I am NOT an expert on mindfulness or meditation.
I am a novice. We all need to start somewhere.
To Regain Control, You First Need to Recognize You Lost Control
Losing the ability to run and workout the way I am used to pre-pregnancy meant losing more than just a physical workout. It also meant not having as efficient of an outlet for stress or my many, MANY daily thoughts. This meant a further loss of control. From what I hear, pregnancy is all about preparing you for motherhood aka you are no longer the priority. Your time, for the most part belongs to someone else as it should. However, you still need to find and create time and space for yourself. It just may look different.
I realized quickly that this loss of a physical and mental release, coupled with the shifts in identity that were already happening as I embark on this WILD journey of becoming a mama were not setting me up for success in my day to day. I needed an outlet for my perceived stress. I still wanted to have a recurring goal or task to check off the to-do list (to replace work out, since low intensity work was not cutting it). My husband suggested meditation.
I have always struggled with meditation because in my mind it needed to happen first thing in the morning. I tried it twice before and after 1 or 2 lessons, I would give up. I had a million excuses and no commitment. My morning routine was anything but "routine". Given my 2 jobs —fitness instructor and pharmacist, as well as this side hustle, there is little consistency throughout the week. Add a nice layer of pregnancy fatigue, misc. medical and personal appointments, a dog/husband, and all of life’s other curveballs and I felt like I was going to fail at meditation because I could not commit my morning routine around it.
My Morning on Mon/Wed/Fri:
4:10 AM alarm goes off, scroll through texts/email/instagram
4:20 AM get ready to teach (make up, bathroom, etc.)
4:35 AM make coffee, feed dog/let him out, check daily "to-do" list
4:45 AM en route to Barry’s
5:00 AM get to studio and teach by 5:15 AM
*Wed & Fri* get to Harborview by 8 AM for my pharmacist job (maybe take class at 6:15 AM, based on daily tasks)
*Mon* stay at the studio to teach 8:30 AM (converse, work, or workout in between)
My Morning Tue/Thur:
No consistency, but usually up by 7:00 AM (between 5:30 AM - 7 AM, based on when I decided to workout that day)
Scroll through texts/email/instagram
Review daily “to-do” list
Get up and get ready (make up, bathroom, etc.)
Either go work out or sit down to work on ULA/Barry’s/Pharmacy work
*Every other Thur* get to Harborview by 8 AM for my pharmacist job
So yeah, kinda difficult to create a routine of meditation around all that and we are not even touching on the variability of the weekend. I am also not at the point where I am willing to commit to waking up every day at 4:10 AM because some nights it is really hard to fall asleep.
Despite what may seem to be organized chaos and trying to embrace the changes of pregnancy, I desperately needed a way to feel in control again.
In Order to Disconnect, I Needed to Connect
Ironic statement. We live in a society that is very connected by technology and social media. I am not here to stir the pot on the great debate about whether social media and technology is "ruining" society. However, I will say there are definitely unhealthy relationships with social media and technology. Should we be attached to our phones 24/7? No. Should we log in to Instagram or Facebook before we get out of bed? Probably not. However, social media can also introduce us to new, healthy habits. For me, one of those healthy habits is mindfulness and meditation. I am able to meditate anywhere with the help of an application.
Meditation is Similar to Running
Conveniently, just when I was told by my OB GYN to chill on my workouts, Barry’s started a challenge this month and a perk is access to the Calm app for mindfulness and meditation. Serendipity, maybe? One of the lessons in the 7 days of Calm discusses using your breath to refocus when thoughts intrude. You focus on the inhale and mentally count "1" at the end of the inspiration. As you exhale, you say "2". When you recognize you have become distracted, you nudge the misc. thoughts out of the way, restart counting, and can rely on your breathing to ground you. This is very similar to how I utilize running. When I go on a run, thoughts will race in and out of my head about stressors, tasks at hand, the day, goals, how I am feeling etc. But as I pick up speed or approach an incline, I become breathless and the thought that was occupying my mind is scooted aside so I can focus on and control my breath. I used to embrace my lack of routine for what it was. I now realize just how much I relied on running and physical exertion as therapy to make my lack of routine bearable.
There is NO Preferred Time to Meditate
I don't know why I was under the impression that in order to meditate, I had to commit 20-30 minutes of my morning to meditation and journaling. I believe this just stems from hearing so many people, including my husband, share how their day is better when they meditate first thing. I would scoff at that and think umm okay let me just wake up at 3:45 AM (haHa). I recognized that for most people, it may make sense to dedicate time in the morning because they consistently have time available or can wake up slightly earlier (but not 3 AM early) to incorporate this into their routine. For me, the afternoon or evenings are more consistent and realistic.
Like all of my goals, I had to add "Meditate" to my daily to-do list. My type-A, Scorpio tendencies mean if it's a goal and it's written down, I am more likely to accomplish it. I also shared my desires with my husband, who asks me each evening if I meditated yet. Speaking this goal out loud to him meant having more accountability to accomplish it. I have been meditating nightly, usually in bed, for 2 weeks now and have missed the lesson 2 times. I didn't get upset, blame myself, or give up when I skipped the meditation. Reminder: it takes time and repetition to create habits. It is also a personal goal that is meant to reduce stress in my life and not add stress by perceiving missing one day as failure. If you tried meditating previously and didn't stick it out, ask yourself why? If you feel out of control, stressed, anxious, are sleeping poorly, or just want to integrate this into your day it may be the time to try it again.
