My First Group Workout Class

My First Group Workout Class

I told myself for a long, LONG time that exercising in a group sounds like my nightmare! First of all, I don’t know what I’m doing so I’m not going to be perfect at it. Second, struggling in a room full of people is very embarrassing! Plus there are just so many mirrors that they can watch watch me squirm from every angle. Next up? Morning classes. Like early. Like class starts at 5:30. In the morning. So here we have a small potpourri of Things I Dread: trying something new, not being perfect, people watching me not be perfect, and getting up early.

I have a touch of social anxiety. What does this look like for me? Welp, lots of fun symptoms include but are not limited to crying meltdowns before group outings, getting sick at large events (cute), hiding in bathrooms at large venues, and overcompensating with too much excitement (interrupting others and grilling people like they’re at a job interview). It took me a while to identify these as patterns but once I read about and looked for them…It’s been a lot better! Needless to say, I knew just putting myself in this situation was going to make me nervous. I have really been trying to challenge myself so I set my alarm for 5:00am. Want to know how my first class went? K!

Where my introverts and socially anxious people at?! If you’re an introvert, you are going to be both mortified and delighted by my experience. If you’re an extrovert then enjoy the pictures ’cause this is going to sound absolutely ridiculous to you. Either way, you’re here and I’m happy to have you!

What to Do at Your First Workout Class

Arrive 10 minutes early.

I arrived only 4-5 minutes early and it was not nearly enough for reasons you’ll soon discover. Arriving mere seconds before the start time of anything is traditionally considered “early” in Katie Time. So let us take a quick moment to acknowledge that.

Triple-check aka Procrastinate.

I parked, the gal at the front desk scanned my keychain, and I asked questions I already knew the answer to. BUT WHAT IF I DIDN’T, YOU KNOW?
Me: “Hi, I’ve never taken a class before, what do I do?”
Her: “Ok, great! Go on in and find a spot. Class starts in about 5 minutes. Lift as much or as little as you want, go at your own pace.”
Me: “Cool, thanks.”
Also Me: *go-in-find-spot-panic-5-minutes-lift-more-than-you-should-freak-out-go-fast-be-perfect-panic*

Go On In and Find a Spot.

I am ruler-follower so I did as I was told. I was also feeling terrified so I zeroed in on an open spot the second I opened the door. Class started in 4 minutes so I piled my pink fluffy sweatshirt and Ugg boots by the back wall and slid on my tennies. I walked to The Spot and psyched myself up.
"Go in and find a spot in the gym" illustration by Katie Kassel, Graphic Designer

Lift Those Weights.

The instructor started class. The tunes were playing. I lifted the various weights lying before me. They were really freaking heavy. We were nearly 10 minutes in and everything was mostly fine. A woman arrived about 10 minutes late, looked around, and walked across the room kinda towards me. She said, “Excuse me, are you…? Did you…?” and walked away. I was oblivious, I smiled and focused on how heavy these darn weights were. She emerged from a closet with equipment. Weights, bar, a mat, the whole shebang.

Which I never did…

…I waltzed in the door, found a spot, and started lifting.

"Hand lifting dumb bell weight" illustration by Katie Kassel, Graphic Designer

Get Your Own Sh*t

There was a slight break where people shifted their equipment and sipped water. The woman walked by me to grab her water bottle and gently mentioned, “Make sure you come a little early next time. You need to set up your own equipment before each class.”

And it finally dawned on me.

I was in her spot. Using her weights. I was MORTIFIED.

Stick With It

At this point, I was in Fight or Flight mode. I was telling myself, “Don’t you dare. Don’t you DARE cry. Suck in those little tears” while simultaneously glancing at the door thinking, “Humiliation is FUEL, you could be gone in seconds.” Instead I did not cry and I did not run out. I stayed. I survived the whole class and was only a little humiliated when two gals from my church were in there the whole time! I was blinded by sheer embarrassment and hadn’t noticed them earlier. SUPER.

