Reflections on 2016

Just before the start of the new year, I blogged about my goals for 2016. Below are my 2016 goals and how I feel about them. I’ll be doing a separate post on my goals for 2017.

  1. Eat Healthy. I feel like this has improved, especially since we moved back to St. Louis. While we were in Dallas for the first part of the year, I feel like we almost felt like we were on vacation (at least when it came to food). Trying new restaurants and finding new places we loved was one of the more exciting things about our new city. Unfortunately, most of those restaurants served less than ideal foods. After we moved back to St. Louis, I feel like I turned things around with my diet. I have still struggled at finding the right balance with my food sensitivities, but lately, I feel like I’ve been doing well.
  2. Be Active. I improved in this area immensely. While we were living in Dallas and I was unemployed, Copper and I were going on at least two walks a day. Most of these walks were two to three miles. In one month, we walked over 100 miles together. On top of that, Chris got me a yoga membership for Christmas last year, so I was taking classes several times a week. After we moved back to St. Louis, I got sick, so it took me more than a month to get back into an exercise routine. But I started going to yoga twice a week again. Then I ran my first and second 5ks of the year and also started strength training thanks to the Harder to Kill Challenge. I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made in the last half of the year and hope to continue my progress in strength and running in the coming year.
  3. Read More. I’m not quite where I wanted to be with this goal. I read intermittently while we were in Dallas. After I started my copywriting gig, it became more and more difficult to have the energy to read after work. Once we moved back to St. Louis, I got back with my book club and am in the midst of my second book with them. In an attempt to read more, I started a book review blog. I have not yet reviewed any books, though.
  4. Unplug More Often. I’ve made some progress here, but not a ton. I really struggled to sleep in Dallas, due to living in a noisy apartment complex in a noisy neighborhood (a mere two-ish miles from the airport!). So I tried to stop checking my phone after a certain time. I tried reading before bed. Nothing ever really worked. I finally started sleeping better once we moved back home. I’m still trying to limit my time on my phone and checking social media, especially. I think in 2017 I’m going to do a social media detox, at least for a while. It has become overwhelming in recent months and I want to spend less time there.
  5. Be Present. This one was connected to my goal to unplug. In unplugging, I aimed to be more present. I have tried to avoid checking my phone during meals and at family gatherings, but I don’t always succeed. Lately, I’ve also tried to limit my phone use even when I’m eating alone. This is another goal that will take some more work in the coming year.
  6. Drink More Water and Tea. I wanted to drink more water and tea and less alcohol. Honestly, I’m not sure if I’ve really succeeded or not. In most cases, I’m at least a little bit more mindful of when and what I drink. If I’m going to drink a beer, it’s going to be a really good craft beer that’s totally worth it. I do drink a lot more tea than I used to, which I have really enjoyed. Lately I’ve been trying to drink a cup of tea before bed to help me wind down at the end of the day.
  7. Be Kinder to Myself and Others. I’ve been pretty successful with this one, especially after moving back to St. Louis. I have taken more time to be kind to myself by doing yoga, finding ways to re-energize, and get rest. I went on a day-long yoga retreat in early November and participated in the Harder to Kill Challenge. Being kind to myself has always been difficult, but I think I’ve made some great strides in how I think and speak to and about myself.
  8. Have Better Relationships. This one tied in with unplugging, being present, and being kinder. It was especially important to me to stay connected with family and friends after we moved to Dallas. I made more of an effort to send cards to friends and family for birthdays and holidays. And although it was difficult, I tried to make a point to call people more, like my parents and grandma, (I know this probably doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I really don’t enjoy talking on the phone). Our time in Dallas was pretty challenging as a newly married couple, but I think we are better now having gone through that experience together.  
  9. Budget: Reduce Debt, Increase Savings. I had lofty goals with this one. I did, thankfully, make some small gains here, though. We paid off only one credit card debt this year. We did, however, increase our savings. In fact, just a few months ago, we opened up two more savings accounts. We now have an emergency savings, as well as one for car repairs and home renovations, and one for vacations. We had an unexpected expense come up about a month ago, and it felt good knowing we had enough in savings to cover it. It sucked using it since it had taken quite a while to build it up, but thankfully, we didn’t have to use it all. So now we’re working on building the emergency savings back up to where it was and beyond. I’m hoping to really hit our debts hard in 2017 and make a bigger impact there. It felt really, really great getting that first card paid off, so I want to continue that momentum in the coming year.
  10. Write More. This wound up being a big success and not much of a success all in one. I got a job as a freelance copywriter, so writing is currently my full time job. I spend between six and eight hours a day writing. I also did a fairly decent job of maintaining my previous blog back when we were in Dallas. After we moved to St. Louis, I really lost the motivation because I was sick and trying to get everything unpacked and get readjusted. On the creative side, I have not written much of anything this year. I have had plans to write a memoir, and I still want to do so, but I made very little, if any, progress on it this year. I’d really love to get into the habit of writing for pleasure a little every day in the next year.
  11. Find a Job I Love. Well, I get to write every day, and when people ask, I get to tell them I’m a writer. I get paid to write. It’s a pretty awesome feeling. Freelancing has its own challenges though. Dealing with taxes and health insurance is all frustrating and overwhelming. And although I do have a steady gig right now, the pay is not the same from month to month, which makes number nine on this list more difficult. Overall though, I do enjoy the work I do, so we’ll call this one a win.

