Still Not Real

Maybe by the time you read this, it will feel real. That I am traveling to Africa for the first time (Senegal, to be precise). But right now, writing this on the plane (instead of sleeping. Ugh), I still don’t really believe it. Don’t believe that the plan hatched on our porch over red wine more than a year an a half ago, the plan that required multiple modifications as funding sources were pursued, denied, and new ones pursued, the plan that seemed impossible actually worked and we are now just a few hours away from Dakar.

Partly I think it’s due to the way airports and plane travel see to exist outside of time and normal space. Waking up before 5 a.m. In the dark to drive to a place where one’s sole function is to sit and wait, time seems to both exqpnd and contract. Where is the plane? Is it here yet? Can we board? Yes, finally (due to a mixup with the airlines, we were at the airport hours before we needed to be), it’s here! Hurry up and wait again, this time in line. And then, on the plane, sitting again, flying east, towards tomorrow. Leaving this (or yesterday, I guess) morning, we saw a gorgeous prairie sunrise in Missouri, a sunset in DC from the airport bus, and night sky, moon, stars, and a sunrise from the plane as we flew across the Atlantic. All the phases of the day, all while sitting and waiting impatiently to arrive in a new place and day. Waiting to experience new sights, sounds, and culture. It’s the promise of travel and the reason we are willing to force our bodies to stay awake for 20+ hours and endure the brutality of shifting our internal clocks by so many hours.

So, no, it still doesn’t feel real, but I can’t wait to see what the next 10 days bring.

Working Out on Campus

One of the questions people have been asking me a lot (other than “why?”) since I started my fitness project is how I like using UMKC’s campus recreation center to work out. Often, the implication is that it is not a good place for UMKC staff and faculty to work out — the main assumption being that working out with students is somehow problematic. I have to say, though, that I love working out at Swinney — and here’s why:

  • Convenience. If I want to take a lunchtime class or just work out, I can do so and only be out of the office for a little over an hour (assuming I’m taking one of the 30-minute classes or doing a short workout) because I don’t have to drive anywhere. I just grab my bag and walk over from my building (which gives me the added bonus of a few steps towards my 10,000/day goal). If I went to an off-campus location, I couldn’t do lunchtime classes or workouts as I would have to add in driving/parking time. This has turned out to be key to my success at sticking with a program this time around as I absolutely HATE going to the gym in the morning and am also not hugely keen on the post-work gym visit. But lunchtime works well for me.
  • Cost. As an employee of UMKC, my membership is $20 per month. Yes, TWENTY dollars. Sure, I pay extra for classes and training, but it’s still the best deal in town, hands down. Rates for alumni and community members are also very reasonable. You can check out their pricing here.
  • Community. This has turned out to be the best, and most unexpected benefit, of working out at Swinney. Because I knew I would do better with some accountability built into my routine, I signed up for classes, talked some of my friends and my husband into doing so also, and got a trainer. I now have a host of workout buddies and have also gotten to know some folks better. Additionally, I have developed a rapport with many of the employees at Swinney — sure, I knew them before, but now I see them much more often and take the time for a chat when I come in. A lot of my other colleagues also work out at Swinney so I see them in the fitness center or locker room and get to catch up with them. Without the time at the gym, I wouldn’t see many of these people — so I am not just taking care of myself physically, but am also building better relationships through my time at the gym, which benefits me both personally and professionally. I truly was not expecting that, but would argue that it’s the second important thing to come out of this — after decreasing my body fat percentage.

“But,” I hear some of you saying, “what about the students? I don’t want to see my students in the gym.” I have to say this has been a non-issue (such a non-issue, in fact, that I am befuddled when folks ask me about it). Yes, I do see students in the gym — some of them I know and some I don’t. Some who are in my classes, some who are not. If I know them, we’ll greet each other (assuming they recognize me — I look different in gym clothes with my hair pulled back apparently) and then we move on to doing what we are there for — working out. In other words, if you are avoiding using your campus gym because you’re worried about running into students, in my experience that is a non-issue and the benefits far make up for any awkwardness. I should note that I say this with one big caveat — which is that at Swinney, we have separate locker rooms for students and faculty/staff/community. I would feel much differently about working out on campus if I had to share a locker room with students.

Bod Pod @ Swinney Recreation Center

Bod Pod @ Swinney Recreation Center

And remember: If you’re at UMKC or in the KC metro area, and want to get an initial assessment to help determine your baseline and goals, you can get a free Bod Pod before December 31 by calling the Wellness Coordinator at  816-235-5425 to make your appointment. Tell her Brenda sent you!


It’s been a while (September, in fact) since I reported on my fitness project, so now seems like a good time for an update, especially since we just did another Bod Pod and there are good results to report. First the results — since my first Bod Pod on July 30, I have:

  • Lost 12 pounds;
  • Decreased my body fat by 6%;
  • Lost 3 inches on my waist, and 18.25 inches overall (all measurements combined);
  • Gone up in all but one of the strength assessments;
  • And improved my heart rate, cardio endurance and RMR.

