Free Printable Swim Training Dry Erase Workout Card

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

I'm very open about the fact that I'm a lousy swimmer. I figure it's nothing to be ashamed of. I never learned properly as a kid, I was never on a team.

But for reasons that still elude me, I really wanted to do triathlon. So I cobbled together knowledge from swimmer friends, fellow tri bloggers, my triathlete PT, and the little bit of coaching I've been able to afford along the way.

Moving up to 70.3 triathlon distance this past season was a huge motivator, in an abject fear of the swim cutoff kind of way.

I knew my regular routine of slogging through junk yards at the gym wasn't going to cut it. Especially after months of recovery from plastic surgeries, followed by my compressed spinal cord situation, kept me out of the water for over a year... and let's be real, I hadn't been in it all that much since my comically bad performance in the 2015 Chicago Tri that I won't even pretend was due to the 58 degree lake.

I had always assumed I'd go to the Master Swim class at my gym once I was ready to take the next step. But it's currently not happening due to lack of instructor, so I was on my own.

Started researching training plans. Understood I had to add things like drills and speedwork.

Quickly discovered that I can't keep track of it all in my head.

Then I remembered seeing swim sets being laid out for the Master Swim on the white board at the lap pool. Thought about using that, but since I'm not an experienced swimmer, I couldn't entirely figure out the cryptic notes.

I needed something simple. So, I made myself a card that incorporated options for all the various types of swim training plans and drills I've seen floating around tri geek world.

Then, I...

  • Laminated it to make it waterproof and dry erasable
  • Punched a hole in it
  • Used a binder ring to hang it from my swim bag
Before I head to the gym, all I have to do is fill out the card with the swim sets in the training plan.

The only catch so far is that if I shove it in my bag, the dry erase can rub off. But I'm too lazy to bring the hard copy of the workout and a dry erase marker to the gym, so I just try to be careful not to rub too much off.

It sits poolside, right next to my pull buoy and other related torture devices.

Sometimes I secretly use checking it as an excuse to take a few extra seconds of break between hard sets. It makes me look like some fancy athlete doing something all official when the truth is I'm just a terrible swimmer with no stamina in the water.

But it really has helped a ton. I waste a lot less time pausing between sets trying to remember what the hell I was supposed to do next, or counting on my fingers trying to sort out how many more laps are left of a given set.

It helped take my tri swim from abysmal to below average. That's a big win for me.

The guy crawling behind me was all of us
after that unbelievably hard swim.
Rescue pulled 210 athletes from the lake that day.
The swim coach I worked with this spring very much approved of it as a training tool. Between her fixing my stroke and general approval of the direction I was taking my training plan with help from this planning tool, I was able to take my swim from never gonna make 1.2 miles inside 1:10 to reliably doing it in roughly 48 mins in practice.

Of course, we all know you never know what race day will bring. In the case of Steelhead 70.3 2018, it brought huge waves and, because Lake Michigan is a fickle bitch, an are you freaking kidding me wetsuit optional water temp of 76.4. Hundreds of us opted in, because we like not drowning.

This picture is of me frantically checking my watch as I cross the timing mat to find out if I was disqualified after surviving the uphill swim through the washing machine stuck on the murder cycle.

I squeaked in with 2:34 to spare.

I couldn't have made it without the focused effort I made in the pool with an appropriate training plan, made easier with this swim training aid.

If you're like me, you're heading into winter thinking about lazy easy ways to work on your skills so you come out of the off season ready to train. This card is an easy tool to help with that.

You can make your own handy dandy swim training card with this free PDF download.

Laminator not included. Sorry, Google hasn't sorted out how to digitize that yet. But they assure me they'll get to work on it as soon as they nail down the self driving cars.

This is cross posted on my dusty old triathlon blog.

I pinned this post to the triathlon section of my blog posts board.

I shared this post on my ShesAlwaysWrite Facebook page.

Do I Have Issues? Nope. I Have A Subscription

Monday, June 11, 2018

Image credit: Unknown Redditor
The impression most people have of anxiety disorder is discomfort at parties, or lying awake at night worrying.

The reality is that it's much more insidious and invasive. It makes things harder, more time consuming. It takes up space in every corner of your life.

Disorganization and clutter are a huge anxiety trigger for me. It also sends my OCD into overdrive. I spent a good bit of time and money last year purging and redecorating my office because of it.

I have a Pinterest board called Organization Porn.
It's full of fantasy scenarios like this.