The kind soul whose spot I borrowed, introduced herself as Melinda after class. Come to find out, she has been coming to this class for more than 12 years and sets up her equipment extra early so she can run on the treadmill before each session. I apologized profusely, and then apologized a little more for good measure.

For those of you keeping track at home, my worst introvert nightmare became reality. Not only did I steal the spot of a beloved attendee, I did so in a mirrored room where everyone watched the whole scene unfold. To top it off I didn’t know what any of the moves were called and I lifted weights that were way too heavy for me. That pretty much checked all the Things I Dread boxes.

Be Decent.

I went back the next Monday morning. Got there 15 minutes early (yes, ME!). Found a spot in the back. Set up all my equipment. Put on my shoes and stretched. Melinda greeted me on her way in, “Oh my gosh! I’m so glad you came back! This is my favorite class and I was worried we’d never see you again after last week. By the way, how are you feeling? I couldn’t believe you used my weight the whole time!”

Girl, SAME. I also cannot believe I used your weights the whole time. She lifts heavy. I explained that I hadn’t come back on Friday because I couldn’t move or lift my arms for a solid 4 days after class. My hair was an absolute mess because I could not raise my arms to put a ponytail holder in. I’m also very glad headbands are back in.

I am not kidding when I tell you the only reason I even thought about going back and trying that class again is because Melissa was so kind, and decent, and gentle. She didn’t yell, shout, or demand that I move. She didn’t offer a snarky or sarcastic remark. She didn’t shoot dirty looks my way during class. It would have been so easy and probably a more natural reaction to totally shame and embarrass someone who steals your equipment and spot! But she didn’t. I’m still kind of surprised and totally impressed by how she handled it. There are so many easy, short words and phrases to offer encouragement and kindness between reps.

"Be decent high five encouragement" illustration by Katie Kassel, Graphic Designer

This post started as a funny, self-deprecating story about being an introvert and surviving my worst first-world fears. But it kind of morphed into a life lesson. January is a big goal-setting, resolution-making time of year. Health and fitness is a big one for a lot of people! This is good! So whether it’s January or May or December, don’t make anyone feel like dirt for trying to improve themselves. Show them where the equipment is. And be decent while you do so. You don’t have to be cheery even. Just decent. Someone might come back to class because of your not-cheery-but-not-terrible interaction. Realize that an activity that’s super easy for you to do, like showing up for a one-hour workout class, might be a real fear for someone else (hi!). There are some real risks in the world and I would never encourage someone to put themselves in the harm’s way. But if you can survive your brain’s version of the worst case scenario then I think you’ll be stronger for having tried whatever it is.

Go on in and find a spot.

Video Class Recap

Video Class Recap

I committed myself to one class each semester at a local university for the last year (and continuing this year). The experience has been positive in so many ways including but not limited to getting out of the house, meeting people, being uncomfortable, learning new things, being okay with learning new things, and being reminded how young I look ;).

Last fall I completed a Video Art class to re-familiarize myself with video software and techniques. A few jobs ago, I was doing quite a bit of basic video editing in Premiere. Nothing crazy or complex, but tediously trimming all of the mumbles, ums, and mess-ups out of talking head interview videos. I share this because not every designer knows their way around video tools and software, myself included. I do not intend to offer video services, but I would love to be able to creating training videos for my clients and/or marketing videos for myself. If nothing else, I figured this would at least get me closer and hold me accountable for learning.

Video takes so SO much time and skill! I know this because I have had the pleasure of watching and working alongside some talented video folks at every job I’ve held. It takes creativity, technical know-how, flexibility, resourcefulness, and so much more. I’m want to preface my sharing of amateur classwork by saying that capturing quality footage and weaving together beautiful stories is not easy. But trying new things is so valuable, so here are a few video projects I created!

All work represented below was created or curated by me for educational purposes. I have included credit where possible and will disclose where and how I used my own footage.

Project 1: Appropriation

Katie-Kassel-VA3150-Appropriation-Lemon-Tree-091018KK from Katie Kassel on Vimeo.

