Time Management and Axe Sharpening

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree
and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

– Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Holy smokes am I learning a thing or two about how much (or how little) you can cram into a single day. Now if only I could figure out when to run and when to blog with this new crazy schedule. Hmm…

Can You Really Have it All?

It is only Monday evening but I am already having one of those weeks, which follows the one of those weeks I had last week. I would love to think I am a good wife, a good dog owner, good at my job and a good homeowner. Right now all of those pieces of my life are all very busy at the same time… and then some.

I’ll pull it off somehow but it has me really struggling to understand how people (and women especially) can have it all. Some pieces of me that are slipping are my running/exercising, sleep, and fun in the sun with my friends and family during a perfect Maine summer. Those pieces of me are important too but there just doesn’t seem to be time for it all. I know I am not alone but I feel like I am juggling and I need to choose which balls to temporarily lay down.

Photo credit: OpticalBliss

Right now I need to refocus, choose what will get me where I want to be and hunker down on the things that are most important. No one said this would all be easy right?!?

Ski in Peace

Sarah Burke Ski in Peace

“It’s where we met,
it’s where we play,
we live . . .
and hopefully where we’ll die.”
Sarah Burke and Rory Bushfield

The skiing world has lost another skier that changed the sport as we know it, Sarah Burke. News of Sarah’s accident was tough to hear. I never even met this woman but I know she was a beautiful and strong skier. I liked what she did for women skiers and women in general. She showed that girls can come to play, they can push limits, they can be beautiful and showed wonderful grace under pressure.

This accident has brought out many reports about the safety of extreme sports like skiing. Once you are the best, jump the highest, do the best tricks… someone else is going to try to do more. Is that bad? Or is the constant challenge good for this sport and for us? In skiing and every sport, we know more about safety equipment and our bodies than ever before. For skiers like Sarah, this isn’t a game or a hobby. It is her life, her profession and her passion. I like this USA Today article that remind us that “You forget how skilled and calculated the athletes that are doing these tricks and making this their lives are”.

I love to ski. Hopefully I will ski my whole life. I have only had one nasty spill (remarkably it was the DAY I bought my first helmet). It was scary enough to remind me of the power of what you are dealing with here – speed, nature, elements, the human body… damn trees…

When something like this happens there is the difficult topic of the beauty in dying doing something you love. It is so hard to think about and almost impossible to appreciate. I hope for anyone who loses their life doing something they love that they felt little pain and that this was how they did honestly want to end their time on this earth.

Below is a well done tribute video and a promo for an upcoming special with Sarah and her husband Rory. In the promo is the quote that I led this post with. Beautiful at the time of filming but eerie on this end of it.

A Sarah Burke tribute video. from Downtofilm. on Vimeo.

Any news like this also makes me think about my old college friend Billy Poole. Billy was one of the kindest people I have ever met. Before Facebook and MySpace, I lost touch with my old friend. I heard he was living his dream and skiing professionally through our other friends. I heard of his passing the same way. I am glad he ‘made it’. I am proud of him. The Billy Poole Memorial Fund has been set up in his honor to help get kids involved with skiing and outdoor programs.

Ski in peace Sarah and Billy.
Thanks for doing what you love and for sharing your lives with us and the sport.


How Do You Run in the Winter?

Baby, it’s cold outside!

Many people hang up their running shoes for the winter but some of us trudge on. It isn’t very fun (I still don’t think running is actually very fun) but it is very do-able. Of course a nice run on a 60 degree evening is more ideal but I live in Maine and I love it here. Maine isn’t going to change so I have to.

You are going to need the right attitude, a little drive and it is probably a good idea to look into some good cold weather running gear but you CAN run in the winter.

Get the motivation

It is going to be up to you to get out there and run. Not many friends will be dragging you out and a Sunday brunch is going to sound a lot more appealing than a cold run. You need to have the motivation to drag yourself out there.

Think about how much farther ahead in the game you will be when the warmer months roll around. Think about not gaining that 3, 5, 7, 20 pounds you seem to pick up every winter. Take note of your energy levels. I ,for one, always feel tired and more into hibernating than socializing in the winter. When I run, I have a lot more energy and I feel much better.

