The Heart is a Muscle

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my heartbeat lately. Noticing the way my heart races when I run up the stairs and thumps loudly, and the way it slows way down when I fall asleep. How I can hear my partner’s heartbeat when I lay on his chest, steadying me.

And even metaphorically, our hearts are a guiding force, a navigating compass in a wide, dark sea. When you follow your heart’s desires, when you do anything out of love. That is when we use our “heart.”

But it serves as a good reminder that our heart is a muscle, both literally and figuratively speaking. And without use, it grows atrophied and into disrepair.

Don’t forget to exercise and help your heart pump blood. But also don’t forget to be compassionate, and use your heart that way, to help others and yourself.

The heart is a muscle. It beats and beats away the darkness.

Love,

Bailey

 

Running and Crying

Two things you should know about me (if you don’t already know from reading this blog and assuming):

1. I am not an athlete. (I played sports growing up, but I wouldn’t consider myself “athletic” by any stretch of the imagination.) 

2. I never follow through in my personal life. (I have a million and one hobbies at home, and I’ve never finished any of them. I’m looking at you, five adult coloring books.)

So, if I told you that I’ve been waking up early to go for a run these past two days, would you ask if I’ve been abducted by aliens? 

Good, so would I. 

But I haven’t. I’ve just been fed up with how I look, feel, and look. So, for two days, I got up, put clothes on, and went out the front door before I was fully awake. 

And I know, two days isn’t a lot. But see point 2, above, ok? 

So, I was running along today, trying to will myself to keep with it and to go faster when I said to myself, “it’s okay, Bailey. Even if you don’t make it all the way, you accomplished something because you got out of bed to do this today. You’ve already won.” 

And possibly because the pollen has been horrendous and I couldn’t take a full breath without choking and my chest feeling tight, I started to cry. Which looks like I’m a member of crazy town to anyone who is passing by: a girl running slowly, crying to herself. 

But it had been so long that I had been nice to myself, that I had said anything encouraging to me, that it caught me off guard. It’s like when your significant other brings home flowers or does something unexpected to make you feel good. But for yourself. 

So, what’s my advice? Get up every morning and do something for yourself. Break your routine. But really, don’t surprise yourself with kindness, like I did. Practice it daily. 

And even if I don’t get up early enough to go for a run, at least I’ve accomplished something, by getting out of bed. 

You should be proud of that too. 

Just A Little Bit

Everyone has goals. Everyone has dreams. And everyone struggles to achieve them sometimes. 

Magazines and blogs make millions every year trying to help you unlock the secret to not falling off the bandwagon when in pursuit of your happiness. (The key to mastering your abs on page 7!)

But do you really want to know how to do it?

You do a little. Even the tiniest amount. And you do it every day. And when you’re tired and sore and pretty frustrated, you can look back and see the mole hill you made is actually a mountain. (And that’s a good thing). 

Wanna write a book? Write a single sentence each night. 

Wanna run a race? Start off walking, even just around the block. 

Wanna eat a ton of hotdogs in one sitting? You gotta eat the first one first. 

And in that way, you can do it. The trick is to not let yourself be stagnant in any part of this life. You can only do better if you are willing to work on your own progress. Even just a little bit. 

Why I (Occasionally) Wear My Fitbit

I get it. We all have fitness goals. Run farther and faster. Weigh less. Be stronger. And a Fitbit or other weight loss device can really help to motivate us. We set goals and track our meals. But then we’re all like, “I can’t walk any farther because I’ve met my goal for the day, and I don’t want to over do it and lose steam for the rest of the week.” But at least we’re trying, right? 

And don’t get me wrong. I totally appreciate having a little thing that helps me get up and go. Because that’s not exactly easy when you have a desk job. And it’s not exactly easy when you’re just an all around busy person, like we all are. 

But these were my thoughts before I realized that with a fit bit, you’re never really alone

Like, instead of running along a path, getting a workout in, in complete silence,  your Fitbit vibrates because someone’s texted you and you can read it on your Fitbit. I mean, how am I supposed to get into my run, enjoy nature and the sensations of my body, if I’m being reminded that I’m still connected to the real world? If I can read texts on my wrist? 