Those are pretty good numbers if I say so myself. But what they don’t tell you — and what’s even more important is how I feel. Sure, losing a few pounds and fitting into my jeans better is nice, but the real benefits I’ve gotten from starting this fitness program relate to my general well-being:

  • No more backaches: As someone who spends a fair amount of time hunched over a computer, I used to get backaches fairly often. Since I’ve started regular strength training sessions, POOF! No more backaches. Ever. It’s amazing.
  • Better sleep: I know this one’s a cliché, but it really is true – my sleep has improved quite a bit since I’ve been working out consistently.
  • No ankle pain: A few years ago, I sprained my ankle pretty badly and since then, had pretty consistent pain when taking longer walks, hikes, etc. This past weekend, we took an hour-long hike in the hills pictured below and I had no pain in my ankle, despite having forgotten to bring my ankle brace.
Hiking the Loess Hills in Northwest Missouri

Hiking the Loess Hills in Northwest Missouri

Overall, what all of the above adds up to is that I just feel like a “fit” person now — in ways I  did not previously — and that feels pretty good.

With New Year’s approaching, lots of you will be making fitness-related resolutions. If you’re at UMKC or in the KC metro area, and want to get an initial assessment to help determine your baseline and goals, you can get a free Bod Pod before December 31 by calling the Wellness Coordinator at  816-235-5425 to make your appointment. Tell her Brenda sent you!

Pulling Back From the Edge

Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s recent post on burnout, got me to thinking (or to be precise, continuing to think) about my own recent case of burnout. In particular, this resonated:

In order to be genuinely engaged where it most matters, in other words, you have to find regular, routine ways to disengage. And to somebody as completely inculcated into our always-on, more more more culture as I am, that disengagement does not come easily.

Or at least it doesn’t come easily in a productive form. But it’s becoming clear that if I don’t figure out some better strategies for managing productive disengagement, a few much more damaging modes of disengagement are lurking just around the corner.

Especially the part about the more damaging modes of disengagement — for as anyone who’s had the displeasure of dealing with me (or worse yet, expecting me to complete a project on time) over the past few months knows, I’ve been dealing with my own case of burnout.

Burnout from what?

  • From the seemingly endless need to “do more with less” as staff and budgets continue to shrink in public higher education.
  • From the need to fundraise due to disappearing donors and unrenewed grants.
  • From working too much.
  • From saying “yes” too often.
  • Etc., etc.

Taking on more than I could actually accomplish is bad enough, but what was really bad how I chose to deal with it. Basically, I spent the summer simply not doing anything that didn’t absolutely have to be done. Blogging, website updates, writing I’d promised to complete all went undone. Worse yet, I didn’t communicate with anyone that I wasn’t doing these things — I simply withdrew and didn’t do them. (To be clear here [in case my bosses and/or colleagues are reading 🙂 ] — I did do my job. It was the extra stuff I like to cram in around the edges, my “projects,” that suffered. Basically anything outside the scope of the Women’s Center — #femlead, Alt Academix, etc. — was essentially ignored for 3-4 months). But the real red flag — the one I ignored for months — was my lack of joy in any of it. For the most part, I love my work and I only take only extra projects that I care about. This summer, I didn’t give a damn about any of it. That should have been a sign early on for me to do something, but I ignored it.

I’ve only recently managed to pull myself out of this funk and am starting the process of catching up on the undone things, as well as apologizing to the folks whom I let down by not keeping up with things. And realizing, as Kathleen writes in her post, that I need to find better, more productive ways of engaging and disengaging (as opposed to engaging at full speed for more months, then burning out and disengaging entirely, and then coming back). But, as she also points out, figuring out that balance is HARD because one wants to “yes,” from both ego and a desire to please.


Overland Park Arboretum. Perfect place to spend a fall afternoon.

So, how to accomplish this productive disengagement? I’m not sure I know, but I’m trying. This past weekend we took Saturday afternoon off and went to the cider mill and arboretum. And we have already made plans with friends to do dim sum, followed by a visit to the Prairie Center this coming weekend. So that’s a start, I suppose.

The next step, however, is to figure out how to turn these into sustainable practices, which is the hard part. It’s fairly easy to realize when you’re at the “about to go over the cliff” stage, but preventing yourself from getting there in the first place is the harder part.


August Report: Slowly Getting There

Yesterday was September 1 and today is Labor Day (yes, already!) — to me, that means summer is officially over (despite classes having started two weeks ago) — and it’s also time for an update on my fitness project. Because I love data (#quantifiedself anyone?), here are my stats for August:

  • Days exercised: 27
  • Exercise miles walked: 35.8
  • Personal training sessions: 7
  • Kinesis classes: 3
  • At-home workouts: 11
  • Steps: 340,955 (almost 100,000 more than in July)
  • $$ spent on new workout clothes, gadgets, etc.: A bunch
View of LA during my morning travel walk.

View of LA during my morning travel walk.

For someone who before August exercised only sporadically, these are pretty good numbers, especially considering that I traveled for part of that time (and was thus tempted to blow off the assigned resistance band workouts as working out in a hotel room is a pain. The fact that I did not is really rather surprising).

I am also feeling more energetic and sleeping better (although oddly, less on average). I’ve also improved my diet (still a ways to go there, however) and cut back on alcohol and caffeine.

What’s surprised the most is how much I have actually enjoyed what I’ve been doing — as someone whose self description includes “aversion to sweat,” my newfound love for Kinesis and strength training has been a revelation. Cardio, on the other hand, is still nothing more than a necessary evil (unless it is a walk in the Hollywood Hills rewarded with the view to the left. Then it’s okay). Only thing to do is crank up the tunes and suffer through it.

In the next week or so, we will redo the original assessments to see what changes the last month has brought. Whatever those reveal, the biggest change is that this is starting to feel like a permanent habit. That is the most surprising change of all.