Get the right equipment

One of the reasons I took up running was that, other than shoes, you didn’t need to invest a lot in clothing or club memberships. My first winter running, I used the clothing I had. Over the last few years I have slowly been adding and acquiring better running clothes and it has made a big difference.

Some of the key pieces I would recommend for making winter runs more bearable would be:

Be flexible

I was supposed to run tonight but it is currently 25 degrees, 20 mile an hour winds and it feels like it is 13 degrees out. Tomorrow though it is supposed to be about 30 degrees and the wind is supposed to die down. I am going to run tomorrow afternoon instead of tonight. Also, the sun will be out so it will be more pleasant. This means I will have to go into work early so I can sneak out for an hour or so but it will be worth it.

For me to run, I need to schedule it. I am not able to run ‘when I have time’ because time will never just present itself. I am too busy. I have to put it in my calendar but when dealing with the weather, you have to be willing to wiggle some things around. I try to run every Wednesday night and I swear Wednesdays are almost guaranteed to be rainy or snowy. Just because the weather doesn’t cooperate doesn’t mean you are off the hook.

Know where you can find a treadmill

I hate the treadmill. It is torture. Sometimes though you just have to admit it is too cold or that you aren’t going to catch a break with Mother Nature. Treadmills are better than curling up on the couch with a pint of ice cream. I cancelled my gym membership but I am lucky enough to have a treadmill in my office building. I also know the day drop in rate for two local gyms between my office and my house. For me, a drop in of $8 here and there is cheaper than a full membership to a gym.

That is some of the ways I can manage to run outside and I hope that helps. How about any of you? Do any of you have any advice on keeping with running during the colder and darker months?

I also just found this neat page on the Runner’s World site where you put in the weather conditions and they recommend what you wear.

Photo credit: pixdaus

Stay warm and happy running!

Fooducate to Eat a Bit Better

FooducateLast week I attended the Small Business Workplace Wellness Conference and I really enjoyed it. I usually enjoy any conference not in my industry (I crave information) but this was a really nicely done, small event. So, not only am I going to torture myself with living a better lifestyle but I have tools to torture my colleagues as well (insert evil laugh).

One of my first orders of business when I left the conference was I bought a whiteboard, hung it up above of company snacks that are always readily available and I graded each item. I graded them using this really cool app Fooducate. I wrote about Fooducate for Guiding Stars this April too.

With Fooducate, you simply use your wicked smart phone and scan the bar code on almost any item of food and it grades it for you (A – F). You can also search for a food by name if you don’t have a bar code. Not only do you get a grade for your item but you also get healthier alternatives to that item and the reasoning behind why your items is getting the grade it is.

Cool ‘eh?

I even like their tagline: Fooducate – eat a bit better.
Their logo is pretty cute too.
Simple.
Did I mention the app is free?

I really do use this app. I like it. As we know, eating better isn’t about freakish diets, it is about small changes you can make just to eat a bit better. You want to make a change in your diet that you can maintain.

So I wanted to tell you about the app too. Also, pretty much all the snacks at work got a C- to a D. I have my work cut out for me!

Picking Your Head Up

My head downPretty crazy week over here in my world. Our life just carried into the next chapter – Adam started Med School this week at UNE. We have quite a journey ahead of us. I am now the bread winner for the family and Adam is going to pour himself into school for the next 8 years or so.

I am so excited to move forward, especially after a year or two of a semi-holding pattern. But, being the control freak I am – all this change has me in a tizzy.

Adam is at school about 45-50 hours a week and has lots of studying to do when he is not. We traded cars, I handed over the keys to my Jetta that has done me good for the past 7 years and he handed over the reigns to his Jeep Wrangler (see you later good hair days). We are going to have to get used to a smaller income and the dogs are going to have to get used to not having someone home with them all day. Big week… big week.

