I’m terrible at running.

I’m really bad at running, guys. Last week I finally hit Week 5 of the Couch to 5K program. I started last fall and got to about week 3 or 4 before the snow hit the ground and running felt unsafe. I restarted in the spring and basically had to start all over again. I went back to week 2 and started again back in April. I haven’t gotten into a rhythm yet where I’m doing the three runs religiously each week yet. Part of it is because it’s not fun anymore. I keep thinking back to last fall when I loved my runs. Back when they were easy and I felt great.

Last week I did the beginning of Week 5. Week 5 is walk 3 minutes, run 5, walk 3, run 5, walk 3, run 5, walk 3. I felt sick to my stomach at the end of the first 5 minutes. I couldn’t make it through the second without major consequences. Last time I ran so hard I felt sick to my stomach I had a gargantuan headache the rest of the day. No amount of water, salt, protein, carbs, Advil or anything would make it go away. It was awful. So I walked and ran my way home, ignoring the cues of the C25K podcast.

I decided to hit the treadmill instead, since my in-laws have one and that’s where we’re staying right now. The treadmill feels like a cop-out because it’s so much easier, so I ramped up the speed. Again, I couldn’t finish the second 5 minute running set. So again, I walked and ran as I saw fit until 30 minutes was over.

The third set of Week 5, I just found a slower pace and stuck to that. I completed the whole thing!

Today, I started Week 6. I kept that same slower running pace (my husband would probably call it an almost-walking pace) and I managed to finish the whole set. I’ve decided that I will keep going even if it means I’m “running” really slowly. Once I’m able to run for 30 minutes straight at that pace, then I’ll aim for 5k total. Or something.

At this rate, I will never make it to my marathon. Like, ever. Although it’s frustrating, it’s nothing new. My body doesn’t seem to be made like other people’s bodies. Last week I ate a brownie full of real sugar and it gave me fever in the night and a vomiting spell. I’m not normal (though my doctor seems to think I’m fine. ugh.) and that’s OK. It just might take me twice as long to train for a 5k and I’ve decided that I’m OK with that.

I want to reach my goals my way, not your way or her way. I basically just want to get there. Getting there is more important to me than how, although it wasn’t always that way. I used to want to do it and be among the best. My pride hung on the fact that I arrived in decent standing compared to the best. Now, I’m at a place where I just want to arrive. I don’t want to give up because it’s hard or because it’s embarrassing that I’m kind of an athletic loser. I want to say I did because I wanted to, and I did it on my own terms. That’s more of a medal to me than any Olympic standing.

I’m growing up, people.

Giving up before we start


Near the end of season four of How I Met Your Mother, Ted and Robyn have an honest conversation about his fears about starting his own architecture business. As I was watching this dialogue go down I knew I needed to blog about it: Ted says what so many of us haven’t been able to put into words about our dreams. I can’t seem to find a clip online so you’ll have to read the transcript.

Robin arrives home to find Ted looking extra-glum and staring off into space. She asks if he’s okay, and he says, “What if I don’t think of the books?” Robin says, “Excuse me?” Ted explains. “There’s this famous architecture story about an architect who designed this library. It was perfect. But every year, the whole thing would sink a couple inches into the ground. Eventually, the building was condemned. He forgot to account for the weight of the books. This company — it’s just me. What if I don’t think of the books?” Robin replies: “Okay, first of all, nobody goes to libraries anymore, so who cares about that guy? Secondly, you need to get on the phone and start calling clients.”

Ted explains, “The longer I put off starting my own firm, the longer it can remain a dream and not something I screwed up at. It’s like I’m giving up before I started.”

Robin laughs. “You want to talk about giving up? I used to describe my ideal guy as ‘funny, smart, passionate, challenging’, and now, apparently, I will settle for ‘in my apartment’. Didn’t you think you’d have it all more figured out by now?”

We do this, right? We sabotage our dreams by letting them stay dreams, rather than taking a step in their direction.

After this conversation with Robyn, Ted picks up the phone and makes his first try on a sales call. We learn quickly that he has actually just called Robyn’s cell phone and he was practicing his pitch on her. We laugh because he’s putting it off again except that he isn’t quite: it’s one step closer to making the real pitch.

