Sunday, February 26, 2017

My Favorite

One week. Two posts. I’m feeling pretty darn good about this blogging thing. I’m hoping that at the end of 2017, I’ll have at least 52 blog posts racked up. Remember that one post per week goal I set for myself? I’m sticking to it pretty well, so I’m hoping I can get myself into a real routine. And when you have weeks where you double your goal, you can’t help but give yourself an Internet high five. But I’m about to head out the door for a run, so I’ll keep this post short and sweet. A Sunday Survey for your reading enjoyment. NOT about running. You’re welcome!

My Favorite …

Song that amps me up to workout: There are so many. And it will often be a pretty random grouping of songs that I just play over and over again throughout a run. And then I get sick of them and can’t listen to them for a while. For the most part, I love upbeat songs like Work This Body and Ugly Heart. And I randomly happened upon One Girl Can Change the World a couple of weeks ago and it has been great for my speed workouts. Also, judge me if you wish, but Meghan Trainor’s Better When I’m Dancing is my JAM.

Way to eat eggs: I’m a huge fan of scrambled egg whites with spinach. Topped with salsa, of course.

Podcast: I know Podcasts are the hit thing these days, but I’m particularly bad at just listening to somebody talk without actually sitting down and looking that person in the face. I’m trying to get into a couple of podcasts, though I can’t say that I listen to any of them regularly –

Kind of date: Any kind of activity. I’m not a big fan of Netflix and chilling (ha), but I’m always down for something fun like kayaking or hiking or picnicking at the park. Something outdoors and something active will always be a win in my book. Take note, boys.

App: Definitely Instagram. I’m a huge fan of photos, so it’s pretty easy for me to get lost in the sea of little squares. Pictures really are worth a thousand words, and they tell so much of a person’s story.

Item in my closet: I’ll admit it. I love buying new clothes, but I am also happiest while wearing yoga pants and an oversized t-shirt. Though I do love a good Piko shirt or dress. I’ve talked about them before – you can dress them up or dress them down. So versatile, so comfortable, and best of all, effortless, yet cute.

Gifts to give and receive: I absolutely LOVE giving gifts. I love finding the perfect gift for my family and friends. I will admit that my go-to lately is something of the baked goods variety, as that is something that is actually … put to good use? I know that I appreciate receiving little knick-knacks, but I also don’t need anything else cluttering up my coffee table, so I don’t want to give people useless gifts, either. And while I am not a coffee drinker myself, a good mug goes a long way. As far as receiving, I love little things with big significance. A handwritten card truly means more to me than any physical gift you could give me. I also love a good gift card, because then I can buy whatever I want/need with it.

Pizza topping: Veggies. I love making my own pizza, which reminds me that I haven’t done that in a while … and I pile that thing high with all kinds of vegetables. Asparagus, broccoli, squash, zucchini, onions, mushrooms – you name it, it’s probably on my pizza!

Mod Pizza is delish!

And with that, I’m off to run. And help with volleyball lessons up at school. And play in my own sand volleyball game. No rest for the weary!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Things I'm Loving Friday: Sports Articles

Happy Friday, friends! It's been a hot minute since I've done a Things I'm Loving Friday post, but I've run across a couple of articles in the last couple of weeks that have really resonated with me, so I decided to make articles this week's focus. I won't lie - I totally meant to post this the Friday following that historic Super Bowl game. Hence, the focus on sports. Yes, I know I'm a couple of weeks late on this, but at least we're still in the same month. It was one heck of a game, and the Patriots had one incredible comeback. That team truly showed fight, grit, a never-give-up attitude - they showed so many things that the coach in me will reference in many pre-game pep talks to come. Sports are so much more than just a game. They are full of valuable lessons that stay with you for life. 

So, today, I give you some sports-related articles for your reading enjoyment. 

How I Learned to Love My Body as a Female Athlete
This article is so incredibly important. It's no secret that many females - young women especially - struggle with body image. Because for as long as we can remember, society has told us that skinny is preferred to strong. It's like, how many times am I going to read an article about how lifting weights really isn't going to bulk women up? And also, when did having muscles turn into a bad thing? And trust me, I'm not immune to this way of thinking. I've dealt with my own body image struggles - heck, I still deal with them - but I'm finally starting to reward my body for all that it can do, as opposed to punishing it for what it looks like. Instead of cursing my muscular legs, thanks to years and years of volleyball, I celebrate them for the miles they allow me to log. And I understand that all of those miles requires fuel, and starving myself will never be the answer. I may will never be a size 2 Victoria's Secret model, but I've learned to love my body all the same.  

