As I’ve been thinking more about how to live a more contented life, I have begun doing a bit of research about what makes people happy. I got a library card and checked out a couple of books like “100 Habits of Happy People” and other similar titles. One book, however, has really changed how I want to approach this project: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I have not finished this book (I’m only on Chapter 6), but already I am impressed with the process that Mrs. Rubin describes in her book and am very excited to develop my own Happiness Project in a more organized way. With that in mind, I have broken my goals down into categories and will work on one aspect of my life at a time, rather than approaching a variety of goals at once and adding new ones all willy nilly as I have been doing. One of the nice things about this, too, is that focusing on one area of my life will inevitably improve other areas. For example, my choice to make coffee at home not only helps me to cut out some major calories (health and fitness), but it also helps me to save money (financial).

When I took an inventory of my happiness, the number one thing I felt was affecting my mood and general discontent was my physical health. I have gained 15 pounds since returning to the United States and have picked up some bad habits like drinking less water, eating out too often, and going to bed too late. Because this is having such an effect on other areas of my life, I thought it would be best to focus on this area first. So, now I’m putting it in writing. Below are my goals for this month. I plan to talk about each one in more detail as the month goes on, but wanted to get this out there so I’m committed to it. If you have any suggestions or help to offer, please do! I’d love to hear about you own health and fitness goals and what you’ve done to achieve them!

Month 1 – April – Let’s Get Physical
Eat healthier – eat more vegetables, eat less sugar
Less caffeine and alcohol, more water
Take vitamins
Exercise regularly and MIX IT UP (5X/WK)
Use sunscreen + moisturizer every day
Ride bike to work more often (3X/WK)
Get more sleep – Early to bed, early to rise
Stretch morning and night (esp. hamstrings!)

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For years I have been making new year’s resolutions that have helped me to tackle the big goals I’ve had for my life – running a marathon, taking a trip around the world, and going to grad school to list a few. But this year when resolution time rolled around, I was feeling a bit lost because, with the exception of hiking the PCT, I’ve accomplished all of the big things I’d ever wanted to do. In fact, this whole past year I’ve felt a little like a ship without a rudder. It’s like I’ve finally arrived and now I keep asking myself, “Now what? Is this really it? Is this my life now?” While I should be content, I actually feel a bit of a panic deep down that I have missed something or that I’ve got to find something new to work toward because I don’t know who I am without mountains to climb and challenges to overcome.

So when it really came down to it to make a goal for this year, I decided on something small that actually is really huge for me: being content with where and who I am. It started with a few small goals – write more, learn to play guitar, study a new language, ride my bike to work, pay off debt – that I knew would make me feel happier every day, but it has now grown into a huge project. I’ve been tracking these early goals with a spreadsheet that I made and have been checking off my progress each day. One of my goals though, writing more often, has been really lacking, however, and so I am hoping to blog regularly about this goal. Hopefully, sharing my struggle to become more content with the everydayness of life will lead to some interesting discussions, as well as suggestions and tips from you to help me along the way.

Have any of you been working on similar goals? What are some of the things you do that make you feel happy?

For as long as I can remember I’ve been talking about taking a trip around the world but have never had the stick-to-it-ness to save up the money…until recently. It came as a sort of challenge from the most recent man to break my heart. I was talking wistfully about the never-going-to-happen trip around the world and he said to me, “Rebecca, look at your life. Anything you really want you make happen. Saving up for that trip isn’t any different than training for this marathon. I know you. If you really wanted it, you’d be taking that trip around the world.”

And the second he said it, I knew he was right.

I had been talking about this trip forever, but had made no real effort to get myself there. I don’t know if it was fear that was holding me back. Or possibly, knowing that everybody would yet again be disappointed in me for “running away.” But I took his comment as a sort of dare. I had to prove to myself that this really was something I wanted and I was willing to put the effort into making it happen. So back in August or so I began socking away money. I’m not quite there yet, but I’ve set myself a deadline: September 5, the day I leave for New Zealand.

It wasn’t originally my intention to kick off my round-the-world trip with this trip to New Zealand. In fact, I bought round-trip tickets. But the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. If I’m already going to be that far away from home, this might be my chance to make it happen. And if I chicken out and use that return ticket home? Well, then I’m never allowing myself to talk about going around the world again. It’s time to sh*t or get off the pot, so to speak. So I’m going to bite the bullet. I’ve already listed all of my books on Amazon and am beginning to photograph all of my belongings for sale on Craigslist and other online outlets. I’m not going to keep storage this time: It’s too much of a temptation to come back home. Even my bed is going to go – the bed I’ve been carting around with me for 10 years because I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford another one quite so beautiful and so perfectly me.

Yes, I’m scared to death. I have a great job with great benefits. I have a perfect little apartment that is gorgeously decorated. I have savings for the first time in my life. Everything is AMAZING. And I’m scared to death that I’ll never have all of these things again. BUT I keep telling myself that I was able to accumulate all of these things in just one year, upon returning from Istanbul with nothing – not a dime to my name. ONE YEAR. If I can do it once, I can do it again. That’s all I really need to know.