My office had become a chaotic catch-all from a decade of prioritizing my special needs kiddos. It got to where I was having anxiety attacks just walking up to it. I would stand outside the door with my heart racing, trying to breathe, willing myself to approach my desk.

I had to start from scratch. But I'm still working on the purge because I cannot simply discard things I no longer need.  I will spend absurd amounts of time obsessively seeking a placement for any item, no matter how inconsequential, if it is still useful.

Emptying out the things I no longer need is easy because creating open space where once was clutter soothes my anxiety.

Finding homes for them takes time, but it's a necessity because if I don't the OCD would make me so anxious about I would regret it every day for the rest of my life.

Most of the piles in my office are things like boxes of family photos that go back generations because my relatives heard I was interested in geneology. Craft supplies for projects I've been planning for years, and have not yet given up on. Things that can't be discarded, and must be organized.

Those are easy. Organizing things is soothing. I get to buy a new storage unit? It's like Christmas!

But then there are the other things. Functional things.

Reference books I no longer need.

Craft supplies from projects I definitely gave up on.

And the one that haunts me worst of all...  a pile of unread Writer's Digest magazines dating back to 2008. (Spoiler Alert: I had my first special needs baby in late 2007.)

I kept insisting I would read them.

I would move individual issues to my nightstand... and then put it back on the pile after a month or two.

I'd think about recycling them.

I'd move the pile to an end table to force me to see them.

I'd think about recycling them.

I'd move the pile back to a corner of the bookcase.

I'd think about recycling them.

I've moved this stack of magazines around more times than I can count, insisting I would not fail in my sacred duty to read them.

I felt terrible guilt and anxiety.

I should read them. But they had become clutter.

I should eliminate clutter. But I should read them.

And around and around it went. For 10 years.

The voices that live in my head were pretty sure if I got rid of these dusty, decade old magazines, that...

  • I would be forever be branded as a failure at my profession
  • Everyone would hate me
  • The world would end

Not necessarily in that order.

My shiny new office is once again a cluttered catch-all, because family and kids and life. But it is much better. I eliminated a lot and organized more. But it's already triggering anxiety, and the magazines are one of the reasons why.

They became a tangible symbol of my mental illness.

I decided it was time to confront them.

Then... I waited almost 6 months. Because I needed to consult my therapist. Except I knew what she would say, and I had to give myself one last chance.

We all know I didn't read them.

I bit the bullet. Today was the day. I confronted the anxiety and I did the thing any reasonable person would have done 10 years ago.

Tomorrow is garbage day. The bin went out for the night as soon as I put them in. That guaranteed I can't let the guilt win and try to rescue them.

So... if the world ends tomorrow... sorry y'all. My bad.

This post can be shared from my ShesAlwaysWrite Facebook page.
I pinned this post to my ShesAlwaysWrite Blog Posts board under Mental Illness.

Healthy Halloween School Snacks - Juice Box Ghost

Monday, October 9, 2017

In recent years, school policies regarding the kind of treats that parents send in for parties have required they either be healthy snacks or not food at all. I am fully on board with this, because the first couple of years of having a kid in school were spent incredulous at the sheer volume of treat bags my kid brought home.

Since Halloween is basically synonymous with candy, it felt important to do something good enough to distract the kids from the fact they're not getting any candy at their class's Halloween party.

I spent a lot of time at my place of worship on Pinterest, rolling my eyes at the complex, time consuming, super cute and crafty ideas from moms who either have far more time on their hands or, like me, sometimes forget to take their meds.

But I still wanted to do something for my son's preschool class, and the Mommy Who's Psycho Notably Enthusiastic About Halloween needs to deliver.

So I looked poked around the pantry and came up with this half-assed adorable idea for juice box ghosts that you can throw together in minutes. Enjoy!

Juice Boxes
Coffee Filters
Glue Gun
Small Child (optional)
Coffee (optional... Who are we kidding. This should be the first item on every project supply list.)

He was super helpful. Super. Helpful.


Step 1 - Draw The Ghost Faces
Ask the small child to help because he wants to help and drawing ghost faces on coffee filters seems pretty harmless. Immediately realize putting a Sharpie in the hands of said small child was a mistake.

Bonus Round: Realize after you've already done half of them that the Sharpie is seeping through the coffee filters and your countertop now features a series of little ghost faces.

Step 2 - Glue The Ghosts On
Plug in the glue gun to heat up. Sip coffee. Leap into action every time the small child tries to touch the hot glue gun.

Put a dollop of glue on two edges of the sides of the each box.

