The Power of a Smile

     At the end of 2015, I sat down and did what Americans tend to do - set New Year’s Resolutions. I tried to encapsulate the spectrum of my being - from the physical to the mental - and walked away with just over 30 goals. Slightly ambitious, I know. Particularly when you factor in the abysmal success rate most Americans face accomplishing a New Year’s Resolution - research from the University of Scranton claims that a higher percentage of people get accepted to Harvard than finish a New Year’s Resolution.

     Now that we’re closing out the better part of ⅙ of the year, I thought to do a quick check-in with myself and see where I stand in relation to my goals. Some I found myself cruising through - save 20% of every dollar made, read at least 10 pages a day - while others have hit some rough patches - floss every night, write everyday. But perhaps the most interesting question that arose from this personal check-in was that although all of these goals were beneficial, which ones had the greatest impact on me?

Which ones had the greatest impact on me?

     Since I already marathon TED talks faster than a Netflix-addict does House of Cards, my resolution to watch 1 TED talk a day, while beneficial to my mental well-being, wasn’t that impactful. When I tried to organize my laundry list of resolutions into order by impact, the most trivial of all floated to the top - say Good-Morning to at least one person every day.

     Ironically, it was this small gesture that I last attempted to complete - not until early February. On my walks home from the gym (have to go 3x a week!) to shower and change for class, I would try to smile and say Good-Morning to everyone I passed on the way down. Now this may seem extremely benign and a commonsense gesture, but in the brutal winters of upstate New York and particularly when dealing with college students at 8 am, it becomes an exception. Most college students are still half-conscious at that hour so I didn’t expect many - if any - responses, but oh how I was wrong!

     Miraculously I watched as the power of my words lit up the world around me. People broke their ground-focused stares and embraced the positive energy being genuinely radiated as I wished them a pleasant morning. During the first week of my mini-experiment, one girl stopped in her tracks and thanked me for acknowledging her existence, and that struck a chord. Armed with the sole power of a greeting, I was able to instantaneously change moods, sculpting the world around me with my words.

     It seems cliche to say that giving is more rewarding than receiving, but cliches are cliche for a reason. And nowadays we have research to back it up. Research from Michael Norton has found that universally, spending money on others rather than self results in higher happiness levels. So maybe today, instead of waiting for next New Years, start with a simple smile. Give someone a smile and perhaps receive the opportunity to impact someone’s day - if just for a moment.

An Open Letter To College Students: It’s Not O.K. to Not Be O.K.

Mental Breakdowns are not normal.

 

During my freshman year of college I experienced – what became – the first of a series of mental breakdowns. School-work & real-work, family & friends, responsibilities & relationships, and life in general consumed me with such a rapidness that my naivety was immediately exposed – I felt completely helpless.

Mental breakdowns are – in essence – the mind deciding that our actions, habits, and practices spanning the diverse aspects of our very being have strayed too far from their true purpose. The mind would rather issue a complete life stop & do NOTHING than allow you to continue along practices that stray you from your purpose! When central control makes such a drastic decision, it speaks volumes about the gravity of the situation – bad.

Over my years as a student, I came to discover that a mental breakdown is the cumulative effort of several poor investments in life’s most precious resource – time. When time is invested in vehicles that run against the fundamental aspects of your very being (such as in spending time with fake friends when you truly value your relationships with others, in constantly stressing over completing assignments when you truly value your leisure time, and in watching mundane television specials when you truly value mentally stimulating activities), you are left holding a terrible excuse of an investment portfolio with The Great Recession looming around the corner.

R.E.L.A.X.

 

We can divest investment portfolio of poor time investments, we just need to first get rid of our feebleminded financial advisor – YOU. No, you aren’t going to be “taken out”, but your mindset may need to be straightened out. Luckily, the process for reversing years of bad time investments begins with an investment that takes only minutes.

An entire psyche shift needs to occur that will no longer permit the minor annoyances that float through our lives to aggregate. In order to effectively untangle the mental webs that clog our consciousness and begin to oil the Practice FROM Purpose machine, we need to physically declutter. A designated space needs to emerge that will allow you to fully de-stress and mentally declutter Every. Single. Day. We need to create a safe space, a mental refuge, a sanctuary.

