About HeyRachey

Regular gal discovers gonzo streak midlife. Likes to push self and go fast. Wants to practice (and turn others on to) strength, endurance, speed and audacious authorship of our lives. Life doesn't stay still. Best we move with it.

Frolic #2

Shadows against a rust background

The Frolic is a regular event I started as a way to bring people together to play, and it’s gaining ground. Once a month, we meet up to do something fun and social in motion. It doesn’t have to be vigorous, but it’s more than just sitting or standing around. It also doesn’t have to be outside, though with nicer weather coming along, we’ll likely be Frolicking al fresco frequently.

Frolic #1 was a Friday early evening session of bowling at the Garage. Fun, though not very imaginative, and I regretted that the bowling alley adjoined a bar, so people with kids couldn’t join. Still we had a nice core group show up. We bowled a couple of games and the Frolic was born.

Frolic #2 is more along the lines of how I’d like to see the genre evolve. A beautiful Sunday afternoon. A sculpture garden along the waterfront. Friends, friends-of-friends, a kid, a dog and several interactions with strangers. Walking, climbing, building, inventing. I came ready with a scavenger hunt list of a dozen items or scenarios to photograph. We made our way through the park searching for or creating those. What follows is photo-documentation of Frolic #2.

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Create a sculpture using five chairs

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Take a photo with strangers –that’s Amman and Christy on the right

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Some people about to be erased

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AND we met a lot of dogs

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Now you see it, now you don’t. Carol acting as fig leaf.

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The Frolic #2 Crew: Aage, Carol, Jim, Melinda, Chris, Jacqueline. Hiding: Mazzie the puppy.

 

Big News: 2014 Milestone Event #1 is Scheduled!

NYC_Mara_Screen ShotSome of you know that I have committed this year to doing each of the three segments of an Ironman triathlon, each by themselves. I want them to be official, on-the-record events–not just a long ride or swim that I do on my own or with friends. (Though I do want to do them with friends, so get in touch if you want to join me for training or for all or part of the events.)

To review for those who may not know the respective distances, an Ironman or long-course triathlon is composed of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. Add them up and they total 140.6. You may have seen that number on a sticker on someone’s bumper.

Last week, part of the picture clarified. My marathon run this year will take place on November 2nd through the five boroughs of New York City! This was a major score. Some people qualify for the NY marathon based on a race time. Vast others enter a lottery like I did, and those that are notified via a Congrats email in late March. Tons of people aren’t selected. Some apply year after year and have built up some hostility about it. This was only my second attempt, so I’m really lucky. And I’m sorry if you’re a jilted NYC marathoner reading this.

Now that the initial glee of getting in to NY is subsiding, I’m plotting out my training and getting nervous about trip logistics. Any big destination race involves headaches about getting yourself to the start, usually at an absurdly early hour, with someone’s help or using an unfamiliar transit system. Then there’s getting back on tired legs and a dazed, post-race head. Getting all of that sorted out feels more daunting than an ultra run.

I’m looking forward to training. I’ll do a couple more halfs on my way to November. After Mercer Island, I’m ready to build a strong half base in the spring and start doing some teen and twenty-ish mile runs over the summer and fall.

Now, on to nailing down the other two thirds of my athletic year. Suggestions?

What Kept Me Going

Image 1Some races I enjoy. Some I gut out. The Mercer Island Half Marathon on Sunday was the latter. It’s a beautiful event. While it’s been going on for over 40 years, and has a big registration, it still feels home-grown, with so much community support and not a lot of commercialism. The route is gorgeous and satisfying–a 13 mile loop being so perfectly suited to the perimeter of the island. You start at the northeast side, at Luther Burbank park and head east past a senior center with the residents out cheering you on. You turn south, and curl through the dappled S-curves, then you get views of the south lake and Mt Rainier. It’s exciting when you round the bottom point and start heading west and north. Then comes mile 11, which starts out good, but gets bad with an almost mile-long hill, just when you really don’t have one left in you. You cap it off by running past the Roanoke Inn in a daze and up one final brutal rise.

The whole race was hard for me this year, but I somehow managed to beat my half marathon time by over a minute. It’s an accomplishment I’m struggling with a little since the trade off felt pretty steep. It’s good to know I can tough it out, but I also like to come away having enjoyed the experience.