Bucket List Item: do a glue gun project and not burn my fingers

Important: Don't use too much glue, or the poor teacher will be cursing your name while 17 small humans ask her for help getting the coffee filters off so they can then ask for help putting the straws in.

More or less center the ghost face on the front of the box and lightly press the coffee filter into the glue. Burn your fingers and drop the juice box. Repeat as necessary.

I knocked out enough of these for a preschool classroom in about 10 minutes, managed to drop it off at school just in time for the class's Halloween celebration, and the teacher gushed like it was the coolest thing she'd ever seen.

Next time you're scrambling for a tribute to maintain your spot in the Cool Mommy Brigade, give this a shot.

Do you have any ideas for your own super simple Halloween themed healthy classroom snacks? I'm all ears!

Cutest ever army of the undead

I pinned this post to my Halloween Party Foods board.
I tweeted this post because I can't help myself. The Twitter, it's shiny.

Halloween Burlap Bubble Wreath

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

As I mentioned already, I ended up hosting a wreath making party.

You can see the obsessively planned and agonized over burlap and ribbon wrapped Halloween themed wreath I made that day in this other post.

What I hadn't planned on, though in hindsight I should have expected, was that just like after any party where guests bring things... people left their leftovers.

Since wreath making supplies can get expensive they didn't leave the big stuff. But, I was left with a good bit of mismatched floral flotsam.

Cut to the week or so before said estrogen drenched gathering... I was helping my good friend and neighbor (and instigator of said wreath gathering) do her yard for Halloween. There was a little styrofoam skull and hands that had fallen off something else; she said I could take it or throw it away. I knew it was perfect for... some project I hadn't yet conceived.

Needless to say, I had my peanut butter meets chocolate moment and... voila! Between a square frame I'd found on clearance but didn't know what to do with, a random sampling of wreath party leavings, a little freaky fabric I pulled from my stash, and the rescued body parts, I ended up with one of my most favorite wreaths I've made.

Moral of the story... hoard other people's trash and you can make pretty things! Wait, no.... that can't be right. Anyway. Poing being: WREATH! Skulls! Halloween! HAPPEE!

I pinned this post to my Halloween wreath board and my crafts board.

Halloween Themed Burlap & Ribbon Wrapped Wreath

Monday, October 2, 2017

So I ended up hosting a wreath making party. (I know, you're totally shocked!).

I bought the printed ribbon you see above quite some time before. I fell instantly in love with it and I'm pretty sure the world would have ended if I didn't take it home.

I agonized over this project because I wanted to make sure I was absolutely certain how to deploy my special ribbon. I knew it wouldn't survive my incompetent fumbling and having to be redone several times like my much sturdier first wreath project with burlap and felt rosettes.

I got so busy hostessing at the wreath party, plus ended up sharing my glue gun with basically everyone, that I didn't manage to finish it until after everyone left. Which was probably for the best, because my frustration levels with the natural tendency of wrapped wreaths to come out unevenly is not really suitable for public consumption.

But finish it I did, and I am so so so happy with how it turned out! 

It's deceptively simple. This project is really about patience. I should probably get some of that before I attempt another wreath like this. But, totally worth it. Because it's. so. pretty!! Morticia Adams would be proud.

Oh, and I totally made another Halloween wreath with the party leftovers. Because of course I did.

I pinned this post to my Halloween wreath board and my crafts board.

Pirate Theme Birthday Party - DIY Water Bottle Labels

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

When my first one turned 6 and wanted a pirate themed birthday party I took plenty of pictures of all the projects with every intention of turning them into a series of DIY pirate party blog posts.

That kiddo is about to turn 10 and my second is about to turn 6... and wants a pirate themed birthday party. 

So this is me, finally putting it all together for you and for me. I'll add links and make a master collection once I get enough up.

Custom Labeled Birthday Party Water Bottles
For reasons that escape me, making your own labels for water bottles is one of the easiest ways to impress people with your party planning prowess.

I love them because they're a quick, cute and kid friendly project.

Flat(s) of bottled water (I get the little 8 oz bottles, I find there's less wasted)
Scotch tape

Printed labels (download a free PDF printable of the water bottle label pictured above)

There are 7 bottle labels per page, so just do the math for how many pages to print based on the number of water bottles you're doing.

1) Cut out the labels. 

If your kiddos are old enough, they can do this with scissors. If you're lazy like me, a paper cutter will make quick work of this, but that's decidedly not a kid friendly option.

2) Tear the existing labels off the water bottles. I highly recommend letting the kiddos do this. It's fun and easy.

3) Tape the new labels on. This is pretty kid friendly, though if precision matters to you then your mileage may vary.

