Verb: WRITE a thesis

Writing has become more of a state of being for me these days. When people ask me how I’ve been, I respond “-__- I’ve been writing.” When they ask me where I’ve been, I respond, “>.< I’ve been writing.” No matter the time of day or night, if you ask me what I’m doing, the answer is “x_x writing “

I am so over writing! So to explain my state of being for the past 2 weeks, I will keep the writing short and use visual cues 🙂

Writing has completely absorbed me. The only people that see me on a regular basis are my writing buddy Kim (@realkimtillman) and the librarians that check us into our suite at Hotel Librarie (in my french accent. . .*oui oui*).

This is where the magic happens. We play word games like “Guess the Title”, where we write any and all words relevant to our thesis topic and try to form the best title. . .

We feng shui the room for the best writing or typing energies. . .

We are so focused that the librarians check in on us and remind us to eat. . .

We still forget and resume writing utnil an announcement over the PA system says “The library will be closing in 3 minutes. . .at midnight. . .Kim and Ayana”.

That really happened last night.

We go home, sleep it off (translation: have nightmares that the library will no longer allow us to reserve a study room), and repeat.


*le sigh* It’s a necessary evil in achieving the highest degree in the United States – PhD! Stay tuned for this explanation 🙂

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©2013 by Ayana Martin

Verb: Run. . .I DID IT!!!!

My very first official 5K race is complete! I ran the entire race and had a great time running. Shoutout to Ron B. and Marquia B. for joining my mission!

Through trial and error (mostly error) and notes from a Race Day Prep clinic, I have compiled a list of pointers for race day:

Before the race

  1. Plan, prepare, and hydrate.
  2. Research the race. Practice the route.
  3. DO NOT try anything new before race day (no new foods, clothes, gear, or workouts). You don’t want new foods souring your stomach, new clothes feeling uncoomfortable, new headphones continuously needing adjustment, sore muscles from a new workout. . .etc.
  4. Taper down workouts the week before.
  5. Load up on carbs the night before (for shorter races, this isn’t so critical).
  6. Lay out your clothes the night before.
  7. Sleep your normal amount the night before.

On race day

  1. Get there early! The energy is totally different, so you’ll want to calm your adrenaline.
  2. Warm up with dynamic stretches, get your heart rate up a bit, stretch.
  3. Don’t start too fast! Run your pace and finish strong.
  4. Listen to your body. Drink before you’re thirsty. >30 min run: rehydrate with water every 20 min (4-6 oz); >1.5 hours: electrolyte beverages are recommended.
  5. Run in negative splits: your first mile should be the slowest, speed up as you go. This is how you get your best time.

After race day

  1. It’s good to have 200 calories or less after running to get rid of any sick feelings.
  2. STRETCH, rest, and eat! Protein rich foods will help prevent soreness.
  3. Celebrate – You did it!! Whoop!!

Other notes

  • Socks are very important! “Cotton is rotten.” Dry, cool feet don’t blister. Left and right specific socks are better.
  • Compression sleeves cut down on muscle vibrations and soreness. They also increase circulation, which can help prevent injuries.
  • DO NOT forget a fanny pack or drawstring backpack

Now you know what I know! I can’t believe I actually ran the entire race, but my body is telling me it really happened. And I love the way it feels! Insert(VERB)Here: RUN. Yes, I did it!

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©2013 by Ayana Martin

Is there a Doctor in the building???

I wish! I need some mental healing after this week.

As some of you may know, I am a graduate student working on a PhD in research science. My subject of interest is Molecular Medicine and Translational Science. . .yes, I get the same headache you do from reading that! Not to mention my work environment is not the easiest. My mentor and I suffer from disparagingly different personalities and communication methods. Over the past 6 months we have had to learn to work with each other to keep the work environment friendly. I am proud to say that I have not given up on my goal of getting this degree and instead taking the easy way out by simply walking away.

As a Black woman, the message “I deserve better” was ingrained in me by my strong single mother, my education, my environment, even society (whether by directly portraying or crying out against the contrary). And in my life, I was afforded the luxury of being able to simply walk away from situations and circumstances where I was not being heard, treated respectfully, or talked to in a way that was useful to me. I had bigger and better opportunities lined up. But when the discomfort of this PhD process reared its ugly head, I found myself for the first time NOT in a position where I could just move on to bigger and better. This was SUPPOSED to be the bigger and better! Maybe life had been a little too kind to me, because while deliberating my decision to leave or stay, I realized that this lesson in succeeding under someone else’s terms is just as important as succeeding on your own terms, if not MORE important. “I deserve better” is not an entitlement. I still have to earn it, prove it, and work for it.

