Setting (and kicking) Goals

This past week I read a great book by Gretchen Rubin called The Happiness Project. It’s a fun little read about how focusing on small changes in your daily life can bring you more fulfillment.

The book allowed me to indulge in a little self-examination, and I rediscovered that I am quite a happy person. In fact, when the Pixar movie Inside Out was first released, my colleagues at the time came to the quick conclusion that in my brain, Joy would be the one calling the shots. This was humbling and lovely to hear – that not only am I a joyful person on the inside, but it radiates to those around me.

While I would love to dedicate myself to my own Happiness Project, with my due date only 11 days away it looms a little too large for me. Instead I thought up a list of some great goals I’d like to set for myself in both the long and short term.

There will be others, but I think these are a great start for me going forward. As I mentioned in my last post, one of the things I’m most looking forward to postpartum is the opportunity to reclaim my default setting as a highly goal-oriented woman.

In no particular order, here are some of my focuses for the near and distant future.

  •  Continue flossing daily – This may sound like a small thing, but I’ve been flossing everyday since my last dental appointment in January. I’ve NEVER been able to maintain this habit for more than a week or so, and it feels great to have finally mastered it. Here’s hoping I can keep it up!
  • Exercise six days per week – I understand the importance of a rest day, so six days a week seems more manageable than seven. I accept that postpartum this will be very gentle to start, but eventually I can’t wait to get back into running and Pilates, and I’m even obsessed by the idea of taking up climbing.
  • Keep a food log/cut down the sweets to once a day – Pregnancy has amped up my sweet tooth to a whole new level. I’d rather indulge in something small once a day than keep up the bottomless pit type sugar habit I’ve got going now. I’m not pressuring myself to achieve this goal too quickly, but I know keeping a food log will help.
  • Teach Pilates regularly – Even if it’s just filling in at a studio once a month, I want to get to a point where I’m teaching often, not just sporadically like I am now.
  • Donate blood – I’ll have to wait the standard 9 months after giving birth, but this is my favorite charitable activity. I am a blood type that is in high demand and I would like to become a regular donor, rather than waiting for them to call me when there is a shortage.
  • Run a 10km, half-marathon and marathon again – These fall in the longterm category for sure. I used to love racing before I was knocked back with injury in early 2015. I’m going to take it incredibly slow after giving birth, but in the next couple of years I want to become a regular racer again. Half-marathon is my favorite distance, but I’d like to challenge myself to do another full (though hopefully on a course that’s less hilly this time).
  • Monthly purge of clutter – This won’t be hard as I absolutely LOVE purging our house of clutter. Making it a monthly activity will give me a great buzz and keep our home feeling tranquil.
  • Read for pleasure everyday – I do this anyway for the most part, but with a baby on the way I know it will be a challenge to prioritize “me time.”
  • Take on a sports trainer role for a local sports club – As a physiotherapy student it’s crucial I start getting some real world experience. I’m not putting a deadline on this, especially as I adjust to motherhood, but I want to keep it front of mind as a goal to achieve sometime in the next year.
  • Meditate weekly – I have tried and failed many times to adopt meditation as a regular practice. I do like it and recognize the benefits, but it is hard for me to commit. By making it a weekly rather than daily activity, I hope it’ll be an easier habit to keep.
  • Listen to music everyday – I tried and failed to listen to an album a day for a month last year. It was a great goal, and I would like to continue devoting time to entire albums rather than just songs or playlists, but a good start is just making music a part of my daily routine, whether as an activity on its own, or while cooking or working out. It makes me so happy and in our current world, which is so saturated in stimulation, something as simple as listening to music can get lost in all of our other distractions. When I was a teenager I had music playing in my room at all times. I miss that!

General immeasurable goals I’d like to keep in mind include – maintaining a positive attitude, avoiding complaining, gossip and nagging, keeping up with friends and family, making time for creativity such as writing and knitting and minimizing the time I spend on social media. I want to focus on being present in my own life.

I’m sure there are more goals I’ll be adding to this list, but for now I’m excited to have something concrete and in writing to keep me accountable moving forward.

If you’ve got some goals you’re working on I’d love to hear about them!


Silence Broken

Hello blogosphere!

After a very, very, VERY long hiatus, I’ve decided to come back to 13 Hours Later and re-vamp it a bit for the next stage of my life.

