April 17th – “Today’s fitness-focused stars encourage you to ramp up your healthy routines—or get yourself back on the wagon in case you tumbled off.

I have certainly tumbled off the wagon!

Last week, I took a break from everything. I didn’t write and exercise very much. I spent the rainy weekend eating cookies and looking for a forgotten stash of chocolate. I found a chocolate bar!

I wouldn’t have given up on my exercise had my heel not had a minor stabbing pain. It’s a new injury because I’ve been increasing my jogging time each week. I haven’t had this problem before, so I think it must be the combination of jogging and working at a standing desk. Why can’t I win?!

It feels better now that I’ve rested. I want make sure it doesn’t happen again, so I’ve been rolling a ball on my foot and adding some new stretches. I already committed to going to yoga after work, so there’s no turning back now!

January 26th – “After a few days of binge eating, a little exercise may be in order.”

Oh, how does my horoscope know when I’ve been lazy and gluttonous?!

I exercise regularly, but haven’t been doing as much as I could given the number of hours I lay on the couch, work on the computer, and read in bed. Today, I decided to jog a little further and extend my run past an hour. I only went 65 minutes, but that was still better my usual 45 minutes.

The latest study I heard is that it’s better to work out for 75 minutes straight 2 times a week rather than do multiple shorter work outs. I’m not sure if this applies to cardio, weights, or both. I don’t follow trends and scientific experiments like these because they often claim that their latest study has discovered the magic formula to a healthy body. The assumption behind many of these cases is that there is ONE method of exercising that fits everyone. That’s just nonsense! Each person has different genetic makeups and lifestyles. What works for one person may not for another.

While I do not take these studies blindly as truth, I do think there is an added benefit to working out past one hour. According to some other study that I have no citation of, that’s when your body starts burning fat. I don’t know if that’s true. What I do know from experience is that my body feels different if I engage it longer than an hour. I’m still going to do my short workouts, but I will extend a couple of them to get the added benefit of feeling more energized.

Now that I have specific writing projects to work on, it’s even more important that I pay attention to my health. I have realized that what makes goals (of any kind) difficult is that it’s often not just about completing tasks or steps to achieve a specific goal. It requires a lifestyle change. I don’t see writing as a “goal” but rather a new element that I want to bring into my life. For me, that doesn’t only mean reading and writing more, but also taking better care of myself so that I can accommodate those changes. When I’m at my physical best, my mind works wonders!

January 1st – “It costs so little, if anything, to get out and walk, to move around more, to be more active and feel better in all ways.”

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The best work out is a free workout! There are plenty of exercises you can do to stay healthy without having to go to the gym. I like the free showers when I’m travelling, but when given the opportunity, I prefer exercising at home or outside.

During my afternoon jog today, I got to breathe fresh air, meet some new dogs, and ease drop on some juicy gossip! Okay, I lied about the last one, but sometimes it does happen.

Here are a few more ways to exercise for free:

  1. Take a long walk. When I’m not feeling my best or don’t have access to a shower facility, I find that walking the same mileage as my run is just as effective. It takes more time, but it requires less stress on your body and you get to enjoy a little more of the scenery.
  2. Jumping. It can be jumping jacks, jump rope, or really any kind of jumping motion. It gets your heart rate up really fast and warms your whole body.
  3. Stretching. You can do this while you watch your favorite show. Half an hour in and you’ll feel super bendy!
  4. Crunches and Sit Ups. They’re tough, so you can do them in four minute intervals during commercial breaks.
  5. Push Ups. I LOVE push ups. If you do them properly, it’s really all the weight lifting you need! It tones your ENTIRE upper body. You’re essential lifting most of your body with two arms, so that’s a lot of weight! The best part is that you only need to do a few sets at day (takes 5 about minutes) 3 to 4 times a week. It’s the best bang for your buck!
  6. Dancing. Doesn’t all music sound better when you’re dancing?

December 12th – “You might be so stuck in your head that you fail to notice early warning signs of a minor health problem that could interfere with work.”

Have you ever heard of “computer body”? It’s what your body turns into when you use the computer all day.  It is bad posture, neck and back aches, and weak muscles from not moving around!

This weekend, I spent hours on the couch reading and watching the new season of Fuller House, so not only do I have computer body, I also have couch body.

Now that I’m trying to take my new writing project more seriously, it means that I’m spending more hours hunched over my computer or a book. It helps that I have a standing desk both at work and at home, but that’s not enough.

