Strong is the New Skinny

I shot this quick video last night when I got home from Dance2Fit. This is real, y’all – sweaty, no makeup, hair pushed back in one of my daughter’s soccer headwraps to keep the sweat from dripping into my face.

I’d gotten home after a 75-minute workout, during which time I’d downed about 20 ounces of water.  I wasn’t perfect; I missed steps and kicked right when everyone else was kicking left.  Two things happened last night, though, that really fired off some pride and humility in me.  First, the instructor praised how low my squat was – right after praising this other lady who was also killing the held squat.  The cool part is, I admire and respect that other lady’s fitness level and how she does the class.  She’s been doing Dance2Fit for years and really has the routines down.  The humbling part came after a grueling 3-4 minute arm workout.  I was walking around my spot and stretching out my arms when I happened to notice a new lady to the class was copying my stretches.  Just like I watch the lady I admire, this lady was watching me.  You can bet I was a lot more attentive to how I moved after that!

Genetics and a life of not making the best choices both ensure that I’ll never be skinny – not without some really dangerous behaviors or extensive and expensive surgery.  And that’s OK.  I’m getting stronger with every workout, be it high-impact aerobics, weight-lifting, cardio, or yoga.

For ages, society has equated skinny with healthy, and in some cases, that is certainly true.  However, skinny isn’t the only shape healthy takes.  While far from skinny, I’m in the best health of my life, not just judging by strength, but also by the numbers – blood pressure, cholesterol, resting heart rate, and glucose.  I celebrate my healthiness and my strength, even while I continue to slim down my silhouette.

How are you building strength, whatever stage in life you’re finding yourself?  Drop your response in the comments below so we can celebrate and encourage you.

Pushing Through

I didn’t want to do it.  Despite knowing I must get some much-needed exercise today, it was a struggle getting out there.  My legs were still feeling remnants of the abuse from earlier in the week, it’s less-than-warm outside, and I have some business-related computer-based matters that need my attention in addition to planning tomorrow evening’s soccer practice.  Yeah, I put it off.  Even after my older daughter “helped” me out by grabbing my sneakers and workout clothes for me (without my asking her to), I still found another ten minutes’ worth of reasons not to strike out.

But finally, I could put it off no more.  Though the sun was out and the sky was a vibrant, cloudless blue, the wind stabbed through my top like knives and stung my cheeks.  The muscles in my legs were still a bit tight.  I was cold.  All I wanted was to be inside in my warm, fleecy bumwear in front of my computer with a mug of hot chocolate getting work done.  For about fifteen seconds, I gave serious consideration to turning around and going back home.  But sheer determination and nothing short of stubbornness kept me going.

I did it.  I did it for 47 minutes and almost 3 miles.  I did it despite the bitter wind and my desire to be warm inside.  I warmed up and kicked my heart rate up to my perfect target rate.  Best yet, I had that time for my brain to be free of distractions, which gave it room to plan my soccer practice, formulate a new direction in my business, and mentally draft this blog post.

Business requires us to push through sometimes, too.  I’m facing hours of website work this weekend, which is my absolute least favorite thing to do for my business.  It has to get done, though.  Other business owners may love that type of stuff but hate dealing with the public (my favorite).  Regardless of what your least favorite task is or how much you may not be feeling one of your more enjoyable ones, as business owners, we have to push through and get things done.

The past month has stymied my drive and creativity, and in the evolution of my business, especially over against changing technologies, I have to push through yet again with a new angle and a new way of connecting with my customers.  I love my customers, talking to them and hearing their stories, but that is one thing I really miss about not doing as many events – I just don’t get to connect with them like I used to.  Sure, blog posts and emails are great, but it all too often feels like a one-sided conversation.

To that end, I am going to be launching a brand new Facebook group just for Coastal Carolina Soap Company’s customers, whether you have bought from us or you just love our brand story and want to stay connected.  The link will be going out very soon, so be on the lookout for that.  Maybe my blog posts come right to your inbox, or perhaps you see them on Facebook, Twitter, or some other social media outlet.  You can find out about this incredible new group by subscribing to this blog or also by signing up to receive our emails (one of which handily contains links to each blog post for the month).