Since my last post in May of 2013, (yikes, 4 years ago!) quite a bit has happened to me. Here are some of the major highlights and updates:

August 2013 – I ran my first marathon with my mom by my side.

First Marathon
City to Surf Marathon 2013

May 2014 – I changed careers from journalism (thanks to redundancy) to travel, where I have remained until I began my maternity leave this week.

August 2014 – My youngest sister Nora came to live with us for 4 months and many MANY fun times were had. We still talk all the time about how much we miss having her around.

October 2014 – I got married to the love of my life and the man who brought me to his homeland of Australia.

Matt and Emma's Wedding
October 2014 Wedding

November 2016 – Nora and I went to New Zealand’s south island for a week long vacation through an Aussie youth travel company called Topdeck. We had unforgettable adventures, met cool people, and even got to bungy jump for what I can only assume will be just the first time.

New Zealand Trip
New Zealand 2014 with Nora

February 2015 – Our mini-honeymoon in Phuket

Thailand 2015
Phi Phi Island 2015

May 2015 – Matt and I bought our first house.

September 2015 – I went on a work trip to Mauritius. The fact that it counted as “work” still baffles me, it was an amazing trip!


February 2016 – I went back to school (I am studying Physiotherapy – the Aussie equivalent to Physical Therapy).

March 2016 – I celebrated my 30th birthday with an awesome murder mystery party with my closest friends. It was easily the most fun I’ve had at my own birthday since I was a child.

April 2016 – My family lost my beloved maternal Grandmother, a major influence and primary cheerleader in my life.

Grandma and Me
Grandma and me at my high school graduation

July 2016 – Dad and I went on a trip to Alberta, Canada where we mostly hiked and ate amazing meals. With motherhood approaching I’m so glad we took the opportunity to do something like that while we still could.

Dad in Banff

September 2016 – Found out I was pregnant with my first child.

36 weeks
36+ weeks (taken in April 2017)

October 2016 – I completed my STOTT Pilates certification and am now qualified to teach matwork. (Will hopefully add Barre and Reformer Instruction to my repertoire in the coming year once bub is born.)

Matwork Course
Now qualified to teach Pilates

With my son’s birth now only 2 or so weeks away (you never know for sure), I’ve been contemplating how to best capture his life in a lasting and meaningful way that both he and I can look back on in the years to come. Originally I’d considered keeping a journal, but being one of many slaves to the Marie Kondo revolution, I am loathe to add physical clutter to my life at this point in time.

I’ve also been obsessed by goal-setting since around the start of my second trimester. I can’t wait for everything I’ll be able to theoretically do again when I “get my body back.” While my expectations are glaringly unrealistic, I can’t help but crave accountability as reclaim my cherished athleticism.

So the new plan is to use this blog as part “adventures in motherhood,” part “finding myself postpartum.” I am prepared to expect the unexpected, and I can’t wait to lay out my plans over the next few days. Stay tuned!

The Road to Marathon

A few weeks ago, I made the big decision to pursue Perth’s City to Surf marathon as my fitness goal of the year.  I quit soccer and other sporting commitments so this can have my total focus.  I’ve been in pre-training for the last few weeks, and I’ll be starting the official Hal Higdon novice program in a couple more.

What I have learned so far is that running a marathon isn’t a decision you make just once; it’s one you make again and again.  You have to recommit every time you set your alarm for 5:15am and again when that buzzer goes off and you’re tired and all you want to do is sleep.  When you wake up ten minutes early, you start to bargain with yourself, trying to rationalize an excuse to put off the run until evening.  You have to strategically set out your clothes the night before, and charge your ipod.

This week, I am also starting to add some light cross and strength training to focus on my weaker muscles.  Even the specific rest days are all part of the bigger picture.  I think about this goal all the time and what more (or less) I could be doing to help myself achieve it.

This past weekend I ran a free 5k race in East Perth.  The Claisebrook Cove parkrun takes place every Saturday morning at 8 with the help of very enthusiastic volunteers.  Some of my friends have been doing it for weeks now, but this was my first one.

The last bend before the uphill finish. Dying of heat!
The last bend before the uphill finish. Dying of heat!

