Monday, March 9, 2015

Slow and Steady Wins More Than the Race

When Resolute Running clients achieve their personal best time during a big race they pin their bibs to this wall at the fitness center. This year I'm determined to see my name on the PR wall!

Yesterday I ran 9 miles and afterward actually didn't feel as if I'd been hit by a car. And I really do know how that feels, but that's another story for another day. For a little over a month I've been following a training plan developed by Coach Ann Thomas of Resolute Running Center. Yesterday's run was a strong indication that Coach Ann's plan is actually working. 

Sure, I've run more than 9 miles before. I've completed two half marathons. But each time I pounded the pavement for those 13.1 miles I felt terrible by the time I crossed the finish line.

My hope is that after my next big race I'll be able to enjoy a celebratory brunch with my hubby (who's always waiting for me at the finish line) instead of just collapsing in his car.  

When Coach Ann gave me my first running plan I was confused. You see when it comes to running I am definitely the tortoise, not the hare. I'm so slow that sometimes I feel like I shouldn't even call what I do running; it's more like jogging or better yet slogging. 

So imagine my surprise when Coach Ann told me she wanted me to run slower! In fact, she wanted me to run at a pace that's even slower than my walking pace! 

We need your body to make certain physiological changes that only occur when you are running at about 65-79% of max heart rate," Coach Ann said when I asked her why she wants me to run slower even though I'm already slow as molasses. "Running slower (sometimes, substantially slower) than race pace elicits this response.  Muscle cells increase in number, size, and distribution of mitochondria.   Your body also builds more capillaries in the exercising muscles which distribute more blood, meaning more oxygen.  Both of these changes enable the muscle to fire efficiently, so you can run farther and faster with less effort." 

Coach Ann constantly says to me and other clients that she's not just training us so we can run a race this year. She's training us so that we will be able to continue to run 10, 20, even 30 years from now. 

"Runners often think that if 5 miles is good, then 10 is better, and that if running at a 9min pace is good, than 8min pace is better; this is not necessarily true," Coach Ann said. "Increasing mileage too quickly greatly increases the risk of injury.  High mileage can yield great results, but the increase needs to be done slowly and with care.  Running all of your runs at race pace just burns out your legs.  For best results, you need a variety of paces, including slow runs to achieve the cellular adaptations and speedwork to increase VO2 max (a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use)."

If you're a runner in the Birmingham area looking for a coach to help you train for next big race (and a running lifestyle), visit to find the right trainer for you. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

How to Move a Mountain

Anyone who knows me well knows I love TED Talks. I show TED Talks to my students at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. When I'm in a long line at the pharmacy I open up the TED app on my phone to see what new talks have been posted online. And last year when I had the opportunity to attend TEDxBirmingham 2014 I was as giddy as a kid on Christmas Day. I literally skipped from the car to the front door of the Alys Stephens Center where the event was held. It would be my first time attending a live TED event. The theme was "Rediscover the Magic "and that I did. I left inspired with a new love for my city, a renewed determination to make it better, and an even greater passion for TED.

Things were different this year. TEDxBirmingham 2015 was just as fantastic, perhaps even better. But this year I felt the giddy girl of last year's event being asked to grow up. She was being asked to move a mountain.

"Move Mountains" -- that was this year's theme and it was quite apropos. The topics broached this year were as heavy as looming rust-stained rock of iron ore that we in Birmingham call Red Mountain. Human trafficking, our country's broken health care system, and environmental degradation are just a few of the issues this year's 12 speakers forced us to face.

When Sunny Slaughter's 7-year-old daughter was raped years ago by her own husband, Slaughter was filled with a rage that no one would have blamed her for acting on. But she used that fire to fuel the work she does today working as an activist working to end human trafficking. Slaughter hit us with the statistics of the the number of girls sold not just in other countries, but also in America and even Alabama.

In closing, she said, "I'm not trying to shock you. I'm trying to scare the hell out of you."

But how are we to move a mountain when the sight of it shakes us to our core?

The speakers covered that, too.

"Fear is great soil for growth," Tracey Abbott said during her talk. "The purpose of life is not to be comfortable but to grow."And despite her fear, Abbott recently quit her corporate job to found Culture Relay, a social enterprise dedicated to empowering high school girls through cross-cultural exchanges.