Lemon Tree


Exploring the symmetry and contrast between the pace of nature and the man-made world was my goal in this video. How did I get there? When browsing footage, I downloaded anything I found visually pleasing. After saving several video assets, I had to comb through my collection. I started to notice patterns emerging from the footage I collected that contained similar colors, and the subjects’ movements mimicked each other. The process began by pairing up videos and arranging them in an order of nature, man-made, nature, man-made, and so on. One thing that I was careful to mention when I presented my video in class was the timing, the pace of this video. When you watch it, it feels like everything lasts just a beat longer than you expect. This was intentional as part of the overarching concept of my video. As humans we’re like “yep, got it, okay, next,” and nature’s like “whoa, hey, what’s the rush buddy? got some more raindrops.”


This project allowed all of our footage and audio to be “found.” This meant using free and appropriately licensed footage and songs. This also left us the option of using footage that we personally captured too. All of the footage featured in this video is free and licensed, and not my own. All of the sounds were also found and pared with their corresponding clips. The ice in the glasses, the fingers typing, the bee buzzing, the wind, rain pouring down; all of those are separate clips that I matched up with the video assets. The music was also found, but the poem was written and recorded by yours truly. And let me tell you, there is only one thing worse than hearing your own voice…Hearing your own voice in a room full of people. Which I survived and lived to tell the tale. I felt like I needed one more element that would tie all of the videos and music together so I chose to write exactly what I needed. This allowed me to incorporate the words and timing that fit the video perfectly.

Project 2: Multi-Frame

Katie-Kassel-VA3150-Multi-Frame-Floating-100818KK from Katie Kassel on Vimeo.



This project was half luck, half skill and only came to be because I just got started with what I had. We had just vacationed in Hilton Head, SC where I had captured a wide variety of footage. I didn’t know what I would end up with so I just filmed wherever we were, whatever we were doing, whenever I could. When I started putting the frames next to each other, I thought I would show “water” images in every left frame and “air” images in every right frame. But it felt too simple. I’m all for minimal BUT I felt like the video as a whole lacked depth visually and metaphorically. So I did what I do best…Make It More Complicated (Trademark Pending). I started layering air and water videos together and the result was much better. I loved the tension of not knowing if you were seeing air or water in motion. This is also reflected in the color scheme and somewhat eery, ambiguous music. That’s how Floating came to be the title.


All of our footage had to be our own, captured by our own cameras. Our audio could be created or found. The goal of this assignment was to present footage in a unique way using two or more frames. Frames could be layered, side by side, different sizes, etc. I do wish I would’ve pushed the boundaries of spacing and effects more with this assignment, but I also feel the end result aligns with my personal design style.

Project 3: Mini-Documentary

kkassel-va-final-documentary-121018KK from Katie Kassel on Vimeo.

Behind the Screen


While I wanted to use my learning experience to try a new things, I also wanted to be practical about how I was spending my time working on projects. I decided that if I was going to spent 15-20 hours on a project, it should serve me and my small business well. Time is money, baby. So I decided to create a tool that might help me share who I am and what I do as a one-woman graphic design studio. I love how prominent technology is in what I do as a graphic designer, but sometimes it can be hard for people to truly get an idea of my personality (and face) if we only ever exchange emails and phone calls. You’ll notice a dumb blue line in the middle of the video that’s not supposed to be there. You’ll also enjoy a few sub-par audio moments (hello, hi, student project) and rambling explanations. If or when I revisit this, I would cut the length WAY down and ruthlessly edit what I choose to say.


All of our footage had to be captured using our own brains and equipment. Audio could be found, but most documentaries include some spoken word for narrative purposes. This video had to be at least 4 minutes (!) long. Folks, it takes SO MUCH footage to edit down to 4 minutes. SO MUCH. And since I was using all of my own footage and myself as the subject, I made this extra hard on myself. I literally cringe watching this because it is hard to watch yourself do anything, but you better believe I met those requirements.