So I have had an exhausting week between trying to run the dogs each morning, keeping up with housey stuff, a busy week at work and gearing up for the Beach to Beacon (10k that was yesterday). The most exhausting part though has been the roller coaster inside my head. I am a worrier, a planner and I can deal with ANY situation as long as I know what I have to deal with and right now… I am not in control of any of those things.

Picking my head up

By now you know I run but you may or may not know I joined a running group last winter. I can run a 12 minute mile for ever. I have done 3 half marathons and plenty of other long runs. 12 minute miles and I can just do it. What I can’t do is run faster. I get nervous and panicky when I run faster and I am terrified that if I run faster, I will burn out and not be able to complete my distance I am supposed to run.

With this running group, I have a coach. Our group’s running coach, Ziggy, is a true legend to Maine running and probably the sport itself. Going into this I thought he would tell me I held my arms wrong, my stride was too short, that I leaned forward too much – nope. The biggest advice Ziggy gives me at races, timed mile trials or 880 repeats is “Pick your head up Amanda!” I run with my head down.

I heard the advice and I tried a few times but changing your ways is difficult so I think I accidentally gave up.

Smoke from White Birch FarmI recently started taking horse back riding lessons again. Every other week I head up to White Birch Farm and have a lesson. It has been great and I have forgotten so much since last time I rode. There are hundreds of little things that I need to relearn and I need to get to know these horses, my instructor and the ways of this farm.

A few months in though and I already have had my biggest weakness pointed out (repeatedly), I need to pick my head up! I ride with my head down, pretty much looking at the horses head. If we pick up the pace and are trotting or hopping a fence, I will never make it – we will be running into the fence before I even look at it.

So I need to pick my head up

I have started picking my head up when I run and I have noticed a few things:

  • It is an empowering feeling to see what is ahead of you. It makes you immediately feel stronger.
  • You are taking on the road versus the road coming AT you. With your head up you are like ‘I will run over there and then up there’ but with your head down, literally you just see asphalt coming at you. You are almost playing defense on the road coming at you versus taking charge of where you are going.
  • It makes me a little sick, almost like motion sickness. I have to assume running with your head down versus up does something to your breathing. Right now I just now it makes me a little light headed but I think that will get better.

For horseback riding, by picking my head up it makes the horse know that I am in control of our situation. I am going to have an eye out and we are headed over this way and it is going to be cool.

In this next chapter of my life – I can keep my head down and internalize, over analyze every situation and make myself crazy (like I did this week). Or I can pick my head up and look at our future. My husband is getting to study to do something he loves. He is achieving his goals. I am acheiving my goals and we are going to have better lives because of it. Just like running and riding, I need to look ahead to where we are going and not drown in the details of getting there. There will always be ‘what-ifs’ but they will always work themselves out.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
Wayne Gretzky

Conference Necessities

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Bear Conference NecessitiesI am leaving for Washington DC tomorrow for a conference for work. I kinda forgot too. I go to my fair share of conferences each year. This one snuck up on me, but that is fine. Things have been busy and my mind has been on other things.

The thing about conferences is after 10 or so, you sort of have the routine down. I have a good idea of the things I have to pack and what I need. I thought I would share some of my conference necessities, no matter the conference, these are the things that help me get through a long week or so of networking and learning.

