Monthly Archives: January 2012

The More You Do It, The Easier It Becomes

I’ve noticed with a lot of things in my life lately, the more I do something difficult, the easier it becomes. The clearest examples of this would be a) German class and b) running. While I put on a show about not wanting to go, (okay, it’s not a show, I really don’t want to go!) I get into class every Monday and Wednesday evening and actually feel better about my abilities. The more consistently I show up to class and pay attention and practice speaking, the better I actually feel about speaking when I need to, and formulating sentences, albeit basic ones.

It was nice to sit in class last night and feel like I could follow what the class was doing, and participate actively. In fact, I was participating more than most. I think when I first joined the class in early December, I felt overwhelmed by how much time I had taken off from my studies, (about 4 months,) and felt like I couldn’t possibly catch up. So I sat in class feeling flustered and frustrated with the language, wondering why I was even putting myself through it all. But the last week or two I have felt less overwhelmed in class and am even starting to see the benefit of consistent learning…being that I am, actually, learning!

Running is the same. It’s always difficult to get started…and admittedly even difficult after a couple of months…but it is definitely easier today than it was 2 months ago! And that’s even with a 3 week break in the middle for Christmas, etc. I can relatively easily, and very bored-ly, run 30 minutes on the treadmill. If I keep my pace down I could probably run more in each stint, but I like to up my miles for a lesser amount of time. Plus I don’t think I could stand being on that machine for longer periods of time; I might start to pull my hair out from the boredom!

I guess it’s a testament to the fact that things do get easier with time, as long as you have enough patience and endurance to keep at it.

Don't know why it should feel like this, but it does!

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The Pig-Dog

In German, there is a thing called a “schweinehund”. This is a simple, one-word description of that feeling you get when you know you SHOULD do something, but your pig-dog, if you will, doesn’t want you to. It is “the enemy inside yourself that makes you passive,”as defined by Urban Dictionary.

You don't scare me, pig-dog!

Ever since I learned this expression, I find I am using it…almost daily. Now I don’t know if suddenly my pig-dog has shown up out of the blue, (unlikely,) or because I finally have an easy way to express exactly how I feel when 6 o’clock rolls around and I desperately don’t want to go to the gym, even though I know “it’s good for me.”

Why is it, I wonder, that we humans have so many things we “should” do and yet have no desire to actually do them? Even when they really are good for us, or feel good once we do them. Back to the gym example – every time I go to the gym, I feel great! I am proud of myself for making it there, I feel good when my body is in motion, and even if I’ve done nothing else in the day but those 30 or so minutes, I feel like I’ve accomplished something huge.

So why the constant struggle to actually get myself there? Can’t I hit the reminder button so I don’t need to go through this every time I have German class? Or have a photography event? Or have a book I enjoy reading, but can’t seem to pick it up again?

How do you fight your inner schweinehund and get going on the things that need to be done?

Penciling in a Run

Getting back into the habit of running takes a little bit of time, but I find that if I work it into my schedule regularly that I can actually make it work. For example, on Mondays and Wednesdays I take an hour and a half long German class after work. Lucky for me, my work schedule is slightly more relaxed than most and I have the option to leave work a little earlier on these days to hit the gym before I head to class.

It’s a great release from any workday stress and gives me just enough of a break before having to use my brain intensely in German class for learning purposes. Not to mention it gives me enough endorphins and energy to stay awake during the class!

They key is to NOT fall asleep in class...

So I’ve gotten into my Monday and Wednesday routine, and somehow managed to always give myself Saturdays and Sundays off, (will work on that as time goes on,) but I have to say my favorite workout day of the week is Friday. The gym is almost deserted after work – who the hell wants to be pumping iron when there is beer to be drunk? Well, I do!

I find that my workouts are always the best after a long week, when the gym is virtually empty, and I have no pressure or time constraints of where I need to be at any given point in time. I basically have all the time in the world to run, or lift weights, or use the bike, and then to take a half hour or an hour after the workout to sit in the sauna or the “relaxation room”.

I also find I get the most mileage in on Fridays. Since I’m not watching the clock and worrying about how much time I have left until I need to shower and head to my next destination, I can easily give myself more than the usual 30 minutes on the treadmill and even managed to pull off a 50 minute run last week! Of course, I am just getting back into it so I only managed about 4.6 miles from those 50 minutes, but hey – progress is progress, right?

Even though sometimes running feels like this...

Yesterday was another great feat. This has been a particularly trying week for a multitude of reasons, and I was nervous about getting back on the treadmill and braving a run. I told myself if I could only get through 20 minutes, I would still walk away with my head held high and feeling proud that I accomplished something. So once I got moving and remembered how good it felt to burn off all that excess energy I had coursing through me, I managed to run a solid 4.2 miles in 40 minutes. It felt good to be back at my old pace, even if the run itself was a challenge and I kept debating if maybe just stopping now wouldn’t be so bad.

I guess the more I push myself, and the more small goals and milestones I set, the more I have to work up towards – like the girl on the treadmill next to me making my 10 km an hour look like nothing compared to her 14. So my next big milestone will be to hit 5 miles. Not sure when I’ll build up to it, but I’m sure it won’t be more than a week or two of pushing my time down, and sustaining my energy over 50 minutes.

The Communal Shower

When you are done with your workout, it’s a whole new cultural experience of living in Germany. It’s communal shower time!

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many naked women in my life. No – this is not a high school boy’s ultimate fantasy – this is real, live, naked women with all the curves, and jelly rolls and sometimes tight calves you can think of. Women of all shapes and sizes come to the gym and proudly march around the locker room. Naked. As though they were born for all to see.

