Handstand 365

Standard
#handstandseverywhere

#handstandseverywhere

Since writing my post about how to live “real” life like a vacation, I have focused on incorporating those guidelines into my everyday life. In a desperate attempt to incorporate multiple rules into one goal, I recently committed to 365 days of handstands. Daily handstands fulfill the following guidelines: #2 Do things you like, #5 Live gratefully in the moment, and sometimes #4 Get outside. 3 out of 6, I win!

Not to mention, what better way to improve on a random and barely useful skill than to make a public promise on my blog and Instagram to practice it every day for one year? Seems logical.

Until recently, I didn’t consider handstanding a skill I would ever master. Only gymnasts, acrobats and yogis with no life outside yoga could handstand. @beachyogagirl’s (Kerri Verna) handstand challenge on Instagram in May changed my mind. She wrote that anyone could practice handstanding and learn it like any other skill. Somewhere in the drills that month, I started to believe her.

Of course, in typical Kiya form, I stopped practicing immediately practiced less frequently  after the challenge ended. I see people on Instagram who have continued to handstand and have noticed an alarming correlation between time spent practicing and ability level. Damn.

Why Handstand 365? Because it’s different. Not everyone can hold a handstand. I would love to conquer a skill I once considered impossible. My minimum obligation only consists of kicking into multiple handstands each day, so even my lazy self has no excuse not to practice it does not require much time commitment daily. Yet, consistently practicing a small amount will likely result in improvement over time.

If you would like to follow my handstand 365 journey, I post my daily handstand drill on Instagram under my handle, @runswithblisters. I use the general hashtag #handstand365 and my personal hashtag #kiyastandsonhands. If you use Instagram and want to join in the handstand madness, tag @runswithblisters in your posts so I can follow your progress!

Please tell me, do you have a long-term goal you are working towards? How do you stay motivated daily? How are you finding ways to live your life like a vacation? Have you ever conquered a skill or situation that seemed impossible at the time? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Day 16 took place on top of North Twin Cone Peak (12,323′) in the Pike National Forest near Jefferson, Colorado.

Returning From Vacation Sucks

Standard

My husband and I recently returned from a week-long vacation in Southern Colorado with my extended family. As with all vacations, coming home sucks shit brought on the inevitable wave of vacation hangover. I longed for the huge cabin full of family and day-long hiking trips into the mountains. The thought of returning to “real” life made me ache. I flat-out refused. No, I didn’t quit my job and run away into the mountains, even though I really, really wanted to. I decided to live my “real” life like a vacation.

I contemplated how I lived and thought differently on holiday and how I could bring that into my every day. I now present my 6 ways to stay on vacation in real life.

#1: Stay off social media/internet/TV

Seriously, I have a problem

Seriously, I have a problem

I rarely use the internet or social media on vacation. My phone usually displays “no service,” and when I receive a connection, I am too busy to notice or use it. The problem occurs when I return home.

I have a major social media problem. The night we returned from vacation, I scrolled through Instagram and Facebook for five hours. Obviously I have entirely too much free time. The next morning I woke up feeling crappy, guilty and worthless. Time on social media and surfing the internet often leaves me with these uncomfortable feelings, yet I return to it like a zombie each day. Why? (Side note: TV doesn’t thrill me, but I feel that it falls into the same category.)

I return to social media because of the ease. My brain doesn’t process, think, or assess. I simply stare as images and blurbs pass through me. It is always waiting to distract me, ready for those brief moments of unfilled time (a red light) or uncomfortable thoughts (how I feel about my brother’s death) or tricky decisions (how to articulate myself in this post). An easy go-to for an avoider like me. Scrolling through Facebook requires less work than revising a blog post, because that post neither informs nor entertains anyway, and, in all honesty, I wasted my time and money on a degree in creative writing, because I only use it to write the occasional boring blog post–oh look, someone else got engaged!

The excessive time I spend on social media distracts from things that would improve my life. Yes, it seems easy in the moment, but it does not create the life I want in the long run. Unless you count my “dream life” board on Pinterest. That counts, right?