We hope you will join us, and we look forward to connecting with you in new and exciting ways beginning next week!

Getting Right Back On

I went out last Friday for a wonderful trike ride.  The weather was in the 70s – shorts and t-shirt warm – and being out pushing it felt awesome!  I was tearing through the neighborhood, coasting through the large puddle in the cul de sac behind our house, enjoying the day and saying “hi” to neighbors.  Friday was my day to push it, to nip that third mile.  I was in the far cul de sac, and it happened.  That cul de sac isn’t a constant-radius turn, and I lost control and began to tip.  In fighting to stay upright and regain control of my trike, the pedals beat the devil out of the backs of my legs.

pic of bruises
“Ouch ouch ouch! Shit shit shit!” Exactly what I was saying as this was happening.
Bruised leg
And the left leg. It only hurts when anything touches it.

My trike survived with nary a scratch or ding, and except for that cut (which looks worse than it is) and my legs’ 50 shades of purple, I fared well enough.  But now I had a choice.  I could walk my trike home, where my older daughter was waiting to ride it, or I could ride it home.  Walking was safe enough, though painful as all get-out as bruised and swollen as my legs were.

A little back-story…  I never learned how to ride a bike.  I tried, but I fell too many times, and one time, I got the wind knocked out of me.  That experience scared me as I heard my fourth grade teacher’s voice in my head talking about broken ribs and punctured lungs.  That was it for me.

So here I was a vast number of years later facing a choice – walk or ride; it was going to hurt either way.  After walking around twenty feet or so, I hopped on my trike and rode home, and not straight home; while I didn’t do the route I had planned, I did add a bit extra to the ride before reaching home and getting cozy with two ibuprofen and an ice pack.

Like many entrepreneurs, I’ve fallen in business, too.  I’ve been banged up and bruised, even shed a little O-positive.  There have been some failures that made me ultra-sensitive, not wanting anything to touch the disappointment, frustration, discouragement, and/or anger boiling inside me.  I wanted to give up, just walk the business back to its settled position, liquidate everything, and find something else to do.  The thing is, I visited with that idea.  I pulled it out, entertained it, and debated it.  I dug deep underneath why I was thinking about quitting, and the answer always came back to frustration or something going on outside of my business.

Regardless of how banged up I was or how bad the business bruises were, I hopped right back in the fray.  I didn’t quit nor did I give up.  I did give myself permission to whimper and whine, to grab the figurative ice pack and pain killer (usually my favorite cozy pajamas and dark chocolate).  After my little pout session – little being the operative word here – I reformed my plan and attacked my business from a different perspective.  Without the moments of failure, I would have maintained the status quo, keeping on doing business the same exact way.  Sometimes, in fact, those moments of failure are exactly what we need to keep us from taking our progress for granted and to shake us out of old mindsets.  Often after a major failure, I reframe my thinking in huge ways and my business experiences significant growth.

Saturday, my family and I went to the beach (you can check out that video on my Facebook page), and my youngest and I took a 2 1/2 mile walk on the beach, banged up legs and everything.  Today I was back on the trike for a glorious half-hour ride.  There are three cul de sacs in our neighborhood, two of them not having constant-radius curves.  I didn’t avoid them; I just slowed down and created a constant-radius response with my trike.  I learned how to do it different, just as I do in business.

In business, as in life, there are failures and falls.  The important thing is, “Never give up.  Never, ever give up” (Winston Churchill).

Three Reflections on My Rehab

Last Tuesday was a stupendous day!  I tossed the crutches to the side, lost the brace, and experienced leg freedom for the first time in six weeks.  I met my new orthopedist who was nice enough, but who I labeled the gatekeeper to hell after my first day of rehabilitative exercises.

My orthopedist likes to draw on people. I got a setting Mayan sun with muscle groups labeled. The vastus medialis (inside quad muscle) is the focus of our attention.
My orthopedist likes to draw on people. I got a setting Mayan sun with muscle groups labeled. The vastus medialis (inside quad muscle) is the focus of our attention.