Moving around and keeping circulation going is essential for everyday life!

At my desk, I did mini stretches and exercises. I have no shame and don’t care how I look in front of others. Isn’t my health more important?!

Here are some things I do that help me. I do all of these very slowly except for number 4.

  1. Shoulder rolls
  2. Neck rolls
  3. Half Windmills/Arm Rotations (Put your hands on your shoulder and make full rotations). This is great for people with shoulder injuries. Full rotations with your arms fully extended put extra weight and stress, so this is a better option. This is probably the BEST should/arm stretch that I do. The effects are immediate!
  4. “Raise the roof” motions. You might feel silly about this, but after a minute or two, your arms and should will warm up nicely!
  5. Plies
  6. Rond de Jambe
  7. Attitudes Only if you have space!

For anyone who spends too may hours at your desk, I highly recommend standing desks. It encourages you to move around and fixes some of the bad posture issues that come with sitting in chairs. The best part is that you don’t have to spend any money to get one!

I do have a fancy standing desk at work, but at home I have a make shift one by putting an old bench on top of my desk. Before that, I used a plastic storage bin and cardboard box! The options are endless!

December 1st – “Family members may wake up on the wrong side of the bed today, and the morning could get tense. So treat everyone to breakfast.”

My partner and I spent the night tossing and turning, so we both woke up on the wrong side of the bed today.

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Yesterday was my day off from exercise so I got lazy on the couch and ate Lebkuchens. They are super cakey not too sweet German gingerbread cookies and delicious! If you don’t know what it is, click here. I ate them all before I had a chance for a photo! I think I’m going make these this year for Christmas. If you have an easy fail-proof recipe, please shoot me a message: suresignsproject@gmail.com

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We were wide awake at 4 a.m. It was late for him and a little early for me. We usually have our own routines, but we shared the morning today. I took this opportunity to leave the house sooner to give my partner space to meditate with Mr. Ox and for me to work on my own meditation. I don’t meditate in the traditional sense, but sometimes consider jogging as my form of meditation.

Six miles later, I felt great!

I couldn’t treat my partner to breakfast, so I treated myself. There was a slice of sponge cake waiting for me at work. I should have saved it for lunch, but I didn’t!

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November 17th – “Just hang out and enjoy the passing scenery.”

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That sounds like wonderful prediction, doesn’t it?  Well it was, but only for the first 15 minutes of my day! Just when you think you have it easy, it can get hard real fast.

Inadvertently, I woke up at 4:30 this morning. That’s my usual time when I have to commute to the city. Today, I didn’t have to drive. I jumped out of bed because I thought it was 6:30 a.m.

After some warm ups, I bolted outside into the darkness.  As I’ve mentioned before, I like to work out first thing in the morning before my mind has a chance to wake up and rebel. It was a cold 45 degrees, but I tried not think about it and forged on. I thought to myself, “I’m only going for a short run. It won’t be so bad.”

Strangely, there weren’t any other runners around the lake today. Normally, there are dozens of early risers getting a jog in before work. After half an hour, the sun still wasn’t rising at all. That’s when I realized that something was wrong. I was up way too early.

At this point, there was no way that I’d be able to rewind and go back to sleep. Even though I was tired and struggling, my body was awake enough from the chilly air that it didn’t make sense to quit.

I had read my zodiac predication the night before and almost laughed out loud. With all the extra time I had now, I decided to turn my short run into a long one. My zodiac gave me a clear sign to hang out and enjoy the passing scenery, so I did.

It’s a rare treat to be at the lake at night, especially when there aren’t other pedestrians around. Despite the piercing cold, I appreciated the stillness. The ducks weren’t even in the water and lined up at the edge, patiently waiting for the sun to come out so they could warm their feathers.

The chilly air and quietness made me focus on nothing but the moment, something which I haven’t been able to do for a very long time. I wasn’t distracted by Olympic-fast joggers wearing face masks for “resistance training” or by overhearing private conversations from urban strollers. There were no car horns, seagull cries, or traffic signals beeping. I couldn’t see very well with the dim lights, but it didn’t matter. It was just me, the lake, and no one else.

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Some day pictures of the lake:

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October 30th – “Switch up routines with yoga, or weights, or meditation.”

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I didn’t do any of the exercises suggested by my horoscope, but I did add something new to my routine.

I’ve been out jogging or at the gym 5 times this week which wasn’t enough to make up for all the heavy meals I’ve had. Last week, I went out for Shanghai dumplings, made lamb shanks, and had dessert for breakfast.