I’ve been reading books about running to pump myself up and learn what I need to know.  For now I’m taking a break from that and letting my body be my guide.  I’ve also got a training schedule and motivational post-its taped to the wall next to our bed.  Matt is being incredibly supportive.

Last Sunday was my 27th birthday.  I got up early in the morning to go down to the beach to support my good friend Thuy in her first triathlon.  I am so proud of how she did.  Teri and I took heaps of photos to capture the moment for our tri friends.

Post race photo with our little champ!
Post race photo with our little champ!

I’m keen to start doing triathlons in the next few years, but this year is all about the marathon.  I don’t even own a bicycle…yet.

Today I got new running shoes and they are gorgeous and I am bursting with excitement.  Maria is coming over later to help me break them in through a nice social walk.  I also looked at bikes and am in love with a purple beauty.  Need to save a few pennies before I can go back for her.  Sigh.

“The Happiest 5k on the Planet”

Today I was lucky enough to participate in The Color Run!  As far as I know, the originally American event is making its first tour of Australia and Perth got a piece of the action this morning.  I was lucky to have signed up early, because the event ended up completely sold out! I started the morning early by heading to my friend Thuy’s where a small group of us took photos and pumped ourselves up for the fun morning ahead.

Me and Thuy getting ready
Me and Thuy getting ready
Thuy and Michelle prepping
Thuy and Michelle prepping
Michelle, me and Thuy before the Color Run
Michelle, me and Thuy before the Color Run

We caught the bus and headed down to Langley park in the CBD with thousands of others.  It was great to see people running around in crazy outfits and identical Color Run gear.

I'm all ready to go!
I’m all ready to go!
Teri, Thuy and I "before"
Teri, Thuy and I “before”
Treble Clefs!
Treble Clefs!

In the end there was a group of about 10 of us sticking together as best we could.  Thuy, our other mates and I skipped, danced, jumped, jogged, walked and occasionally ran our way through the 5k course.  At every k, enthusiastic volunteers shook bottles of colorful powder at us.  After the first k (the color blue), we quickly realized we’d need to run right up to the Color Run crew as we went to ensure maximum color coverage.

My loves :D
My loves :D

All in all it was a fantastic morning.  We had a blast and it went by way too quickly.  At the end of the race we were given a bag of color powder each to be thrown in a group colorfest at the stage at the end of Langley Park.  They counted down until we all threw our dust in the sky together.  Thousands of us gathered and it was a beautiful five seconds of color flying up into the sky, before cascading down upon us in a cloud of deep red, green and pink.  The vibrant haze it created was breathtaking both figuratively and literally.  (It’s quite hard to see or breathe when standing in a giant fog of color dust.)

Michelle and Thuy (fairies!)
Michelle and Thuy (fairies!)
Thuy and I waiting for the bus
Thuy and I waiting for the bus

After catching the bus back to Thuy’s, I hustled home to show Matt how much fun I’d had.  He took this lovely picture for me before I commenced a very long scrub session in the shower.  There are still traces of the dust between my toes and on my neck and elbows.  I kinda like it there…

The Color Run Effect
The Color Run Effect

Check out The Color Run to see when it storms into a town near you!  (Mpls peeps, it’s coming this summer, don’t miss it!!)

5 Ways You Only Think You’re Being Healthy

5 ways is meant to be a way to convey helpful advice to my friends and anyone else who happens upon this blog. Mostly my aim is to make this a positive endeavor, though every once in a while, I need to crack skulls. It’s time to cut the crap and get down to the truth about ways people only think they’re being healthy.

1. The Diet Product Dilemma: This is one most of us seem to know, so how is it that there are still so many companies peddling these products to a suspecting public? I won’t go into the fact that these food items are loaded with chemicals and other nasties, because EVERYONE ALREADY KNOWS THAT. Seriously, if you are really that concerned about something being low-fat, then just skip it entirely. That’s the obvious way to avoid the fat.  (And by the way, low-fat often means higher sugar content. How else is it still meant to actually “taste good?”) Rather than loading the pantry with sweeteners, low-fat cookies and other diet food traps, keep a bag of Reeses cups in the fridge and just have one as a small indulgence when you need a sugar hit. Sounds crazy, but it works!

