Running Again

So my husband who is currently overseas had taken the liberty to register me for a half marathon before he flew off. The date is set in April, that is less than a month from now.

The last time I did a half marathon was about 2 years back. It was painful but crossing the finishing line gave me a great sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, unlike the kind you get from scrubbing 2 toilets and polishing the floor. I guess my husband got that figured out, thus he had been very enthusiastic in signing me up for running events. For a while, those were our regular dates where we would sneak out for weekend morning runs before the kids wake up.

Then few months after the last half marathon, I busted my knees during skiing. I was devastated and thought I wouldn’t be able to run again. My husband however thought otherwise, he assured me that I would hit the track in no time and manage a 21km soon.

I still cannot fathom the kind of faith he has in me. Perhaps it was his way of comforting and encouraging me but trust me, when your holiday had been cut short and you were on crutches and had to be wheeled onto the plane, that kind of encouragement didn’t quite work. It almost felt annoying to hear him go yadi yadi ya without having to bear the pain and think about taking the next step.

He’s been away for 2 weeks now and apart from holding down the fort, I have been training quite a bit for our upcoming run. This was what it looks like last week.

Monday – run 13 km

Tuesday – rollerblade 10 km

Wednesday – run 5 km

Thursday – 1.5 hour pilate lesson

Friday – cycle 42 km

Sat – rock climbing with kids

Sunday – rest

2 days ago, I did an impromptu long run.

I started off with 10 km in mind but by 8.30 am, the weather was still breezy and cloudy. It was a sunless morning, a rarity, the perfect kind of weather for running. Unfortunately I was also very ill prepared. I had just switched to a new phone and didn’t have my Runkeeper and music installed. Those were my necessities!

The stretch I would be running was deserted, with no water point and I didn’t carry any water with me. I have never attempted that kind of distance on my own, especially not without proper hydration, but on the other hand, I was feeling energetic and felt I could go on.

I text my girl friend and my husband, seeking advice on whether I should continue. Obviously, my husband was like ‘go for it, all stars are aligned!’ (see, he is my best cheerleader). My friend however thought I should turn back.

The text messages went back and forth a couple of minutes and I finally went ahead and completed 20 km that morning!

My thighs and calves hurt and my foot was so sore but it felt soooo good to push myself, and did more than what I set out to do. I came home and pampered myself with a good salt scrub, gulped down 3 glasses of those healthy green smoothie, took a nap and headed off to pick up the kids.

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Now I can’t wait for my husband to be back so that he can join me for a good run, hopefully by then I would be able to keep up with his pace!

 

 

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This entry was posted in Fitness.

How To Keep Our Children Safe

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Sometime ago, I was asked to write an article for a parenting magazine on how to keep our children safe in today’s world.

I was hesitant, because through the years, I have come to realise that being safe can mean very different things for different people / parents.

What is meant by safe? What do we want our children to be safe from? From hurting themselves? From other people? How safe do we want our children to be? Is avoiding risk the same as managing risk? Will avoiding risk make them less ready for the real world?

I think these questions alone are worth a couple of essays.

I remember how my ex-neighbour held back her child when she came over to my place and saw my toddler playing with a frying pan and spatula. The ones I used for cooking, the real stuff made of metal, no less.

No, we didn’t child proof our kitchen, in fact my toddler often hangs around in the kitchen when I cooked. He had a cabinet of his own with all his cooking tools so that he could cook along with me. The old frying pan and spatula were some of those tools.

When we first became parents and lived in our apartment on the 10th floor, my parents strongly urged us to install window grilles. We have since moved multiple times, staying at various high rise buildings, but we never installed window grilles for our home.

In the last 10 years, we have relocated our home for like half a dozen times? Both local and overseas and my boys grew up tinkering with real tools helping their Dad fixed up furnitures. When my elder boy was about 3, we bought him a craft hammer from Jo-Ann. He loved it so much and carried it everywhere he goes. He knew how to use it and he learned about things that would break and those that could withstand hammering. Needless to say, we got disapproving looks from strangers and even friends who thought it was too dangerous for a preschooler to be walking around with a hammer.

No, I am not a risk taker. When it comes to the physical aspects of raising my child, I often fall into the overprotective side. In fact I come from a family where falling down is not ok and safety has to come first and children are often too young to try anything ‘dangerous’.Because of that, letting my kids do dangerous things creates natural anxiety inside of me. But thankfully, I am married to a husband who believes that it’s never too early to start teaching our children how to manage the dangers in life. And we have come a long way since the day we hiked up Schilthorn and Eiger Trail.