And it distracts me all day long. Because how do I ignore something that is right under my nose?
I know, I know. I could just turn off the alerts. But wouldn’t I miss being constantly in the know? And when does this become a concerned citizen discussing a pervasive issue to a bratty twenty year old something’s entitled rant? (Yes, I have a Fitbit. Even though it scares me to own one, I have one.) 

But maybe that’s what our new reality is. Our technology has just become a part of us, and we have to stay connected, no matter what. 

And like it or not, tech is pushing forward…by sometimes just making us do push ups. 

Resolute/Resolve

So, what are your New Years resolutions?

C’mon, don’t act like you didn’t make them. Don’t pretend like you’re too jaded for the new year. (Although I will admit, you can start to be a new you any day of the week. You really don’t need to start at the new year.)

So, why didn’t you?

I think the biggest reason people don’t make resolutions is that they think they need to “resolve” something. They think they need to start at square 1 and be at square 365 by the end of the year. That everyday needs to be pure progress instead of one step forward and two steps back.

But that’s the nature of things, really. It’s a process, not a one and done. It’s why you should think of yourself as being “resolute” in your resolutions instead of resolving something. Just be firm in what you want to do and you won’t notice that the problem at the end of the year isn’t fixed. You’ll just be happy that you focused on something for a whole year and put your energy into it.

So, what are my resolutions? I have a lot to be “resolute” on, but here’s a couple:

  1. Lose weight

I’m sure that one is no surprise to you, and it’s probably on your list too. The problem is that it’s really generic. You need to set goals and deadlines for weight loss goals, not just say you’re going to do it. Like, I’ll lose 2 lbs. by March 1, etc. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll set your goal really high but will be really happy with any progress at all. For me, I’m going to try to eat less carbs and focus on meat and vegetables as the main part of my diet. (What do you expect? I have two food allergies! There’s not much left!)

2. Learn a new language

Not every resolution has to be about making yourself better. It can just be something you want to do. Focus your energy on learning something specific like a language or a hobby, and you can count your time working toward your goal just by reading about it on Wikipedia. (It’s a lot less strenuous than exercising!)

3.  Notice more

Sure, I can achieve this just by putting down my phone when I’m  walking down the street. But this also means noticing when I’m happy and noticing when my body is sore and when I’m thirsty and when I’m bored and everything around me. Because we internalize a lot of things all day, but when was the last thing you actually noticed something? Really took it in? (I’m hoping this blog will help!)

And that’s it! Have a great year out there! Just remember to be resolute, not resolving!

Sprint the Marathon

So, what are you? A sprinter or a marathon runner? Do you like to do dashes and race yourself against your own personal best? Or do you like to take long strides and conserve your energy?

Science will tell you that this is because you have certain types of twitch fibers, slow and fast, that make you either a sprinter or a long distance runner, not respectively. But to avoid everyone falling asleep during this blog post and giving everyone nervous flashbacks to high school gym class, let’s skip that part.

My question is whether you’re a sprinter or a marathon runner, are you always giving 100 percent?

I mean, think about it. When you’re running in short bursts, you may give the majority of your energy over to the task, but there’s still gonna be some left over, when you’re done and you slow to a walk. Same thing with a marathon. You’re going to stretch it out as long as possible, but it’s still likely that you can only give so much before you have to stop and keep some energy for yourself, just in case.

As you probably guessed, this is a metaphor for life (which should probably be the title of this entire blog). You can do it fast or slow, but are you really giving it your all? Are you really letting passion take over you completely to see that you reach your long term goal? Are you afraid to burn out completely, or are you scared to keep going and find that there’s no finish line?

It’s kind of like that weird adage where people tell you not to lay yourself down in your coffin all nice and neat, but encourage you to come in swinging and whooping and saying what a wild ride life turned out to be. Because it’s true. You shouldn’t rush and you shouldn’t conserve. You should sprint the marathon, and let the overpowering positive energy of each day move you forward and into the long haul.

