Author Archives ginaschmeling

Fitbit and Freedom: A Runner’s Intro to Walking

By ginaschmeling   /     Oct 20, 2015  /     Running, Social Media  /     4 Comments

This is my sixth year of running. I thought I knew the scene. That I was seasoned.

There was a disconnect. I’d run, train, and kibbitz online with my run group, and then find myself sitting in professional contexts thinking about the next run. Or dreaming about just getting out of my chair. They were opposite worlds.

When I did finally get out of my seat, away from the laptop, I was slow, achy, and stiff.

Recently there’s been new, healthy discussion about walking meetings, standing desks and enlightened thinking about energizing worklife. Whoa! That got my attention. As Beth Kanter has been blogging and speaking about, professional life doesn’t have to be sedentary. The science argues that it shouldn’t. I didn’t realize how walking — low tech, simple, human — would change my running. Here’s what strapping on another tracker, and plunging into Fitbit life has taught me so far.

Resting Heart Rate Matters

Many athletes track heart rate during training. Some runs are even called “Threshold” workouts, meant to push heart rate to uppermost zones. There’s a hill in Prospect Park — North Hill. It is not easy. Many of us do hill workouts there to get to the next zone. That will work, as long as the majority of the week’s runs are in a lower zone. Runners like data and numbers. Somehow fast paces and high heart rates seem like badges of honor.

“I think most runners are running their easy runs faster than they should,” says Brooklyn Team in Training Coach Jim Purvis. “It would be an eye opening surprise for many runners to run at their easy pace. Your resting heart rate (RHR) gets lower as you become more conditioned. I would want to monitor increases in RHR, as that could indicate overtraining.”

I know my speed-work heart rate zones from years of Garmin loyalty. With Fitbit, I am now on top of my resting HR. Low-zone heart rate training is key to building endurance, and making race day more effective. For those of us striving for speed, slowing down is essential in training.

License to Sit

Common runner argument: I run lots of miles a week! I can sit as much as I like, eat what I want — I’m good.

License comes in many forms, but mainly we frame it in terms of food. Runners World explores this phenomenon often. Sitting may be an invisible type of indulgence. Or worse, an accepted norm.

When I started wearing a Fitbit, I was psyched. The steps came easily. What I didn’t realize was how flatlined the rest of my day was. The inertia was a bizarre consequence for having woken up early and gotten my run in. I had been giving myself license to sit for hours.

While the Fitbit tingled to reward my step goal, the app showed me the rest of my day was spent on my rear. Not so rewarding.

It was a new challenge. I started skipping subway stops, walking the Brooklyn Bridge, making my kids walk more then they realized (shhh). The number of steps didn’t matter as much as how I felt, time spent moving, and what happened to my running. It changed because I started purposefully walking more.

My annoying, persistent middle-aged running pains abated. I slept better. I lost some weight and kept it off. In the midst of a high-pressure year, I felt lighter. My running metrics improved: better endurance, more speed, and I even placed in my age group in a few races.

Strapped in: The Multi-Gadget, Multichannel Life

Somehow the SQ (suffering quotient) of a run feels more righteous when one is strapped in to gadgets requiring charging and syncing.

This spring, I ran with Chris McDougall of “Born to Run” fame. His book started the barefoot, natural running craze. I was so excited to meet him, I geared up in reflective “tech” logo paraphernalia and gadgets (Heart Rate Monitor, iPhone, Garmin and yes, Fitbit) without realizing just how much of a Cyborg I had become. He was wearing sandals, a plain cotton t-shirt, no electronic anything. I think he had a necklace.

We ran side by side with a small group in drippy, cold weather. He generously ignored my flashing, beeping gadgets and told me I had a light stride. Sigh.

How many gadgets are too many? Purple Fitbit, Garmin watch, Mio Heart Rate Monitor.

Too much? Fitbit Charge, Garmin watch, Mio Heart Rate Monitor.

That run was revealing. A running buddy of mine noticed my gadget overload. When I added the Fitbit, he said, “Giggy, why so many devices?” Do I have the courage to unstrap? I think so, but that will have to wait until after my fall race (October 11, the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon). November will be a gadget and app Sabbath for me. Until then, the wearable tech is a training tool. It won’t get me to the finish line, but it is certainly shaping the road there.

The tech helps me see and understand how training is going. An upshot is being able to connect online with coaches, and cheer friends and allies (Strava!). I’m crediting Fitbit for opening up a new fitness space for me. The FaceBook Fitbit/Walking group I’ve joined is an inspiration for many reasons — it is playful, supportive, encouraging and not competitive. The Fitbit challenges are hard! Usually, I get schooled.