Recently, my neighbour found out that I allowed my boys to play with fire. She was appalled. I struggled with whether to tell her that her son has been splurging on fire crackers and sparklers at the minimart near our place and has kept them in a ‘secret’ place so that she wouldn’t find out. She would probably ban her kid from coming over to my place if she found out about the blow dart my boys made using PVC pipe.

It’s often easier to lock away dangerous tools than to let our kids experiment under our supervision. Some of us will start very early with great caution and some risk. Others will wait until the risk has diminished and they have more confidence in their children.

I find it fascinating to watch a normally active and restless kid settle down, focus intently with a tool held in hand, determine to accomplish a given task. It’s amazing how kids given freedom learn their own limits, develop a sense of safety and respect for “dangerous” tools, objects and learn to trust their intuition and instincts.

‘Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet’ noted Helen Keller. Children need to find ways to cope with difficult situations; they need to learn that they can. Building character and emotional resiliency is a lot like developing a healthy immune system. We know that our children need to be exposed to a variety of bugs and viruses in life. Not only is it impossible to avoid, but this exposure is necessary in order to build up their own protective immunological front.

The skills that we need to be successful in the world aren’t entirely learned in a classroom. The most valuable lessons are learned through experiences both good and bad. Unfortunately, fear is also a normal part of the parenting experience.

When should we let go? How do we know they are ready to do it on their own? Should we stick around to watch them?

On top of our own fears, we sometime have to deal with judgement of other parents. ‘What! you let your kids play with fire?!’ The implied judgement in statements such as this is that I am an irresponsible or negligent parent.

Our parenting instincts can work for or against us. On one hand, only through our instincts will we ever know whether they are ready or not. On the other hand, our parenting instincts, in their rawest forms will prevent us from putting our children in a position where they could possibly get hurt.

If we think we have done our part to spend time with our children, to supervise them and teach them the skills to keep them safe, we should trust our instinct, take a deep breath, let go, watch them try, strive and grow.

 

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Lesson From My Mother-In-Law’s Steamed Fish

The kids are back in school after the 4 day weekend break. Everyone went back to their normal routine on the 3rd day of Lunar New Year. I thought it was a pretty short break considering that on some years, school only starts on the 5th day of the new year.

We had our reunion dinner with my husband side of the family where my 78 years old mother-in-law took days to prepare the reunion dinner. Every year, both she and my father-in-law would make multiple trips to the market to stock up on groceries and fresh produce and she would spend her day, cleaning and arranging everything meticulously.

Age is catching up with her and with the renovation of their place this year, she only had less than a week to prepare everything. Still, she managed to cook up an impressive spread.

I remember those years where she would prepare Ngor Hiang and Ah Zha to gift to all her children and close relatives. Her Nyonya dumplings were unmatched and she cooked the best steamed fish.

One would have thought that steaming fish should be a no brainer. Just let the boiling water do the job, no? At least that was what I thought.

And that was exactly what she did too. She had a wok of boiling water and the ingredients she used were nothing unusual. It was almost like, her secret to cooking perfect steamed fish was … No Secret. But somehow her steamed fish always tasted better.

It was a mystery.

It took me a long while but I think I finally figured out the 2 main ingredients for her tasty steamed fish cooked to perfection,  meticulousness and precise timing.

The process starts from choosing the freshest fish and cleaning the fish. From clearing the stomach to rubbing it down with salt, rinsing and dripping it dry. Then depending on the size of the fish, the time it takes for the fish to stay over a wok of boiling water has to be just right. A few minutes too early, the fish would be half cooked and a few minutes too late you might end up with the fish being too tough thus destroying the freshness of the fish.

I realized that like learning any new skill, to gain expertise, one needs to practise, practise, practise. And the quality of practice is just as important as the quantity.

Simple practice isn’t enough to rapidly gain skills. Mere repetition of an activity won’t lead to improved performance. But instead, understanding what needs to be improved and the areas that can address these deficiencies need to be constantly worked at. My mother-in-law took years to figure out the different timing needed to steam different fish depending on the weight and size.

Greatness requires dedication and sacrifice, period. Being good at something requires a fair amount, being great requires a huge amount. If you want to be great at what you do, then much dedication and sacrifice is required.

Geoff Colvin called it deliberate practice and he believes it is this that separates world class performers from everybody else.  I agree with him and I believe that deliberate practice can be used by anyone, not just world class performers but anyone who wish to better themselves and be really good at what they are doing. You can be a football player, a swimmer, a pilot, an admin clerk, a painter, a parent, a homemaker, and in this case, it is what separates my mother-in-law’s steamed fish from everybody else’s.

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So deliberate practice we shall have and may we be better every year than the year before.
Here’s to a great monkey year filled with happiness, good health and prosperity!

Huat ah!

xxxx

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