Final Thoughts

I totally enjoyed this class. I will say, the hardest part of anything for me is getting started so just signing up and showing up for this class required five minutes of bravery. What keeps me hooked and continually amazes me about the creative world are the endless possible outcomes. We all start with generally the same requirements and the finished projects are wildly different. We all heard or read the same words but they meant something different to each person.

Perhaps the kindest and highest compliment I received from my professor and classmates was my sensitivity to typography. Insignificant to you but touched my heart! I’ve loved letters all my life and discovering that I can care for them in my profession is super cool! All that to say, I love typography and believe well-chosen fonts and colors help communicate the story or information you aim to share.

Books I Read in 2018, Pt 2

Books I Read in 2018, Pt 2

I set a goal for myself to read as many books as possible each year. I started with a hard and fast goal of 20 books and try to keep that number in mind. Last year, in 2018, I managed to devour 30 titles and today I’m sharing titles 16-30. Missed the first post? Check out titles 1-15 before you leave!

Let’s see what the second half of the list includes…

The Books I Read in 2018, Part 1 | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

List of 2018 Book Titles – Part 2

2018 Read: Educated | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

16. Educated

Another one that easily makes it into my top picks of the year. The fact that the author lived these lives (yep, girlfriend definitely lived a few lives) and eventually had the opportunity to document and share her experiences is impressive. I couldn’t put this down because I have no life experiences that can even remotely compare to the author’s childhood, and for that I am so thankful. It also made me endlessly thankful for the hundreds and thousands of teachers and professors who champion students without support systems. Just, thanks so much for what you do. Fans of The Glass Castle, grab this one.

2018 Read: Lilac Girls | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

17. Lilac Girls

World War II read. This is based on a true story of two Hungarian sisters who survived life in a Nazi concentration camp. They seriously survived the unspeakable.

18. The Stars are Fire

Not my favorite, but very okay. The main character is an INDEPENDENT WOMAN and she takes care of her family in a time when women didn’t have the autonomy we have now. It does involve a few somewhat sensitive topics surrounding motherhood and relationships.

2018 Read: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

19. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Another contender for 2018 Favorite! Eleanor is billed as a curmudgeon, and she IS. But she’s also so lovable. This book was so endearing and I am crossing my little fingers that this is adapted into a film or series. I would recommend this one to lovers of A Man Called Ove.

2018 Read: You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

20. You May Also Like: An Age of Endless Choice

This one was fascinating! If you don’t care about why humans make choices and the research documenting the process then maybe pick something else on this list. The best way I can describe the gist of this book is taste is an individual choice and is most developed by our repeated exposure to things. I believe there are more recent editions than what I read.

2018 Read: Monday's Not Coming | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

21. Monday’s Not Coming

Page-turner. Read this in a single day. No idea if I ate or drank water or breathed, but I HAD to finish this book. This was eye-opening as a white person who lives in the burbs, but I think any person would benefit from reading this. The author weaves a heartbreaking story of race, poverty, mental illness, and friendship. Read this.

2018 Read: Drop the Ball | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

22. Drop the Ball

This book was at once both exactly and not at all what I expected. I did expect the author to suggest not even trying to “do it all,” because you don’t have to and you don’t need to. But there were a few other really good, practical nuggets in there. Any relationship requires teamwork, yes? Both parties do not need to handle the same tasks/responsibilities – it’s inefficient – which means there are going to be certain things that one person tends to take on. Typically, the only way people will know if you need help is if you…what for it..ask them. And typically the person we harbor bitterness towards is the person in the best position to help us. Also, it can be frustrating if your counterpart doesn’t seem to care about the same things you care about.

2018 Read: The Hate U Give | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

23. The Hate U Give

If you saw this movie, then you know the general story but this book was another important read that brings awareness to the all-too-familiar story of racial tension and vilification of African American boys and young men.