Everyday, consciously strive to not curse the red lights, but rather bring attention to and become gratuitous of the many green

For me, my room became my sanctuary. I do not enter its sacred grounds unless I have nothing that I need to or wish to do. Shoes are removed before entering and food is forbidden. My room is my temple and I treat it as such. It is honestly one of the most comfortable, open, and simplistic places I have ever visited – which alludes to why I only am there when I want to relax!

I typically will NOT be found in my room unless I am feeling some sort of accomplishment. It forces a self-diagnosed case of classical conditioning which leaves me cognitively associating success with my room. Whether I am coming off of a 20 hour grind session or just a cozy Saturday morning jog, entering my room is entering into a special zone – one in which I AM FREE.

 

What is creation without design?

 

Before clearing the clutter to create your mental sanctuary, pay special mind to the form it erects. You can designate a space specifically for mentally detox, but if it is poorly designed – say, in the corner of your flat that is never used because it is near the noisy neighbors – it will serve little purpose.

I clean my room everyday. Every morning is spent tidying up my room and making my bed – regardless of how silly the practice is – because when I return from life’s daily hustle, I want to enter an appealing and inviting zone. (I recently came across an advertisement that said 99% of college students vacuum less than once a month. I’m finally a 1 percenter!)

Designing a self-sanctuary will go lengths towards reversing your time investments. You will rediscover your unique self in a world that so often forces us to integrate. Stepping into your sanctuary, you will enter a realm where you will regain your individual from the sea of conformity just outside. In a world where we become so conscious of what is on the outside, find the inside.

 

Design efficiency. Design space. Design life.

That’s Lifestyle Design.

Running Across The Globe (Turkey): Sight-Seeing and Trail Spotting

Day 20 (65): June 20  

I hate tourists.

 

By visiting another land, culture, and peoples, you could consider me a tourist - but I'm not. Call me a hipster, but I don't like to visit famous landmarks or go to crowded tourist attractions such as Taksim Square. When I visit a new place, I try my best to submerse myself into the culture and really get to know how the day to day life of a typical resident is.

 

Accordingly, I don't plan on visiting the Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque. I spent most of the day exploring around town to find cafe's (with WiFi!) in the cut and spots off the beaten path. This also meant that I got to check out how running here will be.

 

God help me. The entire place is extremely steep hills. My legs are going to hate me by the end of this week. But a commitment is a commitment...

Running Across The Globe (Turkey): Enough Cross-Training

Day 19 (64): June 19  

So today I didn't do my cross-training....

 

Everyone can't be perfect and I was exhausted after landing in Turkey, so give me a break! I also don't know where I can get my cross-training in and I don't feel like buying a gym pass if I'm only here for a week.

 

We'll see how I get around it.

Running Across The Globe: To Turkey!

Day 18 (63): June 18  

Today has been one hell of a day.

 

I had to catch a flight to Istanbul this evening, so I woke up at 5 AM to get my run in before I had to begin packing and all the other shenanigans involved with traveling. I got into Richmond bright and early and once again proceeded to get lost.

 

Thankfully I was only scheduled to run 5 miles today, because I felt every bit of it. Never got in the zone or felt in rhythm. That's fine though, not every run is going to be a great run.

Now, to Turkey.

Mile 1:

Mile 2:

Mile 3:

Mile 4:

Mile 5: 

Eid

Day 17 (62): June 17  

Today was a very relaxed day.

 

Although I no longer need to wake up at 2:30 AM for a pre-fast gym session, I still found myself wide awake in the early morning hours. I'm not exactly sure how long I slept, but I'm assuming it was only around 2 hours.

 

There was no way I was going to sleep so I decided to head to the gym for a light lifting session. I didn't have a set routine or workout plan and just worked out through feel.

 

It was nice!

 

Took my time and went slow through the movements, really trying to engage the mind-muscle connection. I felt a lot more in-tune with my body than regular and really excelled at keeping my form. Afterwards I made my way to the Eid prayer and festivities.

 

Hopefully I didn't get too fat eating all of those delicious sweats!

Ramadan Chronicles: The Last Day

Day 16 (61): June 16  

Today is the last day of Ramadan and thus the last day of The Ramadan Chronicles.

 

It is also the last day of me waking up at 2:30 AM to hit the gym, the last day of me having 2 sleep cycles, and the last day of me guzzling down liters of water minutes before my 16 hour fast.

 

Most importantly, today might have been the last day I run on a treadmill!