Since it’s a chunk of time to feel so uncomfortable, I look back at it and wonder what kept me going. Here are the answers I came up with:

  • The morning of the race, I read a quote posted by a triathlon friend Cindy Peters–the quote was from Steve Prefontaine, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” That flew into my mind a lot, whenever I was tempted to default or slow.
  • A few miles in, when I saw I was holding my starting pace, I began to realize I could beat my previous time. Knowing that there were hard miles toward the end, I had banked a few faster miles. I think many people experience this–you enter a race not knowing if your goal is realistic, and at a certain point, you have evidence of what you can do. You start to trust it. You start to get excited. That happened.
  • Although I was uncomfortable the whole time, I was able to do an inventory of things that were going well. I recommend this to clients, and thankfully, I remembered my own advice. My list: Legs feel strong – no IT band issues, which I had worried about. Well fueled- not bonking. Warm enough, and welcoming the turn onto the shadier side of the island. Beautiful day. Gorgeous views. Cramps in diaphragm and shoulder are manageable. Wonderful husband David, Rachel S and pals at the finish line. Brunch at the Beattys’ after the race!
  • I took three very short walking breaks at water stations. The breaks themselves, and the fact that I made them very short and got right back to pace, worked as a mini-recovery strategy.
  • Racing makes me feel right and credible. I know I can teach and coach better.
  • I wanted to surprise myself.

Good Bye Samoas

samoasI think it has only just hit my consciousness that Girl Scout Cookies have a season. I know this because I just survived it. David brought home a box of Samoas, the chocolate dipped shortbread ring cookies with a ruff of toasted coconut. How did I not know about these before? As soon as they were in my house, I was committed to eating at least two every night after dinner. Remarkable how quickly that habit became bedrock.

This demonstrated once again the maxim held by one of my nutrition mentors, John Berardi. “If it is in your house (car, desk, purse, briefcase), you WILL eat it.”

Eating them is one way to get them out of your house (car, desk, purse, briefcase). I wish I had had the fortitude to just resist them, or to throw them out. But now that they are out, I’m so much the richer of willpower. There will be some grieving tonight, and I’m preparing to have a stand-in treat: a sliver of very dark chocolate. Complete denial never flies for long.

What’s in your house (car, desk, purse, briefcase) that you’d be better off ditching? And what could take its place?

Playing in the Rain

Madrona_S&S_March

Madrona 9:45ers ain’t afraida no rain!

This week I’ve been taking my classes back outside after being in a warm and dry dance studio since November. It’s a welcome transition, but it takes a little fortitude.

When we go inside to Velocity Dance Center in the late Fall, I welcome the change. It’s 64 degrees, the wood floors are glowing golden brown. Light bounces off the mirrors. I get to trot out my new Spotify playlists and use their nice sound system. There are all kinds of props and features to design workouts around: ballet barres, platforms, chairs, over-stuffed cushions. And during that time, the weather and darkness take a backseat. Whatever is going on beyond the studio, we have a feeling of safety and detachment. “Sheesh! Glad we’re not outside today!” And after several years of doing this, I realize that even the very hearty folks who take my classes have better attendance if extreme weather is left out of the equation.

But after 3-4 months in our cocoon, as dawn is beginning to move into the 6-7am window, I am drawn back outside. Okay, on the level, I am partly motivated by the desire to stop paying rent, but that’s secondary! Being outside, even in the elements is a key part of my animating principle. (Yes, I have an animating principle!) Even when it’s in the rain and wind, I feel alive exercising outside. That doesn’t mean that we don’t sometimes opt for a semi-protected location like we did once this week. We still feel the moisture and air on our faces. We smell the trees budding out. We’re surrounded by chirping. We say hello to people walking by. And I’ve come to believe that those are big ingredients to feeling alive. When we shout our see yas, shake the rain away and head off to our drier work days, Life is going right.

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The 6am Volunteer Park Class has a great view for their split squats.

I Frolic. You?

RCD_mustacheLeft to my own devices, I would frolic all the live-long day. Going from one interest to another. Not entirely unproductive, but errands and accomplishments woven with reverie. I think about how to make that a legit part of my life. And in the past month, I decided to incorporate an official Frolic into my calendar.

The Frolic is my way of mending frayed social fabric and combating sedentary tendencies at the same time, inconspicuously dressed as a fun thing to do.

So here’s the deal. Once a month, I pick an in-motion, social activity and invite you to do it with me–I cover all or most of the cost if there is one. It’s open to friends and family, but not every single one will be kid-friendly. Ready?

The first Frolic happens tomorrow night, Friday February 28th. I’m taking you bowling! Meet me at the Garage on Broadway from 6-8pm. I’ll pay for the lane, you get your bowling shoes ($4).