2. Milk Myths: Okay people, let’s rap. According to my boss, who has been working in cafés his entire life (yes, literally), drinking a full-cream milk coffee everyday versus a skim coffee everyday only means you could gain 1-2kg in a year. A YEAR. Not a week, not a month, but a YEAR. I understand that we all get bloated tummies from time to time and I happen to be a skim drinker myself under normal circumstances. But when it comes to my coffee I indulge because it tastes amazing.

Now I’m not saying switch back to full-cream milk. There are benefits and drawbacks no matter your preference.  My beef isn’t really with skim milk anyway (unless you call it “skinny” in which case my eyes are shooting lasers at you now), my real issue is with soy.

People seem to think that soy milk is the “healthiest.” Did you know that soy milk has about the same amount of fat as full-cream milk? In fact its general nutritional facts are almost interchangeable from normal whole milk. At the café we only run out of soy milk every once in a while, but when we do, it’s shocking to see that only 10% or so of people out there ordering soy actually need it for dietary reasons. Most people will sigh and get their 60-cent-less-expensive normal coffee on these occasions.

*Sidenote: If you’re drinking soy with a chai latte, then bravo. It’s the best taste combination ever, so I applaud you. But chai lattes are never the healthiest option regardless of milk choice. (Who really cares? SCLs are delicious.)*

Milk is tricky and affects everyone’s bodies differently. I am not trying to promote one thing over another. If you are trying to make the healthiest choice for yourself then ask your doctor to make the call. Otherwise go with what tastes good.  Remember there is no one milk “to rule them all.” It all depends on your own nutritional needs. In cases where the ultimate goal is weight loss, probably go with skim. (But never “skinny,” remember lasers.)

3. Gluten-Free is Not For Me: Let me ask you something; do you have a gluten allergy? No? Cool, then eat bread like a normal person. I have served entire tables of 10+ people where everyone present ordered gluten-free toast as their breakfast. Maybe it was a Coeliac support group, but I’ve seen this pretty often, so I’m guessing these people were mistakenly thinking that being Gluten-Free is some sort of diet.  Actually it’s a way for people to keep from DYING. I’ve had many a patron lecture me on the severity of this affliction, and I’m happy they have. I take this issue very seriously and so should everyone. (There are varying degrees of gluten allergies of course, but all are a significant lifestyle change for the person affected.)

So before you reach for the gluten-free muffin, remember that gluten-free does not mean carb-free.

4. Everyday I’m Shuffling: This is one piece of advice I find really hard to follow.  Exercising 7 days a week is a no-no. Even professional athletes will include some level of rest and recuperation into their regimen. It’s important to give yourself days of rest or at least of low-level activity. Maybe alternate between cardio and strength days to allow every part of your body to regain its energies at some point during the week. Add some yoga or mediation to your routine, allowing for a mind and body experience to relax or to regain your focus.

Marathoners especially praise the benefits of the rest days. When training for something so physically demanding, overdoing it will lead either to illness or injuries.  In my case it’s usually injuries. Respect your body and give it a break.

5. Let Off Steam: This one is deceptive. Everyone needs to release stress and anxiety in order to function. I am extremely guilty when it comes to venting when I’m frustrated.  While a little bit may be necessary, too much sends out negative energy into your atmosphere, infecting the people around you. Focusing on the negative thoughts and feelings isn’t good for your mental and emotional health. Don’t walk around with a storm cloud above your head, get it out swiftly and be done with it. (Journaling and exercise can also be great ways to force out pent-up frustration.)

The rule I’d like to start living by is to share my anger with one or two other people and then let it go. It’s important not to whine to everyone you know about the same problem. This makes you seem negative, and it makes people less inclined to spend time with you. Be the kind of person who infects others with positive energy!

That concludes this edition of 5 ways. I hope I’ve ended on a positive note. I don’t mean to be critical or even hypocritical. I know there are many ways in which I fail to live healthy. It’s important to identify the ways we’re struggling and to work to get past them. Remember it’s almost time for those New Years resolutions. Aim high and like Bupa says: “Find a healthier you!”

Final note: It’s not a skinny cap when you’re adding four sugars. Okay it’s finally off my chest, I promise!