 #2: DO things you like

You can tell he's having fun because of the thumbs up

You can tell he’s having fun because of the thumbs up

On vacation we experience ALL THE THINGS NOW! Instead of sitting and watching TV we see the sights, walk the area, and experience new things. Why, when we return home, do we live differently?

Yes, we all have to wash dishes and pick up the living room. That sucks and can only be skipped for so long. Trust me, I’ve tried. Regardless, figure out a way to work in things you actually enjoy too. Don’t spend every night after work washing dishes and scrubbing toilets. Unless you actually like that kind of thing, you sick bastard. Life should consist of more than a series of chores and duties to merely survive.

Some might argue, “but it makes me happy to sit on the couch and stuff Cheetos in my face.” Realize the difference between what makes you happy right now and what makes you happy in the long run. I always think it will make me happy to “relax” in bed and scroll through Instagram for hours, but then I go to sleep feeling like a worthless piece of junk. Alternately, I feel amazing after an evening full of yoga, handstands, writing and my husband. Take the time to think deeply and evaluate if your activities make you happy now or in a lasting way.

#3: Connect with real, 3D people

Family bonding by hiking up a mountain

My family bonds by hiking up mountains together

When you recall the wonderful moments in your life, do you think of a text conversation? The comments from people on Facebook? Or do you remember that time your husband skied you down a giant sand dune, then raced you to the bottom, cutting you off so the two of you fell, rolling and covered in sand, laughing hysterically. Or sitting in the cab of a truck with your dad on one side and brother on the other, talking about what you thought happened after death. Those are my highlight memories. Times surrounded by people I love.

Replace time normally spent with “friends” online with real, live people! Start by building stronger relationships with the people in your house. Spouse, children, parents, roommates, small, gnawing rodents. I don’t know who inhabits your home!

I also struggle with this step. My husband and I pass too much time beside each other staring at screens instead of spending it together. We sit in the same room for hours at a time, but when we go to bed I feel disconnected and sad. Instead, I will make a conscious effort to converse with him and maybe even get some #2 done. See what I did there?

#4: Get outside

Look, I am outside

Look, I am outside


I spend the majority of my vacation time outside. Hiking, camping, burning things in pits. Sometimes I think the problem with coming home boils down to returning to our little second-floor apartment in the city sans yard or trees or happy little chirping birds.

I know the power of spending even a short time outside. On days when my darling little preschool students resemble life-force syphoning vampires stress me out, I spend my break at the park. I remove my shoes and socks and sit on a blanket to eat my lunch under a tree. I return to work feeling completely differently than when I eat in the break room or my car.

Spending time outdoors in the evenings could give me the same lift. Lately I have started taking my laptop or book onto the balcony. Even small changes like this make a difference. Something magical happens when you remove the roof from overhead to feel the sun on your face and the breeze across your skin. I can’t be the only person who feels instantly relaxed by the sound of leaves moving in the wind.

#5: Live gratefully in the moment

Nothing says gratitude like not falling to your death

Nothing says gratitude like not falling to your death

No one finds difficulty giving thanks on a vacation full of people and activities they enjoy. Bring that sense of gratitude to everyday life. If you are reading this post, you are incredibly lucky. It’s a wonderfully written post, after all. You possess access to electricity, the ability to read, a connection to the internet, a computer or smartphone and the ability to operate it. You can probably easily obtain clean food and water, a safe place to sleep at night and shelter from the elements. Of course, these assumptions may not apply to you in particular. Regardless of the specifics, give thanks for the hundreds of amazing opportunities in your life. Things that many people around the world strive to attain. Recognize this every day and thank your lucky stars.

#6: Have more sex

DSCN0748Please, don’t make me explain this one.

 
How do you cope with returning from vacation? Do you practice these 6 things already in your daily life? Or do you hope to start one or two soon? Do you find some easier to implement than others? Am I completely full of shit, and coming back home from vacation still sucks a big one?

March Challenge: Squats

Standard

My squat challenge ended on March 31st, thank the glorious powers that be! That challenge was horribly tedious, mind-numbingly boring, and a little painful.