What’s one step – even if seemingly insignificant – you can take towards your big dream, your exciting Bucket List goal? I’d love to hear about it here in the comments. 

The Sweet Feeling of Accomplishment: From Barista To Manager

Guest Post SERIES1

MarvinThe first post in this series is by my good friend Amanda Marvin. I first met Amanda in our first year Philosophy course. We got to know each other better over the course of that first year and have been great friends ever since. We both moved to Montreal the same month via two completely different paths. I really appreciated having her around when I was making the transition to the Big New City. Amanda blogs here and tweets as @amandamarvin. If you’re interested in submitting your own guest post about accomplishing difficult things or striking something off your bucket list, click here for details.

I never pictured myself managing a retail store in Belleville, Ontario, but I see now how hard work in former jobs built determination and a strive for excellence in the business world.

My work ethic was challenged when I moved to Montreal, Quebec for a couple of years and started working at a Second Cup. For one, I never thought I would be working at a coffee shop coming right out of University. I mean, I had a great education but it didn’t appear to get me far. However, maybe it did in hindsight in developing in me a work ethic that would take me to a career I never dreamed possible.

Being a Barista was anything but easy or glamorous despite the romanticized idea of it. I worked late nights, did all the dirty work and got yelled at by my managers a lot for not being able to speak French or for raising concerns they didn’t think were valid. I worked like this for a good 5 months. That’s five months of me coming home, crying and talking myself back into going to work. I dreaded it, but knew that my options were limited so I kept on going.

My managers started asked my colleagues how I worked in their absence and many of them responded that I was “hard working” and would often have to tell me I was ok to leave work and go home.

As turnover rates increased, I was entrusted with keys and opening the café. It took me a bit to get the hang of it, but within a month or less I was opening the café on my own and running it until my manager came in at 7am. I felt such a sense of accomplishment being able to run a business on my own for a short period of time. It was actually somewhat rewarding coming in, putting on some nice background music, placing the pastries all nicely and making sure everything was stocked, neat and tidy for the morning rush.

I also worked hard on perfecting the little bit of French I knew and developing an accent (I would practice while opening the café in talking to myself or try and speak French as much as I could while in public). I wanted to be able to engage in a small conversation with customers while making their lattes. Though I had one case where I asked the customer what size drink they wanted (Quelle format?) and she snapped at me saying I used the improper word for size and I should have said “Quelle grandeur?” or “Quelle taille?” and started talking about Bill 101, thankfully my manager stepped in to defend me.

In spite of the language barrier, I continued working at Second Cup. Early mornings, jazz music, coffee stained hands and spilled milk were the little things marking my life at the time.

When I gave my resignation, the managers were saddened (which is not an emotion they showed often) and took me out for a nice meal in Old Montreal. I felt my hard work was appreciated for once. It made me feel really good.

Coming back home I thought was going to be hard. I had this idea that I was going to have to spend a year or more working at the bottom to get to the top again, but that wasn’t the case. With the work ethic I developed in Montreal (taking shifts when people called in sick, doing the dirty work) climbing the corporate ladder was easy. Within 2 months of being hired on I was promoted to a key holder and within another month Assistant Manager.

Since then I have switched companies and have enjoyed learning management skills along the way. From marketing strategies, to conducting interviews, to window displays, my hard work over these past 4 years has proven to me that I can do many things I never thought possible.

It gives me hope that if I can accomplish these two grand things, I can achieve anything I put hard work and determination to. Whether it be paying off my student loans, furthering my education, buying a home or saving for retirement, I know I can do these things if I work hard at developing a plan and stick to it.


The Race


Credit: easylocum

I heard this poem over the Christmas break and I wanted to share it.

The Race by D.H. Groberg

Whenever I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face,
my downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.
A children’s race, young boys, young men; how I remember well,
excitement sure, but also fear, it wasn’t hard to tell.
They all lined up so full of hope, each thought to win that race
or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place.
Their parents watched from off the side, each cheering for their son,
and each boy hoped to show his folks that he would be the one.