It just feels great being able to move around more, sleep the way I like, and exercise those muscles more intentionally.  A sad event had me going home-home (my parents’ home – which in grad school was the place where the laundry was free and the food was cooked by someone else) and the rehab kicking it up a notch.  My dad’s a physical therapist, and I’m pretty sure that if I do what he says, my knee will feel 18 again by the beginning of spring (which they haven’t seen in over 20 years).  As I was lying down and counting off reps Thursday afternoon under his watchful eye, and then as I was standing against a wall doing therapeutic squats, a few realizations came to me.

  1.  I’m pretty sure The Complete Works of the Marquis de Sade are required reading for PT School and most doctoral programs in orthopedics.
  2. When writing about the circles of hell, Dante stopped too soon.  I found the tenth circle of hell; it’s called therapeutic squats.

    The handy blanket I got at a conference that doesn't squirt out from between my thighs like my daughter's soccer ball did.
    The handy blanket I got at a conference that doesn’t squirt out from between my thighs like my daughter’s soccer ball did.
  3. Walking step-over-step to go up or down stairs is a big deal.  As I was climbing the stairs at my parents’ house and was able to go up with the left foot, then the right, then the left – you know, like non-gimpy people do – I remembered an encounter I had with a lady at church one Sunday.  I was in grad school and had shown up for church.  My dad had some home health patients in that town, a few of whom went to my church.  This older lady was climbing the steps on the side of the church to go in and she said, “Sara, make sure you tell your Dad that Edna Smith (not her real name) walked up these steps by herself!”  I was happy her recovery had gone so well and she was strong enough to do this – in a nebulous sort of way; I didn’t really know her.  As I walked up and down the stairs almost normally and finally with more grace than Boris Karloff‘s portrayal of Frankenstein’s monster, I realized what a tremendously big deal that is.

Now I’m home with two adjustable 5-pound ankle weights, some exercise bands, a bolster, and notes on my exercise sheets indicating the purpose of each exercise and when I can start some of them.  Ibuprofen is my new friend – that and ice.  It’s frustrating that I still have to stop to rest, to apply ice packs.  As I laid on my bed after church, bolster under my knees and 1/2 pound of iron strapped to my ankle, I could hear Dad pushing me to “straighten that leg, give it that last little bit of oomph,” followed by a “There ya go!  That’s it.”  I’m proud to say I didn’t scream at him, cuss at him (all’s fair in rehab and therapy), or accuse him of killing me.  From being his patient previously, I know the pain is well worth the results, and I can get through even the torturous squats if I focus on having stronger legs with no pain.

Just Chill!

One woman, many hats.  CEO.  Teacher.  Home manager.  Wife.  Minister.  That’s a lot for one person, and the potential for me to get super stressed out is high.  Obviously, stress is neither good for myself or for the girls, so I have to find ways to reduce stress in ways that don’t involve eating copious amounts of chocolate.  At the same time, I want to do things that are good for my brain, good for my body, and somewhat productive.  But not soap.  Ninety-eight percent of the time, making soap is for business, though I do enjoy playing with it occasionally.  I choose activities that can stand separate from soap.

For my body, I’ve been doing some resistance exercises daily, and in the past week or so, the girls have been joining me, so we can count that as part of school as we learn about how our muscles work and how these exercises help us.  I started out with planking, wanting to strengthen my arms and tone my core.  Then I decided to add push-ups to the routine so I can get rid of annoying upper arm dimples and tone the muscles there.  Next, I got this wild hair about doing crunches.   Like that’s not enough, a friend posted on Instagram a brief video of her doing roll ups.  If crunches are like a street gang’s tag artist, roll ups are Al Capone.  Yep, that much more evil.  Supposedly, each roll up is comparable to four crunches.  This is what they look like.

 

I started with where I was then, even though my counts were pitifully low.  However, I’ve steadily increased my counts, my seconds planking, and my strength.  It feels awesome!  My first goal?  Get these arms toned to look great with my red sleeveless dress before attending a wedding next weekend and the abs smoother so I won’t have to wear a body shaper under it.  My second and long-range goal is overall fitness and tone.

For my brain and body, I’ve been spending time knitting.  Studies have shown that knitting is good for the brain, as well as stress levels which positively impacts the heart as well.  I’ll knit about anything, and I’m constantly pushing myself to learning new patterns and techniques.  Last week I finished a long-term project – my first lace shawl.

