Simplicity without Sacrifice

I am convinced that the idea of simplicity has taken a turn for the worst. When I was reading through articles for a stress program yesterday I was getting more stressed out when I came across 500 different articles about how to simplify things from your life to your sock drawer. You feel like you have to read every single one and then just when you think you have found the answer to minimizing the excess, another one pops up that says you are doing it wrong. The simplification process suddenly becomes complicated, leaving you even more stressed out than before as your computer crashes from too many ‘how to’ tabs open and your planner self combusted from having too much in it.  

In our ‘gotta be the best’ hungry society we somehow managed to turn a very wonderful and amazing sense of clarity into something that is regimented and defined by all of the millions of ‘how to do ya-de-da in 5 easy steps.’ Hate to get all philosophical here, but if everything involved 5 simple steps we as intellectual human beings would be as complex as an Easy Bake Oven.You want to keep it simple but not too simple, freeing yet not too freeing.  We have somehow managed to construct this belief that to live simply you must be either a Ken Westerfield (the 1960 hippie who invented freestyle Frisbee) or a participant on Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid.  Either way you are left somewhere in the middle wondering which direction to go (I vote Ken’s team but that’s just me).  No one wants to feel as if they must flip their life when it starts becoming too chaotic.  It is universally understood that there will be ups and downs, so instead of fighting for perfection embrace your current situation and address the aspects that are dissatisfying. 

After reading through…I kid you not…15 different ‘How to simplify’ or similar articles, I decided to try thinking of less invasive techniques. Since not all of us have time to meditate for an  hour every day or pre-make a weeks worth of kale smoothies that supposedly calm your mind, here are a few smaller less aggressive suggestions on embracing the simplicity of life…without giving away all material possessions and denouncing processed food. 

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 photo from: tealcheesecake.tumblur.com

Keep an empty shelf: No matter how messy your room gets, an empty shelf is like a beacon of hope that you will some day see your floor again. When your personal space starts getting cluttered, the same feelings translate into other aspects of your life.  

Stop avoiding: The trash is piling up, you still haven’t studied, the last time you went to the gym there was snow on the ground, all because you got sucked into another Netflix series.  There is nothing worse than sitting on Facebook and agonizing about all of the things that need to be done.  Just go do it! 

Go to bed: I know this is the universal cure all for anything health improvement related but that’s because it is!  Things don’t seem nearly as unbearable when you are well rested.

Have scissors around: There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to open something. I went a whole three weeks without scissors in my apartment. You have no idea how necessary those bad boys are until you try to open a bag of carrots with a knitting needle.  

Do your dishes when you use them: For both you and your roommates sake keep a clean sink. Visitors don’t want to feel like they are going to catch scurvy if they get too close to your sink and neither do you. Any chaos you are feeling can immediately be calmed by doing dishes I promise. 

Are you the bag lady/man?  Remove one item from it every day. When you are constantly on the go and trying to simplify it can sound like a good idea to just pack everything into one big bag. This ultimately leads to you accumulating everything from empty gum wrappers to a million different charger cords.  If you chose to be a bag lady/man try to clean the bag at least once a week and it won’t take you a half hour to locate your keys.  

 I hope this made your ‘how to’ search a little easier to understand. When you are dissatisfied with how your days are going take a minute to step back and consider what ways work best for you and live simply.  

-R

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The 10 Workouts you Already Dominate

A friend of mine was talking about the fact that she was going to three different workout classes the other day for a total of three straight hours of activity. Besides the fact that she was able to find three straight hours to fill, I was dumbfounded as to why on earth someone would feel the need to inflict that kind of personal exhaustion for the time it takes Dexter to off 4-5 criminals. I realize that I am not one to talk being known to spend the majority of my time doing various active things, but that doesn’t mean I go spin for three hours straight (at least not yet).

Then I realized a lot of people around me were rattling off the 50 new awesome workouts they tried this week one of which being karaoke spinning…excuse me? Suddenly I felt like I had missed the memo. You hear every day about all of the workouts you need to start doing, how you aren’t doing enough to be active. Basically you can’t turn on the TV without being made to feel insecure about the freshly scooped ice cream you just busted out because supposedly everyone else is just constantly going on runs and all ‘sweat is weakness leaving the body’. I would say most people know where to draw the line between inducing a heart attack and glistening after the elliptical, but recently I have had my doubts. Basically my primary concern is that you and your working out are not turning to a microphone on a spin bike just like iPhone turned to selfies and filters; rather than pure exercise goodness. 

