Time, is on my side.

Hi there!

First of all, I’d like to thank you all for bearing with me as I continue to recover and adjust back to every day life from my recent business trip to China–that 12-hour time difference is really messing with my system more than I expected it to. I came back to the US late last week, celebrated my second master’s graduation (M.Ed.’14 and M.S. in advertising ’16) over the weekend with loved ones over the weekend by way of commencement ceremonies, delicious steak-filled meals, and lots of corny college catalog photos like this one:

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And suddenly after all of the excitement and celebrations passed and life began to slow down, my body slowed down, as well and began to crash: I would put myself to bed at a normal hour, but just lay awake until the sun came out and soon thereafter I developed piercing headaches in the center of my forehead and the top of my head, complemented with a nasty, phlegmy cough that came forth out of left field. Not sure what’s going on with my body at this moment (will bring myself to the doctor for a check-in soon), but I just wanted to explain briefly and let you know that I appreciate your patience with my posts as my blog fell to the wayside for the last week or so.

I ended up missing posting about a healthy snack on Sunday, so I’ll just save that exciting post for this upcoming weekend and instead share with you my B.A.A. 10k training updates because exercising has been one of the few things that has made my body feel better this week.

On Monday, I finally was able to attend my first session of Cara Gilman’s RunYoga Series, courtesy of MoveWith; I unfortunately had to miss the first two sessions due to grad school and the business trip to China, so I was stoked to finally be able to go, despite not feeling so well. The way the workout goes: each session, a scalable running workout (hill repeats, speed workouts, group runs, etc.) is paired with a targeted, strength-based yoga sequence to challenge the individual members of this inspiring community over the course of the 10-week program. Each workout takes place on Monday evenings from 6-8pm in the wonderful Brookline/Boston neighborhood, rain or shine.

This week, we started our run from the Ruggles Baptist Church in the Audubon Circle neighborhood of Brookline and ran to Summit Ave, where we took on hill repeats on the one of the steepest hills in the Boston-area (the gradient incline goes from 7-17% fairly quickly). From there, it was up to us if we wanted to just do one full hill loop and head back to our starting point in Audubon Circle, or add some repeats before turning back. I turned to my usual training buddy/running solemate, Becca Smith, and we decided on adding an extra repeat of the smaller side of the hill, ultimately ending our run with a solid 4.20 miles completed. Afterwards, back in the church, we settled in for our yoga sequence, which would target the outer hips (hello, IT band!), calves and quads. Before we began though, Cara told us to focus in on one word, a mantra, that would guide us through our practice not only that night, but also throughout the week–something we are grateful for and something that would keep us present.

What would be my word?! That one was easy: “time.” Lately, I am so grateful for time-so much so that I find myself replaying The Rolling Stones’ song, “Time Is On My Side” in my head most days! After four years straight of working full-time and going to graduate school part-time (for two different master’s programs back-t0-back) and revolving my life and its priorities around the schedule that these two pieces set for me, I feel so unbelievably free and open to new opportunities and possibilities. And so, more than anything, I was grateful for those two hours on Monday night to reflect on the last four years, refresh my body, and reset my mind to start the first week of the rest of my life with balance and positivity. Despite my headache pounding into all sides of my head at that point, those two hours of active movement not only served as a training run and strength and conditioning session for my upcoming B.A.A. race at the end of June, but it also served me in a metaphorical sense: taking to life one step at a time-one foot in front of the other-possibly facing some obstacles (hills) in the way, and heading straight towards the next great thing, more in balance.

Speaking of things I am grateful for… I am BEYOND grateful for what my friend, fellow November Project-er, and PT/DPT/Cert. DN/Running Specialist, Dani Adler (aka RunFitDoc), taught me about active stretching during her run clinic. If you missed my post from last month, Stretch It Out, which broke down in easy-to-follow steps her suggested guidance of applying the 3 E’s: Easy, Effective, and Efficient to your run training warm-up, then I highly suggest giving it a read through before you continue with your run training! I have noticed a major difference in the way I feel (read: much stronger, more open, more loose, more warmed) before, during, and after all of my training runs and wish the same for all of you!