Well, it’s New Year’s Eve. This would usually be the time of year that I would post an update on all of my goals from last year and set some new ones. I’ve been feeling pretty blah though. Oh, why? You ask. Well, because my boyfriend and I broke up on Christmas Eve. Breaking up during the holidays is the absolutely worst thing ever. I’m not going to write much about it because, unlike some of my more infamous breakups, I still am totally in love with Tony and think he’s an awesome guy and I really don’t want everyone to think he’s a big asshole just because he broke my heart.

So let’s talk positives. I really don’t have many except that now I’ll be on the breakup diet. I’m so excited that I might be able to fit in my skinny clothes again. Also, even though I now won’t be able to afford that trip to Thailand this summer I’m applying to study abroad for a year in Istanbul. I mean, why not, right? I’m also applying for a ton of scholarships because I probably won’t be able to afford Istanbul without a lot of monetary help from the financial aid office. If anyone has any great ideas for scholarships let me know.

Um, so I guess my goals for next year are:

1. Try to get over Tony in a positive way (aka not drinking my sadness away like I’ve been known to do).

2. Find scholarships to study abroad.

3. Get out of Sacramento for awhile.

Seems pretty simple right? As for last years goals I can tell you that I reached my goal of reading one book per week and actually surpassed it this year. I managed to get in 55 books this year (and half of Audacity of Hope…hopefully it’ll be done soon). I’ll post a best of as soon as I’m feeling up to it. I didn’t manage that half marathon because of those shin splints, but I’m going to try for it again this year, especially since my way of positively dealing with this breakup is to run whenever I’m feeling down (this also helps with that breakup diet I was talking about earlier).

The funny thing is that I’ll be in good company. Since Tony and I broke up, three of my friends have had breakups as well. I guess the anti-cupid is back in the house. Who knew?

Since I’ve been out of the game for awhile I thought it would be a good idea to get a jump-start on my training for next year, which I’m calling Commitment 2009. This all really started when I found out that my university gives free fitness tests and does free nutritional analysis for students. What?! Yeah! Pretty awesome, right?

So I went down and got my fat tested, aerobicized while hooked up to a machine and kept track of my food intake for a couple of days. And I got my results today. Let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty. Apparently my couple of months without running has done worse for my health than I had thought. Granted, I have still been getting a little bit of exercise and have been running regularly for a little over a month now, BUT my healthy eating habits over the summer are LONG GONE. This translates to 32 percent body fat, an extra 10 pounds, and exceeding my calorie intake by about 110 calories a day.

On the plus side, taking out 110 calories is SIMPLE. And how excited am I that I was that close?! Most Americans are far worse at estimating their daily caloric intake so I should be ecstatic, right? However, I’m not as thrilled about the 32 percent body fat. My goal is going to be to get down to at least 22 percent which puts me in the 50 percentile range for women (middle of the road). I’d also like to lose about 25 pounds, but I’m going to be realistic and put that at 15 lbs. And, of course, I want to FINALLY take down that half marathon I’ve been talking about all year!

So my goals for this month are to a) get in touch with the fitness counselor so he can set me up with a routine that will help me reach my goals for next year, and b) run at least four times a week (I’m currently only averaging two runs per week). Hopefully this will get me in the groove so when Commitment 2009 really gets started I’ll be ready to take it all on!

What about you guys? Have you already been setting goals for next year?

LodiHalfer2007Today marks the official beginning of my half marathon training. To be perfectly honest, I’m a bit nervous about it. I have been running for almost two years now and, although I run between one and two miles every day or so, I’ve never actually “trained” for anything. I kind of just sign up for races at random and give it my best when I get there. But last year when I tried for my first half marathon (May 2007) I realized that if I’m going to ever do one again I’m going to have to actually put some effort into it.

Just to give you a picture of what it was like at that first halfer: I walked a good 6 miles of the race. An 80-year-old man with a walker finished a good hour before me. And I finished in 3 hours, 15 minutes – a good 45 minutes after my goal time.  I also ran with a hangover and only 4 hours of sleep. And I ended up with 3 blisters and some chafing on my arms from my iPod armband and my fat rubbing together. I do look happy in my finishing picture though, don’t you think?

So this year, I’ve decide to take on a training plan and, because I know I’m super lazy, I’ve given myself 18 weeks to complete it. That’s a good 6 weeks longer than any training plan I’ve seen. Another reason for giving myself extra time is so I can ease into it. I’m extremely paranoid about injury and I’d hate to have to drop out of training because I pushed myself too hard.

Each Sunday I’ll be giving you an update of where I am with my training and how I did the week before. This is really more for me than for anything else. I figure the accountability of a weekly recap will keep me motivated, being as I really don’t want to have an entry that says, “Gave up running and gorged myself on brownies to ease the pain of disappointment,” instead of cheering for myself over having accomplished my weekly goal.

Oh, so my weekly goal: This week I plan to run 35 minutes every other day (4 days) and end on Sunday with a 5K at the Capitol (The Nike Women’s Fitness Festival). My goal at the 5K is to meet or beat my previous best time of 34:18.