Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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NaBloPoMo – Day 29 – Playing D

" Go Habs Go "A few weeks back, I had to play defence in my hockey game. I usually play forward and haven’t really ever played defence1 and quite honestly, I find the notion of it a bit scary. It’s too much pressure! You are responsible for stopping the people on the other team from taking shots! And if they score, you feel bad. Playing forward, on the other hand, is all about the glory. Scoring goals or making a beautiful pass so that your linemate can score a goal – all about the glory.

Of course, I realize that hockey is a team game and even when I’m playing forward, I can screw up and feel like it’s my fault if the other team scores2. When the defence3 from the other team that you are supposed to be checking gets away from you and scores a goal – you feel bad! When you can’t get the puck out of your own end and the other team scores, you feel bad! But overall, I feel like the pressure is more on the D. So I’ve always steered clear of it.

However, one of my teams this year is a bit short on players who play D on the roster, so, depending on who shows up for a given game, occasionally some of us forwards have to go back on D for a game. And a few weeks ago, it was my turn. It was against a really strong team (they got moved up a division a few games later because they were winning so much in our div) and someone suggested I should play D because I’m a strong skater (which was a really great compliment! I feel like I’ve worked a fair bit on my skating over the past few years, so it’s nice to know that it’s helped!) and I knew I was going to have to work my butt off! And also have to figure a lot of things out on the fly – when I play my usual position (left wing or centre), I can go a lot on instinct since I’ve done it for so many years. But as D I really have to think about where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing! So much pressure!

Anyway, I actually thought it was a good experience, because playing defence gave me a totally different perspective on the game. I was able to experience the game from the D’s point of view and it helped me see how I can be a better forward. Often defence will tell us that in our own end, when the D get control of the puck, make sure to get open, keep moving, give them someone to pass to. It’s no use passing the puck to someone who is standing still, right next to an opposing player who is poised to swoop in and grab that puck, so the forwards need to get moving! And while that makes perfect sense, it’s one thing to hear someone say that, and it’s a totally different thing to experience being that D who has the puck and there’s no one to pass it to to get the play going in the other direction. And then to experience when the forwards are moving to the open ice, ready for the pass, and the you see how much of a difference it makes. It was so useful to see from the D’s point of view how the game unfolds when the forwards are doing different things and it really makes it real what you need to be doing as a forward. So in the end, I’m actually really glad I played that game as defence – I think I’m a better forward for having done it.

I’m pretty sure there’s an analogy in here to life – how it’s really worthwhile to see things from someone else’s perspective once in a while. Maybe even someone who is very different from you. How you can learn something about what their experience is like and maybe even learn something about yourself. But it’s past my bedtime and thus too late for me to get into such deep thoughts, so I’ll leave it up to you, dear readers, to give it some thought!

Image Credit: Posted by Guy Mayer on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

  1. Other than in the 10 day long hockey game when everyone just played wherever position because we only had one sub at any given time, but playing was more just like trying to survive on the ice for *another* four-hour shift. []
  2. As we like to say on the ice, the puck has to get past all 5 of us before it ever gets to the goalie! []
  3. So it has just occurred to me that we sometimes call the defensive players “defencemen” – I usually use just “defence” because I play in an all-womens’ league, but  “defence women” just sounds weird to me. But it’s just occurred to me that we never say “forward men”. It’s just “forward”. You say “centremen” on occasion, but far more often you just say “centre.” But you never ever say “forwardmen.” I wonder why that is? []

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Mindfulness – My Take Home Lessons

Mind Full v. MindfulThis past Monday was the last class of my 8-week mindfulness class. So I figure now is a good time to stop and reflect on what I learned.