For example, tonight I practiced my active stretching routine and it put me in the right place, mentally and physically. I attended fun/casual 5k race that occurs every Wednesday night at 7pm outside Osborn Tavern (49 Maple Street) in Danvers, MA called Danvers 5K. My boyfriend recently moved to Danvers so I wanted to start doing something active in the area to get to know the surrounding neighborhood better and I couldn’t have fell more in love with this open running community the second I showed up. First of all, as their website states: this reoccurring weekly race is open to absolutely anyone: great for hardcore runners and those who are just starting out and looking for a solid weekly run/reason to run. Second of all, the course was absolutely beautiful and very enjoyable to run. I honestly don’t know much about the Danvers area yet, but there were some small, rolling hills, lots of cemeteries that were passed along the way–I kept myself unplugged and just soaked up the quintessential New England/North Shore scenery. It felt so nice to change up my usual route and run around a town for once-there’s definitely a charm to it, something I could easily get used to. Third of all, everyone was so friendly…especially to us newbies! I had such a nice and enjoyable time meeting everyone and even found myself trying to keep pace with two older guys during the entire race. To the main in the orange shirt, thanks for letting me tail you during the entire 3.1 miles–you rock!

I really could go on and on, but instead I’ll just encourage anyone who lives in the greater Boston and North Shore area to just show up and check it out yourself. Once you race, you have a bib number for life and are always welcomed back-how nice is that?! I ended my 5k with a time of 29:07, which is far from the lower end of the 25 minute 5k time I used to regularly race a couple of years ago, but instead of being disappointed in myself and wondering where I went wrong, I actually just really look forward to chipping away at that number bit by bit as I continue to focus in with more intensity and intention on my run training.

In the meantime, I’d like for you to read my favorite Boston running, health, and wellness blogger, Jana Ross’ post on “Why I Run Marathons.” People often ask why I run or why I choose to make the time to fit in training runs or workout series to my usual busy schedule and-to be honest-it’s a pretty hard question to answer; however, in a short and eloquent post Jana captures it all. I sure as heck am far from being as accomplished as she is as a runner and am nowhere close to running marathons (she just completed marathon #8!), but I definitely connect with what she expresses and think it’s overall just such a well-written piece. For example, two lines that, in particular, stuck out to me: “I love a challenge, I love the community, and I love the simplicity of placing one foot in front of the next.” and “It’s where I push myself most, discover how I handle adversity, and pick myself back up when I hit what feels like rock bottom.” Preach, Jana!!

Anyways, for one reason or another these lines stuck out to me and made me reflect on the reasons of why any of us do the things that we love, even when they sometimes tear us apart or take all that we have to give at the moment. As we continue to live our lives and push forward each day, tacking new obstacles and challenges with our dreams and goals in sight, I think it’s something pretty important to meditate on, if you haven’t ever…just a suggestion, of course! 🙂

Sending love and wellness to you all of you until the next time!
-Meg

Don’t call it comeback…

Hi Everyone!

Thanks so much for bearing with me during the last week and staying patient until this comeback post. If you were not following my last few posts, here’s a quick catch up: I went to Shanghai, China for work for one week, which was just barely enough time to adjust to the 12-hour time difference before jet setting right back here to Boston. Here’s some photographic proof that I (a) did indeed go to Shanghai and (b) that I do own non-athletic/athleisure clothing. 🙂

megbund

I really did have an amazing time in China–it was so different from anywhere else I’d ever been before, but I was able to do some really neat things: I explored the famous West Lake region in Hangzhou, hung out in some ancient Buddhist temples, went to the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center (8th tallest building in the world), and ate some DELICIOUS and funky local delicacies (if I could spell any of them, I would list each and every one…I promise!).