5 Ways to Boost Your Energy

Throughout the day I hear a wave of complaints: I’m so tired/thirsty/hungry/hot/cold…Seems to me people can easily fix most of those problems, but today I’m going to address the most annoying one of all: Fatigue.  I cannot believe how “tired” everyone is on a regular basis.  Here are a few ways you can bump up your energy levels and make each day more engaging.

1. Eat Breakfast:  Sure we all hear this little piece of gold advice everywhere, so why do so many people keep skipping it?  These are the excuses people often give: I overslept/didn’t have time, I’m not hungry in the morning, I’m watching my weight…the list goes on.  Before you go to sleep at night, pack your bag, set out your clothes, and make sure you’re completely prepared for the day ahead.  Also set your alarm 10 minutes earlier than you think you need.  That way if you struggle to get out of bed, or spend 5 extra minutes in the shower, it won’t ruin your day.  You don’t need to check your email/facebook/twitter in the morning, that’s why we have smart phones!  Updates are a perfect way to get through your morning commute on the train or your walk to the office.

The reason you may not be hungry in the morning is that you haven’t slept enough, or you’ve gotten your stomach in the bad habit of depriving itself in the morning hours.  You don’t need to eat a huge meal, just enough to give you a bit of energy and to switch on your metabolism (which is a factor in helping you maintain your weight).

2. Morning fitness and “me” time:  As often as I can, I do yoga or go for a run in the morning before work.  This can mean waking up as early as 5:15am.  When I take that time for myself in the morning, I feel the most awake throughout the day.  I practice Ashtanga yoga in studio once a week, but I like to keep it up in the mornings at home.  I give myself an extra half hour or so in the morning, and I’m usually able to make it through all of the standing poses.

Even if you get up early to read, to meditate, or just to enjoy a cup of tea, it’s important to breathe deeply and focus on yourself for a few minutes every morning.  Give yourself a chance to wake up in a quiet thoughtful setting before running out into a hectic day.

3. Kick the Habit:  So many people depend on coffee, soda and energy drinks to get through the day.  Others rely on an afternoon nap.  It is important to wean yourself off these things if you want to experience a more natural high.

I don’t begrudge anyone a cup of coffee in the morning, but forming an actual dependence is going to make you drowsy and give you headaches on those mornings when you don’t make it to the café before work.  Just drink water and get some vitamin C in your system.  Maybe instead of having three large coffees a day, switch to smalls.  Then maybe cut down to two a day.  Whenever you’re kicking a habit, just take it slow and give your body plenty of time to adjust.  Similarly, avoiding the nap trap is important.  Don’t take 90 minutes every afternoon.  Get a 20 minute power nap in if you really need it.  You’ll wake up refreshed, rather than tired and dizzy.

4. Consider the two-day rule:  Studies show that poor sleep can affect us two days later.  So if you are up all night on Saturday, chances are you’ll feel awful come Monday.  Recovery time from a bad night’s sleep can be significant, and naps often don’t help.  Nighttime sleep is really the only cure.  If you have a big presentation on Thursday, make sure that you get plenty of sleep on both Tuesday AND Wednesday.

5. Get to Bed Before Midnight: Some people say we get our best and most effective sleep before midnight.  Others say optimal sleep happens between around 10pm and 6am.  In my experience, most people seem to get up for work somewhere between 6:00 and 7:30am.  In order to get the solid 7-8 hours, it makes sense to go to bed before midnight.  Even for those who claim to “not need that much sleep” at least you’ll be awake and alert and READY to jump out of bed when it’s time.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of 5 ways.  Until next time, GET SOME FREAKIN’ SLEEP!

5 ways to Get and Stay Motivated

Motivation (or more accurately, lack-thereof) is one of the biggest problems affecting our lazy society.  I would go to the gym, but it’s such an effort. I’ve eaten so well this week, I can take a break today.  It’s too far away, I can’t be bothered.  Sound familiar?

Here are my five ways to get or stay motivated:

1. Set Reasonable Goals:  If you have never run a mile in your life, don’t just decide one day you want to run a marathon.  Start small, and create little goals for yourself along the way.  Even if you are working toward a bigger picture, it’ll help you stay super motivated if it involves smaller wins along the way.  Setting reasonable goals also means SPECIFY SPECIFY SPECIFY!  Don’t just say “this week, I’m going to be healthier.”  Instead, say “this week I’m going to exercise 5 days for 30 minutes each.”  Your brain likes variety, so allow yourself many ways of accomplishing the task.  If you need help, or just a little encouragement, check this out:

*To set the “right” health-related goals, maybe have one session with a physio, dietician or a personal trainer to find out where you are weak and what your focus should be.