A Firefly in the Livingroom

Do you think there is such a thing as coincidence? Or is life a series of well-timed, intentional acts?

There’s certainly plenty of evidence for the former. Lightning strikes, for example. However, you could also argue that lightning strikes result from storms, which are a scientific phenomenon that can be easily predicted. Maybe that’s one point for the latter. Of course, romantic comedies would also have you believe in perfect, serendipitous coincidence. But, romantic comedies are also shot on sets with actors and scripts. Looks like that is a draw.

But whatever your persuasion on this subject, I find that some events are simply more difficult to pin down, as either coincidence or fate, than others.

Take, for example, the other night. I’m walking with my mom around the neighborhood. We’re watching the sky darken with a storm, so we’re sort of hoofing it. We pass a corner when we smell it. Cigar smoke.

Okay, not entirely, unusual in itself. Actually, not really unusual at all, is it? Except for the fact that my grandfather (you can read about him here) used to smoke like a chimney stack. And his tobacco of choice was cigars. Add to the fact that I am always thinking about him around the summertime. At his old house, he had this beautiful porch where we could sit outside until the light died, unable to see each other’s faces but able to make out the red tip of his cigar. And of course, the fireflies that lit up the yard. He used to say, without fail, that they would arrive around the Fourth of July and then disappear shortly after.

So, when cigar smoke swept up our noses on our nightly walk, my mom immediately said it was Pop-Pop, stopping by to say hello. I agreed with her, and we rushed home before the oncoming storm could soak us.

Unbeknownst to us, we must have had a hitchhiker.

We walked through the door and plopped down on the couch, exhausted from our hurrying, but glad for it, as we heard the rain splatter on the window. Relaxing back, we heard a faint hum in the room. Looking over, we saw a firefly hovering over the coffee table. It hung in the air like a fairy and seemed suspended there. It was captivating and altogether strange.

Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones who had seen it: our pet cat was all wide eyes and twitching tail. Not wanting him to eat our good omen, I captured the bug and took it outside. It sat on my hand for a moment and then drifted lazily into the air.

Now, you could say that a firefly followed us into the house and was almost eaten by a well-fed cat. And you’d be right. And you could also say that this was more confirmation of my Pop-Pop, who wanted to send us a sign that we’d recognize. And you’d also be right (at least in my book).

But isn’t that the beautiful thing? If it was intentional, then it was simply a memorable moment. If it was a coincidence, then it was also a memorable moment. That is, if my Pop-Pop sent it, then it’s meaningful, but if it simply attached to our clothes, then it’s adorable.

That’s why you can’t pin it down; it’s both intentional and coincidental. And I truly don’t see or mind the difference that I can’t answer my original questions. Because it doesn’t really matter. It’s all about what you choose to believe, and what “brightens” your day.

Ma’am, Put the Cookie Down and Step Away

Authority. We all know that it likes to wear shiny black boots. We may call it the po-po or the fuzz, but it also comes in the form of our first-grade teacher, our doctor, and our dear, sweet mother.

From the moment life begins, we encounter this over-arching presence that works in the name of our safety and tells us that we need to follow orders, for our health and the health of others. And like I said, this presence comes in many forms.

Except, one day you’re an adult. Somewhere between losing a bunch of baby teeth and earning your first dollar that isn’t allowance, you become the authority. That’s right. You start to realize that you are the captain of your soul.  You are driving this bus, and you, only you, can turn the steering wheel left or right.

So, why do you still feel like you need to do certain things to live a satisfying life? Or even have a good day at all? Why do you feel like there’s a Twister board, and you need to step on green and put a hand on yellow to feel fulfilled? Why do you feel like you have to follow the directions in the box instead of creating your own?