2018 Read: How to Be Yourself | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

24. How to Be Yourself

If you know and love/put up with me, you may have unfortunately experienced the weird, emotional, irrational? meltdowns I have leading up to big events. Basically, BIG days bring out BIG feelings for me. It was like my brain was shouting “CHILL OUT, WE’RE FINE” while I cried about what I was wearing and snapping at people. After reading up on social anxiety, it’s pretty clear I display a lot of those characteristics. I’m reading about and working on how to deal with this and purposefully putting myself in controlled situations that push me. OK, THE BOOK, RIGHT. I loved this. Now, it’s totally geared towards me. It addressed common thought processes and behavior patterns of folks who get anxious before, during, or after social situations. More than addressing behaviors, it offered some super practical, quick, free exercises for managing anxious feelings.

2018 Read: The Great Alone | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

25. The Great Alone

I really enjoyed this book! I felt it was a well-rounded, vivid story. It could have been the timing of this read because I think I was ready to experience an escape.

2018 Read: Sweetbitter | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

26. Sweetbitter

This cover was everywhere and pink so I knew I would read it #millenialpink. I didn’t love this but did find the complicated relationships and demands of the hospitality businesses really interesting. If you’re all about NYC and have experience in a restaurant then you might enjoy this more than I did.

2018 Read: Grit | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

27. Grit by Angela Duckworth

I have been recommending this to everyone I know! Solid and fascinating research on grit and humans’ abilities to stick with things. I think the stories and principles can be applied to any person at any age in any industry.

2018 Read: Beautiful Boy | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

28. Beautiful Boy by David Sheff

This was honestly a hard read. And by hard I mean frustrating and heartbreaking. I am fortunate to have personal experience with addiction. To read about the destruction addiction can unleash on families and the cost of resources was eye-opening. This is a movie with Steve Carrell and Timothee Chalamet so maybe it will sound familiar. If you live a relatively comfortable life without need for government assistance (myself included, I’m working on this) this would be a good opportunity to expand your horizons.

2018 Read: We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

29. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families

I would not recommend this book if you do not have any interest in the political climate of the last 50 years of Africa, especially Rwanda. I was determined to read several Rwanda-specific books after our visit there last year. I do think this book did an excellent job of capturing the complicated, nuanced feelings of Rwandans post-genocide. Dry but informative.

2018 Read: Girl, Wash Your Face | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

30. Girl, Wash Your Face

My last read of the year was a positive one, on purpose. This book has been everywhere so the library queue was pretty long! I know I may get some heat for this, but I thought it was very OK. This book was really good and encouraging and all the “good” things you want in a book, but I feel like I’ve read this 10x before. I still think you should read it because it might be the warm fuzzy your soul needs, but don’t blame me if you roll your eyes a few times.

Ok, that concludes my 30 Books I Read in 2018 list. I hope you found one or two new titles that you hadn’t heard of or might add to your list. Most importantly, share your recommendations for your favorite reads below! Did you read any of these? What were your thoughts?

Books I Read in 2018, Pt 1

Books I Read in 2018, Pt 1

Ah, yes, bookworms, we meet again! I’ve compiled a list with my thoughts on all of the books I read in 2018. If you didn’t read a single book in 2018, that’s cool – this list isn’t to shame you! This list is purely for me. I like to look back at the variety (or not) of books and authors and I chose to spend time with. Recounting each title brings back the lessons, stories, and feelings I experienced in those pages. My grand total for 2018 was 30 books, beating my record of 20 in 2017! I also try to share these in my Instagram Highlights because it’s an easy quick way to share. Please enjoy these sub-par images using random surfaces around my house (#aesthetics).

Okay, here we go.

The Books I Read in 2018, Part 1 | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

List of 2018 Book Titles – Part 1

1. Little Fires Everywhere

Okay, this was easily one of my favorites of the year. If Reese is turning this into a series, you better believe it’s a good one. I thought the writing was vivid and descriptive without dragging on forever. I also loved how this book examined many sides and dynamics of seemingly imperfect people. Turns out even the characters you can’t stand are doing what they believe is right. I think that’s my biggest take-away from LFE: there’s not really a “right” answer or “right” way to handle something. Read this. Please.