2. Prepare! Think ahead: Of course it’s easier to stay in bed than to go for that morning run you promised yourself you’d do.  The best way to fight the morning groan is to set your alarm for a couple minutes earlier than you need.  That way if you have an inner argument you haven’t wasted the time you could have spent accomplishing your goals.  Also get to bed at a reasonable hour and set your clothes and other necessities out the night before.  Make sure those running shoes are staring at you when you roll over in the morning.

Thinking ahead also applies to the way in which you RSVP.  Don’t say yes to an event or Friday plans with friends if you foresee that the week will completely take it out of you.  Anticipate how tired you will be before you commit.  People aren’t offended if you say no from the start, and it’ll help you be more motivated and energetic for the next big activity.

3. Pump up the Jam: There are three times when you are likely to listen to music outside of home: In the car, on public transport and while you exercise.  These are usually areas where you need a bit of a pump-up.  Driving around running errands can be taxing, the bus ride to work can be a bit depressing on a dreary Monday, and exercise in the city or at the gym can be not-so-relaxing.  One of my small hidden talents happens to be making mixes.  I love a good mix, and I have since the Napster days when we first realized we could have the music we want and put in together in a compilation of our own creation.  I believe that events, whether significant or not, require a good mix.  I love listening to the radio every once in a while because it’s a great place to find good running songs.  I find music helps me drown out the noises of the outside world and focus inward.  Here are 5 of my all-time favorite exercise/pump-up songs (feel free to judge!):

-If We Ever Meet Again by Timbaland ft. Katy Perry (I know it’s random, but I love to put it toward the end of a running mix because it really gets me going all over again)

-Super Freak by Rick James

-Sleepyhead by Passion Pit (perfect first song to get you started)

-Take Over Control by Afrojack

-Don’t Feeling Like Dancing by Scissor Sisters

Don’t forget the general treasure chest that is the 90s.  90s music is the BEST for singing loud in the car or jamming out during a run.  Another Night by The Real Mccoy is my all-time fave, but other great ones include: Rhythm is a Dancer, Mr. Vain, and of course the Jock Jams megamix.

Use music whenever you need it.  Personally I need a super sweet dance mix if I’m going be motivated to clean the house.  It’s the main reason I love to clean alone!

4. Phone a Friend: This one is pretty obvious, but having a friend along is one of the best ways to stay motivated.  Whether it’s a new diet or a vigorous exercise class, having mates at your side makes everything easier and more fun.

I personally am someone who likes a balance between friends and independence.  More often than not I go for goals by myself.  But I have many friends who find it extremely difficult to exercise alone.  It’s all about personal preference.  Make it a routine if you can, on Tuesday I go to Body Attack with Meg, on Sunday I go for a long run by myself.  Routines keep you in the right head space, and you are more likely to accomplish your goals if you feel like it’s mandatory (even when self-inflicted).

5. Get the Gear: Matt and I are both avid writers and sometimes we lose inspiration.  I find that buying myself a pretty new journal is often a good place to start.  It gets me in the mood to write.  A few of my friends have recently started exercising more, and once they invested in some quality clothing and equipment, they found it easier to stay motivated (one of them didn’t even previously own a sports bra, despite being a decent athlete).  Exercise clothing is my weakness.  Matt can’t understand why I need 5 pairs of spandex (2 for yoga, 1 for running, 2 for both).  But when you have a rigorous fitness routine (and you’re a slave to the sun when it comes to laundry), it ends up making sense.  I always try to get in on the sales at lululemon when they happen.  It’s best to stock up whenever you can.  I love having the right gear, I feel it legitimizes my athletic status.

Do your research, and make sure you aren’t wasting money on things you don’t need.  Also be sure that your new activity is one you’ll be into for a good long while (aka don’t invest in a yoga or pilates mat for one class only).

There you have it, my 5 ways to get and stay motivated.  When I come up with ideas for 5 ways, I do my best to portray changes people can easily make.  It’s all about forming good habits and making small adjustments.  After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day!