I don't know if it's fair to say I've wasted the summer so far, but I certainly haven't gotten prepared for the NCLEX the way I thought I would. My plan was to take it in mid-to-late June, but now I'm looking at late July. I had a roller coaster of emotions after graduation. I expected to feel elated, but instead I just felt relieved for about a week and then crashed into a funk. What to do with myself? I thought. Get a job, yes, but so what? That's not really going to make me happy.
Finding balance in life
And it isn't. When I first decided to go into nursing, I wanted to find something where I could make a decent dime by punching in and out and not taking work home. Then, in nursing school, I got sucked into the whole "professionalism" angle and started getting invested in things. This is what put me in a funk, because the only way to get invested in the health care system today is to embrace all the things I run away from in other aspects of my life. Over the last weeks I haven't been blogging, I have tried to re-assess where I'm at. The fact is, it would be hard for me to work anyplace and not get involved beyond punching in and out. The key for me is to be selective about involvement so I have plenty of time to balance the plasticized totalitarianism of health care with the values I cherish in other aspects of life such individualism, curiosity, antiquarianism, and nature.
Did I graduate for real?
I was concerned about grades and actually graduating before. I still haven't received my diploma in the mail, but my posted final grades this semester ended up being quite good, so I can't imagine there will be any problems.
End of blogging?
For a while, I considered stopping blogging. I was going to take down my Flickr account and erase all my posts here. I was enjoying being free of the Internet and thought about taking myself completely offline for good. But there's a reason they call it "the web". I couldn't stay away. I'm intellectually entangled. And as I thought about it, I decided that the blogging, rather than eating up my valuable time (or, rather than simply eating up my valuable time), was actually something that helped keep me going. At least for the time being, I need this outlet.
One goal I had for the summer was to lose weight, so I started back to the gym. Whenever I do this, I overwork at first and end up very sore. I spent a week with such bad pain that it hurt to do anything but sit still in a chair. Eventually that subsided, though, and I've been exercising fairly regularly since. My weight started going down, but then we celebrated a birthday with smoked ribs, and it started back up and then a plateau hit. Last night, I was down 9 lbs from two days previous, but that must be water weight. I think if I were completely hydrated I would be about 270 now. I had hoped to be around 250 by the end of the summer, but right now I would be happy just to be at or under 260.
Workplace goings-on; can't get a reference?
At work, I had a good job performance review as a clerk and so, figuring this was about as good an invitation as I was going to get from my director, I gave her my resume and asked for a job. She said there was room for me on staff, so I went down to HR. Then I find out HR requires two references from my nursing school despite the fact that I am applying for an internal job transfer. Everyone I mention this to says, essentially, "yeah, duh!" but I still think it's weird. I graduated, right? Since I've been working in the hospital for 5 years now, what do they want to know about me? If my unit director thinks I am responsible and perform well, are they going to listen instead to a reference who doesn't really know me and who they don't really know? It's weird.
Anyhow, I asked three people for references. One said yes. One didn't respond to e-mail. The third said yes, but now isn't returning my calls and text-messages. Who knows. If it would turn out that I couldn't get two positive references from my nursing school, I would be very annoyed. What would I do? I guess I would have to join the Navy. They probably take anybody.
After seeing the Virbram Fivefingers on Mark's Daily Apple and Theory to Practice, I decided to give them a try. So, I rode my bike out to the Kayak Shack and bought a pair yesterday. Here are my initial impressions...
They look nice. Just like the photos online. The sales clerk measures my foot and picks out a Sprint. First time, my toes all go in the wrong holes. After working it a little, toes go in.* First (R) fits perfect. Very comfortable. Then try a KSO (R) in one size larger. Feels okay, but probably too big. Decide to take Sprint and wear out of store.
These are very strange feeling compared to shoes--flat and not bouyant, but very light. I know they are supposed to feel like you don't have shoes on, but I wasn't expecting the effect to work quite so well. They aren't like wearing sandals. You can really feel the terrain under your foot. I would imagine they are uncomfortable on concrete for any long period.
With both on my feet, the left feels much snugger than the right and I can feel something in the left sole rubbing on my arch. This is a chronic problem with shoes--my left foot is bigger (same with my brother and mother!). While walking, the left is uncomfortable. However, I discovered that while running, the area that rubs is never an issue because of being up on the balls of your feet.
I wore them to ride my bike home from the Kayak Shack. The grips on my bike pedals didn't touch the Vibram soles, but they did touch my feet right through the soles. It hurt to pedal hard or stand. Very uncomfortable to ride a bike, and not stable feeling. Plus, my big toe almost got caught between the pedal and crankarm while riding. Definitely not recommended for biking.
That night, I took them to the gym and did a very short HIIT workout of 10 minutes. It was not what I was expecting at all. My heart rate barely got up, and I couldn't feel my glutes or thighs being used at all. The entire run was on my balls and calfs. As the website indicates, you really do run differently in Fivefingers. It's hard not to fall back into landing on the heel, but when you do, you know it: bound, bound, bound, slap-lurch; bound, bound, slap-lurch. Mostly, the lateral aspects of my calfs got worked, which I expect is from gripping with all the toes rather than rolling from heel to big toe, as in shoes.
One big difference from running in shoes was a lack of pain in shins and knees. Part of my motivation in getting the Fivefingers was the recent development of shin splints and ongoing knee pain. My thought was that switching back and forth between my normal New Balance 1224 and the Fivefingers might help alleviate the shin splints. It's hard to say. I was once told by an NCAA x-country coach that my shin splints were caused from over-development of my calfs. If that's correct, then it seems like running on my calfs would make the problem worse. But can you argue with an absence of pain? Maybe the Fivefingers are helping me utilize my calfs correctly?
As for knee pain, again, can you argue with the absence of pain? The pounding braking motion I could feel when my heels did come down first (slap-lurch) suggests to me that heel-running is putting a lot more force through your joints with every stride. I can easily believe that a better use of body mechanics could help my knees.
Recommendations from the store owner and the Fivefingers website are for easing into running to avoid hurting previously underutilized parts of your foot. The only foot pain I had was a little place at the top of my right foot, and it appeared after the biking, not the running. I often go barefoot indoors, and in summer wear huaraches everywhere, so it could be that my feet are already better acclimated.
I'm definitely going to try the Fivefingers again. They are a little awkward feeling and hard to get used to. I ran a little pigeon-toed, I think. And I'm not sure how useful they are for fitness/weight-loss if you don't get your heart rate up or use your larger lower body muscles. Too efficient? We shall see.
While at the gym, I also used a stair-climber and did an upper body free-weight routine. The Fivefingers lacked traction on smooth plastic surfaces but were otherwise fine. Wearing them with light nylon running shorts made me feel like I was lifting in the nude, but I kind of liked it. Ancient Greece, here I come!
I'm not sure if I'm going to try them for a lower body routine or not. Since their traction isn't as good as shoes, I'm not entirely comfortable with the thought of using them on hack sleds, etc.
When my brother saw them, he said the Fivefingers were "hippy shoes." As a huarache wearer and general skeptic of modernity, I can live with that.
* The secret to getting these on your feet easily and swiftly is to start with the big toe and work down to the little toe. Once the first three toes go in, the 4th and little slide in automatically.