Volleyball is Not Girly
I don't think, at its core, this article is meant to be offensive. I think it has genuinely set out to highlight the positive reasons girls are choosing to play volleyball instead of basketball. And I understand that, as I faced the same dilemma. I loved – and still love – basketball for all of the reasons listed in this article. It absolutely requires hard work and athleticism and aggression. But so does volleyball. Sure, many of the girls wear matching ribbons when they are younger. I wore a signature pink ribbon in my hair through senior year of high school. But as stated in this response article – it’s not about the ribbons, and it's not about the spandex. It requires hours and hours of hard work, it requires a competitive spirit, it requires a lot of strategy. And if you think it’s all glitter and ribbons, I’ll show you a photo of a teammate who was so committed to saving a wild pass that she dove into a chair and it cut inches into her shin. What did she do? Tape it up and get back on the court. My point is, keep choosing volleyball, girls. You’re still very much an athlete.

Why I Won’t Pay For Club Volleyball
This article. Man, it puts so many years of my life into such fantastic words. It’s no secret that club volleyball has a very high price tag. My parents would be the first to tell you how much money they spent on the sport throughout the years. But they would also be quick to tell you that they don’t regret even one penny that was spent. Because of all the reasons listed here. And then some. I learned how to be disciplined, I learned time management, I learned how to lose with grace and how to win with humility. I learned the value of hard work, and I wouldn’t trade those out of town trips with my mom for anything in the world. The trips to Atlanta and Indianapolis and Minneapolis and Austin and Dallas and San Antonio are truly some of my favorite memories. My parents gave me a huge gift when they let me play club volleyball, and I am forever grateful for the values it has instilled in me and so many others.

Out of Bounds Parents: Actions in the Stands Hurting the Integrity of the Game
This one really hits the nail on the head. In fact, just the other night I was walking through the main gym at Memorial High School trying to find a custodian who could unlock the equipment room so that we could get ready for our practice, and I happened upon a SBMSA basketball game. These girls were probably 9 or 10 years old, and for the brief couple of minutes I was in the gym, I heard multiple parents shout things at the referees that maybe should have had a filter. It wasn’t anything particularly inappropriate, but it was insignificant things that I have no doubt the referee noticed, but out of respect for simply letting the kids play the game, simply let them go. It’s important to remember that these referees are people too. They’re people with feelings and they’re choosing to give up a night at home because this is something they truly enjoy. And as a coach, I am certainly not free from blame. I’ve caught myself yelling at referees over a call (or a non-call), and yes, it’s certainly frustrating to not have a call go your way, but is that really going to change the outcome of the game? Sure, I could point to the missed double calls that, as a former setter, frustrate me to no end, or I could look back on the three missed serves we had. While winning is important to me, good sportsmanship will always take the cake.

All in good fun
This past year has been quite a year for sports. It's been quite a year for things other than sports, but we're not going to go there. Instead, we're going to focus on the fact that powerhouse Alabama was defeated by the Clemson Tigers in the National Championship game. That the Cleveland Cavaliers came down from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals. That the Chicago Cubs came back from a 3-1 deficit in a wild World Series ending. That the Patriots fought back after being down 28-3 at the half. The reason I won't cancel my cable is because I would truly be lost without a game on in the background as I grade papers. Sports are so much more than players hitting one another, or players screaming at one another over what they found to be a bad call. Sports build unity in a team, and they build character in an individual. Win or lose. And I will continue to shout that from the rooftops forever!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

This or That: Running Survey

Happy Sunday, everyone! I took a break from my regular Survey Sunday post last weekend, but I'm back in survey action this week. It was another L-O-N-G work week, but it was also so good. I'm reminded over and over again how lucky I am to get to do what I love every single day. It's Sunday, and I'm not dreading Monday, and that's not something everyone can say.

It helps, though, when you have sunshine-filled spring weather in the middle of February, and you get to spend a beautiful afternoon with your pup by your side.

But now, I've got a few things to cross off my list. Namely, a loooong run! So here's a short but sweet running survey for your Sunday enjoyment.

1. 5k or a marathon?
Marathon. 5k’s are pretty difficult for me because I’m not great at getting my speed up that quickly. Once I hit my stride, longer distances are my jam.