Take Aways

  1. For super charged, highly competitive runners – don’t knock the walking life. There’s no silver bullet, but integrating a generous amount of walking into your weekly training can be a major asset.
  2. Join a run or walking group, online or in real life. It is the best way to insure you do it. In my online Fitbit group, I’ve met people from all over the world and made new friendships and partnerships locally. It’s been a refreshing and wonderful addition to my online running communities.
  3. Know your RHR data. A spike is not good. The more you train, the lower it should be, yet sudden fluctuations can be a warning sign.

Good luck with your training! For those running fall marathons, I wish you speed, ease, and lots of walking.

Added October 20, 2015: I ran my fall marathon last week, and set a new personal record (PR). I had been chasing this for a few years and I’m delighted. Post-race, I’m walking for active recovery. This winter, I look forward to finding new paths with walking and running.

Think running is enough? Read this: Runners World, July 2013, Sitting is the New Smoking.

Continue Reading Quick Read

Organizational Transparency: An Introductory Guide for the Perplexed

By ginaschmeling   /     May 12, 2015  /     Jewish Innovation, Nonprofits, Social Media  /     0 Comment

“Openness is the chief virtue of the digital age.”

– Virginia Heffernan, “Magic and Loss: The Pleasures of the Internet”

Transparency itself isn’t a new concept. In the US for example, nonprofits must publicly file 990s annually. This ensures accountability, and is a requisite for tax-exempt status. But transparency does not begin and end with financial information. There are new dimensions, new imperatives emerging from technology, and perhaps most profoundly, transparency is now a critical leadership skill. That feels pretty new to many of us.

But today’s leaders need to understand that transparency is no longer optional.  When the rules of the game have changed, leaders necessarily need to adapt their approaches. What roles does transparency play here? According to Charlene Li, author of Open Leadership“transparency is not defined by you as a leader, but by the people you want to trust you and your organization. How much information do they need in order to follow you, trust you with their money or business?” (pg. 193).  It’s all about trust — and trust (and its corollary, attention) are the currency of our current attention economy.

Understanding that transparency is a critical value and essential element of effective leadership has powerful implications for organizational sustainability too. Previously, organizations literally served an ‘organizing’ function. Institutions held the data, finances and authority. Today, individuals are self-organizing and shifting the power center. Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms decode this in their HBR article “Understanding ‘New Power’”. Simply, “the goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.” As society is increasingly skeptical and rejecting of old structures, transparency becomes even more important. It becomes a way to activate and channel new power.

Some people mistake transparency for cracking open your financials and letting it all hang out. But it isn’t just about opening up your books or making leaders function as if they are naked. Transparency (of any sort) is values-based, centered on respect (hakavod), virtues (middot), and, the big one, truth (emet). Think about your relationships with your spouse, business partners, and good friends.  Yes, there’s the planning — taking kids to soccer, paying the bills, making doctors appointments. But what if you didn’t trust your partner, and had little input in decisions? The logistics would be joyless. Strong relationships are built on respect, honesty and open communication (transparency). So too relationships with our donors, members, volunteers and advocates.

Jed Miller, who helps human rights organizations align mission and digital strategy, says that “Institutions may be afraid that by opening up about internal processes they give critics a map of their weak spots.” He warns that this kind of initial fear is inherently limiting. “The key,” he says, “is to think about your public—however you define them—as participants in your mission, not as targets or threats.”  What kind of insight — into processes, decision making, etc. — is needed for them to trust you as a champion of the cause?

When we, as leaders in the Jewish world, hold ourselves and our leadership apart from the community, how can we expect to engage our communities with full and sanguine spirit?  We cannot hide or disable conversations, or operate in a vacuum and expect the public to consistently trust us with their dollars. Those days are over. Today, we need to embrace these values of open leadership.

Organizational transparency is where Jewish wisdom nests with innovative thought. I’ve spoken to rabbis about salary transparency, and searched Jewish orgs with high ratings on charitable indices. Comparing synagogue websites, I’ve sought open plans, board minutes and budget spreadsheets.  While there are bright spots, the norm is much more closed and opaque. In the Jewish professional community, we tend to compare ourselves to each other to establish a norm, when in fact we need to be widening our gaze to understand the role and importance of transparency in today’s marketplace. My sense is that the Jewish world is not keeping up, or worse, we are not pushing ourselves forward. It is time that we recognize the shifting norms, acknowledge the benefit to our organizations and community as a whole, and take real steps to integrate transparency into our normative business practices.

In a time when many Jewish organizations are seeking to get more people to trust and follow them, we must heed Open Leadership author Charlene Li’s words of wisdom. Transparency is the information people need in order to follow and trust you as a leader, or as an organization. While leaders may be initially resistant to the idea of transparency, we must all take it seriously to build strong, sustainable and vibrant communities.

