When I was living in Vancouver, one of my four jobs was nannying for two amazing girls. It was the best job ever because we shared many important interests: eating ice cream, picking blueberries, biking, stalking dogs in the dog park, and talking about animals. One day, I took these two little ladies to a park and they were trying to play on the seesaw. Due to their 3 year age gap and size differential, Lil Sis found herself flying up in the air while Big Sis was stuck on the ground. Big Sis soon sized me up and said, “I bet you are about as big as both of us put together.” I thought she might be right but since they (thankfully) didn’t know exactly how much they weighed, we conducted a little experiment. I set them up on one side of the seesaw, and took to the other. We floated up and down in near perfect harmony, and even played with balancing at the midway point like we were an elementary school math problem come to life.
If only finding balance was always so simple.
This past week, I was on vacation for the first time in a long time. I had a few days off last winter and fall, but I hadn’t had a proper week off since…January 2015? Yeesh.
I was in Boston for the 4th of July weekend, taught a yoga class on Tuesday morning, and then it was off to Stowe, VT for my family reunion. We’ve been taking over the same motel during the hot air balloon festival for the past 25 years. Since my grandmother and I were the first to establish this tradition waaaaay back when I was 3 years old (or, “knee-high to a grasshopper” as my dad would say), I knew that I wanted to spend some quality time up there to celebrate 25 years.
Chris, my sister, and her finance didn’t come up until later in the week, so it was just me and my parents for a few quiet days. Now, as a somewhat introverted individual, I think of myself as someone who really embraces down time. Growing up, I was a huge fan of long walks, long books, and activities that would bore anyone with a lot of pent-up energy. I still think I’m better at relaxing than most (what a skill to have, I know), but my down time and self care has been minimal as of late. My schedule has become so packed, from a 9-5:30 job, teaching yoga (and prepping to teach yoga), practicing yoga, running/training for my half, and November Project – not mention things like spending time with friends and family. So yeah, I’ve been keeping myself busy. When suddenly faced with a few days with no schedule, I found myself wondering how I should “best” spend the time. I was developing mental lists of things I wanted to “get done” on vacation: daily run and core work, 2-3 weeks of yoga sequences complete, read 2 or 3 books, go for a hike, go kayaking, write two blog posts…
This is vacation. There are no rules or requirements. I’m going to lay off the lists (even if it is a list of fun things) and just see where the week takes me.
With this new frame of mind, I decided that the best way to enjoy myself was to seek balance just like I do in my everyday life. Figuring out when to strive, be disciplined and push myself vs. when to slow down, scale back, and loosen up is always challenging for me. I’d been running around a lot, so it was time for a healthy dose of chill. I also love so many of the things I listed above, so I was excited to just find enjoyment in every bit of yin and yang I selected each day.
Here’s a sampling of ways that I sought out balance and enjoyment for those few sweet days:
Nourishment & Indulgence
I don’t know about your family, but when MY family gets together, we make some kickass meals. When we’re in Vermont, this typically involves a lot of my favorite indulgences: ice cream, cheese, beer, and BBQ. Knowing this, I opted for a healthy breakfast every morning, and sought out lots of veggies and fruit during the day. This didn’t involve much thinking; I just kept to my normal eating habits until about 5pm, and then said yes, yes, and more yes to everything that looked tasty and fun for our big family dinners. If you’ll notice, I only have photos of us enjoying burgers and beer and none of me eating salads for lunch. Can’t imagine why…
Solo Time & Family Time
As I mentioned, I consider myself a moderate introvert (i.e. I’m not afraid to talk to most people but I need quiet time to recharge), so it was amazing to have a week to enjoy lots of quiet time in addition to energizing family time. After a long solo run to clear my mind, it was so much fun to hike with my parents or walk and catch up with my sister. Reading by the pool is way better when you have lots of family around to chat with in between chapters (although I certainly didn’t read 3 books – I got halfway through The Martian and I’m considering that a win).
Activity & Rest
I wasn’t going to ignore my half marathon training while I was away and being active is often my favorite part of my day, but I also knew that I needed to recharge and catch up on sleep. So each day involved a little bit of both. I started every day except Sunday with a good sweat, whether that was biking, hiking, or running. But there was also lots of laying in the hammock/posting up by the pool with my sequencing notebook, and I refused to set an alarm for the full 5 days.
On most vacations a few years ago, you wouldn’t have found me running. But it’s become such a fun part of my life lately that I didn’t give it much thought and headed out the door each morning excited to get moving.
I felt like I was nailing this whole balanced vacation thing until Saturday morning when Chris and I were lacing up for my long run. I was a week behind in my training schedule, so I thought I would skip the recommended 6 mile long run and jump up to 10. But I was torn: Chris is hoping for an even 6 so maybe I should so that. I am really sore and my knee feels iffy. Plus it’s our last day here and I want to hang with my family! But I’ve been feeling great and want to keep pushing myself. Maybe I should go for 10.
I went back and forth in my mind for the first mile or so, but then something magical happened. The rumbling clouds overhead suddenly opened up and it started to rain. And by rain, I mean absolutely pour. Suddenly it felt like we were running through the jungle, the rain drenching us on open clearings and trickling through the trees when we dipped back into the forest. As we wound alongside pastures and mountains and rushing rivers, I left all planning behind and just enjoyed the amazing feeling of running in a summer downpour. I’m pretty nothing can make you feel more strong, alive, or badass. You’re the victor. You’re the hero. You’re the star of this epic comeback montage.
It was one of the best runs of my life. We couldn’t stop smiling and whooping. I soon knew it wasn’t the time to push it and end up having a rough experience rather than a truly incredible one. I stayed with Chris as we wound back to the motel and jumped directly into the pool. The rain had cooled the outside air by a solid 20 degrees, but the pool water was still super warm and steaming from the change in temperature. I’m normally big on post-run yoga/stretching/core work, but a few laps in a warm pool on a cold, rainy day is too good to pass up. That’s what I love about getting outside no matter the conditions – it may seem like a cold, wet rain would make for a miserable run, but it could also be the most fun you have that day and a run you remember forever.
In this particular moment, I found that sweet spot where I could practice balance: I had shown discipline by getting out there, but then just enjoyed the day and let my training be flexible and fun.
My takeaway was to not be too hard on myself no matter which side of the seesaw I’m leaning toward on any given day. Sometimes you dip toward indulgent, sometimes you dip toward working too hard. But as long as you notice and sway back toward center, the fluxes are just part of the journey. The best part is when you find that something nurturing or “good for you” – like a healthy meal or a run in the rain – is also super fun. Then you get the best of both worlds. Green grass all over the place.