This little article is meant to highlight how you may be overlooking your already fit choices you are making without running 10 miles to feel validated.  So you may not be killing it in the gym every single day, but I can think of 10 pretty legitimate workouts that you do daily that go unaccredited because you aren’t wearing cool Nike swag, or eating colorful quinoa, or ready for the classic instawitter combo (that’s when you tweet and gram it at the same time fyi) when you do these things, and no one really cares unless its documented through 5 mediums of social networking right? 

10 Workouts you Already Dominate 

1. Walking…with your life on your back: Jobs, class, workouts, clubs whatever it is; usually demands at least a few extra articles of clothing and/or every textbook you own. Come Tuesday I usually have enough in my backpack to last me a week. 

2. Your life without a dishwasher: enough said. If you added the hours spent scrubbing with that ‘leaves your hands smelling like mold’ sponge, you may realize you just fulfilled a week of workouts. 

3. Logging on: I don’t know about you but I have at least 10 different email accounts for myself and jobs that I am forced to regularly check. Not to mention the 40 different sites that require a username and password. I have every variation of my dogs name and capital letter with an exclamation point you can imagine and remembering them is no walk in the park.

4. Scaling the climb to your front door: That super cute vintage gaslight apartment up on the hill located on the 5th floor that was the best idea you have ever had…probably not as awesome once you make it up 6 flights of stairs carrying that bag that has your life in it. 

5. Research Methods and Analytical Patterns (insert torturous class here): maintaining consciousness through 15 weeks of PowerPoint presentations without collapsing on the floor in a heap of boredom exhibits the endurance of a true champion.  

6. Brushing: your hair, teeth, the stains from last nights fun, only because a load of laundry costs $3 these days, whatever it is you brush you know how your arm burns after wrestling with the knot after mere minutes.

7. If you have ever tried to decipher how to operate a Clifton lock and key: the chances of you actually having the right key to the right lock are about as likely as the lock actually being installed right side up and clockwise.  They are a mental puzzle that even the brightest have failed to accomplish.

8. Carrying 30 bags of groceries simultaneously: similar to the brush workout. I’d like to see any of these new hip workouts make you feel as if your arm is literally going to rip off of your body. Combine this workout with #1 & #4 and you’re spring break ready. 

9. Getting clothes on for Friday night: 4 pairs of pants=20 burpees…and a strained hip. 

10. 9-12 hour part-time job shifts: everyone complains about their 9-5 and there are plenty of reasons as to why this happens, but I would say anyone working a part time job for more than 8 hours a day has every right to complain a little bit. Corporate professionals deal with meetings, ridiculous bosses, and monotonous days. The part-timers deal with this corporate person who is miserable after leaving their full time job and now they are hungry, miserable, angry, and their shoes are too small.  Dealing with the public provides a lifetime of tactical moves.  If you have ever powered through your full day at a part time job congrats you earned your workout. 

Did you get your workout in yet today?

-R

 

10 Things you Realize after Visiting Africa

Last spring I spent 2 weeks in Africa.  I didn’t go live in the jungle without electricity, nor did I help rehabilitate cities for an extended period of time. I wish I could confirm that I spent a year of my life giving back to a community that needs it. I went with a study abroad opportunity to learn about public health and how care is managed in this part of the world, more specifically Ghana.  While we didn’t volunteer our services, the information gained was incredibly eye-opening and perspective broadening. We focused on major diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.Throughout our stay we were able to travel to clinics,hospitals, and related organizations to meet with health and medical professionals (and tons more than I can fit in this little background shindig).

   

I have thought a lot about why I wanted to travel to Africa. I guess it wasn’t because I have always had some deep desire to fix the world and save lives. I can’t even say that I went because I wanted to help the children (please don’t get me wrong here! I would have loved to help and volunteer at a site, but it was a general public health trip). I think I went because I needed to see it first hand. To understand why and how a region on the same planet with the same people could live in such an entirely different situation.  I needed to see the poverty, abundance, and infrastructure (or lack thereof) to grasp how I felt about it all. You see the commercials and hear heart warming tales of how someone came to aid and lives were changed. But then that someone leave to go home, the money runs out, and then what? What happens in the day to day? Does the help make a difference, or enhance the problem? I wanted to face the big health issues from the ground level and try to imagine some shred of a possible solution.