That's it. That's the project. It's so self explanatory I thought about just throwing up the picture and the printable download, but for the sake of search engines and all I figured I should include some words.

Learn From My Mistakes
These labels won't survive being dunked in a cooler full of melting ice at a party. Which should go with out saying... yet here we are.

I pinned this post to my Pirate Theme Birthday Party board, which mostly consists of mind blowing cakes made by incredibly talented people (read: not me).

I shared this post to my obligatory blog Facebook page.

I tweeted this post from my ShesAlwaysWrite tweeter thingy.

Other Pirate Theme Birthday Party Posts
Pirate Theme Birthday Cake

Mixed Messages

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

There's no doubt about the kind of negative messaging women get about their bodies from fashion. I have learned that goes double for fitness gear.

I thought the problem was that I was really, really overweight. Turns out that wasn't it at all.

Now that I've lost 140 pounds and am eyeing my first Half Ironman, I realized I need a new wetsuit.
2015 Chicago Triathlon ~ size 14

The one I wore 80 pounds ago is simply too big now. I passed it on to an awesome woman in my running group. She's a far better swimmer than I will ever be and races more often, so I'm happy to see it get used like nature intended.

My old suit is a size Large/Athena ("Athena" is code for "fat" in triathlon world) only because it was the largest size available anywhere, from anyone. I really needed one a few sizes bigger. Many women who need suits that much bigger go for men's suits. I'm very short and very curvy - men's cut suits simply aren't an option for me.

Imma be honest, the suit baaaaaaarely fit when I was size 22. That alone was depressing, because I'd lost 50 pounds at that point. But it's stretchy enough it got the job done, with the caveat I could only sort of breathe, on account of even women's cut wetsuits aren't intended for my pre-mastopexy 40J girls.

That said, it saved me in several races, and made the biggest race of my life so far possible because hello, Lake Michigan was 59 degrees. It was all I had and I was grateful it got me in the (really fucking cold) water.

Cut to present day. Based on my shiny new weight, I figured I'd need a Small. That's my regular size now in most things, and they're stretchy.

To my dismay, based on my measurements (a muscular 5' 2" and 135-140, which is somehow both a size 4/6 and technically overweight) I discovered I need either a size Medium/Athena or a size Large.

This is from the size chart of the wetsuit company that was the first (and may still be the only) brand to offer designs in Athena sizes and with designs that account for things like hips and boobs.

I like this company a lot. They made it possible for me to have a wetsuit at all. But... damn. Way to make a girl feel like crap.

I shouldn't be surprised, I routinely have to size up to Medium or even Large in running gear. It all tends to run small. But it pisses me off to no end. I shouldn't have had to spend the last decade feeling grateful I was able to force something to sorta work when I spent just as much money as everyone else.

It was far worse when I started out at a size 26/28 - finding fitness clothing was my biggest barrier to becoming fit.  With exception of the Danskin brand, which will have my loyalty forever for clothing me in accurate sizes when no one else would, the "plus size" offerings out there all run just as ridiculously small as their regular sized options. (Case in point... I bought a size 3X Garneau bike jersey that finally fit when got down to about an XL, a real world size difference of 22/24 to 14/16.)

Let me be clear, this isn't about how I feel about my body. I've done a lot of physical and mental work to make peace with my body. What upset me so much is that the average woman is not a size 4. And I will always identify with the women who are not a size 4 because I spent the last couple of decades being just about every size a woman can be.

No woman who is motivated enough to be out there, doing the hard work it takes to race, should be made to feel like she is regarded by equipment makers with disdain simply for existing in a normal, human sized, age grouper body.

The average beautiful, healthy woman is a size 14. And she should not be made to feel like an outcast when searching for something like an expensive piece of equipment to facilitate participation in an endurance event she is doing to feel good about herself and her health and her body.

Women are constantly criticized for our bodies and told to fix them. But fitness gear is cut for anorexic, flat chested pixies. There is little available to comfortably fit most normal, average sized, everyday women with hips and breasts. It's patently absurd that even someone like me, who has gotten down to wearing XS and S in clothing sizes, is forced to be looking at the uppermost size range of what's available on the fitness gear market. And even then, it often doesn't fit because they aren't cut for any sort of real bust.

I can deal with what that does to my dysphoria in therapy. But it doesn't change what it does to the vast majority of us when we are out there sweating in the training trenches, actively doing the right thing for our health, yet are faced with size charts saying we aren't even invited to the party.

No wonder we all hate ourselves.