  • Mindfulness is “intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment, which can be trained by meditational practices.” (Wikipedia). But reading a definition of mindfulness is really hollow – in my experience, you need to actually practice mindfulness to really get what it is. Before this class, I’d read a bit about mindfulness and talked to people about mindfulness, but until this class, I hadn’t actually put any dedicated time towards doing mindfulness. And it’s really in the process of doing it that you come to understand and to get any benefits from it.
  • Speaking of which, I was *terrible* about doing my homework for this class. As I mentioned previously, I didn’t realize that there would be homework – and certainly not several hours per week for homework – and I just never managed to get dedicated blocks of time into my calendar to do a 45-minute body scan or a half hour sitting meditation or an hour of mindful yoga. I was more successful with finding brief moments in which to practice mindfulness – 5 minutes here where I would drop everything and really pay attention to playing with my cats or 10 minutes there to clear my mind of thoughts of past and future and really experience the sensations as I was out on a walk. I think this is more likely to be the way that I’m going to be able to work on mindfulness in my daily life.
  • Here’s a quote that was in our workbook that I found interesting: “We almost never directly experience what pain is because our reaction to it is so immediate that most of what we can pain is actually our experience of resistance to the phenomenon. And the resistance is usually a good deal more painful than the original sensation. In the same way, we experience our tiredness, our boredom, our fear; we experience instead our resistance to them.” (Stephen Levine, A Gradual Awakening, 1979). By anticipating and fearing pain or loneliness or boredom, we actually make it worse than it otherwise would have been!
  • Another useful tidbit: When we desire something and then we get it, we are often gratified “only in the process of moving from not-having to having […] The process of satisfying the wanting occurs not in the possession of the wanted object, but in the cessation of the painfulness of desire.” (Source: class instructor’s notes). Once we have it, we then experience the fear of losing it or of it becoming damaged. This relates to the idea of non-attachment – if we are less attached to things and understand that things are impermanent, it lessons the fear of losing that which we have and allows us to enjoy something in the moment, in and of itself. Because once we don’t have it anymore, we’ll look back and think “Why didn’t I appreciate that when I had it??”
  • While meditating, you often focus on your breathing. As my instructor put it, this is something you can do any time you notice that you are worrying about the future or brooding about the past, as a way of grounding yourself in the present because “no matter where you go, you always have your breath with you!”
  • The instructor shared this poem: Please Listen – with us.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving me advice,
you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me
and you begin to tell me why
I shouldn’t feel that way,
you are trampling on my feelings.

  • I’m sure we’ve all been on the receiving – and the giving – end of this type of behaviour. This poem was a useful reminder of the importance of really, genuinely listening to people. And then later in the poem was some good advice for helicopter parents:

When you do something for me that I can
and need to do for myself,
you contribute to my fear and
inadequacy.

  • I’m always amazed by what kids can do and I’m equally amazed when I see parents who won’t let them do things for themselves. I’m sure some are afraid to see their kids experience anything hard (so they take over) some are control freaks who think that their way is the only “right” way (and so they take over), and I’m sure there are tonnes of other reasons that I can’t even imagine as to why people do what they do. But I remember one of the profs I worked with when I first started teaching saying “Praise the students up to where you want them to be. Even if you think it’s beyond them. They will surprise you.” And I think it is similar with kids. Listen to them, let them do things for themselves – including failing! “Failing” is a great way to learn.
  • I think the most useful thing that I learned – which I have thus saved for last – is something that our class instructor shared with us from the Zen Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh. He talks about treating our “negative” emotions gently, like you would a small puppy or a baby. Often, we don’t even notice that were are experiencing our emotions as we get more and more wound up by them. Our fear or anxiety or judgmentalness grows and grows. But if you manage to be more observant and notice that you are feeling an emotion, you can hold it gently and say to yourself ‘My little anger, what do you need from me?” I’ve tried this out and it is amazing how it diffuses the spiral of emotion and helps me to think “What is underlying this feeling? What am I anger about?” or “How, if at all, does this feeling of judgmentalness serve me?”

Image Credit: Posted by Heidi Forbes Öste on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

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Reflections from a Running Study Guinea Pig

Dday 189

After a run on a particularly rainy day. This was the shirt I was wearing *under* my rain jacket!

Today marked the last of the Sunday group runs for the running study (which is looking at if there are differences between males and females in overtraining injuries while training for a 10 km race) that I’ve been taking part in over the past 11 weeks. There are just three more training runs left until our 10 km “race”1. In this study, we’ve had 4 running sessions per week2 – one group run on Sundays, one track workout (which I’ve mostly done on a treadmill3, and two “easy” runs. Despite having been a runner for the past seven years, I don’t think I’ve ever consistently maintained a four day per week running schedule. I’ve also ended up doing *a lot* of my running on a treadmill, due to the fact that this has taken place in the winter, when it’s too dark to go running outside by myself before I leave for work and too dark by the time I get home from work. Luckily, I have a free gym at work so I’ve been going there three times per week before work to get my run in.