It was hard while there to face the blaring possibility that there is no single quick fix. We think the answer is a vaccine, or volunteers, or money.  While all of those are positive steps in the right direction the issues go much deeper than that.  There are deeply rooted variances in thought processes that hinder a mindset towards universal problem solving.  When it comes to health there is no single answer, but more so a lifestyle shift that must occur.  Lifestyles and societal norms must be addressed. You can sit all day and consider every “if-then” scenario and wind up not having arrived at a conclusion, but opened one hundred more doors towards problems that must be overcome.  When people as me why Africa I really can only say “to know what things are really like.” Here are a few things I learned as a college student in Africa.  They aren’t necessarily understandings that tackle the big ideas, but simply are lessons that matter to a 20 something looking for answers.

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10 things you realize after visiting Africa in college

 1. Value your health: health is something denied to many and is not a guarantee. While finding time

to go to the doctor can seem like the worlds most inconvenient and bank account draining burden we need to remember that we live in a culture where even the grocery store has a clinic. We can literally go buy break-n-bake cookies and then go get a check up.  In most of Ghana there are only about 1.5 doctors per 100,000 people.  It is easy to forget what a luxury it is that we have the information available at the mere tap of an iPhone or trip to Kroger.

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2. Having options is not a burden: I was honestly stressed out yesterday because three of my favorite yoga classes are now scheduled at the same time. You get upset when the grocery store is out of one of your 10 favorite types of shredded cheese (sorry clearly groceries are on my mind). I feel so ridiculous when I get overwhelmed by the fact that I have more electronics than I know what to do with. The majority of the world doesn’t know what a twitter handle or Pop Chips are. Image

3. We live in a ‘me’ centered society: At this point in life we are so focused on answering questions like “what will I do after college?” “how can I make the most money?” “why don’t I have more likes on this status?” A huge difference that struck me about Ghanaian was their communal mentality. They live in a culture where you have an obligation to serve your family, or your community.  While the environment may not give people living in east Africa much of a choice, seeing this mentality from the outside is a beautiful thing.

4. Your roommates aren’t as bad as you think: Not even having a sink where dishes can pile up, a shower to clean because you run so much water in it, or never having space on the DVR are the age old roomie disputes that accentuate and reinforce the ‘me’ focus discussed above. They, believe it or not, are not issues in other parts of the world because they simply don’t have those things.

5. Embrace help: This one was interesting to see. How willingly help was sought after, and how graciously it was received. As a young college aged person you feel conditioned to fiercely guard your successes and do it all on your own.  From dislocating your shoulder carrying 20 bags up the stairs to landing a big job we have a hard time accepting counseling and aid when needed. It is hard to consider letting someone assist you; any more you are just terrified that they are going to tell you there is a service charge (thanks for that Time Warner). In the Ghanaian culture many people genuinely helped one another out for the sake of doing the right thing. Image

6. Independence is empowering: We get choices. You can say what you want to say and think whatever you want. In fact not taking advantage of this is viewed as downright wasteful.  It is taken for granted that we live in a society that embraces these freedoms.

7. The world is bigger than your 2 bedroom whatever: I am talking thousands of people crammed into the smallest of public spaces.  There are more people in this world than we can even comprehend who live in areas that don’t make the nightly news.  It is so easy to forget about the rest of the world outside your bedroom door.Image

8.You won’t always have an answer: In life there will be problems bigger than you can solve. They will cause your head to spin.  Even the best bullshitters have to admit defeat sometimes.  We spent much of our time in Ghana considering the big issues and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t have an answer.  Discussion and experiences like this give people the ability to ponder these answers and a perspective that is capable of contributing more than what happened on the Real Housewives of New Jersey last night.

9. Reality isn’t easy to face: Just like it wasn’t easy learning the truth about the tooth fairy, the reality of global regions can pose a discomforting picture.  In life we are challenged to live truthfully and build a future that encompasses success.  Being present in the reality of your life is incredibly important while accomplishing future goals or working towards change.