The whistle blew and off they flew, like chariots of fire,
to win, to be the hero there, was each young boy’s desire.
One boy in particular, whose dad was in the crowd,
was running in the lead and thought “My dad will be so proud.”
But as he speeded down the field and crossed a shallow dip,
the little boy who thought he’d win, lost his step and slipped.
Trying hard to catch himself, his arms flew everyplace,
and midst the laughter of the crowd he fell flat on his face.
As he fell, his hope fell too; he couldn’t win it now.
Humiliated, he just wished to disappear somehow.

But as he fell his dad stood up and showed his anxious face,
which to the boy so clearly said, “Get up and win that race!”
He quickly rose, no damage done, behind a bit that’s all,
and ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall.
So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win,
his mind went faster than his legs. He slipped and fell again.
He wished that he had quit before with only one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.”

But through the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face
with a steady look that said again, “Get up and win that race!”
So he jumped up to try again, ten yards behind the last.
“If I’m to gain those yards,” he thought, “I’ve got to run real fast!”
Exceeding everything he had, he regained eight, then ten…
but trying hard to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.
Defeat! He lay there silently. A tear dropped from his eye.
“There’s no sense running anymore! Three strikes I’m out! Why try?
I’ve lost, so what’s the use?” he thought. “I’ll live with my disgrace.”
But then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.

“Get up,” an echo sounded low, “you haven’t lost at all,
for all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
Get up!” the echo urged him on, “Get up and take your place!

    You were not meant for failure here! Get up and win that race!”
So, up he rose to run once more, refusing to forfeit,
and he resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit.
So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been,
still he gave it all he had and ran like he could win.
Three times he’d fallen stumbling, three times he rose again.
Too far behind to hope to win, he still ran to the end.

They cheered another boy who crossed the line and won first place,
head high and proud and happy — no falling, no disgrace.
But, when the fallen youngster crossed the line, in last place,
the crowd gave him a greater cheer for finishing the race.
And even though he came in last with head bowed low, unproud,
you would have thought he’d won the race, to listen to the crowd.
And to his dad he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.”
“To me, you won,” his father said. “You rose each time you fell.”

And now when things seem dark and bleak and difficult to face,
the memory of that little boy helps me in my own race.
For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all.
And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
And when depression and despair shout loudly in my face,
    another voice within me says, “Get up and win that race!”

Confessions of a Recovering Procrastinator: Tip Number 5

When I wrote the post I published monday about procrastination I had to face a very unfortunate reality. Not only had I procrastinated in publishing that post, I had also procrastinated in a series of other things in my life. I made reference to this relating to my reimbursements and stuff. Today I spent three hours on reimbursements alone that I had put off since September. I have six piles of receipts waiting at the office for me to finish up in the morning.

I haven’t run in three weeks. This morning was a painful reminder of that as it was sunny out! And if I had looked at the weather forecast to even try to plan a run, I would have known it wouldn’t be raining and I could have run.

Might I add that I haven’t really done any element of my morning routine in the last few weeks other than wake up at 6:45, only to roll over and sleep for another 45 minutes?

I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from friends and family about this blog. People are telling me that they appreciate how honest I am about my successes and failures. Chalk one up for another in the failure category.

But! All is not lost. I was determined to set the ‘reset’ button today by diving into those reimbursements. I did have to break up the time so as to not go completely bonkers in the process. I went out for a walk and did some errands and came back to finish it. It felt good. It didn’t have to take 3 hours if I had done it regularly throughout the semester (like I had made my staff do! Gulp.). Yet, there was another moment in my day when a reminder popped up for me to start the next project and my first reaction was “put that off, it’s scary.” I half did. I thought about next steps for that problem and then stopped for another project that was way less difficult.

1. It’s Not Pointless

If you’re anything like me, killing procrastination sometimes feels pointless. “I’ll do it some other time when I have more character,” or whatever our excuses are. We know we need to do it because it’s really not helping our life very much, we know we need to do it as a part of ‘growing up’ and ‘surviving the real world’ yet it can be so darn intimidating.

2. Win the ‘war’, lose some battles

The lie I believed for a long time is that one failure equals total failure. This is not true. We can lose a battle but win the war. Learning this has helped me have big wins like today when I actually faced that literal pile of crumpled receipts and still walk away OK with the fact that I didn’t win every battle I faced. “That’s cheesy to call it a battle, Jess, it’s not that big of a deal.” Maybe. But for me sometimes it feels like a really big deal. A really big deal that through wins and loses I want to come out on top.