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Recipe for lamb is at the end of post.

Did I mention that I made cookies last night too?

I definitely needed to do an extra workout yesterday!

I only got through the first 10 minutes of this dance video, but I plan on doing the whole thing tonight. This is a great for anyone like me who isn’t very coordinated. A lot of the work out videos out there are too fast, advanced, and frankly, DANGEROUS, for the average person.  I think many fitness classes don’t spend enough time warming up and speed through the movements in order to increase calorie burn. If you’ve taken yoga at a studio AND at the gym, you know what I’m talking about!

Based on this video, Ryan Heffington really knows his stuff and how to teach. It’s like having a real dance teacher at home!

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Lamb Shank

2 to 4 lamb shanks

12 oz can of beer (preferable a stout/dark beer) OR red wine

12 oz can of beef broth (or half a box)

1/2 onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 stalks of celery, diced

½ can diced tomatoes or fresh

3 sprigs of fresh thyme

3 sprigs of fresh oregano

2 cloves minced garlic

A few tablespoons of olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste
Directions:

  1. In a large pan, brown lamb shanks (about 5 – 10 minutes) with some olive oil
  2. In a large pot, brown onions and garlic with some olive oil. Then add all other ingredients including lamb shanks. Bring to boil. Then simmer for 2 to 3 hours until meat is falling off the bone. If the sauce gets too thick or dry while simmering, add more broth and beer. It’s goes well with a side of mashed potatoes and your favorite greens!

 

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Apple Cider Caramel Cookies

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

3 cups flour

10 packets (1 box) apple cider powder

½ tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 package (36 count) small caramels

 

Directions:

  1. Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs and vanilla
  2. Mix all dry ingredients together
  3. Slowly add dry ingredient mixture to wet. Mix until just combined.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour
  5. Divide dough into 36 balls, flatten the dough balls, then wrap each caramel with dough.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 13 minutes. They’re ready when the caramels have fully melted and the cookies look flat.

Original recipe here

October 19th – “You can put a creative spin on an old problem and come up with an original solution.”

An afternoon jog or walk is one of my favorite things to do when I’m at work. It’s not something I practice when I’m at home because…well… let’s face it, I’m probably having a second lunch around that time! Midday runs are particularly enjoyable because I get to catch up with friends who work nearby. I hear about their latest adventures, get cooking tips, and give bad relationship advice.

There wasn’t any bad relationship advice today, but my friend did revive my interest in something old. She told me about a storytelling event that she attended recently. The Moth is a monthly series that happens throughout cities in the U.S. The events are like open mics, but the stories told must be true and do not follow a stand-up format. The current trend of stand-up focuses on short jokes that do not relate to one another, rather than telling one cohesive story. I had considered trying stand-up a few years ago, but never tried it because I don’t tell jokes well. I can be funny, but I lack the quick wit to create my own jokes or the desire to tell someone else’s.

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Storytelling on the other hand, is another craft of its own. My experience with storytelling started in an unlikely place. Like many people, I was terrified of public speaking. Unlike many people, I decided to do the worst/best thing possible by joining the forensics team. My parents couldn’t afford to pay for (and didn’t believe in) extracurricular activities for my siblings and I, so anything I wanted to do had to be free and occur mostly during school time. Forensics qualified. If you don’t know what forensics is, it has nothing to do with CSI. If I did that in high school, I’m sure that would have dramatically changed my direction in life! Forensics has to do with speech and debate.

I wasn’t organized or smart enough for the debate team, so I tried dramatic interpretations. This was pretty much the same as storytelling where you acted out different characters by changing your voice and body language. The main difference was that I did this for competition and it was brutal. Imagine high school kids trying to win something! In each competition, you performed your speech for 3 rounds. If you were good enough, you got into the final. Just like sports there were also State, National, and Invitational tournaments.

When I started, I had no clue what I was doing. I was a pretty good actress, but couldn’t find the right stories to tell. My first year, I didn’t choose wisely and performed a story that was just plain boring in every possible way. The second year, I got a good monologue, but I couldn’t make it believable that I was a mother who accidentally killed her own kid by ramming her car into him in the garage. The third year, I got an even better piece where I intentionally killed my own kids as a form of revenge for a “cheating” husband. Yes, this was Euripides’ Medea, and yes, now that I am writing this, I realize how ridiculous it sounds! How did I not see that these stories for not a good fit for me?! I had and still have no maternal instinct whatsoever. Finally, the fourth year, I found A Piece of My Heart, a tale about a young nurse who deals with life and death during the Vietnam War. After 4 years of practicing lines and facial expressions in front of a mirror, I finally made it to state championships with A Piece of My Heart.