Lace scarf made of a black wool-blend yarn spangled with multicolored sequins
Lace scarf made of a black wool-blend yarn spangled with multicolored sequins
2015-10-01 10.42.09
A close-up of the lace, both body and edge

Pair the relaxation of knitting with the absolute peace that comes from having a cat curled up next to you asleep, and that’s the way I end many of my days.  I’m so chill by that point that I can barely make it upstairs to bed.  This leads to a sound night’s sleep and a refreshed awakening, which is a great way to combat stress!

What do you do to just chill?

What Was I Thinking?

Last week, I got this great idea to start doing squats.  As I really, truly hate squats with a passion, and it was the week I’d determined to do taxes, which is also not my idea of fun, apparently I was truly a glutton for punishment.  I thought about doing an abs challenge, and my abs could use more work, but crunches don’t faze me.  I started with twenty squats, which is bad enough.  Feeling all good and mighty, I googled “30 day squats challenge.”  Oh crap!  I was supposed to have started with FIFTY squats.  FIFTY!!!  5-0.  There’s that many Shades of Grey.  (There was masochism there, too.  Hmmm…)  Well, I was determined to do this, and it’d be dumb to give up before I even started because it might be hard.

I gamely did my fifty squats, and I felt great!  Great, that is, until I tried to walk down the stairsThe Big Bopper sang a song back in the 50s called “Chantilly Lace,” and one of the lyrics says, “A wiggling walk and a giggling talk make the world go round.” Pay attention around the :37 mark.

(I promise, I won’t tell if you start getting up and dancing around your office.  It’ll be our little secret!)

So the 30-day challenge starts with 50 squats.  No big.  Except for the fact I had that “wiggling walk” going on and could barely make it down the stairs safely.  Day two kicks it up a little to 55 squats.  I was almost working up a sweat with these, and in trying to figure out what to do with my arms, I thought, Hmmm…  I could add a curl to this and work my arms, too.  Right after, the probably more rational part of me said, “That’s crazy talk!”  I was good as long as I stretch my legs before walking, sitting down, standing up, or climbing stairs.  You can imagine how challenging going to the bathroom painlessly was.  That more rational side of my mind was beginning to convince me to give up.  Just quit.  Let my thighs quit hurting and get back to normal.  Then the crazy, business woman side of my brain kicked in.

“Quit!?  Are you kidding me!?  No!!!  We’re not going to quit just because things get a little hard.  Remember, pain is weakness leaving the body.  Now, quitchur bitchin’ and do today’s squats.”  I didn’t have time to knock out my 60 before church, but I was on them afterwards.  Before I went upstairs, I took a detour into the garage where I keep my work-out equipment and grabbed a hand weight.  (I couldn’t find the other one, but I did find my younger daughter’s missing soccer ball, so for today, I was BEST MOM EVER!!!)  I went up and changed out of my dress and heels and added arms to my squats.  Know what?  Today’s squats were easier.  I’ve still got a little bit of that wigglin’ walk going on, but I’m getting around OK.

Sometimes, business is hard, too.  That promising customer doesn’t reply back to my email.  That batch of soap suffers a grand mal soap seizure so that the beautiful swirl I envisioned looks more like a particularly nasty crime scent.  A wholesale stockist closes its doors.  One of my girls or I get sick right in the middle of putting together a huge (talking multiple hundreds) item order.

Around every September, I think about quitting.  Just selling off all my remaining inventory, getting rid of most of my ingredients and supplies, and enjoying life without curing racks and with plenty of space to work on some sewing projects I have queued up, and it’s usually because of one particular account.  Then, ego kicks in, and I don’t have any desire to give up my customers and accounts to anyone else.  They’re mine, darnit, and I worked very hard for them!  So I muscle through, and you know what?  As I’m plowing through the work once again, I discover that a whole bunch of my colleagues and friends also think about quitting once a year, so I’m not alone in this.

I will beat on.  I’ll grit my teeth and gut through 26 more days of this 30-day squats challenge.  I’ll keep pushing my business, knowing that huge growth often follows those thoughts of quitting.  And I’ll be stronger and better for it.

