Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Runner at a Yoga Class

I got a one week trial pass to Equinox Gym, a very fancy gym near our apartment, and I figured this week was a good week to use the membership, figuring that New Years Resolutionists wouldn't be flooding it until the weekend. While we have a decent gym in our apartment, I was happy to play with some of the broader selection of equipment, and to try out some classes. My big goal for the week was to try to do at least one yoga class.
I didn't feel totally graceful at yoga class
Yoga and I are not the most natural fit. One, as a runner, I'm not very flexible. Two, as a type A person whose brain goes a mile a minute (and my mouth too), it's to quiet my mind and focus on my breathing. But as someone prone to excessive worrying, I thought maybe this could be a good opportunity to try a new solution to mellow out. And I'm glad I did: I really enjoyed the classes. It is so different from any exercise I'm used to doing, particularly running, where you're trying to move forward, and this is about being still and centered.
A lesson I've learned and re-learned this week: Just because someone is fit in one area does not mean she is necessarily all-around in great shape. I am admittedly a good runner, and can produce good times in distance races. But even with core and strength work a few times a week, the classes whipped my butt (and everywhere else). I am sore all over, and holding some of the positions caused my body to quake and quiver. BUT, I did not fall over, and I am taking that as a victory. And despite my soreness, there was some momentary internal quiet. For an hour, I didn't look at my phone, connect with the outside world. I breathed and posed. And yes, the dissertation thoughts and anxieties crept in, but there some quiet.
I don't think I'll be trading in my running shoes for a yoga mat permanently. But I do think that there is a lot I can take away from the practice and use it to complement both my running and my writing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Writing in the dark, running in the rain

I try to regularly have both reading and writing goals. Reading new scholarship often pushes me to write and to think about ideas in a new way. Since Friday, I've had a relatively new (2012) dissertation on Mary I've been meaning to read by Clare Marie Snow, "Maria Mediatrix: Mediating the Divine in the Devotional Literature of Late Medieval and Early Modern England." Today was finally the day where I sat down to read it. Did I get through all of it? No. But a few compelling sections helped me meet my goal of writing at least 300 words for today. Some days, a page is all that I can do, and if I wrote a page a day, I'd have a full draft in a year. And there are days when I can knock out a few pages, and those days feel great, particularly on the heels of unproductive days where the cursor blinked, taunting me.
There are so many authors who encourage others to get into the daily writing habit, even comparing it into the habit of running regularly.

And then this one appears often on New Year's Eve

I also got my daily run in today, running in the pouring rain.  When I say pouring, there were numerous puddles that were beyond ankle deep. I came back after 5 miles, a good distance for the middle of the, soaked but invigorated. Where I run, there are dozens of runners and cyclists usually out there, no matter what time of day. In the 45 minutes of running, I saw 3 people out there. Yes, it was the day before Christmas Eve, but it was clear that the torrential downpour was a deterrent to others. But I could play in the rain, jump in the puddles (once you're wet, you're wet!), and not take myself too seriously.
Running in the rain or any sort of bad weather isn't always ideal, and neither is writing. There are times when you don't want to do it, don't want to get up early and head out to hit either the keys or the road. But strength only comes from leaning into the wind, the rain, the fear, and not just settling for the easy days.

End of the day word count: 350

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Race to be PhinisheD - a new outlook on the blog

When I started it at the end of 2008, this blog represented a different phase of my life.
First of all, I looked like this:
Me with my mom October 2008 - first semester of grad school
·      I was 22 and had just started my master’s program
·      I had never ran a marathon and was preparing for my debut in Spring 2009
·      I was close to ending my college relationship and ultimately getting ready to be single, learn more about what I wanted and needed from a relationship
·      In a lot of ways, I was very lonely. I was settling into life in DC, trying to adjust to graduate school life, trying to figure out what being a post-collegiate adult meant.
·      I wrote trying to connect with others, to track my running, and to chronicle my new life in the city.
Really, since I started dating my now-husband, I fell off the wagon in terms of blogging consistently, as I think I just got busy and happy, and didn’t use the blog as an outlet, because I didn’t need a virtual sounding board – I married one!
Me and my husband at my brother's wedding - November 2015
But I'm going to revamp my blog, which I hope will help me with my dissertation. The new subtitle is "Race to be PhinisheD" (hopefully you get the pun - Ph.D) and the main goal is to use it to help me chronicle and write out some of my ideas, keep me on track, plan a schedule and stay accountable. My best running happened when I was writing about it and I think the same can be possible for my writing. I think overall 2015 was a good year for my writing, particularly because my advisor liked my first chapter. However, the second one needs some significant revision, and that's what I'm tackling now, as well as developing the structure for my third chapter.

I want to use these final 2 weeks of 2015 to plan out things for the spring semester. This is particularly important because I will be teaching in the spring! I'll be at the University of Maryland, which is the third university I'll have taught at. I'm teaching a class called "God wills it!: The Crusades in medieval and modern perspectives" for the history department. I'm really looking forward to it and have been enjoying planning out some of my lectures.

But everything I've done has led me to 2016 - the year I hope to graduate. There have been many wonderful things about graduate school, but I'm also looking forward to closing this chapter of my life. This should happen nearly simultaneously with turning 30 in 2016.

I do plan to write about running, and I do think a marathon is still in my future. But the training for those big marathons, my Boston PR, the training and studying I did for my comprehensive exams, has set me up for this coming year: training to finish the dissertation.

Instead of mileage counts, there will be more emphasis on word counts, I’ll chronicle revisions to my chapters, instead of race descriptions. The intensity that fueled my training will spark my writing instead. And just like when I would lead up to a marathon, and go back and review my training log, I’ll work my way up to my defense tracking my writing. The marathon was not an insurmountable task: I can vanquish the dissertation too. Now off to plan for January!