2. Flat race in the heat or hilly race in the cold?
After having firsthand experience with a flat race in the heat, I’m going with a hilly race in the cold.

3. New running shoes or a new running outfit?
New running shoes. Always.

4. Run a marathon without headphones or Garmin?
Run a marathon without my Garmin. While that would make my running coach shake his head at me, I don’t think I could survive 26.2 miles without something to listen to. While I obviously wouldn’t know my pace without the Garmin, I could probably pick someone to keep up with throughout the race.

Always with headphones
5. Race because of the convenience (location, price, travel) or the swag?
I really love to travel for races, so I’ll take that over the race swag. I’m not sure that was an option, but I’ll take the race experience over any of the t-shirts I may acquire.
6. PR but result in an injury or finish strong and missing a PR?
I’ll definitely take the strong finish over a PR and an injury. Not being able to run is the worst.

7. 100 squats or 100 push ups?
100 push-ups because my upperbody is extremely weak. My legs don’t need any additional love.

8. Run alone or run with a group for every run of an entire training cycle?
Run alone. I love the camaraderie that races bring, but I am very much a solo-runner. I've always preferred getting lost in my own thoughts and finding my own pace rather than using that as time to chat with my friends. I've shared before that running is my "me" time - it keeps me sane after a day of nonstop interaction with other people.

9. Treadmill for an hour or run around the same street block for an hour?
I could probably suck it up and run on the treadmill for an hour, despite the fact that I don’t love the treadmill. Unless I was doing some sort of speed work, there is no way I could maintain my sanity while running around the same street block for an hour.  

10. Ragnar Relay or Marathon Relay team?
I’ve never done a Ragnar Relay, and I think I would really enjoy something like that in a crazy, twisted sort of way. Sign me up!

11. Run with a blister the whole time or a side cramp the whole time?
Blister. Side cramps are the worst, and I would guess that at some point the blister would probably burst and I wouldn’t feel it any longer.

12. Come in 4th in the Olympics or 1st in NYC marathon?
This is definitely dreamland, isn’t it? You guys know that I am obsessed with all things Olympics, so I’ll go with just missing a medal at the Olympic Games. I would love the opportunity to represent my country, and I wouldn’t hate meeting some of the other Olympians.

13. Give up running for a 3 years to get a BQ or never BQ but run as much as you want?
Oh man. What a QUESTION. Obviously, getting a BQ is the ultimate goal right now. That would make all of this training more than worth it. And I think if I got a BQ, I could occupy my time with other workouts that I had neglected in order to get that BQ. Though, that is definitely easier said than done. Not being able to run for THREE years would present a whole new set of challenges.

And with that, I'm off to do something productive. Catch y'all one night this week - hopefully!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Genius Hour

Happy  Thursday! This has felt like the longest week ever, thanks to the administration of our annual Mock STAAR test, followed immediately by our annual data day. Add in a couple of apartment issues, and I'm more than ready for the weekend. But with all of that being said, I had a ton of fun writing this post, and I'm excited to be able to share it with you guys.

I'll just jump right in. At the very beginning of the school year, when every teacher at Bellaire High School was gathered in our Multi Purpose Room, our principal stood up and started talking about something called Genius Hour. He talked to us about how, in his 24th (!!!) year in education, he wanted to spice things up a bit. He wanted to focus on becoming a learner again. And he talked about how he dove back into the world of Twitter - discovering and sharing and joining Twitter chats and and developing his professional learning network, and it energized him. He began thinking about how he could use this Genius Hour idea on our campus. He tried it with his admin team towards the end of the first semester, and he was blown away by what was presented back to him.

So in August, our fearless leader then invited every member of his staff to participate in this Genius Hour. He asked all of us to choose something that we want to learn about. It can be related to school, or not. There are just four rules --

1. Find something you are passionate about
2. Get really good at it
3. Figure out a way to measure it
4. Share it with us (and then the world)

My first thought upon having this presented to me was, "Yes! I am finally going to learn how to play the piano!" My second was, "Well, I'm coaching tennis next semester, so perhaps I should learn the rules of the game." (This coaching gig didn't end up happening, and I think it was probably for the best of the players on the tennis team.) My third thought? "Realistically, I don't have the schedule, at least in the fall, to keep up with regular piano lessons. And I can't get really good at something if it's not happening on a consistent basis." So finally, I settled on Spanish as my genius hour. I redownloaded DuoLingo on my phone and set out to commit ten minutes a day to a language I've been dabbling in since about the second grade. And about two months into this, I realized something about myself. I am very much a classroom kinda gal. This self-paced thing was so not for me. Sure, I was learning some random vocabulary words I didn't know before, but I wasn't getting really good at it, and I wasn't quite sure how I was going to measure and share it. I wasn't invested in the learning. I felt as though I had already done this over the summer with my trip to Argentina. So, I quit the Spanish thing. And deleted everything I had typed up on my IPDP.

