How life changed with a fitbit

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The fitbit tracks my steps around the park.

I wanted a fitbit for Christmas mainly because I’m competitive and my husband started using one last year. We’d compare our steps during walks and his fitbit gave him way more steps than me carrying my iphone.

Now that I’ve used my fitbit for two weeks, what do I have to say about it?

I really like it. It’s helping stay on track. Every hour it gives me a little buzz to push me away from my computer and on my feet. I found that I am consistently getting more than 10,000 steps a day — not because I wasn’t before — but my phone wasn’t always with me to capture the steps.

The other thing I really like about it is that I can swim with it. It keeps track of my laps and minutes of my swim — except for kicking. For some reason — I guess because my arms aren’t moving — I don’t get the yards in for a kick set. Oh well. I know in my head I did the kicking. I did ask our coach yesterday, “Why kick, if the fitbit doesn’t record it?” His answer was, “Why wear it if it doesn’t record everything?” Well, it’s worth it for everything else.

The final thing that I’m liking about it is the sleep part. Every morning I wake up, let it sync to my phone and then I check how well I slept. It will give me the time I fell asleep and woke up. Also, how much light, deep, REM sleep I got and how much and often I woke up during the night. It’s really interesting stuff. One thing I’ve learned is that on a swim day, my REM and deep sleep is twice that of a day I didn’t swim.

What I think the fitbit does for me is encourages me to be consistent with my exercise and sleep. It makes these things easier, because after all there’s an App for that.

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The fitbit tracks my laps in the pool.

Have you tried a fitbit or an Apple watch? What do you like about them the most?

 

Food for Thought and Recovery

Back in the pool is my New Year’s Resolution. I’ve swam three days a week for two whole weeks and we’re not even into the second week of the year! I noticed, however, that I am not recovering. I feel tired afterwards and the next day, too. My daughter told me, “Make sure you drink some chocolate milk as soon as you get home!” Well, I forgot and after I showered and got dressed, I headed off to the grocery store, feeling weak and famished. “Shoot, I forgot the chocolate milk.” There was a Halloween-sized bag of M&Ms in the car, not quite chocolate milk, but I downed them thinking they’d be better than nothing. 

That incident reminded me of a story I wrote about nutrition and recovery a couple years ago:

 

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Nutella stuffed 1/2 cronuts. Food for thought?

I called one of my mentor swim moms, who has advised me all along the way from my son’s first swim meet in 2001 to navigating college recruiting years later. She worked as a dietitian years ago, and I wanted her input for a SwimSwam article about what kids should eat at meets. I asked a half dozen more moms what their kids ate at meets because we happened to be at UCLA and USC swim meets watching our Utah kids compete.

After I wrote that story, that you can read here, I thought, “Yikes! I do not practice what I preach!” I’m finding it harder to recover after a workout and perhaps if I looked at my own diet, I would feel stronger.

I’m swimming consistently three days a week, and after I swim I get so hungry. I have a tendency to believe that because I made it through a tiring swim practice, that I can eat whatever I want. Most often, I make terrible choices including a #1 meal at Taco Bell (taco and burrito supreme) or fried chicken! Seriously, what am I doing to myself?

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At USC for a swim meet.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s okay to eat unhealthy now and then. But this has turned into a habit to reward myself after a healthy workout with fattening food that lacks much in nutritional value! It’s totally unproductive.

I discussed this with another mom via text. This mom is crazily fit and works out for hours every day. She had some great tips that I’m incorporating into my daily life that she promised would improve my muscle recovery.

AVOID SUGAR AND CARB LOADING

“I’ve actually been learning to fuel my body with fat. However, I’m not a swimmer so I would not begin to offer advice. But, after doing research I started limiting my carbs to less than 50g/day and saving them until dinner. During the day, I fuel my body with healthy fats. I’ve noticed a huge difference! Swimmers need a lot of energy but they won’t get any energy from sugar.”

PLAN AHEAD

“Have a plan. Know what you’re going to snack on after practice. Prepare eggs and a meat before you leave for practice so that it’s ready when you get home and you won’t eat the ‘worst stuff.’ Plus, the protein in the eggs will assist in muscle recovery. Or have peanut butter on a rice cake. But the important thing is to have it prepared so you can grab it right away.”

HOW ARE YOU FUELING YOUR BODY?

“Also, when eating your snacks, look at it and determine how you are fueling your body for recovery and the next day’s workout. That’s what keeps me honest with myself.”

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At my first meet a year ago with my good friend and fellow swim mom, Linda.

Yesterday, after practice I had a half banana and a hard boiled egg when I walked through the kitchen door. I was able to make it through until dinner without fast or fried food and I feel less sluggish and tired today. I’m curious to see how this plan works for me and if I’ll feel stronger after a few days. After all, I have my own swim meet coming up this month!  I’ll let you know how it goes.