Being in a work environment that takes up 94.7% of my time (just under statistical significance) makes balancing life all the more difficult. So when I got news that my 88 and 1/2 year young Grandaddy had to get a pacemaker, I was rattled. Multiply that by the fact that he lives clear across the entire USofA AND the fact that I don’t feel comfortable enough in my work environment to let anyone know the burden I am carrying. . .I nearly freaked. And when he suffered major side effects and setbacks. . .I had all but lost it.

Despite my constant prayers and faith that he would be okay, I was fading into a numbness to protect my sanity. I was falling into a routine of waiting for news and updating my support army. And a mighty army is what they are! I received constant encouragement, help, care! One friend was at the ready to get me on a plane home (shout out to PED). Another friend blessed me daily with encouragement (shout out to SB). Several friends answered my calls every time I dialed their numbers, no matter the time of day or night (shout out to HMW, KMT, RDB). Someone showered me with virtual hugs (shout out to JF), others answered my questions about devices, treatments, and conditions that even remotely related to my Grandaddy (shout out to JG, JDU/RU), and many prayed for my Grandaddy and me (shout out to my facebook fam/friends)!

The great thing about prayer and faith is that they truly work! My Grandaddy is recovering and is almost back to 100% and I was able to balance my responsibilities without missing a beat. I didn’t miss work, still worked out, and even filmed a video for an upcoming project (details coming soon!!!).

Although I am not a Doctor (of philosophy) yet, and the doctors on my Grandaddy’s medical team weren’t perfect, the Good Doctor above was in the building (and still is!).

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*Disclaimer: I am not intending to preach to anyone about my beliefs. These are simply my experiences, opinions, beliefs, and values.*

©2013 by Ayana Martin

It’s Easier to Keep Running?!

So weeks 5 and 6 of running were interesting. They started off with a walk/jog combination and transitioned to a 20 minute jog with no walking by the end of the week. During week 5, this 20 minute jog seemed ominous. But when the day finally came, I was able to tuck away another victory! I jogged for 20 minutes straight and when it was over, I wasn’t wheezing, coughing, gasping, or ridiculously panting! *Cabbage patch dance*

When week 6 came, I just knew I had it in the bag! But the strangest thing happened. I was huffing and puffing during the run segments, and felt like I needed the walk segments again! What is going on?! 

At the end of the run, our run lead explained what we were feeling (So I’m not the only one? Whew!). She told us that the purpose of weeks 5 and 6 were to overcome the mental hurdle of running. With week 5, we conquered the physical hurdle of running longer. Week 6 conquered the mental by proving that we tell ourselves we need breaks when we actually don’t. It’s actually easier to just keep running! It’s all about pace. I am definitely learning to pace yourself. If I get ahead of myself and my breathing becomes labored, I slow down. . .sometimes to a glorified walk if necessary. This Couch-to-5K program is amazing! Had the run lead told me this last week, I’m sure I would have laughed in her face. But the program speaks for itself. Trust the program. The final weeks are longer running segments. And now I KNOW I can do this.

It’s almost time to show out y’all!

©2013 by Ayana Martin

5 Weeks until the 5K!!

I’ve been surprisingly committed to my training! I have encountered obstacles that normally stop me in my tracks. With each passing week I faced a new challenge (besides convincing myself to run another day). But every time, someone gave me an answer I could not refute.

NOBODY can say they didn't see this hot mess of me coming down the road
NOBODY can say they didn’t see this hot mess of me coming down the road

Obstacle 1: Night running.

Solution: Headlamps! In “5K Training Update“, I explained how I showed up to my first night run in all black. #tragic By the end of the week, I went out and bought my own headlamp for less than $3! The first time I wore it, I felt so silly. . .like Bob-the Builder (Can we run this?? YES WE CAN!). But safety outweighs sexy on this one!

Obstacle 2: Flat-ironed hair.

Solution: Dri Fit headbands! I managed to keep my hair together post run! Dri fit material is a God-send! It sucks moisture away from the body and locks it into the material. (The cold weather and slow jog pace probably played a big role in saving my hair, as well.) Someone suggested a dri-fit headband and/or cap. They are both available at Sally’s Beauty Supply for about $3.50 each. I ended up trying both because I was under the impression that the cap would protect the middle hair area and reviews said it was a little on the big side (which I agree with). To my dismay, the cap is just mesh on top to hold the hair down, but the dri-fit headband I DEF recommend!


Obstacle 3: Rain.