Not sure what I wanted to learn, I revisited criterion number one of this genius hour thing. Find something you are passionate about. And while there are quite a few things I would put under the passionate umbrella, running definitely fit the bill. And I had already embarked on this very focused training plan journey, thanks to a coach at school as I have mentioned in past blog posts, so this seemed like the perfect solution. I typed it up, sent it in, and ran on.

Fast forward a few months - I stuck to that training plan. I'm very Type A, so routine, to-do lists, and schedules are how I operate. And having this set running routine was (and is!) really good for me and my Type A personality. And I had some good runs, I had some great runs, and I had some not-so-great runs. And I did not run a half marathon with this time I had been training for. I wrote about how bummed I was about that here, so I won't throw myself another pity party in this blog post. But I will talk about what I've learned.

I haven't hit my big goal quite yet, but I'm learning to trust the process. I'm learning about humility, and I'm learning a lot about myself and my mental toughness. Just the other evening I was fast asleep on my couch after a long day of analyzing STAAR data and grading expository essays essays when I heard my phone ding. I glanced at it and saw that I had a message from one of my good friends, whom I hadn't seen in awhile, asking if I wanted to walk at Memorial Park. Knowing that speed work was what was supposed to happen that night, I said yes to the walk. I told myself that my legs were still tired from last week's runs, and besides, I was so tired, and I wasn't really feeling 100%. Flu season and teenagers is a winning combination. But I digress. After our walk, I made my way back to my car while admiring all of the dedicated Memorial Park runners. I thought, "I'm here, so maybe I should just do this. Maybe I won't do my speed workout, but I'll get in a solid six-mile run and that will be good enough." Which, by the way, reporting back that I opted for an easy run over speed work because "I just wasn't feeling it" would have gone over really well (sarcasm). After a pretty easy warm-up mile, I decided to give that first 800 a go. And when that went well, I went for the second. And then the third. And before I knew it, I had finished the workout. And I felt pretty great about it. 
It wasn't a matter of my legs being tired. And if I felt well enough to walk around the park with a friend, "not feeling well" wasn't a valid excuse, either. It was a matter of owning up to the fact that I just didn't want to do that speed workout, but that I found it within myself to get it done. Mental toughness.

I'm learning about grit - sidenote: everyone should read this book!!! - I'm learning about perseverance, and I'm learning how to be relentless. And I am seeing growth, despite the fact that I can't yet check off a sub-1:45 half marathon. I don't think I had ever run a sub-7:00 mile, let alone two in a row. I'm learning that I'm capable of a lot more than I think I am. I've learned the importance of accountability, and how helpful it is to be able to talk through the struggles with others who are experiencing something similar. I've learned the value of someone investing his time in me. I've learned how to handle failure - better than I have before, at least - and I've seen time and time again the value of hard work and a never quit attitude.

Mr. McDonough, I think I see what you're getting at here, and I thank you for this experience. I have learned, and I have no doubt that many others have learned, that all of these values and lessons are 100% applicable to the work we do in the classroom. I'm not that far removed from being a student, but it's amazing the things I've forgotten. Learning is certainly not a walk in the park. There are hills and valleys (quite literally, though maybe not found in Houston), and this journey is taking a little bit longer than I thought it would. And I think I would be hardpressed to find a student who doesn't face these exact same challenges that I'm facing. I don't think there's one student out there who doesn't need someone to invest in him or her. Running isn't easy for me, and reading isn't easy for so many of my students. I don't know that there will ever be a day that Thursday tempo runs don't push me to my limit. And some of my students will forever find writing to be a challenge. But that doesn't mean that we can't learn. And that we can't embrace and enjoy that challenge.