Now, I know this is a cultural difference. From the stories I’ve heard of horrified colleagues being called out by security at campgrounds in the U.S. for “public nudity” when trying to change into their swimsuits for a dip in the lake, I can imagine that this is a totally normal experience. And so I, too, try to pretend like it is the most normal, natural thing in the world to shower in a room with 7 other women.

This is how I felt on the first day

But come on, do you need to stretch when you are in the sauna with others? Or do your makeup in the mirror without a towel?

As I said, I am learning to ignore the fact that I think it’s weird everyone is naked and just “go with the flow”. This may take some more adjusting to than I thought, but at least I’m grateful that I belong to a women’s only gym and don’t have to deal with the co-ed showers and saunas. Phew!

Damn, I Feel Like a Woman!

Before choosing a gym, I did my research. I checked out a few locations with different levels of luxury and equipment. But ultimately I settled on JOPP Frauen Fitness. For those of you who are not proficient in German, Frauen means Women. WOMEN. I joined a women’s only gym! Me!

I am not the type of person who prides herself on being a strong woman for the sole reason that I am a woman. Sure, I am proud to be a female, and I look up to female leaders…as much as I look up to male leaders. But overall, I enjoy the company of men. I enjoy watching the occasional sweaty guy at the gym busting his ass, (not the ones who try to impress you with how many weights they can lift, but the ones who are getting a good run in after a long day at work, or who are testing their limits in the spin class.)

I never thought I’d join a gym meant only for the X chromosomes of the world, but now that I’m there, I must admit how great it is! Sure you won’t plan to get any dates out of the experience…or maybe in a city as liberal as Berlin, you will! But that’s besides the point. It is nice to be in a locker room that doesn’t stink. Everyone showers after their workout. Everyone cleans up their mess. The machines are well maintained and wiped down after every person touches them.

That’s not to say women don’t smell. Some do, of course. I’m sure I do too on my less-deodorized days. But overall, the atmosphere in the gym is a clean one…without any grunting or groaning to prove a workout’s worth. And it’s nice to be in a room among peers and people you can reasonably challenge yourself against. When you know that you too can do what they are doing. That’s motivation enough!

Yes, We Can!

And by the way, this is my 200th post!! Thanks for all your love and support! And keep reading 😉

Back At It Again

I seem to have a secret love affair that flairs up every few months for just a short period of time, and seemingly dies out as quickly as it started. This is my passionate affair with exercise.

My Guilty Pleasure

I have never been a gym rat. I could never get the motivation to go continuously for more than 1 or 2 months at a time. I’d often try, get on a kick and do really well, and then one day a tub of ice cream and an airing of “My Best Friend’s Wedding” on daytime television was all it took to start that downward trend of, “Well, maybe just today I’ll sit today out. There’s always tomorrow.”

In college I’d borrow my roommates bike and head down the trail on the Mississippi River. Or, when she wanted to use her own bike, I’d even venture to the gym and spend 30 minutes on the elliptical watching “The Ellen Show” and try some rounds at weights, never fully understanding the impact they had on my body. I lived in New York for 3 years, always paying for the NYSC a few blocks up the road, but only for a few random spurts was I motivated enough to go.

Then suddenly, after I moved to Paraguay I found myself craving exercise. Almost desperate for it. I drove around a few evenings after work with my colleagues to find a decent gym around my house, which I never seemed to be able to find. I couldn’t imagine paying to work out in someone’s sweaty attic with broken down machinery, or to sweat it out in summer heat at a gym that was not fully enclosed. Not to mention a lot of places didn’t seem to have air conditioning or proper ventilation.

So I took to the streets. Literally. Having never run in my life, I put on my sneakers, hid my iPod from sight, and stepped outside of my house in the centro. Feeling nervous and exhilarated – first for having never run, and second for fear of the prejudice of the people I would run past – I hit the pavement in a moderate jog.

I can relate to this

I ran down the avenue and around a corner until I could no longer catch my breath and looked at my watch elated when I realized I had run a full 10 minutes without stopping! 10 minutes! I think back to those days now and smile because I remember how exciting it was to realize I could test my body in that way, and also to remember how it felt for 10 minutes to be a good amount of run time before taking a break!

So here I am in Berlin with almost no exercise to my name. Well, I did spend a good part of the month of May and a little bit of June running around the park in Friedrichschain feeling proud. And then there was the 10 day pass to Bikram Yoga which had me feeling invincible when I walked out of the studio. And I guess I can’t discredit the 20 minute bike rides to and from work every day when it wasn’t raining out. But really I spent a good portion of 10 months not focusing on my body or exercise at all.

And so in early December, I joined a gym. And here I am again, trying an old new experiment to get myself back in shape and working towards a healthy lifestyle.

This could be Amanda 2.0 (with a hair cut)

To Edit or Not to Edit

I have to admit, if there is one thing I have learned over the last year and a half, (aside from how to live in foreign countries, how to change jobs, how to learn a new language, how to understand foreign real estate markets, etc etc etc) it is that I truly love editing.

I don’t know when it began. I don’t know how it happened, even, but I do know that I am more excited when I have to sit down and edit a 10 page paper for a colleague on a tight deadline than I am about revising a proposal I’ve memorized after the 10th revision. There is something about taking a piece of writing and making it better.

I have the passionate writer inside of me, and I know this may make me sound like a bit of a nerd, but I find fixing words to be an almost mindless pleasure. Not to say it doesn’t take a tremendous amount of thought or care, but that it comes so naturally that it almost feels like it isn’t such difficult work – just satisfying.

So I’ve decided to try and test the waters, in my mother’s editing footsteps; stock up on English grammar books and “how to proof read for dummies” books, and see where I can find some willing souls to let me test my editing genius to see if it really is a talent I can pursue.