Sunday, May 04, 2014

All the steps I'm not walking

Life is full of surprises. And shattered illusions. Like the one I had about being a runner again after I finished my MFA.

When I started the program in 2011, I was running all the time. In the fall of that year, I ran what I thought was going to be my first marathon. Heh. I was running half marathons from time to time and spending most of my Saturday mornings on long runs by the American River. I loved it. It was hard, and I was slow as a brittle old lady, but I felt good when I was running that much. It taught me that I'm much better mentally when I get time outside. Even at my very low level of proficiency, running had incredible benefits. But it was hard to keep up as soon as I started writing and reading enough to meet deadlines. I gave it up--temporarily, I thought--with the hope that I'd go back to it after I graduated.

I tried a few times while I was in school, but I never could make it happen. Others are doing it--my friend Antonio gets up every morning to run and then he writes 500 words. Murakami has a freaking book about it. But I couldn't seem to make it work for me. My fitness was haphazard as I struggled to figure out my schedule for those two years.

As I neared graduation, I was certain I'd be able to get back into running. But here's what I didn't expect: nothing changed for me after I graduated. Just me. I still wanted to write in all my free time. And if I'm going to write, I have to be realistic about what that means in my insane life.

I've always written daily. In fact, most of the way through my MFA I was writing here all the time. But once I graduated, I felt different. I felt like writing daily was something I could and should be doing. For my job. That's the part I didn't expect. And because I felt different, I went after opportunities to publish my writing elsewhere. It's going great--better than great--but the side effect of that is that I'm still just as busy (and sedentary) as I was in grad school.

So in the spirit of accepting what is (and not wanting to give up on living a long life), I'm trying something new. I'm trying to think about health as an all day thing, not an if I can't find time to run more than three miles today, I'm a complete failure as a human. Because if I'm being real with myself, I'm choosing to pursue a career that means I have homework every day for the rest of my life, and that life was already kind of over-scheduled. I feel so much gratitude that I'm able to do a job where I get to read books and then tell people what I think about them. But that takes so much time. Just like teaching. I love it, but it doesn't leave me with much at the end of the day.

After talking with my friend Megan in San Francisco about her Fitbit, I bought a fitness tracker. And I'm not trying to do anything more than make myself walk 10,000 steps a day. Prancersize it, y'all. Since the Fitbit Force (what Megan has) got recalled, I bought a Garmin Vivofit. I wanted something with a watch on it, plus I already had a Garmin heart rate monitor that would pair with it. I also wanted one that would track sleep, since I was having so much trouble sleeping.

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My steps per day from a few weeks ago. This week wasn't good enough to show you.
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Hours of sleep, including naps.

I've had the thing for a little more than a month. It's not a miracle, but it does make me more conscious of how much I do or don't move in a day. I thought I moved a lot in my day at work, but I wanted to know how much. What I've learned is that I move a lot some days at work--all I have to do is make a few trips to the bathroom and one up to the office to make copies and I'm almost to half of my steps for the day--but on other days when I'm really busy (and confined to my classroom), I don't really move much at all. It's really interesting. And I know enough about myself to know I'm driven by (read: obsessed with) charts and plans and things that are organized.

The other thing this doodad does is display a red bar if I don't move for an hour. You have to walk about 200 steps to clear the bar. This is the physical equivalent of a notification icon, which I cannot stand (Unread emails? Kill me.) so it's pretty good about guilting me into getting up more often than I would, otherwise. It's ugly as all get out. Don't get me wrong. I don't like looking like I'm wearing a Casio watch from 1986. And I don't always remember to wear it. But when I do, it's helpful.

For now, I'm just trying to walk my steps. I haven't been able to do more than that. It gets me moving. It helps me notice when I'm not moving. I'll take it.

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