A pep-talk

Source: marianovsky

Pep talks are key to my success. Business leaders or others might call it ‘casting vision’ for what you’re about to do. To make meetings less boring I (try to remember to) remind my staff why this meeting is important. It’s not just us sitting here for an hour and a half wasting our time, it’s because the decisions we will make in that hour and a half will impact our achievements that week and could change the course of our year entirely. That hour and a half could change our jobs, it could impact the world.

I don’t think we can have success in very much without pep talks or vision. Without being reminded of why we’re doing things, it’s so easily to get lost in the what or the why does this suck? of present reality. This is why I loved this pep talk by Chris Baty, the founder of Nanowrimo. It’s a bit long, but it’s worth the read. The last few days I’ve been feeling my novel is crappy (it was never meant to be published), more than crappy, I still had 30,000 words to write and very little plot space left to achieve what I wanted. I made some changes, but the writing was ARDUOUS at best. At the beginning, I was pumping out my daily 1,667 words in under an hour. Yesterday it took me THREE.

I needed someone to remind me that it will get better. Because it does. While this could be a pep-talk for life as well (it usually does get better), I’m reminded of the importance of vision and having people around me to encourage me, who are rooting for me to succeed. Do you have those people?

Here’s Chris’s pep talk:

You’re watching a movie. And halfway through it, the hero crumbles.

He or she is lost. Surrounded by zombies or forsaken by love or separated from their favorite wookiee. They stare forlornly at the mess their life has become, hope fading that things will ever be put right again.

Screenwriters call this moment “the long, dark night of the soul.” Every Hollywood movie has one because we love seeing our protagonists pummeled for a while before they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and head out to kick some ass.

NaNoWriMo participants go through their own long, dark nights of the soul halfway through November. If you haven’t experienced one already, you will very soon.

I say this with certainty because we’ve spent a lot of time and money making the middle stretch of this year’s adventure especially difficult.

We don’t have the costumes or the makeup budget to send a convincing-looking group of zombies to your door. Instead, we’ve relied on smaller, cheaper things to demoralize you mid-month. We’ve convinced your bosses and teachers to heap projects on you at the last minute. We’ve gotten your family to pitch fits when you need to get caught up on your word count. Most insidiously, we’ve paid your novel’s cast to stumble through their scenes with all the eloquence and charm of a baked potato.

Why? Because we have to do something to make your novel-in-a-month endeavor a fair fight. Which it isn’t. Look at you! You’re a fantastically gifted individual, with fierce courage and an imagination powerful enough to knock out a dozen books in November.

If you don’t believe me, just scroll back through all you’ve written so far. That’s more than most people achieve in a year, and you did it in two weeks. It may be less than you’d hoped, and the quality may be crappier than you’d envisioned. But first drafts are supposed to be rough, and I guarantee you’re too deep in the process right to recognize all the great stuff you’ve put on those pages. Despite our meddling, you’ve achieved a truck-load of literary goodness. And it’s just a taste of what’s ahead.

Because the second half of this noveling marathon is when things really begin to move. For starters, the NaNoWriMo-funded interference will end. This is partly because we’ve realized the whole “fair fight” thing was a dumb idea, and partly because we blew all of our harassment budget on yesterday’s spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to crash every word processor in Manitoba.

Shenanigans aside, the back half of NaNoWriMo has always been a place where writers get their second winds. As long as you keep working, your potatoes will turn back into charismatic protagonists, and your imagination will build a path right out of these mid-month doldrums.

You can help build that path faster by hitting your writing goals for the next three days. This may sound like a small thing, but little, consistent writing achievements open the door to huge writing breakthroughs.

If you’ve fallen behind on your word count or lost the thread of your story, you may think no breakthrough will be big enough to save your book. Take heart: There are 300,000 of us out there right now living that exact same movie. We’re all struggling to balance our books with the crazy stuff life has chucked at us these past two weeks. We’re all wondering if we have what it takes to see this thing through. And we’re all about to stand up, dust ourselves off, and go kick some major ass.

The long, dark night is ending, my friend. The homestretch lies ahead.

I’ll see you at the finish line.


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