Sunday, April 25, 2010

The price of Convenience - by Leo Babauta

I post here an article I read today on mnmlist, a blog by Leo Babauta, who runs a few websites about simplicity, including my personal favorite Zen Habits (see links). I didn't bother rewrite the article because that is pretty much word for word what I think... 

If there is one direction modern society has been moving in during the last century, it is convenience. That pretty much sums up the last 100 years or so: washers & dryers, cars, airplanes, TVs, microwaves, personal computers and the Internet revolution, fast food, agribusinesses, frozen food, dishwashers, machines and modernizations of any kind.
We’re a society of conveniences, more than anything else. But at what price?
The global warming crisis, for example, has been entirely caused by conveniences, and the solution, many say, must be just as convenient as the problem: electric cars, clean energy, smart homes, organic convenience foods. I’m not entirely convinced — I think we’re going to need to rethink our love of conveniences.
The obesity epidemic has also been caused by conveniences: fast food and microwaveable meals and food that has been processed and artificially flavored so eating takes so little work that we do it in huge amounts. The solution, for many, must also be convenient — they don’t want to cook their own meals or put in hours of exericise. They want fast but healthy meals that are ready instantly, exercise that can be done in a few minutes or that feels easy, pills and surgery that solve our fat problems. My thinking is that exercise is and should be hard work — hard but fun. Cooking healthy meals takes a little time, but it should be enjoyable and mindful cooking and eating.
Cars are wonderfully convenient, except when they aren’t: hefty monthly payments, taking time for maintenance and cleaning and fueling, breaking down in the middle of the highway or not starting or getting a flat tire, getting road rage when stuck in rush hour traffic, circling the block to look for parking, and so on. The cost of that convenience, of course, is our health and our environment — small prices to pay, perhaps.
Convenience always comes with hidden costs, when you look at the whole picture. Sometimes that cost is to the Third World, or to the environment, or to our own future, but hey, that’s Somebody Else’s Problem.
 It’s inconvenient to hang dry clothes, but it’s also pleasant and sustainable. Having a small home garden is not as convenient as relying on agribusiness, and yet it’s worth the price of inconvenience. Walking, biking, and taking mass transit isn’t so convenient, but it’s much more enjoyable and sustainable than relying on cars.
What inconveniences can we incorporate into our daily lives that would be rewarding in many ways? I don’t have the answers, only the question.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Hard days

Week 3. So far I didn’t have any truly hard day. Until today. I woke up this morning and I was still feeling sick (at the end of the season, when the tension ends and you start to rest a little, this is usually when most of us divers get sick. I am part of the lot. Every season). Also yesterday I got stung by a big insect on the knee and it is now 3 times its normal size, quite sore and extremely itchy... Anyway. Getting up was not that bad, I felt quite rested, so I just got up, put on my running outfit and went out for a run. I am still at the very beginning of the programme so I only go running for 7 minutes everyday. God these 7 minutes were looooong... My legs felt really heavy, my breathing could not find its rythm, even my arms felt heavy and useless. After what seemed to be an eternity, I looked at my watch to discover that I have been running for... 2:35 minutes ! God some days it is just so hard... In the end, I finished the run and gratrefully sat down on my porch sweating like I have been running a 10K... 

This reminds me of a book that I just finished from the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami (What I talk about when I talk about running). Murakami is a writer but also a runner and when he was preparing this book, he went and met with a few profesionnal runners to interview them. To one of them (Japanese runner, I can’t remember his name), he asked if he ever had any days when he just didn’t feel like getting up and go run. The runner looked at him like it was the most stupid question he has ever heard and answered “of course, it happens to me all the time”. Isn’t that nice to know that even professionnal runners struggle some days ? Well anyway, it does help me. I am not the only one struggling. And there will be some hard days. A few. Otherwise what's the challenge ?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bigger plans

The short 45 minutes squash game the other day really messed me up... The very next day I was on the liveaboard again and my right arm was so painful, I couldn’t swim or even do any sun salute (the plank would just be a torture...). So instead, every morning, I did a 10 min stretching. At least I would still get up in the morning and do some kind of physical activity. Plus, everything I read about trainings advises to take regular rest and to stretch a lot after exercise. So I guess it is all for the best.

I am starting to think about a grand plan for the triathlon in August. I am a little nervous because it will be my first ever race and there are 3 activities to practice... I am already planning on taking swimming lessons when we will be in Paris, I will have to come up with a plan for the bicycle. The 2 things that ease my mind are that the course is pretty much flat the whole way, and that the swim happens in a lake (swimming in the sea is sooooo much more difficult). Plus, we will try to find a 10K before the triathlon so I can experience a race before running a triathlon... All in all it is quite exciting and I can’t wait to go back on land and start running again...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Keeping on track

It has already been 2 weeks, and though it is not a very long time, I am quite proud to say that I am still following the plan. Every morning when I get up, I just go for a quick workout. It hasn’t been easy because of my hectic schedule, but even when I was on the liveaboard, I managed to keep it up. I would get up at 6am instead of 6.30, and would go for a short swim or climb on the sun deck to practice a few sun salute,  before enjoying a gorgeous sunrise. Since back on land, I have been diving pretty much every day to accompany my friend from home who is here for a couple of weeks. Again, I get up in the morning and go for a run. Nothing strenuous, just a 5 minute run for now, but I plan to slowly increase the lenght. We are planning on running a triathlon in August in the US, and also, I would like to maybe run a 10K in July, kind of as a warm up... Which all leaves us about 3 months to train for the 10k, and 4 months for the triathlon. 
When I have a day off, I go for a longer workout : last week, we went  for a one hour walk up the hill behind our house (at 12 o’clock in the middle of the thai hot season, it is worth a good 3 hours walk anywhere else...), and this morning we went for a 45’ minutes squash game ! For the first time since I play, this morning I won, which makes it even more enjoyable !...