Those were my primary goals for 2016. Overall, I’m pretty happy with how things turned out. What were your goals for 2016? Where did you succeed and where did you struggle?

I’ll be back soon with another post about my 2017 goals–stay tuned!

-AB

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The Harder to Kill Challenge

It’s been a little less than a week since I completed the Harder to Kill (HTK ) Challenge with Steph Gaudreau of Stupid Easy Paleo. The only other “challenge” I’ve done is the Whole30 (several times), and that is focused solely on food. The HTK Challenge focuses not only on the food we use to fuel our bodies but also how we move, energize, and think about our bodies.

The challenge consisted of daily lessons on one or more of these four pillars. It comes with a meal plan for four of the six weeks of the challenge, as well as a fitness plan. The fitness plan places a lot of focus on functional movements, which was really fantastic. Almost all the movements were based on ways we move our bodies every day and were aimed at improving that movement.

At the beginning of the program, we took “before” photos and measurements. About halfway through, I felt really anxious about what my “after” would look like. By the end of week six, though, I realized I had no real desire to take any after photos or to weigh myself or take any other measurements. Over the course of six weeks, my clothes had begun to fit better. More importantly, I noticed my strength improving. I ran a 5k without stopping and in just under 36 minutes.

These changes have been subtle for sure, but I have noticed them, and they have been enough. The fact that these changes were enough also shows me how much my mindset has improved over these six weeks. The two pillars I really wanted to work on during the challenge were energy and mindset. My mindset has improved, but there is still work to do.

My energy has improved significantly. I began tracking my sleep with the app Sleep Cycle. I also adopted Steph’s 90/30 rule. This is similar to the Pomodoro Technique. With the 90/30 rule, I work for 30 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. This repeats 3 times (or until you’ve worked for 90 minutes), then you take a longer 30-minute break. The real key, though, is using your breaks to do things that renew your energy rather than drain it. So instead of checking Facebook or responding to emails, I’ve done things like stretch, color, and read. It sounds counterintuitive to take so many breaks throughout the day, but it has really helped.

Projects that would normally take me from 8am to 6 or 7pm to complete I can now finish by 3 or 4pm. The best part, though, is that I don’t feel completely exhausted when I get done working for the day. I have the energy to get laundry or dishes done, or to exercise if I haven’t already. For me, this has been the most life-changing aspect of the challenge.

Some days I don’t do the 90/30 rule. It’s usually when I have errands I have to run in the middle of my day, so it throws everything off. On those days, I notice the negative effects. It’s still a work in progress, but my energy is so much better in just six weeks.

If you’re thinking about doing a health/fitness challenge to start the new year off right, I highly recommend Harder to Kill with Steph Gaudreau. She is an excellent coach and I’m so grateful for the experience. If you have any questions about the challenge, let me know!

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-AB

 

Turkey Trot Recap

I wanted to write this a little sooner, but things have been busy with the holidays. Last Thursday on Thanksgiving I woke up early and we drove out to Edwardsville so I could run in their Turkey Trot 5k. It was my first ever Turkey Trot. Why Edwardsville? Because Chris’s company was sponsoring the race. Plus I figured the course would be much flatter than the ones closer to home!

Unfortunately, it was a bit colder in Edwardsville than it was in Florissant, but once I started running, it wasn’t so bad. They had a wave start based on your estimated pace and finish time. I was one of the last groups to go, lol. Thankfully, I was right, and the course was pretty flat. It ran along a trail in town that was a little narrow, but fine otherwise. The course also went through parts of SIUE. There was one BIG hill during that part of the race, somewhere in mile 2, I think.

After that, it was pretty flat and smooth. I managed to keep my pace under 12 minutes/mile throughout the entire race. My official time was 35:53 and my official pace was 11:35. I don’t remember my official time or pace from my last 5k in October, but my time was around 38 minutes. So I improved quite a bit in just one month’s time.

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Pre-Turkey Trot

The rest of Thanksgiving was spent with family. We had lunch with Chris’s family and dessert later with my family. I did not attempt to eat paleo or Whole30 at either of those meals. But I was mindful of what I ate. I ate some of the mac ‘n cheese I made, along with turkey, stuffing, salad, and a sweet potato. Chris’s mom made pecan pie and that’s one of my favorites, and I only get it once a year. So I had some pie. Worth it.

I ate gluten and I ate dairy. And I probably ate eggs in some form. I felt okay afterward. I got back to eating paleo this week and have felt much better. I’ve been avoiding eggs, dairy, and gluten in particular. I even remembered not to eat the skin on my baked potato yesterday. It’s not perfect, but it’s practical 😉

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving! I’ll be back soon to tell you all about my Harder to Kill Challenge, as it will be wrapping up this weekend!

-AB