How Indies Beat Stress

I am a member of a great organization called the Indie Business Network.  There are oodles of benefits to being an Indie, but I would have to say that our Facebook group jumps up to the number one reason for me.  It’s like having a support group at my fingertips 24/7 for anything – questions about business; rants about the increased cost of shipping; or support when home, school, and business all overwhelm me.  It’s also a great place to celebrate that huge stack of wholesale orders and to laugh with other business people.  I know from experience that, when one member is just totally sinking, the leader of the organization, Donna Maria, will reach out to that member by email and/or phone to lend personal, one-on-one support and guidance.  Been there, done that, still enjoy putting that guidance into practice.  (“Mom, can you wash my clothes after my sister’s?”  “I’m not in charge of laundry.  You’ll need to ask your dad.”  Oh my gosh, that felt soooo good to say yesterday!!!)

There comes a time in every Indie’s life and business, though, when the stresses get to be too much.  Money is tight, supplies are low, and when you go to look for your customers, you hear crickets instead of cash registers.  On top of that, one of the kids is sick, the cat has to go to the vet, and the septic tank is backing up.  What’s a business owner to do?

This came up for discussion this week in our group, and I offered to compile all the suggestions, including some of my own, into a blog post to share with everyone.  We all have our own unique ways of handling stress, and you hopefully can find inspiration from our ideas.  I promised anonymity, so there will be no names attached to these.

Drunk elephant riding

(1) “Get drunk and ride an elephant.”  One member did this as part of her personal retreat to re-evaluate her business.  It’s come to represent to me doing something so totally different from your personal norm that it shakes up how you view things.  Closely related to this is…

(2) “If there’s no elephant available, get drunk and ride a hot guy.”  Because, seriously, unless you’re in Asia, Africa or a zoo, elephants are hard to come by.  Sex is great stress relief!  (My husband suggested making the UPS guy verrrry happy.  Hmmm…  “What can Brown do for you?” just takes on a whole new meaning when you put it that way, doesn’t it?)

(3) Spend time taking care of you first.  I love this message about taking care of yourself for 24 hours.  Do things just for you.  Call it being selfish, if you will, but that time can make you such a better parent or business owner.

(4) Cuss.  A lot.  Loudly.  To hell with acting and sounding like a lady!  If a man building a house were to hit his finger with a hammer, he’d be cussing up a storm.  A woman building a business takes her hits, too.  She should feel free to express her anger, hurt, and frustration in crude, primal ways.

(5) Be in the moment.  Do what feels right for you in that moment.  Cry.  Laugh like a maniac.  Whine.  Gripe.  Scream.  Experience the catharsis.

(6) Enjoy some chocolate and wine.  Dark, milk, or white.  Liquor-filled or basic Doves.  Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling, or Sweet Muscadine.  Indulge responsibly.  I have found that a glass of dry white accompanied by some dark chocolate m&m’s can greatly improve my outlook on life.

(7) Get yourself into some hot water.  Whether your prefer a milk soak, bubble bath, or bath salts, grab a book, maybe some wine or chocolate, possibly even the guy from point #2, and sit back in peacefulness.  Leave your stress in the tub and watch it go down the drain.

(8) Escape.  Take 15 minutes to yourself.  Take half a day for a trip to a day spa.  Take a night away in a B&B.  Take two nights.  Or three.  Or a week!  Unplug.  The world will survive without you for a few days.  Close the doors on the business for a while and come back refreshed and recharged.  I try to take 15 minutes to myself each evening and an overnighter at least every other month.  These times away from my business and family make me a happier mom and a more productive owner.  As I said in our group, I love my girls, and I love them even more after some healthy separation.

(9) Exercise.  Yoga, running, walking, lifting weights or whatever works for you.  Just do it.  Get those endorphins going and cleanse your mind as your sweat out the stress.

(10) Finally, reassess.  After going through any or all of these de-stressing routines, determine what you are gaining from your business.  Is it spending money?  Is it extra income for your family?  Is it the reward of being your own boss?  Your business should be benefiting you in some way.  If it’s not, then it’s time to assess whether this is the best choice for you.  Stepping aside and looking at your business from a new angle can help put things in the right perspective.

I’m sure you have your own ways of beating back stress, frustration, and hopelessness.  What works best for you?  Share them so we can learn from each other.