So feel the fear and face that mountain anyway. And here's how you can move it:

Shift the way you see that mountain. Be willing to look at everything in a new way. You make think that our country's obsession with sports will lead to its demise. But Andy Billings, professor of sports media at the University of Alabama, is using sports to delve into issues of race, gender, and more. Yes, it's true that very few Olympic swimmers are black, but why is that? Are black people just not good at swimming or could it be that blacks once had little to no access to public swimming pools and thus black parents were hesitant to encourage their children to learn to swim knowing they couldn't help them do so? And what kind of important conversations about gender can we have simply by looking at how women are portrayed on the covers of Sports Illustrated magazine?

Be willing to be radical. When Venkata Macha was only a sophomore in high school he asked a radical question: "Why isn't there a urine test to help detect cancer?" Then he did something even more outrageous -- he emailed renowned researchers all over the country asking them the same question. The result: he spent the summer before his junior year working in a lab of a Harvard University professor doing research to develop a bioelectronic chip for immediate, non-evasive cancer detection. "Radical approaches could have extraordinary results," Vekata said.

Your radical idea may be to tunnel through your mountain. If so, just dig and keep digging. While chipping your way through you will be discouraged. But so many speakers urged attendees to see failure only as a detour, not a dead end.

Or maybe you'll decide that moving the mountain isn't the best way to get to the other side.

"Sometimes it's more efficient to climb the mountain than to move it," civil rights activist and advertising executive Shelley Stewart said during his talk.

Strap on your boots and let's do this.

Kent Stewart is climbing mountains literally. He is on a quest to hike the Seven Summits -- the highest peaks on each of the world's continents. He only has one, Mount Everest, left to summit.

"What's your Everest?" he asked the crowd.

To become the first woman to qualify for the finals of American Ninja Warrior Kacy Catanzaro didn't have to climb an actual mountain, but she did have to scale a 14-foot warped wall and she had to ignore all the voices that said she couldn't do it.

Remember that moving this mountain isn't all about you. Kent Stewart can't climb Mt. Everest without a team of people supporting him. You need a team to climb your mountain, too.

And ask yourself why you want to get to the other side of your mountain in the first place. Shelley Stewart urged us to be mindful of our reasons, relationships, and reputation.

"What's the reason you really want to overcome this obstacle?" he asked. "If your motive is right your goal is more likely to be accomplished. Relationships are important, he said, because "you can't effect change by yourself."

And you shouldn't do it simply for yourself.

You have the power to change someone's life simply by clearing the mountain in your path -- whether you climb it, tunnel through it, or blast it to bits, you will change the life of another person.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

How I Get Stuff Done

Yesterday morning I once again had the honor of being featured on ABC33/40's Talk of AlabamaI was on last month discussing how I managed to exercise every day for 365 days. This time I had the chance to promote my e-course How to Write and Have a Life. (For a limited time, you can view my segment here.)
People constantly ask me "How do you do it all?" because I juggle managing See Jane Write with teaching full time, freelancing part time, blogging, exercising daily, being active in my community and church, and spending time with my husband, family, and friends. And so I developed this e-course to show people exactly how I get stuff done.
TOA tips
Yesterday I offered four time management tips to Talk of Alabama viewers:
Multitasking is ruining your life.  Many people believe that multi-tasking will help them get more done and that’s actually not true. You can get more done and in a shorter period of time if you simply focus on one task at a time. Whether I’m grading papers, writing a blog post or cleaning my apartment, I can do those things in half the time if I focus on doing just one thing. And in my e-course I share a technique that I use to help with focus.
The magic is not in your planner but in the planning.  People always ask me, “What kind of planner do you use?” And I always tell them “The magic is not in your planner but in the planning.” To get more done you must be intentional about how you spend your time. In my e-course I show you have to make to-do lists that will help you set priorities and even plan out each hour of your day when you are especially busy.
Remember that "No" is a complete sentence.  Even though I do a lot, I believe in taking a day off. Each week I set aside a day when I do no work and I just relax or spend time with family and friends. If you’re consistently unable to take that day off, then you’re doing too much. In my e-course I write about the importance of realizing that "No" is a complete sentence. And when trying to determine when to say "No" it’s about vision and values. If something doesn’t move you closer to your vision for your life and doesn’t align with your values, ditch it! In the e-course I walk you through exercises to help you determine your vision and values.
Stop sleeping through your life.  I am a believer in the old saying that the early bird gets the worm. Getting up early is a great way to get more done, especially if you are a parent. If you wake up before your family does, you can have time to yourself to work on that book you always wanted to write or update that blog you’ve abandoned.
But to be honest with you, my #1 secret to getting stuff done isn't something I can teach -- it's simply gumption.
I'm not feeling well right now and didn't get much sleep the night before my segment.  Snow was in the forecast for yesterday (which as you know for Alabama is a HUGE FREAKING deal) and thus there was a chance my segment would be canceled. A part of me wished that it had been because I was so exhausted that morning. But then I stopped being a big baby and stopped feeling sorry for myself. And sometimes this is exactly what we need to do to make the time to pursue our dreams. Sometimes you just have to put on your big girl panties and do the work!
Stop making excuses and just do what needs to be done.
Click here to enroll in How to Write and Have a Life today!

