll need to remind myself that problems are just ways to challenge us to learn and grow.  Sometimes those problems are even opportunities in disguise. At the very least, they are opportunities to learn.

What do you think? How do you make a problem an opportunity and not just a set back? Have you had times where a problem turned into an opportunity?  Or, do you find it difficult to see problems as anything but barriers?

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