What do you eat after working out?

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At UCLA last Friday.

 

What my kids learned in the water

From time to time, I receive emails from swim parents asking me for advice. I am always surprised  and flattered when that happens — they obviously care about being a helpful parent — and they think I might have something useful to say. One parent wanted to know how to help their child handle disappointment after missing a cut for a big meet. This is something I know all too well. I talked to my daughter and son about it and they definitely remembered those days, too. My son said, “That was my life!” Here’s a link to the SwimSwam.com article “Ask Swim Mom” I wrote about it. It also reminded me of this post I wrote six years ago!


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One of the most important things they learned is perseverance. That stick-with-it never give up attitude that is ingrained in their brains after years of trying for swim goals and just missing them. Then trying and trying again and again until they make them. The very nature of swimming 50 weeks a year, six days a week, makes kids tough.

I’ll never forget my daughter’s frustration of missing her junior national cut by fractions of a second for two years. She didn’t give up. She worked hard. She would still miss.

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“Are you kidding me!” She said looking at the scoreboard to see her missing the coveted junior national cut by mere tenths of a second after dropping three full seconds on an 800 meter freestyle race.

The next race, she said, “I’m so done with this!”  She dove in with more determination than ever, and yes, she made her cut, dropping seconds on her 200 meter free and coming in second place to one of the fastest girls in the country.

So, what does all this have to do with life?  Take her hardest class, AP Stats.  She knows that she can do it. She just has to put in the work and time. That may mean getting up and into the classroom at 6 a.m. for extra help, rather than staying warm tucked into her bed. But, she does it — all on her own — without me suggesting it. Her teacher told me, “I know that she will do whatever it takes to be successful, so I am not worried about where her grade is today.”

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My son also swam. He worked so hard for every goal, trying to qualify for meets through ten years of year-round swimming. I’ll never forget his determination as an 8th grader. I was a chaperone for his Washington DC trip with his class. He knew he’d be missing too much swimming, so he would run up and down through the Mall, up and down the steps to the Lincoln Memorial, while everyone else strolled. At night in the hotel, he ran the gray cement staircases, up and down the five flights.

When he returned to the pool, he did it! He made his first Junior Olympic time.

Now he’s in college and he knows how to persevere. He wanted to work at the campus radio station. He put in his application as a freshman and was declined. As a junior he has been assigned a time slot on the FM station, moving up from his prior show on the AM.

He wanted to be in the College of Creative Studies, “a graduate school for undergraduates.” He applied and was devastated when he was declined. I told him to move on, it was okay, get a ‘normal’ degree. But, he didn’t give up. The next year he applied again and was accepted. Learn more about the UCSB CCS program here. Just click.

I’ve had friends ask why my kids spend so much time in the pool, aren’t they missing out?

I beg to differ.  Spending most of their lives in the water has served them well. Being mostly wet has given them skills for life.

Find a local swim club here on the USA Swimming website.

 

Photo credits: The Palm Springs, CA Pool — one of the most beautiful views while swimming ever. My daughter diving wearing the yellow cap. Yellow-capped swimmers sometime at some club meet. And a great meme for a distance swimmer.

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Are parents to blame for angst and anxiety?

randk 3I watched a video posted on Facebook by one of my children’s former swim coaches about millennials in the workforce and the problems they face. It really made me reflect about my own parenting and kids. There’s an increased number of kids in this age group with depression, committing suicide and overdosing. That’s terrifying, don’t you agree? What can be done about it? And why is it happening?

You can watch the aforementioned video here

Here are the four main points of the video:

ONE
Bad Parenting

I hate that bullet point and know I’m guilty of some bad parenting myself. The main idea is that our kids were told they are special at every turn, whether it’s deserved or not. Consequently, millennials often suffer from low self esteem. While we’re trying to make our kids strong, mentally and physically, we’re doing something very wrong. We have highly educated, competent kids who don’t believe in themselves. Maybe everyone shouldn’t get a participation trophy in tee ball. It’s one of the reasons why I like swimming. Every mili-second dropped and ribbon received is truly earned. The clock doesn’t lie.

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We were unplugged as a family every summer at the beach. 

TWO
Technology

Checking our number of likes, texts, etc. give us a jolt of dopamine. That’s why we get addicted to our phones. Social media and cell phones are not much different than other highly addictive substances like tobacco or alcohol. When teenage brains are exposed to dopamine, they get hooked and their brains get hardwired. Hearing this part of the video makes me want to look at my own cell phone usage and make some changes—a good thing to think about for New Year’s Resolutions (I’ll write more about this later). Social media is preventing our kids from developing personal relationships and may lead to depression and being unable to handle stress.