 

I'm hoping that now I can run outside and not have safety concerns or overheating issues.

 

Todays 5k

 

Mile 1: 9:13

Mile 2: 17:38 (Fetty Wap)

5K: 26:06

Ramadan Chronicles: Playing on Easy Mode

Day 15 (60!): June 15  

Today marks the first time mileage will increase in the middle of the week. Usually extra mileage has been added on Saturday Long Runs, but the program calls for today to be a 4 miler instead of the normal 3.

 

Since I have been running 5ks (3.11 miles) instead of a flat 3, it was no challenge at all to go an extra couple songs. I just took it extra slow in the beginning and eased into it.

 

If all mile increases will be this smooth, I doubt I'll have much of a problem (hopefully not foreshadowing!)

 

(1st) 2 Miles: 18:50

(2nd) 2 Miles: 16:54

4 Miles: 35:44

 

Ramadan Chronicles: I Couldn't Be Making This Up

Day 10 (55): June 10  

Honestly.

 

My training log for today is going to sound like a page ripped straight out of the playbook on children's movie, but it truly panned out this way. Rare instances like these is probably where Disney screenwriters get the inspiration for their stories.

 

Friday is scheduled as my rest day before the 7 miler I am supposed to run Saturday morning. Only problem was that I have to catch a flight to Istanbul in the morning and wouldn't be able to make the run normally. To make sure I stay true to my word (and my commitment to charity), I decided to just run Friday night and rest as much as possible beforehand.

 

Now on my long runs I like to head to a new area in Richmond and get lost. It breaks up the monotony of my routine and makes things more interesting - an adventure. And an adventure it certainly was.

 

The second I got in the car to head downtown, it started raining. And not just normal rain, a downpour. Thankfully it was quick and gave way by the time I got to an interesting-looking part of town. When I arrived I quickly began my warmup incase it was going to rain again. Near the end of my warm up, a nickel caught my eye and I put it in my pocket. Lucky me.

 

I started my jog really slow and tried to ease into it even though it is hard to not just start running. The jog was going relatively well with a few cramps early on, but they didn't last long; that was, until near the end of the fourth mile, I got an extremely painful cramp.

 

Immediately I slowed down. A LOT. When I slowed down, the nickel that had been in my pocket smacked my leg and I realized it was there again. I checked my Garmin and I was at 4.94 miles in. I knew I had to continue - at least until mile 5.

 

Something about the nickel, almost being at mile 5, and a bit of Disney magic created this magnificent scene in my head of me doing more than I think I can as I ran across the Robert E. Lee Bridge in a picturesque sunset over the James River and Belle Isle.

 

That or I had some serious runner's high going on.

 

I finished off the rest alright, but my times are all over the place.

 

Tomorrow, Turkey.

 

Mile 1: 9:16 Mile 2: 8:58 Mile 3: 7:25 (Maybe a little TOO fast) Mile 4: 8:13 Mile 5:10:25 (BONK!) Mile 6: 9:53 (ease back into it) Mile 7: 9:29

Total Time: 1:03:40

 

Ramadan Chronicles: Why Am I So Sore?

Day 14 (59): June 14  

When I reached for my phone to turn off my alarm today, I immediately regretted it. The soreness was too real. I'm not particularly sure why I am so sore since yesterday was a rest day and I went to bed feeling fine, but this morning was brutal.

 

I slowly made my way to the gym and got there just shy of 3 AM. I spent 30 minutes warming up (which is longer than the run) and trying to get the blood moving to alleviate some of the sore. Not sure if it worked since I'm typing this still sore, but c'est la vie.

 

Was running on the treadmill and missed reading the 3 mile split, so this is the data I have.

 

Mile 1: 9:13

Mile 2: 8:28

Mile 3: ?

5K: 26:06

Ramadan Chronicles: The Return of The Yogi

Day 13 (58): June 13  

Rest Day.

 

I haven't been on my Yoga and daily stretching recently, and took this rest day as the perfect opportunity to get a few minutes in. Did 45 minutes of Yoga in the evening and felt AWESOME!

 

Really need to stay consistent with it.

 

Hopefully this is the return of the yogi in me.

Ramadan Chronicles: Bodyweight Inspired

Day 12 (57): June 12  

Went into the gym at around 3 AM and did something a little different today. I didn't do any of my usual compound lifts. Instead I decided to try out bodyweight fitness.