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

A rising tide lifts all boats.
On Thursday evening the Birmingham Business Journal celebrated its 2015 class of Top 40 Under 40 with an awards ceremony at Iron City. I was among those honored, chosen for the work I do through See Jane Write. The evening was nothing less than fantastic.  I walked in the door and was greeted by several people I'd never met before who wanted me to know how much they loved my picture -- the one that ran with my article in the Birmingham Business Journal, the one I was once insecure about because I'd opted to wear a trendy Olivia Pope-inspired outfit instead of a traditional black or navy business suit. "Your picture was hands down the best," one fellow honoree said to me. This was a great lesson in daring to be different and daring to be myself.
A rising tide lifts all boats.
A table with my name on it and people stopping and asking to take my picture all made the night feel surreal and unreal. I tried to soak it all in. I tried to figure out what I would write in my blog post about the night ,but I just kept hearing the same thing in my head over and over:
A rising tide lifts all boats.
As each honoree received his or her reward, a video recorded the day of our photo shoot was played for the crowd. I'll be honest -- we were all dreading this moment. Seeing yourself on camera is bad enough. Seeing yourself on a larger-than-life screen while hundreds of other people look on is much, much worse. In the video we were each asked what helped our career take flight. Again, I dared to be different. My answer wasn't about a partnership or promotion. Instead I spoke about getting over my impostor syndrome and self-doubt. I talked about the importance of believing you deserve success and I declared that if I want people to take me seriously as a businesswoman I must do so first.
As the ceremony continued several women made their way over to my table to thank me for what I said in my video, to thank me for saying something they believed all women needed to hear.
Ironically, even though Thursday's ceremony was in part a celebration of me, it was also a reminder that my successes aren't about me. In fact, that's why I call my organization See Jane Write, not See Javacia Write. It's not about me. It's about empowering all Janes and all Writeous Babes; it's about empowering all women writers, bloggers, and entrepreneurs.
A rising tide lifts all boats.
An expanded version of this post appears on the See Jane Write blog

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Like a Boss

Last week the Birmingham Business Journal announced its Top 40 Under 40 class for 2015 and I am proud to say that I am among the young professionals chosen for this honor. What makes me even prouder and even happier is that I recently learned a group of women who have in some way been inspired by the work I do through See Jane Write teamed up to nominate me for this recognition.

This time last year I didn't even consider myself a real entrepreneur and now here I am being featured in the Birmingham Business Journal! This wouldn't have happened without the support of that group of women (or the support of my sweet husband who helps me with every See Jane Write event). But I also believe this wouldn't have happened had I not decided to change my attitude last summer.

Back in July Megan LaRussa Chenoweth's keynote address at the See Jane Write Bloganista Mini-Conference inspired me to start taking myself seriously as a businesswoman. As a result, I revamped the See Jane Write website and weekly newsletter, started working with a business coach, and started signing up for every webinar on business building that I could find.

As I state in my article for the Birmingham Business Journal, "My career as an entrepreneur started to take flight when I overcame my self-doubt. Once I started to take myself seriously as a businesswoman, other people started to as well."

For that article, each honoree was asked to answer a slew of questions and obviously not all of them could be used. If you live in Birmingham I hope you'll pick up a copy of the latest issue of Birmingham Business Journal at a local bookstore like Little Professor Book Center. But I thought it would be fun to share with my blog readers a few of my responses that weren't used in the article.


What keeps you up at night? 

Ideas keep me up at night! I always have so many ideas for lessons I can teach, programs I can offer, events I can host, and things I can write to inspire my students, my clients, See Jane Write members and other women in my sphere of influence.

What's the first website you visit each morning?

What book has influenced you most in your career? 

The book that has influenced me most as an entrepreneur is Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In. It pushed me to overcome my impostor syndrome and to start believing that I am good enough and smart enough to do what I want to do.

What inspires you? 

Women inspire me more than anything on this planet. My mission in life is to empower women and girls to find their voice and share their stories. That drives nearly everything that I do.

What important lesson have you learned that has helped your career? 

I've learned to embrace and be unapologetic about my femininity and to never see it as a liability.

What's the best advice you've received? 

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Your turn! I'd love to read your answers to these questions, too! Leave them in the comments.