THREE
Instant Gratification

Our kids have grown up in the world of instant gratification. If they want to watch a movie, they turn on Netflix. If they want to buy something, they click on Amazon and it’s delivered the next day. I interviewed a psychologist and wrote about instant gratification here. Job satisfaction and relationships aren’t a click away. Instead they are messy and time consuming, but our kids aren’t learning these skills of waiting and working for things.

FOUR
Environment

Maybe our corporate environments aren’t a good fit for young people. Our kids blame themselves when it could partially be the fault of the company they work for. Companies need to work extra hard to build the children’s social skills and work on their lack of confidence. We need to work on interpersonal relationships and one good way to start is to put the phone down.

What are your thoughts about millennials and their angst? Do you think it’s our fault they are suffering from depression and anxiety? Or, does the environment and technology play a bigger role?

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Selfie of Mom and me playing BINGO. She is the best mom and my role model. 

This simple exercise can be better than medication to fight depression

“Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.”

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What other exercises do you find effective to fight anxiety and depression?

Evidence that Early to Bed, Early to Rise Makes You Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

I wrote this a year ago. I had completely forgotten in my self pity–awaiting eye surgery and being nearly blind–about how last year I was driving my husband to work for a month after his shoulder surgery! A year later, he’s pampering me while I prepare for surgery. I have been getting up early to walk as the highlight of my day for a few weeks. I plan on continuing with my early mornings at Master’s swim practice after I’m cleared to drive. 

 

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I plan on starting my mornings here.

I am driving my husband to and from work because he recently had shoulder surgery. So, I’m leaving the house before the sun rises. Has the early wake-up time made me more productive this month? In a word–No. It makes me tired and I’m less productive. Who knows. Maybe I’ll get used to it.

I’ve read about people who get up at the crack of dawn—or before—and how successful they are. I’m talking about success like Mozart, Ben Franklin, Tim Cook and Oprah Winfrey.

It was my friend, Linda, who asked for my thoughts about if swimming helped instill this early riser lifestyle in our children. I hadn’t thought about it before, and I hadn’t made the connection to success with what time you roll out of bed. I began reading articles about this phenomenon and it makes sense. I believe kids, ages 13 through the end of their swim careers,  who are ready to jump into the pool at 5:30 a.m. a few mornings a week isn’t so bad after all. No, I didn’t like driving in the dark or leaving the house at 5 a.m. But it was a sacrifice we did together—me, my husband, and another swim mom. We took turns with driving to early A.M. practices for years.

Our kids had to be ready to go. They not only needed their suits on and swim gear ready, but their shampoo, conditioner, school clothes, assignments, books and lunches ready too. That meant preparing the night before. What a great lesson learned—because of swimming. If you want to have a great, productive day—start the day before. Don’t scramble around printing or finishing an assignment, looking for clean clothes and books 15 minutes before school starts.

Here are some excerpts from articles I read about early risers and success:

10 highly successful people who wake up before 6 a.m.
by Abigail Hess, CNBC

Waking up can be one of the most difficult and dreaded parts of going to work. But for some of the most successful people in art, business and sports, rising early is key to their success.

Apple CEO Tim Cook starts his mornings at 3:45 a.m., Ellevest CEO and co-founder Sallie Krawcheck wakes at 4 a.m. and Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and Indra Nooyi have been known to rise at the crack of dawn.

Benjamin Spall, author of “My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired” and founding editor of my morning routine.com has spoken with hundreds of successful figures about their morning regimens. “It’s not a coincidence that all of these people these people have routines,” he tells CNBC.

While Spall says the biggest predictor of success is simply having a steady routine, it cannot be ignored that many of the most successful figures in his book wake up early — as in, before-6-a.m.-early.

1. Bill McNabb, Chairman of the Vanguard Group, wakes up around 5 and gets to his desk by 6:15 a.m.
Bill McNabb, chairman and former CEO of the Vanguard Group, has a strict early-morning routine that he has not changed in decades.

“My routine has varied about 30 minutes over 30 years,” he says. “When I became Vanguard’s CEO in 2008 (a position I held until early 2018), I started coming in a little earlier so I could have some additional preparation time in the morning. Other than that, not much has changed since I joined the company in 1986.”

His routine includes waking up between 5 and 5:15 a.m., grabbing a cup of coffee on the way to work and settling in at his desk between 5:45 and 6:15. Getting into the office early, he says, gives him crucial time for creative productivity.

“The quiet time between 6 and 7:30 a.m. is when some of my best work gets done,” says McNabb. “It’s my time to read, think and prepare for the day ahead. I try really hard to preserve that time.”

Click here to read about the next nine people interviewed for the list of 10 in the article.