Almost everyone’s first reaction or question to my trip to China was “…but really, how difficult was it to get around when everyone speaks Chinese?!” or “…but aren’t there people, like, everywhere in China? How annoying was it to deal with all of the crowds everywhere you turn?!” and, lastly: “…I heard the bathrooms are disgusting–did you have to squat and go in one of those holes in the grounds??”

My mindset going into my trip focused on none of those things, though; instead, I was focused on how to see and do as much as possible to understand the culture and daily customs in such a short period of time. I was also pretty excited about unplugging from my usual, hyper-connected lifestyle.

You see…to me, traveling-even something as quick as a day trip-teaches you a lot, if you open yourself up to it. China taught me many things (yes, including how to gracefully squat in less-than-ideal conditions to go to the bathroom), but my biggest take away was patience. In a country with over 1.25 billion people, more specifically the city with over 14 million people, let’s just say there’s not much personal space, time to figure something out when you don’t speak the native language, or time to every really just be alone.

There were times, mainly in the airports of course, that I wished I could pause, drop all of my heavy baggage, stretch out on my yoga mat, clear my headspace, and then move along. I even longed for my Spoonk a few nights after being away from my own bed, and having hard time adjusting to the drastic time difference. There were other times that I wished that I could just lace up my sneakers and explore Shanghai while training for my upcoming race-severely poor air quality did not allow for me to do that one, though. And, as much as I enjoyed devouring all of the new foods, there were some mornings that I longed to make a protein smoothie to fuel me throughout the day. But those things are luxuries in my every day life that I couldn’t take with me on this trip–and that is more than okay.

Right before I travel, I like to re-read one of my favorite travel quotes by Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Trust me when I tell you that I could go on and on with inspirational travel quotes, but I know what you’re thinking…this is not a travel blog, where’s the usual health and wellness stuff? Don’t worry, I’m getting to it…

I believe that when you travel, you learn a lot about yourself…some would even say: “If you travel far enough, you meet yourself.” We should all take these opportunities in our lives to draw the lessons from the road. I took any and every moment I had, when I was finally alone each night, to form some kind of connection between the patience I was practicing throughout the day with others and myself and my overall health and fitness goals (currently: training for the B.A.A. 10k and aiming for a PR)–here are my top three takeaways that I wanted to share with you:

  1. Be patient with yourself. Way easier said than done, but great things do not happen overnight. You need to not only be in the right mindset to put forth the dedication and effort necessary to achieve your goals, but you also have to give yourself time to adjust and space to fail and grow. Whenever I’m feeling frustrated with myself-in any situation-I like to think of something my favorite yoga instructor always said during our practice: “Close your eyes-do not look around the room to others and where they are in their practice or how far along they are in their pose. It does not matter. Focus on you, in this moment, and how you feel. Now can you stay here, present, in this pose for another 10 seconds? If you can do that, what else can you do in life-outside of yoga-for 10 more seconds? How does that make you feel?” Hearing her tell us this always grounded me, brought clarity and perspective to my life, and gave me the drive to have patience with myself for just a little longer. I hope this helps you a bit, too!
  2. Be patient with your training/practice. It’s so easy to feel down and out or unhappy with your current state or progress, but if you stay positive and patience then I guarantee you’ll soon see the fruits of your labor and will be grateful for the times you had to struggle. And if you ever feel stuck, think of this: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” -Henry Ford. Soon you’ll be flying, too! 🙂
  3. Be bold with your goals, but patient with the time it takes to chip away at them. Be proud of the little victories you’ve achieved along the way: hitting your walking 3x/week goal for a month straight, running a mile or two without stopping, finally feeling strong in a new yoga pose, holding a plank for longer than you ever did before, running .25 miles further than you ever thought your body could, hitting a 20-second race day PR, etc. It’s great to stay focused on the big end goal, but do not push aside everything you’ve done in the meantime to continue moving forward-those have been your stepping stones to success. Stop every once in a while and show gratitude towards your body and yourself for everything you’ve done.