It's just a little water :)
It’s just a little water 🙂

Solution: Ponchos or windbreakers. I secretly hoped rain would allow me a break from running, since I am still not in love with it, but BGR! said rain or shine, WE RUN! -__- *le sigh* Okay. . .I snagged a camping windbreaker on clearance at Target for about $5. The Dollar Tree also sold 2 ponchos for $1. The free route would be using a trash bag from home. I’m not THAT dedicated to the cause. . .just being honest. I opted for the camping windbreaker because it was a bit more durable, meaning I could use it outside of running.

Obstacle 4: Injury.

Solution: Take a break! Despite all the suggestions and advice for the obstacles listed above, the best piece of advice I have received thus far in the journey to 5K is Listen to your body! Challenging my body with fitness has proved to be beneficial (-5lbs, craving healthy foods, more energy, positive vibes), but it has also proved that I am, in fact, human. Taking a break is OKAY. I won’t fall behind in my commitment because I have conquered the mental challenge of running. It feels less like a chore and I actually look forward to running with my #TeamTeenyWeenyBikini partner. During my injury break, I focused on my health in other ways: dieting better (check out this article on superfoods, most of which are NOT difficult to incorporate into the Plain Jane life); alternative fitness that was less stressful (i.e. yoga, pilates); and Fab Ab February challenge (5 minutes or less of core strengthening exercises every day).

Challenge accepted!

This journey has been amazing so far. The amount of support I have received from BGR!, comments on these posts, and random passersby on the street while I am running has been incredible. I haven’t crossed the finish line just yet, but I’m on my way. And that feels good!

©2013 by Ayana Martin

5K Training Update

Week 1 is officially done! And, shockingly, it wasn’t horrific. Being moderately in shape was definitely a plus, but the Couch-to-5K program is definitely made for the average Jane. The first week’s running assignment was:

  1. 5 minute brisk walk
  2. 60 second run, 90 second walk repeat (repeat 8x for a total of 20 min)
  3. 5 minute cool down walk

60 seconds may not seem like much, but that “When will it end?!?!” feeling sneaks up on you before you know it! Fortunately, I linked up with Black Girls Run! to train. These women are very motivating, encouraging, and inspiring. I just so happened to look up my local BGR! chapter on the very same day they were initiating a new C25K group. I decided to break in the new running gear, pack up my fatty (my dog Lilo :)), and join the run.

I was a little apprehensive because I didn’t know what to expect. Would I be the slow poke? Would I be too in shape and inadvertently discourage someone? How many people will be there – 5…10…20?? Would they be afraid of my dog? Would my dog be able to handle a 20 person crowd? All of my apprehensions only increased when a crowd of 50+ people gathered at the meeting location!! Groups of women – friends, sisters, cousins, nieces, kids and grandkids – all filed into a large circle to stretch before the run. How in the WORLD are we all supposed to run together? But I didn’t let my apprehensions overwhelm me. I was pleasantly surprised that the large crowd kept me motivated. If I passed someone during a run interval, I was cheered on with cries of “That’s right!” and “Do it girl!” If I was behind someone, they would wave me on to catch up saying “C’mon girl, you can do it!” There were run leads who would keep time and signal the run/walk interval and shout out the seconds remaining in the run. At the end, everyone cheered as we finished our run assignment for the day. We waited for those who may have struggled and cheered for them too as they completed their segment. We finished stretching together then all went home to soak our tired bodies.

I enjoyed the community run so much, I finished the entire week’s assignment with BGR! (The C25k program commits 3 days/week to running.) The other two runs were just as encouraging, but I ran into a kink in preparation: nighttime running. I have no idea why this didn’t cross my mind, but nighttime running can be dangerous if unprepared. And I showed up as the epitome of unprepared: dressed in all black, no reflectors, no light source. -_____- Thank goodness for a large turn out again! Someone loaned me their head light and there were plenty of reflector vests and neon colors to surround me. LESSON LEARNED.

I leave you with the lessons I learned this week:

  1. Get a running partner or find a local BGR! group to keep you encouraged and accountable for finishing.
  2. The goal is to COMPLETE, not compete! Work to complete run segments and not compare yourself to anyone else.
  3. Before starting any run, avoid static stretches on cold muscles. Instead, do DYNAMIC stretches to protect your muscles, ligaments, and joints. (We do side and front leg lifts and hacky sack before our BGR! runs)
  4. After finishing a run, static stretches will help to minimize soreness in the following days (soaking in a hot bath or shower will help too 🙂 )
  5. If you are running in the evenings, have some safety gear so you can be seen by cars and fellow nighttime runners and bikers as well as you can see any hazards (e.g. holes, cracks, uneven ground): reflector vests, neon colors, glow sticks, headlamps, flashlights. Most of these can be purchased at Walmart or Target. Hardware stores also carry some of these items. If you have some time, eBay and Amazon are always wallet friendly!
  6. And if you’re running in the street at night, run on the side facing oncoming traffic.

