2017 Goals Check-In

I posted my 12 goals for 2017 about a month ago. Now that we’re a month into the new year, I figured I’d do a check-in to see how things are going. Some things I have really focused on while others I’ve made little to no progress with at all. I started the year off by doing yoga every day (31 Days of Yoga by Yoga with Adriene) which was incredible. I’m going to continue trying to practice yoga every day.

I can’t remember the last time I did any strength training exercises. I was feeling a little under the weather early in the month and thought lifting weights would just make me feel worse. Since I’ve been doing yoga–sometimes twice a day–I just haven’t gotten back into the weights. I’m hoping to get back to that this month. I also have not gone for a run in what seems like forever. I’m just not cut out for cold weather running, and the days it has been warmer, I haven’t felt up to getting out there.

We haven’t done any traveling yet, but we’ve got a nice vacation fund going. We’re hoping to take our first trip sometime this March or April. It’s kind of up in the air right now, but hopefully we get it planned soon.

Toward the end of the month, I finally got some inspiration to do a little writing. As a freelance copywriter, that’s all I do, all day every day. By the end of the day, it’s hard to find the energy or inspiration to do my own thing. But for the past week or so, I’ve been working on a little side project that I’m pretty excited about! Hopefully I can get it finished in another week or two.

I’m not quite sure if I’m on track for my “read one book a month” goal. But I’m almost finished with our first book of the year for book club and I’ve got a long TBR list going. I finally gave up on audiobooks. They just aren’t for me. But I’ve been making it more of a priority to read at least a little bit each day, so I think that’s going to help me with this goal.

I finally took that social media hiatus I’ve been thinking about for more than a month. I’ve been social-media-free for two full days now and it has felt great. I have so much free time now that I’m not constantly checking Facebook. I’ve been reading, writing, and I even got my violin out and got it tuned yesterday.

I haven’t made a ton of progress on my other goals so far, but it’s still early in the year, so I’m not too worried. I’m excited about the changes I’ve made so far and looking forward to making more changes to bring me closer to my goals.

Tell me about your 2017 goals. Are you still going strong after one month?

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12 Goals for 2017

In my last post, I talked about how I felt about my goals for 2016. For 2017, I’ve come up with 12 goals to focus on. I’m debating focusing on one per month (better get started if so!). I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media about picking a “word of the year”. I though a lot about it. I made a list of goals and words, but I just couldn’t pick any single word for my year. The ones that most stood out were Grow, Simplify, and Explore. I suppose I could say “screw it” and have three words. For now, I’ll just stick to my goals:

  1. Continue strength training. Since starting the Harder to Kill Challenge back in October, I’ve been strength training at least a couple times a week. It has really made a difference in how I feel and it’s something I want to continue this year.
  2. Practice more yoga. I’m currently participating in the Yoga Revolution challenge by Yoga with Adriene. It’s 31 days of yoga for the month of January. So far, I’ve done yoga every single day, and hope I can continue without breaking the streak.I really want to grow in my practice and I’ve considered looking into teaching.
  3. Travel more. My husband and I finally created a dedicated savings account for vacations and we’ve been fairly successful about building that up. We’re hoping to plan a trip this spring (location TBD), and maybe another, shorter trip this fall.
  4. Write more. I’m a writer. As in that’s my job; it’s what I get paid to do. And that’s completely awesome. Except that it sometimes means I don’t get around to blogging or doing the creative writing I want to do. I announced more than a year ago that I intended to write a book, but I’ve made very little progress with it. My goal this year is to make some progress.
  5. Read at least one book per month. That’s at least 12 books this year (and at least 12 reviews over on my other blog, Black Coffee Books). I’m hoping to exceed this goal, but I never seem to achieve the loftier 25 or 50 books a year. So maybe by setting a smaller one, I can surpass it and feel proud of my accomplishments.
  6. Create a business plan. I haven’t officially announced this one yet! But my husband and I are seriously discussing opening our own business in the next couple years. So my current goal is to figure out the start-up costs and create the business plan.
  7. Volunteer more. Although I had planned to volunteer last year, I never actually did. This year, I really want to become more involved in the things that matter to me. I want to look into volunteering at the library and maybe participate in a community clean-up event.
  8. Increase sustainability. By the end of last year, we were using cloth napkins pretty much exclusively in our home. My goal for this year is to continue finding ways to be more sustainable and create less waste. I got an amazing Starbucks travel mug for Christmas that I intend to start taking with me to the coffee shop so I’m not using paper cups as often. We’re also still using paper towels (although much less so now), so I want to find ways to reduce our dependence on those as well.
  9. Minimalism. Along the same lines of sustainability, I also want to focus on minimalism. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff we have. I want to be more mindful this year about the things I choose to buy and bring into my home. Is it something we really need? Are there other things I can get rid of to make space for the new? I’m also really intrigued by capsule wardrobes, but haven’t quite managed to start one. Maybe 2017 will be the year of the capsule wardrobe.
  10. Focus on my marriage. I want to have the best marriage we can possibly have, so I want to do what it takes to improve our communication and other aspects of our relationship. I think doing so will go a long way in our happiness for the year and in the long run.
  11. Spend less time on social media. I’m as guilty of it as everyone else. I check social media every free chance I get (and sometimes when I’m really not free to do so). I only half-listen to things my husband tells me if I’m scrolling through Facebook while he’s talking. It has interfered with my work and frankly, it’s just exhausting. I get more and more frustrated with it every single day. I think at some point in the very near future I’m going to take a hiatus from social media. If/when I return, I plan to severely limit the time I spend on those sites.
  12. Spend more time outside. Because I work from home, I never have to leave the house (which is totally awesome sometimes). Of course, right now, it’s freezing outside and I don’t want to leave the house. However, I know it’s definitely not good to stay cooped up inside all the time. So I really want to make more of an effort to get outside when I can (especially if the weather is nice). I want to go on a few hikes this year, and I need to get back into taking my dog for nice long walks.