That’s all I got for now. Tune back in on Sunday morning for the latest Sunday Snacks edition. Last time I shared with you a quinoa dessert-style snack, so what could it be this time?! I’ll give you a hint: I’m back to sharing another quick and super easy-to-prepare Greek Yogurt snack, and this one has endless combinations and possibilities so it’s also a great and fun (read: delicious) experiment. So why do I keep sharing recipes that incorporate Greek Yogurt? Because Greek Yogurt is an easy and healthy swap for baking, cooking, and non-cooking alike…and because a simple, healthier substation can make all the difference in your life! If you’d like more proof, I highly recommend checking out FitFluential’s Guide for Cooking with Greek Yogurt.

In the meantime, I’m off to graduate with my master’s degree in advertising today–I already woke up at 7am from all of the excitement!! All of the time, energy, and hard work that I poured into this part of my life for the last four years (four years in total because I actually completed two master degree programs back-to-back) is coming to an end. It’s pretty bittersweet as I am closing the book on this thing that was a HUGE part of my every day life for so long-something that I was so passionate about and that, I felt, really defined me. I do feel lucky though, because to share with me in this special day are some special people: my mom and dad. They drove all the way up from New Jersey to sit through this third Boston University graduation of mine…bless them, their amazing parental love and support, and their patience to sit through all of these ceremonies! But anyways, more to come on life post-grad (I already read 3.25 books!) and my training schedule…for now, it’s time to celebrate!

Before I head off though, I’m curious; what about you–is there a big shift going on in an area of your life right now? How are you dealing with it and what health and wellness practices are you utilizing to work through it? Comment below or tweet at me: @meggielukes-don’t forget to use the hashtag #MegInTheMeantime for good measure!

Talk soon!
-Meg

This thing called “Spoonking”

ni men hao! you duán shijiān méi liánxìle.
(roughly translated to: Hello, Everyone! It’s been a while.)

Greetings from rainy and humid, Hángzhōu, China, where the current time is approximately 5:50am and here I am…awake! My biological clock is definitely still thrown off, having just arrived in China approximately 14 hours ago after a 16 hour flight and knowing that I’m 12 hours ahead of where I usually am back home in Boston. Despite the fatigue and my body’s confusion to the local time, I am most excited to be here in China for a week and to explore as many cultural aspects as I can. As you can already see, I’m doing my best to pick up the language to get by. 🙂

I’m going to keep this post fairly short since the internet is pretty touch and go here, but I did want to follow up on something that I mentioned during my last post on Wednesday: “Do Your Om Thing!” So when I was describing that my best friend, Anya, had just come out of a 40-minute meditation and was lying on an acupressure mat, I knew at that very moment that I wanted to talk about that mat on this week’s Feature Friday post.

Although there may be many variations of an acupressure mat, the one that I know Anya was lying on (because she gave me the same one for Christmas last year) is called a Spoonkand it looks like this:

spoonk2

According to their website, Spoonk is “based on the principles of acupressure and Japanese Shiatsu massage. The mat stimulates specific reflex points throughout the body, releases blocked energy, eases tense muscles, and creates deep mental and physical relaxation. Benefits include increased level of energy, reduced inflammation and pain, improved and deeper sleep.”

That all sounds well and good and very commercial, but what is it really like? Well, even though it may look to some like a torture device (see the picture below), I have honestly found it to be quite relaxing and a great way to practice bringing awareness to specific parts of your mind, while easing your mind. While I never thought to use it during my stretching time, I have tried it recently on my sore calves and tired feet and it also can definitely relieve tension and pain in certain trigger areas…I mean, check out those spikes!

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I personally have used the Spoonk mat most to calm my body down after a long day or to mindfully try to go to sleep without the aid of Netflix or my phone. I’ll usually break it out before bed, and position my back (from the neck/shoulders area) all the way down to my lower back to be positioned on it. From there, I will usually lay down in my savasana pose with my legs completely sprawled out straight or a  variation of vrksasana, or tree pose, where I switch each leg off in being in a figure four pose while still lying down. From there, usually it takes me about 20 minutes to completely fall into a deep, relaxation state and many time I find myself sleeping for about 2-3 hours on it before I wake up in the middle of the night, grateful for the peace that it has given me, and push it aside for the rest of the night to give my back some release from the spikes.

