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Posts Tagged ‘balance’

#run31: rest.

I fell into running almost by accident, but once I did, I fell hard and fast. Within a month after I started running, I was out on the trail four or five days a week. That number has increased with my strength, my love of running, and the pandemic – to the point where I’ll often look up and realize I’ve run seven or 10 or 14 days in a row.

Running is one of my favorite daily rhythms, a way to move my body (and sometimes my thoughts), clear my head, drink in the fresh air. There are so many reasons to love it, and I’ve been writing about many of them this month. But here’s a corollary truth: sometimes I need a rest.

I’ve read a few articles about repetitive stress injuries, and while I’m healthy and strong, I definitely want to be mindful of that. Sometimes my muscles need a day off from the motion and effort of running, whether that’s taking a yoga class or a long walk, or taking a day to sleep in and simply be. (Sometimes, like last week, I need a rest after a long bike ride – 22 miles! – which was fabulous, but exhausting.)

I’m often antsy to get back out there by the next morning, and I’m hoping to keep running six or seven days a week for the foreseeable future. But I’m putting this out there so I don’t forget: rest is also an essential part of any running regimen. My muscles, and my soul, need restoration just as much as they need exercise.

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yoga mat bare feet

Back in January (which feels like years ago now), I read a post on Ali Edwards’ blog about her New Year’s getaway to Cancun. It was full of gorgeous photos – Ali’s posts always are. But the thing that grabbed me was a little throwaway paragraph about yoga.

Ali linked to a yoga app she’d recently downloaded, and said, “My goal is really just to do something […] I’ve had an all-or-nothing mentality for way too long.”

I couldn’t get those two lines out of my head.

A couple of weeks later, I went back to Monday night yoga for the first time in months. And then, when the blizzards began and I couldn’t make it back to the studio, I downloaded that same yoga app. I’ve been making an effort to unroll my green yoga mat in my dining room, a couple of times a week, ever since. Just do something.

The all-or-nothing mentality is a killer, isn’t it? For so long, I thought I couldn’t do yoga (or take up any other form of exercise) unless I did it every day. I worried (sometimes still worry) that I’m not a real writer unless I write every day. After a few unhealthy meals (like Saturday’s dinner of all the fried things from the local clam shack), I sometimes start to panic that my diet is going off the rails.

And then I remember: it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A small change – even a tiny effort in the right direction – can pull me back toward balance.

I’m not doing yoga every day – not even close. The past couple of weeks, I’ve only managed my Monday night class and one short session at home. But it’s something. It feels good to make that effort. I’m not writing every single day, but I am writing most days – and that’s something, too. When I end up on the mat (or come back to the page or cook a dinner involving vegetables), I feel healthier, balanced, more whole.

Just do something. In the spirit of being gentle with myself this year, that’s what I’m going for.

Does the all-or-nothing mentality trip you up, too? What are your tricks for subverting it?

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Enough is plenty

Our bodies are designed to tell us when we’ve had enough of something. And in a sane world we listen to the message and we stop. But we live in a world in which extremes are good and saying you’ve had enough is just pathetic. So the more our bodies send us warnings the more we find ways to reject them. […] We do it because we’ve bought into the idea that we’re morally required to ‘challenge’ ourselves. So we give ourselves lectures about how we ought to be, instead of listening in silence to see how we are.

When I first came to Corca Dhuibhne I heard a proverb that means ‘enough is plenty.’ […] If I thought about its meaning at all, I assumed it applied to food and drink. Now I think it applies to all the appetites, including our appetite for work and for personal challenge. Too much or too little of anything means lack of balance. The Celts believed that the health of each individual affects the health of the universe. I don’t know if that’s true. But I do know that the essence of health is balance. And I think the route to finding it is awareness in stillness.

—Felicity Hayes-McCoy, The House on an Irish Hillside

pei view prince edward island fields

I read this charming memoir just before leaving on vacation, where my husband and I spent several days wandering green fields and red sandy beaches, drinking in the views of the blue Gulf of St. Lawrence and patches of pink and purple lupines along the roadsides. The author is writing about western Ireland, and her words did remind me irresistibly of my own visit to the Aran Islands, long ago. But we found the same sort of deep stillness and rest on Prince Edward Island. (The photo above is the view from our doorstep there.)

As I reenter the world of commutes and email, errands and obligations, I’m keeping these words about balance in the forefront of my mind. (And picking up ingredients for a few salads, to balance out all the seafood, ice cream and pie we ate this week.) More PEI photos and stories soon.

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Well. I don’t know where the last week went.

Between having Abilene friends in town, a couple of evenings out with other friends, my Monday night class at Grub Street and my regular coffee night with the girls, I somehow spent seven evenings in a row away from home, returning to collapse in front of the computer for a little while before crashing into bed. I didn’t cook. I did maybe one load of laundry. And I ended up thoroughly exhausted.

This dizzyingly social spell came, of course, after a long, hard, lonely winter – it seems it’s feast or famine around here. And while spending time with friends is a feast – one for which I have longed, as we settle into this new Boston life – spending time at home, with my husband, is its own kind of feast. And I missed indulging my domestic tendencies – it’s so satisfying to have my nest in order, and it can be so wearing when everything gets out-at-elbows.

Sarah addressed this same issue lately, confessing she has felt spread thin, and then recommending a small step (or two) back toward normalcy, toward balance, toward peace. For me, the small steps came in a quiet evening at home, in which I did a couple loads of laundry, splashed around until all the dishes were done (for the first time in I won’t tell you how long), painted my toenails bright summery pink, and made a summery pasta salad, creamy with goat cheese and juicy with cherry tomatoes. We ate it warm in bright ceramic bowls, at the cafe table on our porch. A tiny Asian girl walked by holding her grandmother’s hand, and when Jeremiah waved to her, she waved back, solemn under her black bangs.

I know we’ll have a few more zany weeks like this one, as summer brings visitors, vacations and its own kind of busyness. But I’m hoping to strike a better balance most of the time. To make time for dinners on the porch, small but vital acts of self-care, pulling warm lavender-scented sheets out of the dryer, baking something delectable, and curling up with a beloved book on the couch. (The other night it was The Saturdays, and I am newly in love with every member of the Melendy family.)

What small steps help to re-balance you, when life goes off-kilter or just gets over-busy?

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