Top 12 Conference Items

  1. Hand sanitizer (health needs) – Conferences are for meeting people, hunderds or thousands of people. After a lot of conferences, everyone is sick. New people from all over the country have all kinds of nice germs that you can’t fight off because you are out of whack, overtired and constantly exposed. A small, pen sized hand sanitizer, like Purell Spray Pen should do the trick. Just a little spray here and there can help and you don’t feel like a weirdo lugging around a jug of Purell.
  2. Airborne (health needs) – Just like above, meeting people and flying when your system is weekend is dangerous. I don’t even know if Airborne works but it makes me think it works so I take it. It also has vitamins and healthy stuff in it, so it doesn’t hurt to take it.
  3. Filtered Water Bottle (health needs) – I recently purchased a Brita Bottle with Filter and I love it! You can fill it from water from any tap and it filters in the bottle. Ice cubes also fit in there perfectly. Being a Mainer, I am spoiled with delicious water. Now I can tuck this is my bag and fill it whenever, wherever! We all know water is so good for you and for keeping you healthy. Why chance it by hoping they have water in the sessions and make sure you have a back up plan.
  4. Running shoes (health needs) – One of the reasons I picked up running is that you don’t need a lot of equipment. When you are away at a conference is a GREAT time to squeeze in a run (or a walk). Like the previous two examples, your body is run down at a conference but just getting up and about and sweating out some bad juju can really help you fight things off, feel energized and get you on track. You are also away with less of the distractions of home. I also like exploring a new city or area on a run. Obviously you need to be safe and know where you are going, but some of my favorite SXSW experiences were running around Lady Bird Lake. I got to see more of Austin than almost all of the hundreds of thousands of attendees. So bring your sneaks, lace ’em up and get out there (safely).
  5. Sheer Band-aids (health needs) – No matter how comfy you think your shoes are, there are few that can stand up to the work load you put on them at a conference. Drop a few Sheer Band Aids in your carry on and cover up any soft spots or cuts before they get out of control.
  6. Ballet Flats (fashion needs) – Conferences mean a lot of standing and walking. Most of my day to day pretty shoes can’t handle the stress of a conference. Heels are suicide, flip flops are unprofessional and end up hurting your feet too and sneakers just look funny. A good, comfy pair of ballet flats may be your best friend at a conference. The Gap has rarely done me wrong with their ballet flats. They are pretty durable and don’t cost a fortune.
  7. Fitted suit style jacket (fashion needs) – Conferences mean leaving your hotel room at 7am and not sure if you will be back before midnight. You might have an impromptu meeting, client dinner, drinks with a friend, been added to a panel at the last minute – not to mention constantly going from warm to overly air conditioned rooms. Having a nice fitted jacket that you can easily take on and off and not look unprofessional is key.
  8. Kindle (entertainment needs) – I read a lot and I read even more when I am traveling. My carry-on usually has my laptop, running shoes, camera and 4-5 books – that gets pretty heavy. I just got a Kindle 3G for my birthday and I am SO EXCITED to bring it with me and drop about 10 pounds from my carry on. I usually have the book I am currently trying to finish, one business book and then two or three ‘for me’ books that I bring. Sometimes you want to read smart things and sometimes you want to read brain rotting things (like almost anything with a pink cover). Now I can take as many books as I want with me and it won’t ever weigh more than 8.7 ounces!
  9. Angry Birds (entertainment needs) – Find a few minutes of downtime? Have to stand in line to pick up your packet? Want to look busy so that the guy across from you won’t talk to you? Two words for you – Angry Birds. I will be very busy throwing birds at pigs in houses trying to get my eggs back. If I save the eggs on the regular version there is still Seasons and Rio to save too. They need me!
  10. Mini power strip (sessions needs) – Being a plugged in gal, I use a lot of power when I am on the move. Adam got me this great mini power strip that tucks right in a pocket in my bag. It has three spots to plug things in. I could even share with a friend, if I felt like it.
  11. Big girl camera (new places needs) – Adam got me an awesome big girl camera (Canon Digital Rebel) for my 30th birthday (it was a gift for ‘us’). I love going to new cities and if it takes a conference to get me there, I am going to find time to go exploring. When I go exploring I love having a nice camera that I can bring with me to capture the things as I see them.
  12. A good, positive attitude (all around need) – Traveling is tough, being on your feet and constantly ‘on’ is tough, being away from your family and your own bed is tough. If you don’t have a good attitude about it, you will suffer and your chances of getting sick seem to go through the roof (not a doctor, just an observation). You have to have a good, positive attitude or your time will really stink. Load up your iPod with happy songs, make yourself go home early and get enough sleep, have a good breakfast – keep yourself as normal as you can and be happy you have this opportunity!

Those are some of my top conference needs! Hope some of this helps someone else! If I forgot something just let me know and wish me and Jenika luck in DC.

Have I told you neither of us have been to DC before? This should be interesting!