I stink at rock climbing, or, spending money wisely

May 12, 2009

I have horrible balance. I recently recovered from a broken foot – my second broken foot in the past two years – and decided that I needed to pick up an activity to improve my balance. Enter rock climbing.

My friends Richard and Rose introduced me to the sport not too long ago, and with their encouragement, I became a member at an indoor climbing gym. The problem? Climbing equipment is expensive. Very expensive. To the point where I considered jerry-rigging the equipment myself (before common sense took hold).

I ended up buying my equipment at REI. The cost? 40% more than prices I found on the internet. But being financially saavy doesn’t mean that you should always go for the cheaper price. Service matters. Quality matters. And in this case, a great return policy really matters.

Climbers require shoes that cause their toes to curl. The idea behind this is that unfilled portions of the shoe won’t give them the ability to support themselves. Thus, smaller shoes are better. A climber I spoke to yesterday wore shoes 2 full sizes down from his regular fit.

So I bought a pair at REI at the 40% higher price. But after climbing in them one day, I decided that the shoes were too small for me. I placed the shoes back in the box – still covered in chalk – and headed back to return them.

“Why are you returning the shoes?” the attractive saleswoman asked.

“They seemed too small. Can I have a half-size bigger?” I said.

“Sure”, she answered.

And that was it. I went climbing later on and was completely satisfied. A 40% increase gets you great customer service, an excellent return policy, and guaranteed satisfaction. In a parallel universe where I purchased the shoes online, at worst I would’ve ended up keeping them due to a terrible return policy, and at best would ship the shoes back and wait a week before I could climb again. Too many companies (and people) put too much emphasis on cost. But if you evaluate purchases based on value, you might walk away even happier.

This is not me. Taken from Wikipedia.org

This is not me. Taken from Wikipedia.org


Life Is At a Standstill… Run a Marathon!

May 6, 2009

I am a serial hobbyist. I’ll admit it. Growing up, my parents had at some point enrolled me in violin lessons, piano lessons, flute lessons, art classes, karate,orchestra, and choir. Some of these things were short lived, others I’d done for almost 10 years. Aside from those extra curriculars, I picked up other hobbies of my own such as building my own websites, playing with Photoshop, and burying myself in the internet. Yes, I started young. :) Most of the wonderful lessons and classes I took were abandoned as soon as I entered college, but that doesn’t mean the hobbies stopped there. My love for art, technology, and music later prompted me to buy a guitar, buy a DSLR to start taking pictures, buy a tablet for my computer so I can further dabble in digital art… and contemplate buying a video camera so I can mess around in video editing. Yes, I am a serial hobbyist… perusing online hot deals did not help the cause as most of those purchases were the results of spotting a hot deal somewhere.

However, with all those on my plate there are still times where I feel like life is at a standstill. Even when work is going well, my personal relationships are great, I am happy… but life has stopped moving forward. Probably because I have not picked up a new hobby, made a new big purchase, reached a goal, or achieved something brilliant in a while. A couple months ago, I found myself in that state. I was stuck in a rut. I yearned for something new, but I knew I could not pick up a whole new hobby… and I was not in the mood to nurture an existing one. Or so I thought.

It was nice one day, so I asked a friend to go jogging.. and then almost instantly regretted it because a couple months prior to that, I had attempted a 5k and while I finished in an okay time, I had trouble just completing that without walking. I work out regularly so I thought I’d be in better shape to complete the race, but it was just an off day for me. Well, this day was different. I absolutely hate backing out of things, so running I went. To my surprise, I completed just over 5 miles and felt able to keep running. That day, I decided to sign up for a half marathon and start training.

Fast forward two months, I have just completed the La Jolla Half Marathon, which has a reputation for being extremely tough due several hills in the 13.1 mile course. I know I might have found a niche because even in pain, even during rough hilly runs, I keep wanting to do more. I never once felt discouraged in my 2 months of training and am seriously considering on doing a full marathon next. It isn’t a new hobby, but rather an extension of something I’ve always incorporated in my life (fitness). And for that reason, I realized that it was perhaps the perfect new thing for me to pick up. While before, working out was just something I did, I now do it with a rewarding goal in mind. I’ve turned something that was just routine into something that I can constantly work towards, and if I continue to train for races then each race is a new milestone I’ve reached. I’m excited for what’s to come, and I encourage all of you who may be feeling a little less motivated to find something within your life and see if you can bring it back to life. It’s great =)

La Jolla Half Marathon Elevation Map

La Jolla Half Marathon Elevation Map

-debs


Further Enrich Your Life Through Podcasts

April 17, 2009

It is pretty common these days for people to try and broaden their knowledge in different topics through Googling, looking at Youtube how-to videos, Wikipedia, blogs, etc.  But another resource I’ve tapped into is subscribing to podcasts.  It is amazing how many people regularly podcast content for free for your listening pleasure.  And there are a lot of really good ones that are guaranteed to enlighten you in any topic you may be interested in.  Here are a few thoughts on how to get started and how to make subscribing to podcasts useful for you.

First, some of you may still be asking, what’s a podcast? According to wikipedia, a Podcast is “series of digital media files, usually digital audio or video, that is made available for download via Web syndication.”  Someone who runs a podcast will typically record and broadcast an episode regularly, and thanks to many free programs out there these days, these episodes can be made available to us as soon as they are broadcasted.  It is common for people to download these podcasts, load them into a media player (such as an iPod) so they can conveniently listen to these podcasts anywhere.

There are many ways that people manage and discover podcasts.  There are different “podcast catchers” out there, as well as websites with lists of different podcasts to subscribe to.  Usually these podcasts are in the form of an “.xml” feed.. it works similarly to an RSS feed.  The address for that feed is what you want to enter when asked what feed you would like to subscribe to.  When a new episode is available, the podcast catcher will see it in the Podcast feed and download it.  I personally manage my podcasts through iTunes because I find it very easy to search for podcasts in the iTunes store, subscribe to them right away inside iTunes, and then listen to them.  Another customizable setting that is worth noting is the “auto delete” setting.  By default, a podcast program will usually auto-delete podcasts after a certain number of days, or after they are played.  I like to have control over which podcasts I keep and which podcasts I delete, so I usually select whatever option it is that never deletes podcasts episodes.

Whatever you’re interested in, there is probably a podcast for you to subscribe to.  For me, I’ve listened to and watched podcasts about topics ranging from personal finance, the stock market, the economy… to food, fitness, health… to discussions about the environment and living an eco-friendly lifestyle, to free music lesson series, free “personal trainer,” workout music… I even subscribe to my favorite morning show so I don’t miss out on the fun topics they discuss at 6am when I’m still sleeping.  The possibilities are endless.  Just search for a topic you’re interested in and start subscribing!

-debs.