The parameters of what make a grand frolic are still getting hammered out, but they go something like this:

  • involve some amount of physical activity, but don’t require a lot of skill
  • not intimidating, or at least, have an on-ramp built in (a lesson, modifications)
  • not too highly structured (maybe a lesson, but then loose)
  • works with a group, even if it’s something you could do alone
  • allows for social connecting (again, not too scripted)
  • not a pain to get too or park for (or really worth it, if so)
  • have a game-like option or are playful in nature

I’m collecting other frolicsome ideas. Got any? Here are a few already in the hopper:

  • sculpture park scavenger hunt
  • bocce ball
  • art walk
  • South Lake Union historical walking tour
  • visit to the roller skating rink
  • curling lesson
  • croquet
  • photo scavenger hunt in various Seattle neighborhoods

Send me your ideas. Join me.

Tiny Habits Taking Seed

2012-03-11-DSC02582I believe in habits. I believe in certain techniques that you do to prepare yourself, and I think that’s important.”- Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks quarterback, quoted in the Seattle Times, January 17, 2014

All week I’ve been practicing three new tiny habits, working them into my day so they become seamless and automatic. For the fifth day in a row, here’s what I’ve been doing.

  • After I wake up, as soon as my feet hit the floor, I say, “it’s going to be a good day.”
  • After I pour my morning beverage, I do a 30-second chest stretch.
  • After I sit down at my desk, I focus on my top priority for the day.

The idea of tiny habits comes from a guy named BJ Fogg. He’s a professor at Stanford who also spends a lot of time in private industry working on projects that involve human behavior and habits (Hello!: Facebook and Twitter). He’s got a theory about habits that has some surprising aspects.

According to BJ, the three components of a habit are motivation, ability and trigger.

Motivation is the desire to do it, of course. But the interesting thing I’ve learned from BJ is that motivation doesn’t need to be high. In fact, if you need to rely heavily on motivation to do something (at least to get started on it), you may be more susceptible to failing since it’s impossible to always be motivated. Motivation and willpower both ebb and flow a lot over the course of a day, a week and a month. If you doubt that, check out any gym this week and then again at the end of February–big change in motivation across a wide swath of humanity.

Ability is just that- the skill to do the thing. You need to know how to do the thing you’re trying to incorporate as a habit. It can be rudimentary at first, and then you can improve at it over time (that’s what training is). Motivation and Ability are correlated – the harder the thing is to do, the more motivation you’ll need, and vice-versa. So you start with something easy and fairly effortless so you can do it with low or no motivation.

Trigger is the thing that cues you–consciously or unconsciously–to do the new habit. And here, BJ has a pretty cool insight. For the best success, the new habit needs to be nestled right up against a habit that you already do (and preferably enjoy) on a daily or regular basis. I ran into my friend Jeanine the other day and found out that she’s intuitively doing exactly what BJ recommends. She wants to increase her core strength, so she started doing plank regularly. Curious, I said, “oh, when do you do it?” and she said, “right after I run”. Perfect. “After” is the best trigger.

To establish and reinforce the habit you’re trying to make, you need a dollop of Celebration. Actually, two dollops: 1) when you anticipate doing the new habit– “right after I finish pouring this cup of tea, I’m going to do my chest stretch – yay me!”, and 2) as soon as you’ve done it — “did my chest stretch–boy am I awesome!”

I can hear you saying, Okay, Rache, but what’s the big deal about doing one chest stretch? Well, once those tiny habit seeds are planted, you can grow them. From 2 push ups after flushing the toilet to 5, and then 8 and then 10. From a couple of deep breaths to five, then 10, then 20 minutes of meditation. From a moment of focus at my desk to writing a blog post. You get it–baby steps lead to a marathon. The vital thing is that you are creating an automatic pattern for yourself so that you can begin to do something without a lot of forethought, second-guessing, resistance or even motivation. Once you’ve got that seed planted–that’s just what you do.

Hills, Surrender and Determination

I used to fear running hills. But I live in central Seattle, which means you can’t go anywhere further than half a mile–usually a lot less– without having to deal with a hill either going out or coming back. When I got to a hill, I’d be totally overwhelmed. I actually thought my heart might explode.

My triathlon coach Rocky got me over this by making me run repeats on a mile-long hill called Madrona Drive. Up for 30 seconds and back down. Up for 45 seconds and back down. Up for a minute and back down. Up for 90 seconds and back down. And so on, up to three minutes or more.

During this training I was using a heart rate monitor, and one thing I quickly learned was that my heart would not actually explode. It would increase, for sure, but then it would stabilize at the new higher rate. And as I incorporated hills in my training (once or twice weekly over a a month or two) my heart rate got relatively lower when I took them on.  When it came to my first really hilly race (the Seattle Half Marathon), I turned the corner into the legendary Galer hill and found that I was one of the few running it–slowly, yes, but still running as nearly everyone else walked. (You rock, Rocky!)