SquatChallenge

Of course, I completed the challenge completely differently exactly as dictated by the exasperating lovely spreadsheet. I skied 5 days in March, so I counted those as squat days. I used rest days when I forgot felt the need, not when marked. And I maybe, kinda, perhaps, completely skipped the last 4 days of squats.

I could tolerate the challenge until I was performing more than 150 squats a day. All of a sudden it took forever and felt much more painful and repetitive. I suffered though until day 25, when I thought the squats totaled 200. Before that, the amount of squats normally increased by 5 or 10 each day. Until day 25. All of a sudden it jumped 40! I will admit, I quit from complete boredom mental shortcomings. The monotony irked me, and I didn’t push through. But civilization as we know it has successfully continued, and I just don’t care think I will survive this “failure.”

Even though I wussed out at the end of the challenge, I can still tell you a few things about squats.

I didn’t realize how much technique squats required. First and most important, send that butt back! The first movement of a squat should send the butt back, not down. So far back that you want to fall over at the bottom. Don’t actually fall. Not very often, at least. As part of this, the knees should always stay behind your toes to avoid knee strain.

For the love of God, hold your abs! After 167 squats with loose abs, your back will burn like one thousand suns ache. Don’t ask how I know. My lower back hates me enough. I don’t need some silly monthly challenge to throw it out. Plus, holding your abs will give you a little core workout too.

Go quick, but not too quick. When you’re performing 193 bodyweight squats, you don’t want to take 5 seconds on every squat. Just imagining that makes me want to bang my skull into a wall. However, if you go too fast, your form will suffer, you won’t get low enough,  and the world will implode you’ll miss the point of the challenge.

Did my butt grow or love handles shrink? No. My husband actually laughed at me on day 22 when I told him that goal. He obviously doesn’t read my blog. Now I can tell you his dirty secrets and he’ll never know. He eats queso dip cold. Who does that?! Gross.

My lack of butt enlargement was disappointing, but not unexpected.  I know body weight and lots of reps doesn’t grow muscle mass quickly. A girl can fantasize dream.

The twerpy hubby did point out the worthwhile points of the dreadful challenge. It doesn’t require a gym or equipment. You can squat at 10 at night in your living room, not that I ever did that. The challenge kept me moving on days when I didn’t make time for an entire workout. And my love handles didn’t grow. Smartypants Husband actually suggested that I continue squatting after March ended. Maybe throw in some push-ups too. Adorable, isn’t he?

yogatothecore

For April I am joining the #yogatothecore challenge on Instagram. It is hosted by 3 ridiculously amazing yogis who each post their variation of a yoga position every day. Each day works different parts of the core. 6 days in, I love the daily diversity of postures, as well as the ability to choose my variation. If you use Instagram, feel free to join the challenge or follow me. Because experiencing me on just one form of social media cannot fulfill you completely.

IMG_1132

Days 3, 4 & 5. Know how hard it is to take a selfie in lotus?

Have you ever set a goal for yourself, only to discover the goal felt wrong for you? Have you purposely quit an activity before completion? Has anyone else tried this squat challenge? What did you think? Does your core need as much work as mine, and you want to join the #yogatothecore challenge too?

February Monthly Challenge: Meditation & Free Writing

Standard

Supplies for February Challenge

March is halfway over, so I should probably tell you about my secret February challenge, because I’m punctual like that.

In February I challenged myself to change my daily routine in 2 small ways: meditate for 10 minutes and complete 3 pages of free writing. Because I know myself so very well, I knew that I needed to schedule these changes into my day, or they wouldn’t happen. I chose to meditate first thing in the morning before work and free write during my lunch break.

Meditation

At first, I used the Headspace meditation app to guide me through meditation. Their Take 10 program kick-started my habit and made it dummy-proof. However, the program ends after 10 days. Headspace offers other programs for purchase, but I wanted to learn to guide myself through meditation. I received Complete Meditation by Steve Kravette for Christmas in 2012, so I decided to crack it back open and actually use some exercises.

