psychology, running

Healthy Choices (Even Though We’re Still In Pandemic Mode)

I thought January was never going to end, like, ever. From the freak snowstorm to the Capitol attack, to the swearing-in of Biden, plus getting back into the swing of having two jobs again (back to teaching and YNAB!), I felt like the month was just dragging on. And on.

However, with the bit of downtime I had, I made some healthy decisions during the last month. These decisions have caused me to spend a little more than I had been spending, but they mostly come from my YNAB “Investing In Myself” category, so I’m okay with it!

1. Got private health insurance

But doesn’t Spain have universal healthcare? Yes. (And I’m so thankful for it!) But I decided to spring for private health insurance for this year anyway. Given all that’s going on with the pandemic and the delayed health appointments I dealt with last year, I decided to get a policy so I can take care of my eyes better, get to the dermatologist a bit more often, and have a better choice of healthcare providers should I ever need them. Spend: Around 450 euros for the whole year, paid up-front in one lump sum.

2. Decided to start practicing trail running

One morning while reading some uplifting or thought-provoking book (can’t remember which one), I had the word “EXPLORE” pop into my mind. After meditating on it a bit, I decided that trail running would be my ticket to exploration this year. Outdoors, in the woods and mountains, while building my strength and endurance? Yes please. Also, around a year ago, S threw out the idea one day of doing a trail race together. My first and immediate reaction was “absolutely not!”

I’ve been dealing with some strange fears in the last couple of years that I’ve been struggling to get over. Something in my brain started associating certain events or activities with a massive hazard sign, and therefore my knee-jerk reaction has been fear in a lot of situations where it really shouldn’t be. I think I’d been living in a fight-or-flight state of mind (and body) and was extra sensitive to pretty much everything. Simple things like taking the metro in Madrid, fun activities like kayaking or hiking or skiing, all came with a mental warning that wouldn’t shut itself off until I was well into the activity and could relax, seeing that nothing bad was in fact happening. It was catastrophic thinking, constantly. I didn’t completely realize how bad it was until a conversation with a friend back in the fall about how I even felt that way grocery shopping sometimes. (“Am I having a panic attack? Can I breathe?”)

The quarantine has had a way of calming down my overstimulated mind, and I’m having WAY less of those thoughts in general, but there were still some lingering issues like  mild fear, negativity and replaying unpleasant situations. But since I put two and two together that “explore” is my word of the year and that trail running would be the way to do it, I’m experiencing a mental shift toward wellness and calm that I’ve been missing. I’ve started a 10-week training program to train for a 10K trail race that either a) may or may not happen, or b) I might not be able to travel to. Or c) it will happen, I’ll be able to go, and I will do it!

So I’ve bought myself some trail running shoes, downloaded a training schedule from REI’s website, and have been doing it for around 3 weeks now. Tuesday, Friday and Sunday have been run days, with the others being for rest or cross-training. This week I add Wednesday into the rotation. The idea is to run counting time, not distance. Last Friday I ran 45 minutes and tracked that I was doing 6:06 per km, so not bad at all for just getting started! As the weeks go on, I’ll be progressively running longer and adding more days.

That mental shift I had while planning my running adventure has expanded now that I’m running regularly. I spend WAY less time thinking about negative things, it boosts my energy, and some things I thought I’d never be able to stop cycling through my head have finally disappeared. I think my eating and my exercise go hand in hand to create these positive changes.

3. Plant-based eating: it continues

Back a couple of months ago I announced I would be trying to eat plant-based during the week. I’m proud to announce I’m still doing it and still really enjoying it! I’m including quinoa which I actually didn’t really like very much, but have discovered a new way of eating it that I LOVE. (It includes butter. That and yogurt are my limited non-plant things during the week.)

Roasted Cauliflower and Quinoa Salad

You’ve got to try the above recipe. I eat the quinoa with the cauliflower, or sometimes with broccoli, and other days with just diced beets thrown on top.

Here’s another amazing one: Indian Red Beans and Rice Rajma

Your taste buds will adore you.

Dinner Monday to Thursday is always a salad. A massive salad, really. I throw on radishes, carrot, beets, a chopped apple, avocado sometimes, chopped green onion, sesame seeds, slivered almonds, and dried cranberries (from the above quinoa recipe) with olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Wow. It really hits the spot, especially after an evening run.

Yes, this is MY picture of MY nightly salad!

4. Joined a rollerblading class

So it might not be “healthy” as it’s with other people, but it’s a chance to get outdoors and actually learn some skating tips from a professional. It’s a step in the right direction, as for most of January I was repeating the same old tired complaints of how I don’t really know many people and don’t feel very connected. Will I make lifelong BFFs at this class? Doubt it. But at least I’m putting myself in a place where there are other people doing the same thing. I was feeling a little bit lame skating all by myself anyway.

5. Don’t worry, I’m still being frugal

It may not count as “healthy” but guess who got 2 more weeks of moisturizer out of this?

6. Using my time a bit better

Since I’ve been working 2 jobs, I’ve had to really squeeze every last drop out of my free time. Think: 6:30 to 10:30pm on weeknights, where I needed to make time for dinner and taking a shower, and adding in occasional running or walking. Since mid-January, I’ve really been feeling that squeeze, but I’m proud of how I’ve handled it. Some nights I lit a candle and put on a mud face mask, others I journaled,  I always tried to read just before bed (on an old-school Kindle), and always performed my little salad ritual I mentioned. So that didn’t leave a lot of time for scrolling feeds or reading much news, or spending much time on Google Analytics for my blog (it’s fun! Am I weird?), and I really don’t feel like I’m missing much. I was starting to follow a few humor accounts on Instagram that I then unfollowed to reduce the temptation to see what they were posting. I did a tiny bit of Facebook “research” related to an old friend group back in the US, but it didn’t consume much of my time.

7. Trading my chair for an exercise ball

It is as amazing as it sounds! I was noticing myself start to hunch my back quite a bit after sitting for more hours working my two jobs. The afternoons were especially brutal, and I was starting to have pain in my back and legs. I remembered that years ago in one of my first jobs, I sat on an exercise ball I had bought and was the envy of the office. This time I posted it in the team Slack channel and inspired a teammate to drag hers out of the closet and blow it up. I measured my chair height (55cm) and found the perfect 55cm exercise ball at Decathlon. Sitting on this thing means I’m constantly moving, even if it’s just a little. And I can say that now I have zero back or leg pain! Spend: 25 euros. Worth every céntimo!


All in all, I’m content with my recent decisions and lifestyle changes! Let’s make the most of our time and make 2021 a year for growing. How are you growing this year? 🌱