I’ve actually become rather fond of hill running. It’s holistically strengthening–my mind and body are both very involved. Sakyong Mipham who wrote Running with the Mind of Meditation says that running hills requires surrender and determination. Rather than deny or resist, you acknowledge that the hill is there to be reckoned with (surrender), but you also keep bringing yourself to it (determination) knowing that you’ll get to the top. When you bring both those qualities, you can feel yourself building mental and physical strength. You get energy from the hill. You’re inspired. Topping the hill brings a feeling of release and triumph as you level off your efforts and feel the relative ease of running flat again.

 

Radical Workout Scavenger

This time of year, when so much competes for your time, it’s easy to fall out of the habit of exercise and eating well. You can’t always avoid it, but the victory is in how you handle it. If you think of it as an all-or-nothing deal, then you’re at risk.

Instead, take the attitude that you’re bound to have your good habits threatened or lapse some time, so be ready for that to happen and to on-ramp yourself without a lot of denial, resistance and brow-beating.

Looking ahead and anticipating can help you solve the problem before it’s a problem. So much about keeping habits is the context. Recognize the key ingredients that facilitate your fitness and eating habits and without which you would languish. If you normally run with a friend, how will you deal when that person goes out of town? If you usually go to the gym when the kids are in school, what happens when school is closes? Have a back up plan for outlandish situations.

But you can’t avert every downfall. If you get off track for a day or two, just notice it. Don’t waste your energy agonizing over it. Realize that interruptions don’t mean you’ve lost your groove irretrievably. And make sure you know they don’t give you license to give up! It’s when you overcome those obstacles that you really triumph and get a burst of energy.

At times of major disruption, you have the power to change your expectations. If you don’t have the full hour for a class you usually attend, does that mean you don’t go at all? Of course not. This fitness instructor here definitely sanctions coming late or leaving early over missing class entirely. If you’re severely time-squeezed, it may be time to start doing a 20-minute workout and up the intensity. Now you’re telling me you don’t have 20 minutes? Well, I’ve worked with folks during intense over-work situations in which they’re literally grabbing 60 seconds to do some lunges in a corner. They are radical workout scavengers and I love them.

When the goal is to stay active, there’s always a solution. You owe it to yourself. Scavenge!

The Lingering Backward Glance

I like this time of year for the lists. The 2013 Best Ofs: films, books, TV. It may be small of me, but I look forward to late December so that I can see what the smart people have to say about what the culture put out. It’s part self-satisfaction–”Ha! I was right about that being a good book!” But also a need for direction–”what are the hip kids listening to?”

So my discipline for late December is to make a year-end list for myself. Because here’s how it usually is for me: I’m climbing, I’m looking ahead at the path. I’m feeling how steep and rutted a go it is, but not how amazing it is to have climbed to this place. Translate to real life: I’m fussing with all these day-to-day struggles, thinking about all the things I wish were true, questing toward those next things. I have a surprisingly myopic relationship to the recent past. Except for brief flashes, I’m unable to look at where I was six months ago, a year ago, and appreciate the things the ground I covered, what worked and what I could happily discard if it didn’t. And especially to recognize that I am now doing things (sometimes effortlessly) that I was questing for back then.

When I turned around on the path of 2013, these were some of the sights:

  • I finished a nutrition coaching certification and, more importantly, started immediately to work with clients on improving nutrition.
  • I developed a series of workshops on health and fitness topics, began presenting them and built partnerships for presenting more of them. I even gave a workshop to which no one came. And I have to rack that up as some kind of achievement, right? I took a frigging f l y i  n  g L E A P annnnd…. <spoink!> ….well, it wasn’t the end of the dang world.
  • I taught a cooking class (something I fantasized about doing for years) and had at least as much fun as I always thought I would.
  • I got myself working on a regular schedule with designated days off, and specific hours dedicated to client sessions, business planning, writing, marketing and administration.
  • I got to know you–the person that I intend to serve with coaching, training, classes and workshops–a lot, lot better, and that has helped me design and communicate with so much more clarity.

Those are some 2013 highlights–it feels good to mark them here. Try it! Here’s a suggestion: if you keep a weekly to-do list or notes from meetings with a coach, mentor, teacher or counselor, look back at those as a way to trigger what you were working on months ago, and which now may be de rigueur.

Salutes to all our challenges and achievements. Thanks for being a part of this, for reading and sharing your thoughts. Happy year-end to all.