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Somehow, running didn’t make my top 12 goals! I do have some running goals this year though! I want to run a few more 5ks and potentially run my first 10k sometime this fall (before it gets too cold). Right now, I’m focusing on yoga and strength training because I refuse to run when the temps are below freezing. I think both of these will help me ease back into running when the time comes.

What are your goals for 2017?

As always, thanks for reading.

-AB

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

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

More on Food Allergies

When I first got tested for food allergies, I asked them to test for beef and pork, as well as peanuts. They also tested for dairy and wheat, as I’ve had problems with those in the past. Apparently, they tested me for several “basic” food allergies. They made such a big deal about the peanut allergy and the beef and pork that I paid little attention to whatever else they tested me for.

When I got tested, I thought the scale was from 1 to 10. Some of my allergies were a 5 and others were a 7, so I thought my allergies were pretty serious. After some more investigation (more than two years later), I found out that the scale is actually 1 to 15. So what I thought were pretty serious allergies don’t seem to be as serious as I thought. Here are the foods they tested me for and the severity:

Beef: 7/15

Pork: 7/15

Lamb: 7/15

Peanut: 7/15

Egg white: 5/15

Soy: 5/15

Wheat: 5/15

Codfish: 5/15

Milk: 5/15

After all my Whole30s, I know how dairy affects me. I get eczema-like dry, itchy skin on my fingers and toes. And I tend to have more pimples when I eat too much dairy. Too much wheat/gluten upsets my stomach. Things on that list above that I neglected to really pay attention to were soy, egg white, and codfish.

Later, I broke out in hives after accidentally eating soy. So I assumed I was allergic. I didn’t even think to look at the list of things I got tested for. More recently, I’ve still been struggling with dry skin and some awful digestive issues. I decided to pull out my list to see what I have and haven’t been tested for and saw the egg white and codfish. I don’t eat much codfish (almost never as far as I know), so I’m starting to think maybe the eggs are part of the problem.

Now, I’m no saint. I go through periods of avoiding gluten and dairy and then sometimes I find myself bingeing on it (and feeling awful after). But I’m wondering if my failure to also cut out eggs from my diet is part of the reason I’m still not feeling as great as I could. So I’m going to cut out eggs for a while and see if it makes any difference in how I’m feeling.

Fortunately, I don’t eat eggs for breakfast all too often anymore. After my second Whole30, I was pretty well sick of them. More recently, I had been making frittatas, which was nice to have for a quick meal throughout the week. For now, I’ll be skipping the frittatas and eating leftovers or salads for breakfast.

Something I didn’t get tested for is nightshades: tomatoes, eggplant, white potatoes, and all varieties of peppers. All my research has revealed that nightshades are another possible culprit of conditions such as IBS. The idea of cutting tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers from my diet sounds horrifying. I did read though that peeling potatoes and making sure you eat cooked tomatoes and peppers can cut down on the alkaloids that are present in nightshades, which is what tends to cause problems.

So, in addition to cutting out eggs, I’m going to start peeling my potatoes (ugh) and avoid eating uncooked tomatoes and peppers to see if that helps. I’m tired of the skin issues and the digestive issues, and if this can help me feel better, then I’m going to give it a try. Yes, it’s inconvenient, but so is feeling bad all the time.

Review: Jaybird X2 Wireless Earbuds

Finally getting around to writing up my review of the Jaybird X2 Wireless Earbuds! The past two weeks have been crazy busy, but that gave me more time to test them out!

The package includes the headphones themselves. Also included are different sizes and types of earbud tips (foam or silicone). So far, I’ve only used the silicone tips. They also come with three different size “fins”, which fit over the earbud and help keep the buds secure in your ear. Then there’s a USB cable to charge them and clasps to make the wired portion adjustable.

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My first experience with them was running my first 5k of the year. I charged them up the night before the race, and then the next day, I tried them on. I thought for sure I would need the smallest silicone tips because I think earbuds are always too big for my ears. I ended up using the largest silicone tips though. Their instructions (which I found online after a little digging) recommend trying on all the sizes so you can get the right fit. I didn’t try any of the foam tips, though.

Next, I had to put the ear fins on. Even the smallest ear fins seemed too big. They really don’t fit my ears the way they show in pictures on the website. I have to sort of fold it up to get it to slide into place. While not uncomfortable, they don’t provide quite the level of security I was hoping they would.

I’ve had these earbuds for almost two weeks now, and I’ve worn them for about six runs total. They have not fallen out once, but I did have one run where they felt loose the entire time and I had to keep shoving them back in there. Aside from that, the earbuds have stayed put. I’m still getting used to the controls though. The instructions say to turn the headphones off, hold the middle button down for four seconds. Maybe I’m just a fast counter, but it’s usually more like six or seven seconds for me. I haven’t quite gotten around to figuring out how to skip songs, answer calls, etc. yet. Fortunately, I don’t typically need to answer a call during a run, and I’ve created some pretty good playlists, so I don’t usually need to skip any songs.

There is definitely a learning curve with these headphones, and they don’t “fit like a glove” the way I’d hoped. But after six runs and only one instance of them feeling loose (not actually falling out), I’d say these have been a good investment so far. The sound is great, there are no wires for me to accidentally pull on and rip the ear buds out of my ears, and so far, they’ve been comfortable. I may give the foam tips a try at some point just to compare fit.

Overall, I’m happy with my purchase, especially since I got them on sale! My only complaint is that the ear fins are still too big for my ears. If you have normal, non-toddler-sized ears, I would definitely recommend them!

Thanks as always for reading!

-AB