You might want to use the Spoonk differently, though.

  • You can roll the mat a little bit to elevate your neck, like a pillow, and massage out that high-stress area.
  • You can sit down on a chair or the edge of your bed, and walk out your feet to hit pressure points that way.
  • You can use it in a more active sense and either massage your hands or feet with it during a yoga pose like, downward-facing dog.

The best part about the Spoonk is that it’s light and easy bring with you on-the-go and store anywhere. The mat easily rolls up, very much like a yoga mat, and can be stored in a handy over-the-shoulder/across-the-shoulder, light weight protective bag that it comes with–this means that you can Spoonk at home, at work, on vacation, at your friend’s place, etc. The possibilities are endless!

spoonk3Well, I’m off to eat breakfast and start my day as you wind down yours across the world. Today we are exploring Hángzhōu through a private boat ride on the famous West Lake, Lingyin Temple-one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China, and the Southern Song Imperial Street, which is filled with genuine antique shops and teahouses.

In the meantime, I encourage you all to find a way to meditate today. Personally, I know that I will definitely take some time to quiet my mind as I enter the temple today to think of my current state of being and my levels of happiness, as I continue on my quest for balance. You are winding down your day–what will you focus on?  If you don’t know where to start, first read over my last post to get a better sense of what kind or style of meditation might be best for you. As always, if you have any suggestions on techniques that work best for you, I’d love to hear them and share them with everyone: leave a comment below, email me melucas7@gmail.com, or Tweet at me @meggielukes and include #MegInTheMeantime.

And make sure to tune back in on Sunday (pending internet connections) for my next edition of Sunday Snacks!

baozhòng! (Take care!)
-Meg

Do Your Om thing!

Hi Everyone!

So I was originally going to write to you today about my training schedule and plan for the upcoming B.A.A. 10k on June 26th; however, I ended up having a much needed life conversation with my best friend from home, Anya, last night and I feel like some of those points are probably more relevant and important to share with you at this time…

First of all, I have to express that I hope that everyone has an Anya in their life–not a literal person named Anya, but someone just like her. Anya is one of those people who is so kind, wise, and non-judgmental; she automatically calms your life down with the sound of her voice; and, most impressively, she and I have always had such a rare connection in completely understanding each other.  Even though she and I are arguably very different people and even if our lives aren’t synced up or at the same place in our respective trajectories, there is some kind of unspoken balance and understanding within us, so much so, that we’ve always considered ourselves to be “twin souls,” lucky enough to find each other so early in our lives! Anya has been my best friend since first grade, so that means we’re going on 22 years of friendship-the past 10 of which have been spent a majority apart from each other due to college and post-college life (I, up in Massachusetts and she, down in New Jersey)…so that, in itself, is amazing. Somewhere in that brief rambling of an overview, I hope you can gain a little insight to the type of person that Anya is and why I would hope everyone is just as lucky to have someone similar of significance in their life. Anyways, I digress…

I will not go into the great details of what Anya and I spoke about on the phone for countless hours last night, but I will share an inspirational concept that was sparked from our conversation with you in hopes that we can both incorporate something new into our lives to better balance ourselves and practice wellness.

We began our phone call talking about what we were just doing: I had just walked into my apartment after running around Boston, crossing off my to-do list of last minute errands before my business trip to China, feeling completely exhausted from earlier in the day because of a 4am wake up to travel down to NYC to pick up my visa and passport from the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York only to travel back up to Boston to attend a work reception in the afternoon. Anya, on the other hand, had just stepped out of a 40-minute meditation state in her apartment, where she was lying down on an acupressure mat, with a warmed up, spa-like mask to cover her eyes, and soft music and sounds playing in the background that she downloaded off a yoga YouTube channel. I told you we were very different!