As a teenager, I learned a lot from forensics, especially on how to overcome my fears and how to work through challenges. Looking back on it now, there are many more lessons that I can learn from it today. I realize that even though I was capable (and maybe even good) at performing, it took the right role for me to really excel. It didn’t matter how much I liked Medea, it just didn’t fit me, and I was never going to win.

The same can be said for my career or lack thereof. I’m a competent worker, but I’m not going to do well if I don’t fit in with the company/organization/institution. Perhaps it’s time to change my strategy and find more like-minded people that I can work with. I haven’t figured out what that is yet, but I think I will soon.

Sometimes I spend so much time talking about cats, food, and jogging that it doesn’t feel like I’m doing any significant. However, I can tell that I’ve already benefited a lot from this process. As a non-linear thinker, writing, no matter how trivial, helps me organize and process my ideas. I have at least 10 different thoughts going on in my mind at once and it’s often hard to filter through everything. Consequently, I am a terrible impromptu storyteller because I forget essential details to a tale and constantly have to back track. This makes it super confusing for any listener!

When I started writing today’s post, I thought it would about my plans to go check out storytelling events and work up the courage to perform at one. I’m definitely still going to do that because it is fun, will probably help me tell better stories, and improve my writing. Now that I’m near the end of the post, it’s clear that there are more things I need to work on, but they are related in many ways. I’ve only begun to remove the debris that is blocking my paths, and will continue going for lunch time walks until I find my way to one.

October 3rd and 4th – “are strong days, so see if you can exceed your normal effort.”

Who likes to do crunches? No one. Well, no one that I’ve ever known. I know people who like yoga, dance, running, lifting weights, boxing, but no one loves to work on their abs. It’s difficult, not fun, and takes a long time to feel or see any results. It’s like a bottomless pit of exercise.

For the last two days, I pretended that those challenges didn’t exist for me. Yes, sometimes I lie to myself into order to get things done. Don’t we all? Anyone who tells you that they NEVER lie, are DEFINITELY lying. We’re all imperfect people, so unless you’re a robot or a cat, it’s impossible not to lie (especially to yourself!).

I decided to get up extra early so I couldn’t make any excuses. To keep myself interested, I did a variety of exercises:

Standing Kicks

Standing Side Crunch

Lunging Twist Crunch

Planks and plank crunch

Full Sit Ups

I have taken ab classes at the gym before, so I know there are plenty more moves I can do next time.

At the end of the day, I rewarded myself with a couple of maple leaf cookies. They are REALLY REALLY good! I can taste the maple syrup in the super creamy filling. It’s AMAZING!  I hope to recreate these at in my oven one day.

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October 1st to 2nd  – “Do a short run or walk on the 1st. If feeling lackluster, know that the 2nd will be better.

I forgot to read my horoscope until the end of the day, so I didn’t get any exercise on the 1st. Ugh! I already missed 2 days before that which means I missed 3 days in a row! Noooo!

One habit I try to stick to is to not skip exercising for more than 2 days in a row. I count walking (at least 3 miles at a time) as exercise as well, so it’s usually not hard too follow. I find that when I do miss 2 days, it is more difficult to get back into the swing of things. It’s easy to start coming up a variety of excuses as to why I can’t make my work out happen, and I know that I’m not alone in this!

I know many people who struggle with getting into a regular exercise schedule. The most common reason I hear is, “I don’t have time.” The reality is that it’s rarely a real time issue, but rather, a commitment issue. Some days I do commit to exercise, other days, I don’t. I could use the time excuse, but it’s pretty hard to convince myself that I had to spend two hours binge watching The Real Housewives (I have a love hate relationship with reality TV that I’ll tell you about later).

Despite the 3 day break filled with afternoon naps and episode after episode of bad reality TV, September 2nd did go much better. My work horoscope instructed me to send out resumes that day so I spent the morning working on two applications. After submitting them it was easy to REWARD myself with a 5 mile jog and stretch my muscles outside. It’s amazing how quickly my perspective changed in the course of  24 hours and how well the 2 horoscopes worked together.

That’s another win-win for me and the horoscopes!