A succinct but sad example. Today, I had some tasks to do after work. But I couldn’t do them until I exercised. But, as is usually the case, I didn’t feel much like going to the gym, which inevitably halted my progress. (I know. This story seems as painful in the retelling as it was when I was experiencing it.) So, I finally decided that I would take a walk. And upon that decision, I asked aloud:

“But is that enough?”

Is that enough!? What do you mean by that? I had to ask myself. According to what? To whom? Who is measuring my daily progress? Who is pinching my fat rolls and telling me that I should have gone to the gym? Who says that I need to complete so many things a day in order to be allowed to exist?

The answer is I don’t.

This may be difficult to understand, but there isn’t going to be anyone leaning over your shoulder, making sure you fill any kind of quota once you have left work for the day or school for life. No one is going to berate you for not working out. No one is going to scream at you for not attending that party you said you’d go to. And no one is going to leap out of your cupboard and smack the cookie out of your hand that you snuck in the wee hours of the morning.

Now, you’ll have to live with whatever decision you make. And that’s an entirely different kind of punishment. But that also means that you can let yourself off the hook indefinitely.

When you’re the authority of your own life, not only can you decide the consequences but you can define the rules.

5 Things a Zumba Class Will Teach You

I’m not bragging or anything, but I am a Zumba queen.

I have been to several Zumba (latin dancing/exercising) classes in many gyms. I’ve heard Shakira remixes and Pitbull versions, but strangely, I have never heard the same song twice. I’ve danced alongside young women and with the moms of the young women I used to go to school with. And usually it’s the same.

Every class, I spend most of my time trying not to step on anyone else’s toes and going left when everyone else goes right. I fail a lot, and I don’t get every move just right. But when you make mistakes with jazz hands and enthusiasm, can you really call them mistakes??

Anyway, when I look around my Zumba class, I see a lot of women who want to be a better version of themselves. But I also see a lot of women who lack confidence. We turn off the light so that everyone feels comfortable dancing. But that’s the problem. We are enabling our own lack of self-confidence. Maybe we need to remember that we should be feeling ourselves dancing, feeling the movement, instead of seeing and criticizing it. As a result, I felt that (Zumba) women everywhere needed a few reminders about their beauty and power.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes

Listen, you’re not going to nail every move. Actually, I don’t know how the instructor (usually tiny and gorgeous) doesn’t stop from tittering behind her hand when she sees everyone screwing up time and time again. But I think it’s because she understands that that isn’t the point of Zumba. Being a dancing queen helps, but Zumba is for people who have just enough rhythm to not run into each other on a 5-minute basis. Just focus on getting a good workout by lifting your arms and legs higher. The rest will come in time. (Or in time 5, 6, 7 8…)

4. Let It Go

One of the biggest mysteries to me in life is why companies can’t make a remote for the TV with less buttons. But the second biggest mystery is why gyms put mirrors in exercise rooms. Do I need to see my sweaty mug staring back at me, as I unattractively complete squats? The answer is no. And on that note, try to avoid them if you can. All humans have this weird vanity reflex in which when they see a mirror, they are suddenly conscious of every hair out of place and move they make from that point forward. Concentrating that hard will cause you to inevitably mess up and stop enjoying your workout for what it is: time to be yourself. If you do mess up, see #5. If you want to learn more about being yourself, see #3.

3. Being Yourself

Everyone, everywhere, does everything a little bit differently than the next person. (Am I making sense? Good. Because it is about to get harder.) This means that everyone will lift their foot a little higher, shake their booty a little bit more, or whip their hair back and forth a bit…back and forthier than you. The point is that you need to be you no matter what the person next to you is doing. Unless they think they are God’s gift to Zumba and are whipping their hair like Beyonce. Then you can laugh a little. But after you are done laughing, you should congratulate them. Anyone who has the courage to be themselves in public is absolutely worthy of your admiration. 

2. Be Comfortable With Your Body

If you saw me out in public, you would be hard-pressed to look at me and say to yourself, “Yes, she drops it low on occasion.” And you’d be right about that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t in my Zumba class. I’m just loath to do it on the street, sir stranger. So, don’t let who you think you should be define you. (Huh?) Get in touch with yourself and shake ‘dem hips. (Oh.) Or don’t. It’s completely up to you. But being in charge of your body is what Zumba is all about.