10. There is not a Sarah McLaughlin song playing when you do a good deed: Difficult situations and facing challenges are a part of being human and growing into who you are meant to be.  You may not receive the recognition that you feel you deserve, or obtain the positive feelings you anticipated from giving your time or aid and that is okay.  We expect glamor. If only John Mayer songs played when we fell in love and Josh Groban raised you up when you finished running a marathon.

This may all sound a little deep for what is normally up on here, but these are lessons that I think have helped change my thinking for the better. Maybe some of them can apply to you also :]

-R

The Best Workout you Haven’t Tried

I have always been a serial workout dater. There are only so many ways you can repeat those sun salutations in yoga, or sit up and down on your spin bike. When I meet a new one it doesn’t take long before I’m signed up 4 times a week giving up my independent freedom to workout on my own time and consuming myself in the workout of the month.  Like many serious relationships that interest begins to fade. You know they start being too needy, taking up too much of your time, trying to hold your hand too much, and being generally smothering.  Basically my attention span to fitness is comparable to that of a two year old at the zoo.  Every foreign sweat session is my new favorite animal without the public yells of excitement and Velcro shoes of course. I have actually enjoyed the majority of new ones that were tried with the exception of this one yoga class where we had to make animal like sounds while breathing the entire time. That one threw me off a little bit.

When summer rolls around and college students are given the choice to pay for a gym membership or wait until they are members through studentship again chances are my bagel and oatmeal budget is going to take precedence. Every summer I wonder how on earth I will fill the gym void. I wish I could be one of those people who can magically run 50 miles a week and never feel pain, not the case for this average runner (click to read more on what it means to be average). My legs tend to lose it upon consecutive days of hilly runs which leaves me sore and without gym relief.

However, this summer I believe I found my workout soul mate.  It is the perfect compliment to my exceptionally short attention span in the midst of adrenaline pumping fitness.  This workout encompasses aspects of the tons of different little workouts that have come in and out of the routine, minus the bizarre animal sounds you can make through doing a headstand and restricting your breathing (post to come on this experience). If you feel the same lack of focus towards one monotonous fitness routine then this workout is for you.

Tabata

I realize it is fairly common by now and a general practice among those who prefer high intensity interval training, but the amount of people I have talked to about it look at me with this perplexed reaction and proceed to butcher how the word is either spelled or spoken.  I get it…it’s a weird word.   It even isn’t recognizing it as a real word when you type it.  Why tabata you ask? Here is why

hill run tabata day in AZ

1. It goes fast: Tabata works like this-20 seconds on 10 seconds rest.  During your 20 second interval you go as fast as you can until the timer beeps your rest period. Then repeat 8 times. For those math wizes out there that’s only a mere 4 minutes per tabata.  I do the routine and it is over before I start getting bored of it. With an incredibly hectic schedule this workout fits perfectly if you need a quick and thorough workout.  You can pick a combination of moves and alternate throughout the 8 rounds to give a more total body workout.

2. User Friendly: My mom who I can guess would rather do just about anything else than participate in a high intensity interval training workout even enjoys tabata. This routine is absolutely perfect for anyone interested in trying new moves or a quick and potentially painless routine.  You are able to pick moves that are as difficult as you want them to be. So you want towalk in circles as hard as you can every 20 seconds? Do it, it’s still tabata!

3.You sweat…a lot: transitioning from burpees to tuck jumps and back to burpees 8 times makes me start sweating at the mere thought. Upping your heart rate so suddenly and then tricking it by stopping for 10 seconds really gets the blood pumping which means after a thorough tabata it would not be abnormal to be sweating as if you just ran uphill with a bag of bricks strapped on your back wearing a vinyl body suit.

4. High calorie burn: hello ice cream for desert! The elevated heart rate combined with the muscle confusion of always changing up the move= tons of calories burned in a much shorter time period. As opposed to stuffing grass and heads of lettuce in your mason jar ice water to conserve calories try to sweating it out instead with tabata. If you pick moves that target multiple muscles and incorporate cardio you will feel the results of your self inflicted ass kicking.

5. Expand your horizons: ugh one hyphenated word…. push-ups.  I just can’t learn to love them no matter how hard I try, but tabata makes trying them out a lot more bearable.  Just when I’m starting to look like a slug crawling up the driveway the timer beeps and I can begin forgetting how ridiculous trying to bench my body weight ends up looking.  Whatever moves you have in mind just try it, it’s only 20 seconds. Hope you love it!

-R