Since “reflection” is one of my themes for the year, I figured I’d take some time for few reflections on my experience as a guinea pig in a running study.

  • I really like getting in a workout before work. I feel so much more alert and ready to tackle the day after sweating it out at the gym. In the past, I’ve typically been a go-for-a-run-when-I-get-home-from-work kind of gal, but I’m starting to wonder if this before work thing isn’t what I should really be aiming for.
  • Another benefit of doing my workouts in the morning is that it forces me to be more organized.  I know that for me to have any chance to get to the gym early enough, I have to be able to roll out of bed and head out the door with minimal tasks in between, so I pack my bag – including everything I need for the gym4, my work clothes for the day, and my lunch – and layout my gym clothes before bed, so that I can just get up in the morning, throw on my gym clothes, grab my bag, and head out the door. I just don’t seem to be motivated to do that kind of prep if I’m not going to the gym in the morning, and then I end up either scrambling to get it all done or skipping things like making my lunch.
    Day 187

    After a run on the treadmill at the gym at work. I look happy because I was done running on the damn treadmill.

  • I hate treadmills. I hate them with the fire of a thousand suns. I like running when you can forget that you are running, because you are looking at the beautiful sights around you or chatting with your running partner. Staring at the clock counting down on the treadmill makes it seem to take an eternity and sucks the life out of me. I bring a towel and use it to cover up the time, but I *know* the time is counting down underneath the towel and I’m always tempted to look. Because there’s nothing else to look at! The gym I go to does have TVs, but they are quite far away so it’s difficult to read the closed captioning and there are only two TVs for the whole gym, so you don’t get a choice of what to watch. One week the TVs were broken such that the only channel they would play was showing Jerry Springer and it made me die a little inside every time I saw one woman punching another woman over some loser guy… which is about 97% of that show. I have been listening to audiobooks as I run on the treadmill and that’s helped make it doable, but just barely. This past week I actually went to the gym with a friend and she did the elliptical next to my treadmill and we chatted throughout the whole workout and it was over in no time at all.
  • I hate treadmills less when I’m doing intervals. As I mentioned, I did most of our track workouts on the treadmill and I actually found that when we had to do short intervals, like 2 minutes fast/2 minutes jogging or 400 m fast/400 m jogging, it was actually kind of fun, because it gave you something to do (turn the speed up and down) at fairly regular intervals, so you wear a bit distracted and watching the clock was useful as you frequently had to do something about the time, rather than just staring at it slowly ticking down. But nearer to the end of the training program the intervals got long (like 1600m or 2400m) and so it was back to feeling like just a regular long run (albeit at a faster pace) and I got bored again.
  • Day 178

    Heading out for a run on New Year’s Day in the new running jacket that my Uncle Harry and Aunt Arlene got me for Christmas!

  • I enjoy running with a running group. I’ve been wanting to join a running group for a while and, in fact, it was one of the things that drew me to participate in this study. I’ve never found a group that fit with my schedule before, so I’ve never done it until now. I really liked meeting up with other people who are into running, sharing tips about stretches and what races we are doing and other such fun things. As an added bonus, you get to meet new and interesting people and, as I mentioned, chatting with other people really makes the time go by that much quicker. Sadly, I didn’t meet any eligible bachelors (I was also hoping when I joined the study that there might be some), but perhaps there will be some in the next running group I join?
  • You often here that intrinsic motivators are better than extrinsic motivators, but I have to say that when it comes to running, I need my extrinsic motivators! I’ve long known that if I don’t have a race that I’m training for, I don’t run. It’s just too easy to not throw on my running gear and hit the pavement. I’ll think “I don’t know how long/far I should run today” and that will be enough of a barrier to stop me from going out at all. When I’m training for a race, I follow a training plan so that I don’t have to make any decisions about how long/far I need to run on a given day and I’m motivated by the fact that I have to be able to do a certain distance by a certain date! This study has taken it one step further in that not only do I have a training plan to follow, but I also have the extrinsic motivator that the scientists are depending on me to do all the training runs because science depends on it!
  • I really need to do more cross training. Since I’ve been going to the gym at work, I’ve been running into colleagues who go to the gym for the weights. And it’s gotten me thinking that once this running study is over, I should probably find a good weight training program to follow, because I’m doing all cardio, all the time. I’ve also been wanting to get back to yoga, as my muscles are pretty tight right now!
  • Being an athlete means doing laundry all the time. Running four times a week and playing hockey twice a week makes for a heck of a lot of laundry. I have lots of technical shirts from the various races I’ve done, but I only have a limited number of sports bras and running shorts, plus I only have one pair of shorts with a jill built in for playing hockey, so I’m really, really thankful that I have in-suite laundry.