I started experimenting with different meditation positions besides sitting. Laying down, standing in star pose which felt fine until my arms lit on fire, and squatting which felt slightly uncomfortable at first, then flared into full on lower back agony. Although not suggested in the book, I fell in love with the yoga pose Legs up the Wall.

Legs up the Wall

Legs up the Wall

Especially for sore legs or joints, letting the blood flow out of my legs for 10 minutes releases the pain and ache. After this position, laying flat on the floor for a minute will allow the blood back into the legs before standing. Unless you enjoy feeling light-headed and falling over.

I have also experimented with silent mantras. Take 10 suggests counting breaths up to 10, but because of my bizarre angst issues, that makes me anxious. I especially enjoy the following mantras from Complete Mediation:

Inhale “I am,” exhale “loved”

Inhale “Re-,” exhale “-lax”

Inhale “hum,” exhale “so,” which means “I am the one.”

Meditation first thing in the morning has helped me relax and start the day with a reset, calm attitude. Even though it takes time out of my morning, it paradoxically feels like I have more time.

In February I meditated 23 out of 28 days!

Free Writing

A pen that flows well is essential to free writing

As a creative writing major, I heard of practicing daily free writing many times. Most recently, an Ali Kamenova YouTube video sparked my memory. She started a 30-day challenge to complete 3 pages each day.  For those unfamiliar with the term, free writing is completed by writing long-hand in a notebook and keeping the pen continuously moving even if it just says “Pen moving. Pen moving. Don’t know what to write.” No judgment. No concern for being coherent, concise, or even grammatically correct. Only minor concern for readable handwriting.

I have not produced much work over the last few years, as evidenced by the spotty posting here. I wrote more blog posts than fiction works, so you can imagine the pathetic state of my current fiction resume. My lack of production boils down to my bitchy inner critic. She vetoes all my ideas before I even write them! Turns out, an inability to create new material presents a problem for a writer.

Through the free writing part of my February challenge, I learned that I can silence that stupid critic. Free writing should be shitty, jumbled, incoherent and making no sense. Previous sentence obviously written in the free writing style… One day I felt so pissed that I just scribbled cuss words in huge capital letters. Counts as a page.

Topics I generally use for free writing: blog brainstorming, planning, creative writing exercises, and general whining writing in my personal journal about experiences and emotions. Each day I picked one and wrote furiously for 3 pages.

I found that free writing each day built momentum. Once the words and ideas were vomited onto the page, more ideas flowed in and branched out. I could then type of the insanely rough drafts and refine them until I could show them to others without complete embarrassment.

During February I used free writing to brainstorm 4 blog posts, finalize 3 posts, brainstorm characters for a short story, and capture issues and emotional states in my journal. I wrote 23 out of 28 days. Success!

March Monthly Challenge

Since both parts of my February challenge helped me so much, I decided to continue practicing them. For March I will conquer the Pinterest squat challenge!

Squat Challenge image via Pinterest

My butt on March 31st
image via Pinterest

I want to grow my butt and shrink my love handles. I used to have such a nice, round booty, and it disappeared! I want it back! I know, I know, lifting heavy weights will grow the muscle faster and more efficiently. But neither lifting weights nor being efficient has ever been my style.

Do you give yourself goals or challenges to keep motivated in fitness or other parts of your life? Wish I were more organized and gave you notice, so you could join me on my monthly challenges? Wonder how long this monthly challenge thing will last? Yeah, me too…

Instagram Insanity

Standard

IMG_0507

Runs With Blisters is now on Instagram! So if you’re one of  those cool, hip people that obsessively use all types of social media, follow me there too! At least until I get bored or busy and stop posting.

IMG_0230

Laugh at Observe my daily adventures in living healthy, forcing myself into working out, and attempting good nutrition. Because, you know, you don’t get enough of that here on the blog.

Just don’t ask me to join Twitter…

IMG_0295

Are you on Instagram? What do you think? Too busy/technologically challenged to navigate all these new-fangled social medias?