How to Successfully Start Meditating
1. Shop around for your favorite app.
This article reviews two of the leading apps for meditation --Headspace and Calm, but there are many more out there. Look at the layout and find what appeals to you.
2. Analyze your day and determine the best time for YOU.
Morning, bedtime, in between --it does not matter. You typically need 10 minutes, sometimes even less and a comfortable place to sit. It does not need to be a quiet space. Meditation is about being able to refocus even with the distractions.
3. Write Meditation as a task on your to-do list.
You are more likely to achieve a goal when you write it down. Hold yourself accountable and make this a "must do" or "need to do" versus an "I'd like to do" on your list.
4. Do not give up if you miss a day. Show up again tomorrow.
It's not an "I'd like to do" on your to-do list, but give yourself grace. Sometimes even with our best intentions, life gets in the way. If things didn't go as planned at work one day, you wouldn't just decide to not go in tomorrow. Have the same attitude about your personal goals.
5. Create accountability.
Tell a friend or significant other what your goal is and ask them to help you stay on track.
I am in no way sponsored by Calm or any of mindfulness apps, but in the 2 short weeks that I have been meditating, I do notice the benefits. I want to continue forming this habit in the months to come and will share my personal successes with meditation in a later blog post.
We met Katie during our ULA Bootcamp and Goal Setting event at U Village’s Athleta store earlier this year. After a 30 minute sweat session, we encouraged individuals to reflect on a goal they have by applying our SUMMIT acronym. In September, it was so exciting to see Katie back at our Stronger Together Bootcamp and learn that she had CONQUERED HER SUMMIT and that our workshop had helped. We asked if she would be willing to share her story.
Hello, I'm Katie and this is how I have conquered my summit.
For a long time, I was plateauing with my workouts. My sister's wedding was coming up and I was not getting an effective workout at the gym, I just felt like I was doing the same thing over and over. I wasn't giving myself a proper workout.
One random weekend in late February, my friend dragged me to Athleta to buy new workout clothes. As someone who was only exposed to limited workout clothes, I immediately wanted all the pants, tops, sports bras, etc. I noticed a sign that displayed workout events for March taught by various instructors in the Seattle area. I thought “sure, why not? I’ll sign up because I need to mix up my workout routine anyway.”
My first class was bright and early in March at 8am on a Saturday for the “Sweat & Goal Set with Ula. Oh boy, that class was challenging. I was super sweaty, but I felt like I actually got a good workout. After the workout was done and we were cooling down, Ives and Christy started talking about goal setting. Christy told her story on training for a half marathon. She was very inspiring, how she couldn't just start running 13.1 miles. She needed to slowly progress to her goal (it's a summit after all, you need to train for it). When the class was over, I started thinking of what my own summit could be as running is not my jam. I knew I wanted a proper challenge, not just the "I want to get in shape for a wedding". Recently at the gym, I started swimming. I was inspired to swim because my mom swam 3 times a week after she had my sister and wanted to get in shape for her own sister’s wedding. Plus I love the water. I learned to swim before I could walk (per my mom). However, I would only do about 15 or 18 laps. Before I left the class, I decided my summit challenge would be to swim a mile.
A bit of background, 1 lap is going back and forth across the pool (25 yards each way). I was told I had to do 36 laps to get to that mile. Currently, I was already swimming half a mile so I had a good start. My typical routine is 1 lap of freestyle, 1 lap back stroke and 1 lap breast stroke. Once I completed those 3 moves, I was finished with 1 round. Each new month, I would add an extra round. Thus, my goal to reach that mile would be August with an aim to swim 2-3 times a week (or really whenever I needed to wash my hair. If you’re going to take the time to shampoo and condition your hair, might as well get a good workout in).
I never did swim in high school (I did dance team instead) so I was really challenging myself in completing this goal. Oh boy, was it a real challenge. There were times, I was mentally telling myself, “nah, just stop at 21 laps, you can make it up on the next swim.” Thank goodness for my accountability partner and I had to text her whenever I finished. I mentally overcame the block and continued to push myself. But remember, it’s ok to stop if you’re pushing yourself physically too hard. Over the next few months, I felt myself getting stronger and plus my breathing improved (bonus!). It got to the point where I started to adding in extra rounds before the following month hit. Before June, I was at 10 rounds (30 laps). One swim session, I decided to go for that 11th round. Once I completed it, I realized I had the energy to do 1 more. I successfully completed my mile goal a month and a half early and before my sister's wedding. It felt amazing to complete my goal, both physically and mentally. I knew at this point, anything was possible.
Just because I conquered my summit, doesn't mean the journey is over. Some of the new summits I plan on conquering is to swim a mile in under an hour (currently at an hour and 5 min!), participate in the Park to park swim next August (swimming across Lake Washington) and perhaps do a triathlon (except I hate running so we'll see about that one).
I would like to thank Ula and Us for inspiring me to push myself. I would also like to thank Athleta for holding these amazing workout events. This community is strong and amazing and I'm glad to be apart of it. Finally, I want to thank my friends and family for being supportive and holding me accountable. I could not have done this without their encouragement.