So, in conclusion, being in this study has been great in that it’s really kickstarted my 2014 running at a much higher frequency than I’m used to, gotten me motivated to workout before work, and I’ve met some great people. A++, would science again.

  1. I put “race” in quotation marks because it’s a race that was created just for this study. []
  2. Except over the Christmas holidays, when it was just 2 runs per week. []
  3. Because the track group gets together out at UBC, which is way too far for me to want to go to on a weekday evening. []
  4. Water bottle, headphones, towel/soap/shampoo/conditioner, makeup/brush, etc. []

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Themes for 2014: Reflection, Mindfulness, and Biking to Work

In addition to my 2014 goals, I decided to have some themes for this year. Themes are the new black.

Reflection

During the past two years while I’ve been in school (in addition to working full-time at a job that requires lots of brain work), something I’ve had precious little of has been time. I’ve worked deadline to deadline at breakneck speed and when I had a break from classes (like Christmas or this past August), the last thing I wanted to be thinking about was, well, anything. But the thing is, stopping to reflect on the stuff you learn helps you retain it. At least I think I learned that somewhere, but I didn’t stop to reflect on it, so I might be retaining it wrong. At any rate, in 2014 I want to spend more time in reflection.

Mindfulness

"Mindful meditation has been discovered to..." [@dailyshoot #ds673]My sister has recently been immersing herself in the research surrounding mindfulness, which is about being aware and attentive to the present moment, noticing your thoughts and experiences in a non-judgemental way1. Since my sister and I talk all the time, this means that *I* am becoming versed in the science of mindfulness. I’m already a proponent of mindful eating and I’d like to spend time in 2014 being more mindful in other aspects of my life2.

Riding My Bike to Work

Ever since I moved to my new office, I’ve had grand plans  to start biking to work. It’s a good biking distance from my home – 7.5 km – and my office building has a locked room in the parkade in which to lock your bike and there are showers at the office gym. I have a sweet bike that I really like. I did a test run on a weekend day back in the summer and the bike paths to get from my place to work are reasonable, though would be a bit dark in places if you went before sun up or after sundown, and it doesn’t take that much longer than when I drive or Skytrain3. So a lot of the pieces are in place, but I still haven’t quite managed to actually bike to work yet. Excuses include: I don’t have a rack and pannier to carry my stuff4, I don’t have proper rain gear, and it’s too dark in the morning when I go to work and in the evening when I go home. Well, it’s time for me to do something about the first two excuses – and the last excuse is fixing itself day by day. For Christmas, my mom gave me money for a pannier and Sarah & Dave gave me money for sports-related paraphernalia as well, so I need only get off my butt and head to the store to purchase the gear I need to make biking to work a reality! It’s still a little too dark out in the morning when I go to work, but the days are getting longer now, so I’m confident that I can get going on this one soon.

So, there you have it folks, three themes for the new year. I’ll be sure to report back on how I do with these!

Image Credits:

Footnotes:

  1. Please correct me if I’m wrong on that. []
  2. And, yes, I do realize that my first theme is about looking back and the second one is about being in the moment. And, now that I think about it, setting goals is all about looking forward. But I don’t think that’s a problem – it’s all about finding balance. []
  3. Driving/Skytraining is about 20 minutes door to door, whereas biking is about 35 mins. But if I think of it as getting 35 mins of exercise for only 15 minutes of extra time beyond my less active forms of commuting, it’s a pretty good deal. []
  4. And when I started looking at them I got overwhelmed by trying to decide what to buy (thanks, decision fatigue!) and ended up not buying anything! []