Right away I thought to myself: Damn, I wish I could be more like her! Only to quickly correct myself and say: I am inspired by Anya and will put in the effort and time to practice similar wellness habits. There is no reason why I can’t be more like her in that way, I just have to choose to make time for myself and my wellness throughout the day.

I don’t know about you, but I am notorious for always keeping myself busy, for better or for worse: I always stay late at work and take work home with me (the first thing I check in the morning when I wake up is my e-mail so I know what I am getting myself into for the day); for the last four years straight (including summers) I have been in grad school part-time for two different master’s degrees; and I am always taking on some new challenge, like a half marathon or 30-days of yoga, etc. I choose and love these additions in my life, but I also never choose to take a break or check-in to make sure I’m not going to burn myself out. This is where something like meditation can come into handy!

I just completed my very last grad class on Monday night and, while I’m so sad that I will not be in a physical classroom learning anymore (at least for now!), I am energized at the thought of a formal break to take some time for myself; to be able to come home after work and do what I please: read a book for pleasure, take a walk, go to more yoga classes, meet up with friends, or even meditate! Anya is just as busy and stressed as I am in her life, but she does a way better job of making time to practice wellness and set aside time to check-in, reconnect, and refresh. I think just mentally knowing that my schedule will clear up a bit will do a lot for me in terms of fitting in time for meditation, self-reflection, and care.

Now I know some of you may scoff at the idea of meditation, yoga, or the concept of “finding yourself,” or “doing something that’s good for your soul.” Some of you may even feel like the donut depicted below in this sketch:

meditation

You don’t have to attend a yoga class to meditate. I personally think the best part of meditation is the fact that there are a million different ways, spaces, and times to do it–it’s very adaptable to any schedule! If you have no idea where to start, start with concentrated, deep breathing-you’ll be surprised at how much taking sloooooow, deep breaths will relax you and clear your mind. If you master that and want to move on, consider setting an intention or a mantra for the day and honing in on how you might achieve that.

If you do feel the need to have some form of private, guided meditation there are plenty of free ones to stream on YouTube, but you can also buy some really wonderful apps that come fully loaded with meditation essentials (some cost money, others are free). One company that I feel does the meditation things really well is Meditation OasisI personally have downloaded their “Relax & Rest,” “Simply Being,” “iSleep Easy,” and “Breathe” apps to practice mindfulness throughout the day, but you can also purchase their Meditation Oasis bundle (which includes 8 targeted apps) or listen to their podcast that is highlighted on the website I’ve linked above. Again, while there are many this is the one that I have been most happy with because I like the way they blend voice commands and soothing background music and because there is a wide variety of different timed meditations to choose from: as short as 2-3 minutes if you’re trying to squeeze in a quick break and all the way up to 30-45 minutes.

Here are some ideas to kickstart your meditation practice:

  • You can lay in bed for a few extra minutes when you wake up and set your intention for the day.
  • If you walk to work or commute by bus or train you can plug in to a guided meditation flow, close your eyes and follow a meditation sequence (make sure to not miss your stop!).
  • You can close the door to your office and take some time mid-day to refresh.
  • You can wait until you come home from work to disconnect with everything that happened throughout the day.
  • And, my personal favorite, take some time to wind down before bed to reflect on your day, let go of anything that doesn’t serve you, and prepare for the next!

Okay, well I’m off to China in the early morning for a week-long work trip. As I mentioned, I hope to still be able to blog regularly on my usual schedule (Sunday, Wednesday, Friday), but please bear with me, the jet lag, and the 12-hour time difference in the meantime. You can trust that I will definitely be utilizing these meditation tools throughout my trip-especially during the 16 hour flight-and will share with you one of my favorite meditation accessories on Friday.

Until then, be well and send me some positive and energizing vibes during your meditation experiment! 🙂

Love,
Meg