Stay tuned for future posts on specific examples of how various leaders are putting this ethos into action.

This appears on Darim Online and Connected Congregations as a Guest Blog. My #DarimDebut! Gratitude shout-out to Lisa Colton. 

Continue Reading Quick Read

Storytelling with Intimacy and Impact, #15NTC

By ginaschmeling   /     Mar 31, 2015  /     Conference Report, Jewish Innovation, Nonprofits, Social Media  /     0 Comment

Stories make us human. They connect us to others.

Over again, that great story punctures social media feeds. If we’re lucky, we hear one at a table over a shared meal.

There is a unique space between intimacy and impact. Both are important, and there are different ways nonprofits can weave them into the question: what’s our story?


This year’s #15NTC in Austin turned the storytelling topsoil. One path with reach and amplification – an impact blueprint, #15NTCMultiStory: Multichannel Storytelling for Social Impact. Another with the intimacy of poetry and history, #15NTCJews: Storytelling from Exodus to Instagram. Both emphasized story-participation, both used technology to get there.

We saw two key roles for technology. First as the storytelling medium, and then as the matchmaker for real life meet-ups. A digital one-two.

#15NTCMultiStory highlighted simple steps to “hatch” stories. Here’s the full Storify. Jereme Bivens, from The Rockefeller Foundation, intro’d the storytelling tool hatchforgood, now in beta. With simple steps, collective learning and analytics, orgs can plug in to Hatch’s resources to build out their stories. Less winging it.

Some pointers were shared from a Hatch blog post by Garth Moore. Highly tweetable, right on the money:  spend 40% of your time creating your story (content), 60% promoting it. Also aim to surpass the engagement “bump” — an activity cluster without endurance. Later, Jereme summed in an email, “content should be able to provide lasting value to an audience over time.”

There was a blend of big, powerful stories and sweet, compelling ones. Megan Anhalt from Purpose, shared this video of The White Helmets. Try to stay dry eyed. And Foundation for Jewish Camp‘s Allison Cohen presented their fresh, cliché-blasting, “One Happy Camper” video.

A session dear to me, #15NTCJews, ported storytelling from the source. Seth Cohen from The Schusterman Foundation led, and we started with a glimpse of torah. Professor Jonathan Kaplan shared the poetic structure of parshat Shir HaYam, carving a moment in time. Poetry was the code embedded within strong stories.

There were tech revelations, too. Jonathan Eisen previewed OneTable, the new site for Shabbat Dinners. Think AirBnB for Friday night. The app beautifully pairs hosts and guests. The stories flow from real life engagement, and diners are encouraged to document on social media and stay connected. Jonathan put it this way, “Stories happen at dinner.”

The “table” as metaphor was vital in Seder2015, Michael Hebb’s project. The dinner table is not neutral, the communal space empowers people to unpack both difficult and joyful topics. His previous work provokes with purpose. Check out deathoverdinner and drugsoverdinner. With Seder2015, the essential Jewish telling of freedom gets a tech update with playlists, anecdotes, recipes, hosting tools, and social good opportunities.

Lisa Colton from Darim and See3 tied it together with the “scaffolding of tradition” as a link to Jewish narrative. These new sites enable real-life tables of content, the handwork of torah is relevant in the age of mobile design. #15NTCJews transcends the hashtag. I find it a wonderful resource for dynamic technology and new voices in Jewish Innovation.

After last year’s NTC, I wrote about social listening. This year, I found the beauty in the story. And some science in how to craft them. Inspired by these sessions, here are ideas for storytelling with heart, strategy and openness:

  1. The internet is timeless. Jereme Bivens suggests mining top RT’s and most shared content for a year-end “top ten” or “best of.” You can bend and shape stories together.
  2. Transparency is co-authored. Meg Anhalt had my favorite one-liner, “transparent goals make nonprofit stories stronger,” and I spoke on transparency and leadership, #15NTCLeadChange. Being open means supporters will “speak in.” You want them in the story. Check out WNYC’s Bored and Brilliant project. Massive participation!
  3. Respect where you come from. The digital world moves fast, your organization has history. 92Y acknowledged their 140 year story in the very first moment of #GivingTuesday, 12:01 December 2, 2014.
  4. The internet brings us together. User experience is unique, communities are strong (literally, Fitbit! Garmin!).  When folks know they matter, they’ll stand with you.

Each story is ongoing. True epics from the Tribe of Jacob to the House of Stark are non-linear. I think nonprofit stories do not have to be defined purely by numbers or need. More vital may be culture and continuity. Find good souls to co-author your story. Intimacy and impact are admirable goals for all of us. The table is wide and welcoming. What will you bring?



Continue Reading Quick Read