For me to be able to go on this learning journey along with them is such a real and raw experience. And I hope I never stop learning, but I also hope I never stop realizing that I'm learning. Whether this Genius Hour was presented to me or not, I would have kept running. But I'm getting a lot more out of it than I ever could have dreamed.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Just Another Running Survey

Happy Super Bowl Sunday! As I sit here watching the game, it's hard for me to believe that all of this is happening in my own city. A mere 10-minute drive from my apartment, in fact. Though I didn't do much of the Super Week activities, I've heard that Houston has done a fantastic job with everything. And though the traffic this week has been a bear, I am so proud of my city and it is my greatest hope that those visiting have enjoyed all that Houston has to offer. And while I would love to see the Falcons get the W tonight, I'm really just hoping for a good game. I have loved watching all of the lead-up events, and I have loved hearing all of the athletes' stories. Ultimately, they're playing the game they love on the game's biggest stage, and I can only imagine how great of a feeling that must be. 

And, today also happens to be my 25th birthday! I actually have such a great quarter-life crisis post to share with you guys, but I couldn't quite get my act together this week or this weekend. And because I am not going to give it the attention it deserves as I watch the game, I am going to share yet another running survey with you guys, and plan on sharing my 25th post sometime in these next couple of weeks. Sometimes, life catches up with you, you know?

I have had a wonderful birthday weekend, though, and I really am so thankful for all of the incredible people I've got in my life. Call me self-centered, but I love birthdays because it is such a sweet reminder of that. Every call, text, card, and Facebook post truly means the world to me, and I'm ready to start year 25 with a bang!

But first, a survey!

1. Would you rather run in a thunderstorm or a snowstorm? 
I am such a cold weather wimp, so I would much rather run through a thunderstorm. Ideally, it would just be a torrential downpour, sans the thunder and lightning, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin if I had to race in a snowstorm.

Post-torrential downpour
2. Would you rather breathe through your nose or breathe through your mouth? 
I hate hearing myself breathe, so I would much rather breathe through my nose. Breathing through my mouth makes me super thirsty, anyway. I will occasionally breathe out of my mouth, but I try not to breathe in through it.

3. Would you rather do 100 squats or 100 crunches?
Honestly, I would gladly do either. I love (bodyweight) squats, and I really enjoy the feeling that comes with a good core workout.

4. Would you rather have a baked good for dessert or an extra serving of your favorite entrée?
This may surprise some of you, but I’m going to go with an extra serving of my favorite entrée. When it comes to dessert, I really only get excited for dark chocolate. Or frozen yogurt, obviously.

But I'll gladly eat two burgers
5. Would you rather run on a treadmill for an hour or run around the same street block for an hour? 
Oh MAN, this is a tough question because both of these can get pretty dang boring. I will always choose to run outside over running on the treadmill if at all possible, though, so I guess I’d go with the same street block. If it’s speed or tempo work. If it’s just an easy run day, I might find a good television show to watch on the treadmill and just get lost in that same speed.

Is this view an option?
6. Would you rather have a headache during a run or a side stitch? 
A side stitch. Although they are arguably the worst, I don’t deal with headaches very well, and there’s no way that I could run through that. I’m lucky that I don’t have to deal with headaches very often, so when I do get them, running is about the last thing on my mind. And I’ve semi-learned how to deal with a side stitch.

7. Would you rather have a rest day on a work day or a day off? 
On a work day, for sure. You know those super exhausting work days where you can’t even fathom lacing up your running shoes and hitting the pavement? I mean, that’s pretty much every day in the life of a teacher, but I would feel so lazy if I just didn’t do anything on a day off!

8. Would you rather be a race director or a race volunteer? 
While I think it would be the most stressful job in the world, I think I would enjoy the challenge that comes along with directing a race. Though volunteers are truly the heart and soul of the race, so, I would do either.

Though I'm not sure I would want to tackle directing the Chevron Houston Marathon
9. Would you rather spend your money on running gadgets [HRM, GPS watch, headphones] or running shoes? 
While I love running gadgets, I will always go for a new pair of running shoes. It’s so important to have the right pair of shoes, and I go through them at an alarming rate. Plus, once you have the gadgets, you don’t tend to have to replace them for a while.

10. Would you rather run in a relay or do the run portion of a distance triathlon? 

Actually, I’m doing my first half marathon relay in a couple of weeks with one of my teaching buddies, and I’m pretty excited about it. I also think I would rather do the swim portion of a distance triathlon. But that’s just me. 

Pre-70.3 swim
And with that, I'm off to enjoy the rest of the game. Falcons starting off strong! But you can never count out Tom Brady.