StairMaster Dancer

Standard

Those who remember my treadmill dancing post can only imagine my excitement last week when my husband played the ESPN Sports Nation jeers of February and I saw a dude StairMaster dancing. Not only does he throw down killer moves, but check out that bod! With arms like that, you can break it down however you want at the gym. Who will tell you to stop?

I would love to grove like that a the gym, but I’m too terrified to fall off the back of the machine and get ground to a pulp. Not to mention the pathetic-ness of my flex pose in comparison to his. I bet he can do more than half a chin-up.

Headspace Meditation App Review

Standard
Thank you tea tag. You are not helpful at all. photo via

Thank you tea tag. You are not helpful at all.
photo via Tuwa

To meditate, simply “sit and exist” or “sit and think about nothing.” Gag. I don’t know about anyone else, but I call bullshit these condescending and oversimplified euphemisms have never helped me actually meditate.

I saw the Headspace app for smart phones in a fitness magazine that described it as a free, easy way to start meditating if you’re not all zen and one with the universe you’ve never tried. Did I mention free? I could give free a try. Worst case scenario, I would delete the app after a few days and return to my normal, pathetic existence.

Who doesn't want to get some? Getsomeheadspace.com

Who doesn’t want to get some?
Getsomeheadspace.com

For the last few years I have struggled with anger, depression and anxiety. I tried everything: medication, therapy, exercise, work books, screaming at my husband. Some helped a little, but none made a huge difference, except the yelling. I’ve read that meditation also helps reduce the exact feels I struggle with, but so far the “sit and clear your mind” method of meditation has failed.

The first see: free program on Headspace consists of a series of 10-minute recordings that lead you through 10 days of meditation. They call it “Take 10.” Is that name totes adorbs or what? Before the first meditation session began, a video about how to approach mediation popped up. It talked about expectations have none, how much effort to apply none, but only a little and other mumbo jumbo helpful topics.

The amazingly British accent of Andy led me though the recordings. I felt easy and relaxed until holy crap I can’t even concentrate on this stupid recording I suck at everything even meditation and especially life my thoughts wandered slightly. Andy calmly assured me that I could expect my mind to drift. Just breathe and gently refocus. Of course. I knew that.

After day 3 the app required registration for a Headspace account (just email and password). I gained access to more videos and podcasts that gave me information about how to become instantly enlightened go deeper and enhance the experience.

After completing Take 10, I have achieved inner peace, feel one with the universe and approach all situations with understanding and nonattachment. Ha! Yeah right. I meditate first thing in the morning. Ok, second thing after dressing and brushing my teeth. Otherwise I fall asleep. Turns out sleeping and meditating are not the same thing. It gives me a little breather before the insanity of preschoolers hurtling around my classroom screaming “Twinkle, Twinkle Dinosaur” at the top of their lungs and knocking over block towers instead of cleaning up. I love my babies, and walking into school on a post-meditation relaxation buzz makes the day run much smoother.

photo via Half Moon Yoga

If only I could teach my preschoolers to meditate like this cutie.
Hell, I’ll settle for sit still for two minutes in a row.
photo via Half Moon Yoga

For me, the Take 10 program made meditation easy to understand and practice. Being led step-by-step through the process in a conversational way let me find a calm place. It took meditation from something that “those crazy yogis” practice to something that I, a 20-something preschool teacher who sometimes needs a break from her own brain, could benefit from immediately.

As of today, I have meditated 25 out of the last 30 days. On Thursday I didn’t make time to meditate before work, so I meditated in the car on my break. Maybe I am becoming one of those crazy yogis… I recommend the Headspace app for anyone who wants to try out meditation, but doesn’t know where the hell to start. It definitely kicked off my new habit and helped me understand how to get all zen and shit. As long as I don’t think about how I need to do laundry and wash dishes oh shit I suck at meditating which means I am a horrible human being who will never succeed at anything can stay focused.

Do you meditate? If you do, how did you get started? What do you think of meditation, whether you practice it or not? Do you think Andy at Headspace should send a little jingle my way for this glowing endorsement of his app? Wouldn’t that be cool?