1. Make It Fun

Look, it’s been a hard day. I know a lot of you out there aren’t skipping to your Zumba class at dinnertime. You are dragging your feet and your gym bag, hoping that you trip over the latter and injure yourself so you don’t have to go. But try to have some fun while  you’re there. I see plenty of women, brows furrowed in concentration trying to match each step. But you’ve been concentrating all day. Just laugh at yourself if you miss a step and keep going. If you have to think of it this way, this is your place to be silly. I promise, there will be plenty of time to put on a serious expression for the kids when you drive home.

I hope I’ve reminded all of the wonderful (Zumba) people why they are so great in the first place. No one rocks parachute pants with little straps on them like you do, and don’t you forget it. 

 

8 Songs You Probably Wouldn’t Put On a Workout Playlist (But Should)

I’m slowly, almost imperceptibly, renewing my efforts to get healthy and lose weight. This week I’ll be joining up at the gym and cutting out the junk food I love so dearly. I’ve had enough, and it’s obvious my body has, too. I lost my gallbladder one year ago to a horrible nutella overdose (I wish I was kidding), and there is simply something about sitting in a chair all day that makes me want to remind my legs what it feels like to move out from under me. It’ll be an incredibly painstaking progress, but it will be progress nonetheless.

However, if you’re anything like me, you’re gonna need a lot more motivation than the possibility of losing another organ (I AM kidding now). We’ve all attempted to do it on our own. We’ve bought new sneakers, a new water bottle, new workout clothes, new headphones, and we get to the gym only to spend the entire time lifting weights in front of the mirror, staring at our body and hoping the weight will melt off sweat drop by sweat drop. I’ve counted calories in my head and on my phone. I’ve danced with ladies 20 years my senior to music that is 10 years my junior in a Zumba class. I’ve been a tree, a warrior, and a child in yoga, and I have counted my breaths more times than I can count.

In the past, I may not have been consistent with my workout routines, but music has always been a motivational tool for me. The problem for me is that the only songs that truly help me keep going have repetitive beats and monotonous, empty lyrics. Isn’t there a perfect blend of captivating lyrics with an up-tempo bass line? I had to ask. But whether you’re walking or running, don’t sweat it. I’ve got you covered.

8. Float On – Modest Mouse

A combination of positive lyrics and a beat you can get into, you’ll be power-walking through the entire song before you even realize the burn in your legs.

7. Babel – Mumford and Sons

Any Mumford and Son song can help to pump you up, but the guys’ sophomore album really hits the spot. Especially their title track, Babel, which has plenty of raging banjo to keep you going.

6. Come With Me Now – Kongos

It’s a little bit slow to run to, but it’s constant beat and infectious accordion will keep you surprisingly rejuvenated.

5. Dog Days Are Over – Florence + The Machine

Another song with beautiful lyrics and an uplifting melody, Flo’s hit “Dog Days Are Over” will keep you moving and grooving. Besides, it tells you right in the lyrics to “run fast…” Don’t you love encouragement from a disembodied voice?

4. Intro – The XX

This tune is so steady and winding that you’re not really sure when it will finish, and you’re not really sure you want it to. This will keep your mind off the clock and off the pain in your legs.

3. Lazy Eye – Silversun Pickups

When the beat drops on this one, your feet will be flying. It is just continuous enough to match your footsteps but not enough to bore you. Give it a listen, and you’ll see what I mean.

2. Mountain Sound – Of Monsters and Men

Of Monsters and Men are one of those bands that are entirely underrated, especially in providing the soundtrack to your workout. Pick any song of theirs and you won’t be disappointed, but this is a favorite of mine.

1. Rag Doll – Aerosmith

Go figure, right? But the alternating drums on this track will keep your knees and heart rate high.

There you have it. Now, get up and jam out!