Another article I read dealt strictly with creative minds and writers. “Rise and shine: the daily routines of history’s most creative minds” by Oliver Burkeman, was published by The Guardian.

Benjamin Franklin spent his mornings naked. Patricia Highsmith ate only bacon and eggs. Marcel Proust breakfasted on opium and croissants. The path to greatness is paved with a thousand tiny rituals (and a fair bit of substance abuse) – but six key rules emerge in “Daily Rituals” by Mason Currey.

But very early risers form a clear majority, including everyone from Mozart to Georgia O’Keeffe to Frank Lloyd Wright. (The 18th-century theologian Jonathan Edwards, Currey tells us, went so far as to argue that Jesus had endorsed early rising “by his rising from the grave very early”.) For some, waking at 5am or 6am is a necessity, the only way to combine their writing or painting with the demands of a job, raising children, or both. For others, it’s a way to avoid interruption: at that hour, as Hemingway wrote, “There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write.”

There’s another, surprising argument in favour of rising early, which might persuade sceptics: that early-morning drowsiness might actually be helpful. At one point in his career, the novelist Nicholson Baker took to getting up at 4.30am, and he liked what it did to his brain: “The mind is newly cleansed, but it’s also befuddled… I found that I wrote differently then.”

From LifeHack.com I found “This is Why Productive People Always Wake Up So Early” written by Ciara Conlon. She made a number of interesting points from finding quiet time, time to exercise and finding your muse:

Successful people are very often early risers. From Franklin to Obama, from Branson to Darwin, all were known to rise with the morning sun. Whatever their motivations, they all reaped the benefits of putting their feet on the floor before the cock opened its beak.

The Winner’s Mindset
There is a sense of control acquired from beating the inner voice. If your mind wins the battle between victim and success, things start on a high note and usually only get better. Recognizing the voice is your best defense against him. When the alarm goes off and the voice tells you that you went to bed far too late to get up this early, or that five more minutes won’t hurt, DON’T LISTEN! Those who stay in bed won’t be competition for the big guys, but they will have to watch out for you. When you are in charge of the inner voice, there will be no stopping you.

More Time
If you were to get up just one hour earlier each morning you would gain 15 days in a year. Scary when you put it like that. How many days of our lives do we waste sleeping? I don’t know about you, but I have too much I want to achieve to waste my life in this way. If you are time deficient, sleep less. We only need six to seven hours a night. Any more is wasting life.

Get Active
The morning is a great time to exercise. It sets you up for the day with energy, focus, and enthusiasm. Some mornings when I come back from my new habit of running, I feel invincible. Stress has to work a lot harder to get hold of me, and all my relationships are happier and calmer. Exercising in the morning will make you more productive and contribute to making you more successful.

After reading all these articles yesterday and understanding how effective it is to get up early—why did I sleep in? Well, the main reason is that my husband is an early riser. His alarm goes off at 3:45 a.m. and he uses the quiet time to read about markets around the world and prepare for his day. I know I enjoy my quiet time in the morning so I let him have his space. I usually get up when I hear the garage shut. My goal, beginning in September, is to be an early riser and get to the pool for 5:30 a.m. practice, three days a week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Morning walk at the beach

What benefits do you experience by being an early riser? Or, do you get up later in the day and how does that help you? What’s your morning routine?

When passion turns into a career

kat underI remember when we became a full on “swim family,” I was criticized by well-meaning friends. They’d say things like, “Your kids have such a narrow life.” “You’re limiting their world,” or “Don’t your kids need friends?” As if being in a pool full of kids, my children didn’t have friends!

Roll forward 10 years and my daughter’s heard “you can’t be focused on swimming forever,” or “why are you still tweeting about swimming?” Funny thing about that—my daughter was delighted to accept a job today that will pay her to tweet and write Instagram captions about swimming! I’m so excited for her that she found a job connected to what she loves and she’ll be able to make a living at it.

It’s okay to have a passion at an early age. As parents, when you see your kids are really into something, it’s our job to support them. Ignore the naysayers and go with your heart. How amazing is it to swim from kindergarten through college and then work at a job in the industry you’re passionate about? It may make the day-to-day grind not seem like a grind at all.

When my kids were young, we exposed them to lots of activities and they found their own paths to their interests. We never forced them to go to practice or forced them to specialize. Swimming was part of their day and they looked forward to it. My son liked to have a lot of things going on — being in school plays, forming a band, taking piano lessons, going to science fairs. His swimming passion has now transformed into rowing and he gets up before dawn to work it into his schedule. One of the many great things swimming taught my kids was a love to be physically fit for life.33944149_10156550450214612_1114497597600432128_o

What passions do your kids have and how do you support them on their journey?