Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stepping out of my Comfort Zone

Hello, and happy almost-October to everyone! I'm ecstatic that fall is upon us; every year I think I love fall more and more. I wish I had the time and resources to host a fall-themed party every weekend, complete with apple bobbing and costumes, a huge snack table, and fall decor to the nines. As a recent new member of Pinterest I've discovered about a zillion crafty and/or yummy fall things and am hoping I get to try some of them out- I'll keep you updated. Please follow me on Pinterest, I think it's so much fun! I tried for about a half hour to get the "follow me" link to post on the blog with no success, but search for Allison Bussells and you'll find me. Even better, if you are tech-savvy and know how to get the link to post let me know!

Lately I've been really focused on my fitness plan, and am proud to say that I've made it to Week 14. It's so uncharacteristic of me to stick with something for this long so I'm going to pause a moment to pat myself on the back.

Okay, I'm back.

Along with my ever-expanding collection of workout dvd's (I've got some new ones to share reviews on!), I've been stepping out of my comfort zone a little bit and trying this crazy thing called running. I have never ever ever been a runner. I don't know what it is about it, but every time that I've attempted to run in the past I've felt like I was without a doubt going to die after about 30 seconds. Cardio workouts just aren't my cup of tea but finally, inspired by people who weigh twice as much as I do on The Biggest Loser, I decided it might be worth it to give it another shot.

It all started when Carl and I took the dogs to a nearby trail a few weeks ago and after walking it, Carl triple dog dared me to run it with him. I really didn't think that I could but he yelled at me like Jillian Michaels until I had no option but to kick it into high gear. It was only about a half mile from start to finish but to me it was a pretty huge deal. Although I didn't die I felt truly awful and so from that point on made it a goal to get to a point where I could run and not be worried that I need medical attention. Melman didn't fare so well either. I didn't get any of the good stuff on video (i.e. him repeatedly throwing himself onto the back seat of the car in what I think was an effort to cool off), but here's the poor little guy panting up a storm, which is just how I felt:

Determined to hold myself accountable- and get in better cardiovascular shape than my overweight pug- I downloaded the Nike Running app on my phone. I got it to help track my progress but it's also proving to be a huge motivator. Each run I try to push my limits by either going faster or further and it's so rewarding when I do, if not painful and exhausting. If you break a record, the app will congratulate you at the end of your run. I love it! Today I pulled out all the stops and decided to run the bridge with Carl. For those of you who don't live in Charleston, here is the Cooper River bridge that goes from downtown to Mount Pleasant:

taken from
The pedestrian/bike portion is 2.4 miles long- what you don't see in the picture is the uphill slope on each side, yikes! Every time I drive over it I feel a mixture of admiration and spite for the joggers, and have always assumed that I could never be one of those people. This morning I proved myself wrong, though. Carl and I ran the entire way over, walked a little over halfway back, and then ran the last mile. I took pictures to document the occasion but they are truly horrendous, so I'll spare you all and share my screenshot from the Nike Running app instead:

 I DID IT!!!

Another cool thing about Nike Running is your home screen- it gives you a summary of how many miles you've run, calories burnt, and average speed. You can tell I'm a newbie, but here's my progress so far:

Nobody is allowed to laugh at how slow I am. Running is tough!

I'm making it a goal to run 100 miles by the end of the year. Do you think I can do it?

Be back soon- I've got another cool app to share. Happy October!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sleep is Not for Wusses

I have always been an exceptionally sleepy person. I'm told that I developed a strict nap schedule at a very young age; my biggest issue with going to kindergarten (aside from being painfully shy) was having to give up my morning nap. I could- and still can- find a way to sleep anywhere, particularly moving vehicles. While I've been forced to give up naps at this point in my life I still average about 9-10 hours of sleep at night. I simply don't function well throughout the day on the prescribed 8 hours, and anything less turns me into a complete zombie. When I happen to share this with people the general reaction is disbelief and something that seems a lot like scorn over the fact that I'm wasting so much valuable time indulging in sleep. I've always been frustrated by society's views on sleep, a constant competition to see who can survive on as little as possible. When did it become the norm for us to deprive ourselves of something so essential to our well being? And why is nobody doing anything to stop it? In a recent read I came across a quote that really resonated with me:

"Sleep is a biological imperative for every species on earth. But humans alone try to resist its pull. Instead, we see sleep not as a physical need but a statement of character. It's considered a sign of weakness to admit fatigue- and it's a sign of strength to refuse to succumb to slumber. Sleep is for Wusses."*

After reading this I decided to stop being ashamed of the amount of sleep I get each night. True, I'll probably never hold a job that requires me to work more than 40 hours a week, and I'll probably be a total wreck when we have kids that wake up in the middle of the night, but I'd rather be the best that I can be on the seemingly excessive amount of sleep that I require than spread myself too thin and be absolutely miserable.

If you're a person who is skeptical of the value of a good night's sleep, consider this: memories are synthesized in our brains while we sleep. Any learning that we do over the course of the day becomes cemented over night. If you're not sleeping enough you are jeopardizing your ability to recall information! With regards to the way that memories get processed in the brain while we sleep, "negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories get processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep- deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine."**

Furthermore, in a study that involved shortening the amount of sleep in a group of adults to six hours per night for two weeks, tests showed them to be "just as impaired as someone who has stayed awake for 24 hours straight."***


Why aren't we listening to all the doctors and scientists who recommend that we sleep more?

At the risk of over-simplifying the issue, I think a lot of the world's problems could be solved if we all  stop what we're doing and take a big nap. Otherwise we're just a bunch of grumpy, forgetful, and dysfunctional people.

With that, I'm off to bed.

*Taken from  Nurture Shock, page 44. I haven't read this all the way through, but it's incredibly interesting and entertaining. If you liked Freakonomics then this is right up your alley.

**Nurture Shock, page 35.  ***page 44.

Concerned English major that I am, here's the full citation:

Bronson, Po, and Ashley Merryman. Nurture Shock. New York: Twelve, 2009. Print.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

All Grown Up

Today marks my 3 year anniversary with the bank, or the way I see it, three years of being a real adult. Once I got my big girl job after college my parents more or less cut me off from the bank of Allison that had kept me afloat during school, I moved in with my first craigslist roommate, and I bought my first pencil skirt. All superficiality aside, I was reflecting on the past three years today and realized how much I've grown; I'm pretty proud of myself.

-  I am tough now! I've got much thicker skin than I did when I entered the workforce. An angry customer no longer brings me to tears, and I've been forced to develop the ability to keep cool under stressful situations. It's kind of sad that I've had to adapt to cope with all of the bullies in the world, but hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

- I'm much more resourceful than I used to be. When confronted with a problem I make a phone call or turn to Dr. Google (sometimes I even know the answers off the top of my head!) instead of thinking the world is about to end.

- I've actually become somewhat outgoing. Talking to strangers comes a lot easier than it used to for me- this from a girl who once cried when my mom made me go ask for my own sweet and sour sauce from a McDonald's cashier... I think I took "stranger danger" to the extreme.

- Hopefully Carl agrees with me on this one, but I think I've gotten better at leaving work at work and not allowing a bad day to ruin my night. I used to come home a huge grump, ready to rant and rave about whatever injustice I was met with. I'm sure a lot of married couples struggle with the challenge of leaving the day on the doorstep when they get home, but whew, it's tougher than it sounds!

- I am an excellent multi-tasker. For instance, right now I'm writing this blog post, watching Biggest Loser, drinking a smoothie, and playing phone games all at the same time. Talk about success.

It's hard to believe that it's been 3 whole years since I graduated college and became gainfully employed, but it's nice to say that I'm a productive member of society now and really getting the hang of being an adult. Who knows where I'll be after another three years!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Throwin' it Back

Happy Labor Day! There's nothing I love more than a 3-day weekend (except a full week of vacation, of course). I don't really have anything exciting to say, but I did want to take a moment to bring everyone back to the days when the internet seemed so ripe and new. Does anyone else remember the hamster dance? I can't remember what year this became popular... sometime in the late 90's or early 2000's. Either way, it reminds me of the era of dial-up internet and online chat rooms. Who knew we'd be so evolved now? I don't care what anyone says, I still think those hamsters are really funny. Enjoy!