 

I've always been a fan of bodyweight fitness. The level of coordination, flexibility, and raw STRENGTH required for some of the moves is something to marvel and really quite different from doing a typical bench press or deadlift. I really want to explore the bodyweight fitness more and I thought why not today?

 

I don't know many bodyweight exercises or progressions, so I did what I know - pull-ups and dips. I warmed up and knocked out a few reps of each, but I missed the iron and compromised by doing weighted pull-ups and weighted dips.

 

Not 100% bodyweight, but I'm working towards it.

 

Ramadan Chronicles: Turkey?

Day 11 (56): June 11 So I was supposed to go to Turkey today.

 

Keywords: Supposed to

 

Yeah, my passport expired so I'm going next week.

 

At least I had the opportunity to do some cross-training as a recovery! Hopefully this will alleviate some of the pain after yesterday's long run.

 

I got in the gym around 5 PM which isn't my normal hour, so it was nice to see some new faces (or faces at all). I jumped rope for a few minutes before making it over to the stationary bike for a 45 minute cycle. Decided to listen to an audiobook instead of music and knocked out two tasks in one.

Ramadan Chronicles: Re-Arranging Furniture

Day 9 (54): June 9  

I'm not particularly sure what came over me today. Instead of waking up at 2:30 AM and getting to the gym at 3 AM for an hour long workout before the start of fasting around 4:20 AM, I woke up feeling completely refreshed at 1:30 AM after only 3 hours of sleep. I didn't have company in the gym today, but I did have a brilliant idea.

 

The gym has an industrial fan sitting in the corner and I decided that today I would be an interior decorator. Here was my masterpiece.

20150709_031449

Safe to say I did NOT overheat today.

 

Mile 1: 9:16

Mile 2: 8:30

Mile 3: 7:58

5K: 26:31

 

Ramadan Chronicles: Oh Well...

Day 8 (53): June 8  

Got up at 230 AM and promptly left for the gym, so obviously I forgot something - my hat. I sweat A LOT! compared to most people, and I found wearing a hat keeps a lot of sweat out of my eyes. That stuff burns!

Oh well, just used my shirt instead and ran a pretty easy 5k. Its a weird feeling knowing that your not supposed to push yourself to the limit. Usually I'd be very disappointed with this time, but I realize that it's not a sprint, its a marathon! (I know, bad pun)

I zoned out on the treadmill and forgot to record my splits, so I just watched for the 5k time.

 

5K: 26:28

 

Ramadan Chronicles: Week Two?

Day 7 (52): June 7  

Woke up at 2:30 and headed to the gym. Scheduled to do a 3 mile, but obviously did a 5k. Was surprised that I already am on week 2 though, I was not expecting it to come so quickly. The run was definitely easy today. I didn't push it, but slowly accelerated the speed up from 10:00/mile to 7:29/mile throughout the run. Generally felt really good.

Mile 1: 9:16

Mile 2: 8:21

Mile 3: 7:47

5k: 26:11

 

 

Ramadan Chronicles: So Sore

Day 6 (51): June 6  

I'm not sure why yesterday I wasn't, but I woke up today SO SORE! 

 

It was ridiculous! My legs felt like pure jelly and I had to use every ounce of strength to make it to the gym at 2:30 AM. Got 45 minutes in on the stationary bike and my legs started feeling better. They may have needed to get some blood moving through them, but I will HAVE to foam-roll tonight after work. I don't want to wake up like this tomorrow.

Ramadan Chronicles: Nope

Day 5 (50): June 5  

Was scheduled to do an hour of cross-training today, but never got around to it. I was planning on going around 6pm, but I ended up bing watching TED Talks with my sister and brother. By the time I realized the rabbit hole I was deep in, I had to get ready for a dinner event I was invited to. We'll cross off today and pray for tomorrow

 

 

Ramadan Chronicles: The Long Run

Day 4 (49): June 4  

Today is the first long run of the training program. Will be going on a 6 mile adventure (will make it a 10k). Have to remember to start slow and find a consistent easy pace. I tend to go out a lot faster than I can handle which burns me out. I would like to be a negative split runner, so this is good practice. Will update with running info below

 

Update

Mile 1: 9:17

Mile 2: 8:51

Mile 3: 9:10

Mile 4: 9:06

Mile 5: 8:55

Mile 6: 8:59

10k: 56:22 (9:02/mile)