I hope this helps someone!

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©2013 by Ayana Martin

Let’s Get This New Year Started!

Despite the Mayan calendar hype, 2013 is here! (Did you fall for it???) I can already feel the changes this new year will bring. Old friends are reaching out more; new friends are settling in; ambitious goals are being set; and big plans are being made. But these aren’t my “new year’s resolutions”. I don’t like to call these changes RESOLUTIONS for a couple reasons.

  1. RESOLUTION implies there was a PROBLEM. Of course there were ups and downs, but 2012 did not bring me problems.
  2. All too often, RESOLUTIONS are things to NOT do (NOT eat so much junk; NOT drink so much alcohol; NOT spend so much money…). This context focuses too much on the negative and makes it harder to accomplish (honestly, I DID it for a reason, right?!)

Instead, I set a THEME for the year. 2011 was the Year of Me. I was fresh out of a long-term relationship and simply in need of some loving. Who better to love on me than ME?! 🙂 I gave myself the wants of my heart: concerts, shopping sprees, lazy days, and weekend getaways. 2012 was the Year of More. Since I spent a year impulsively indulging in my desires, I wanted to have that feeling become a constant in my life. So I made plans to save more money, have more happiness, and relax more.

2013 is going to be the Year of Do. In every situation I encounter this year, I want to DO something. Have a great idea? Execute it. Facing a problem/tough situation? Fix it. Don’t like my position? Change it. Bored? Try something new. Whatever it is, DO something about it. And when it feels like there is nothing to do, wait purposefully and spend some time with God. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” Proverbs 19:21

As with every theme or resolution, the goal is to be a better person. My hope is that as I DO this year, I do well for myself and I do good for the world.


©2013 by Ayana Martin

Verbs: GROW and MATURE

In the past year, I have totally revamped how I form and grow relationships (platonic, romantic, or other). During this process, I have learned one very important thing: everyone may not want to hear my perspective. Even after I have diligently listened to their perspective, they may have no interest in hearing mine. And that is OKAY. It doesn’t make me or my perspective any less valid. If anything, it makes me the bigger person because I am the one with a mind open enough to respect and observe perspectives outside of my own.

This morning’s scripture of the day came from James 1:19. It directs a person to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. Funny how well it resonates with my process. I have always been a good listener. But I was not always so slow to speak, and I can definitely admit I was never slow to anger. I assumed that if a friend was divulging their woes and cares on me, that they automatically wanted to hear what I had to say in response. On occasion, this caused a wedge of disagreements. They were not open or ready to hear my persepctive, especially if it did not sympathize with their plight. Then one day, a conversation with one of my mentors enlightened me. I had just finished relaying my woes and cares to her. She acknowledged my troubles and responded with a soft question: “Would you like to hear my perspective?” Initially, I was bewildered by this response. Then, an overwhelming sense of gratitude washed over me. Gratitude because my feelings were the priority; because I now had the option (or control) to decide what I wanted to do about my situation: continue to sulk or open my mind to resolutions I had not previously thought of; and gratitude that whatever I decided, we both were okay.

By growing into this kind of maturity, I have been able to form better relationships with my current friends and familiy and ease into (and away from) new relationships with people I encounter every day.


©2012 by Alexandria Dotson and Ayana Martin

Choose Wisely

Beware of insecurities and jealousies in your inner circle.

I have been working hard on several projects: planning and executing experiments, writing a proposal for PhD Candidacy, developing our first InsertVerbHere travel project, and working on launching the InsertVerbHere non-profit organization. This is way too much work for just one person to handle. My secret to accomplishing so much is: my inner circle. These are my friends and family that I trust the most. I talk with them about my plans, my progress, my short-comings, and more. They give me affirmation, perspective, constructive criticisms, and resolutions. But they are not perfect.

Lately, things have been starting to take shape and become more real, which should be exciting, right?! Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case with everyone. I have been sensing that someone in my inner circle just isn’t happy for me. Their feedback has been waning and laced with feelings of being “left out”. And their listening skills have been disinterested.

It hurts to know that a friend cannot genuinely share in my joy without needing to personally benefit from my efforts. The vision propelling my efforts is bigger than us. So now it is very important that I choose wisely what information I choose to share with this individual, and simply love them from a distance.


©2012 by Alexandria Dotson and Ayana Martin