2. An American Marriage: A Novel

This book was not AT ALL what I expected but I read wayyyy past my bedtime to finish this sucker in a day or two. It’s a heartbreaking and frustrating journey of one couple’s struggle with the US judicial system. This one, again, so carefully layers in extenuating circumstances that I would challenge anyone to say “Oh, I never would’ve done that.” Plus, Oprah recommended it so….

3. The Rosie Project

This is a sweet one. I think anyone can guess the ending but the route there is winding and funny and sad. Not earth-shattering but still good.

4. The Woman in the Window

Not a fan. I think I’m just generally tired of every twisty, dark white lady thriller? If that’s your genre and you haven’t read this then I can safely recommend this to you. I will say that the twists in this one were actually surprising! It’s also possible I only read this during daylight hours.

5. When I’m Gone

I definitely felt feelings reading this. Thankfully I haven’t had to experience the grief that this family experienced but the thought alone made me emotional. My critique of this book is the pacing. 90% of the book is devoted to one storyline and then a BUNCH of stuff happens in 10% of the book and then it was over. This was a solid “OK” for me – I would ultimately give it 3 stars.

6. Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done

Ok, admittedly learning new and better ways to actually get your sh*t done is probably not everyone’s idea of reading for fun. But it is mine! I identified so many examples of my own patterns of behavior. Jon Acuff gave them humorous explanations and clever titles. Let me say, I am actively working on my Noble Obstacles and doing my best to move forward on The Day After Perfect.

7. Crazy Rich Asians

I feel like this has been a polarizing book and movie. I loved this read! It was fun and magic…dare I say, enchanting? I read this as a purely fun adventure but I also got to chat with some folks who were so turned off by the family dynamics they didn’t dig CRA at all. I thought the movie was a delight as well, so 50/50 you’ll love or hate it.

2018 Read: Before I Go to Sleep | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

8. Before I Go to Sleep

See my reaction to #4. That’s a no from me, dawg. The opportunity cost of watching the move is better.

2018 Read: Everybody Always | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

9. Everybody Always

Bob is a positive, goofy, encouraging guy and I never regret a moment spent reading his books. This book could easily be gifted to someone you love or someone you just met. He offers anecdotes for life and faith. If you need a little encouragement, read this one.

2018 Read: Looking for Lovely | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

10. Looking for Lovely

This was very okay. It is spiritually-based and fairly short if you’re into that sort of thing! The author shared some personal experiences but left a lot of them really vague, and also weirdly name-dropped some of her cool friends? This one didn’t particularly move me.

2018 Read: Everything Happens For a Reason | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

11. Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved

This book gave me some serious life perspective. I was so intrigued by the author’s career – researching the prosperity gospel – and how she approached this concept in light of her life-changing diagnoses. Not a long read, but truly interesting. If you read When Breath Becomes Air, then you might be interested in this book.

2018 Read: The Girl Who Smiled Beads | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

12. The Girl Who Smiled Beads

The book’s author wrote about her first years on earth fleeing Rwanda for her life as the Genocide began and then spending her childhood walking between and merely surviving refugee camps in Africa. I felt weary just reading her accounts. She shares what it was really like to be reunited with her family on live television. If you’ve lived a relatively comfortable life, I would highly recommend reading and wrapping your brain around the life of a refugee.

2018 Read: Come Matter Here | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

13. Come Matter Here

Of all the positive, semi-spiritual books I’ve read, this one felt refreshingly…honest. The title and the explanation behind it were almost more impactful than the book. “Come matter here” was the idea that we are waiting for and relying upon attention and validation from others. We are waiting for an email or text or invitation to matter somewhere, anywhere. I appreciated what seemed like a truly genuine account of the author’s life, faith, relationships, and depression.

2018 Read: The Female Persuasion | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

14. The Female Persuasion

This cover was EVERYWHERE for awhile! It’s really cute and Instagrammable so I’m not shocked. I didn’t really know what to expect but this kind of a preppy coming of age story. The book is pretty thick, but I enjoyed this read, and didn’t feel like it dragged on forever. Liked it!

2018 Read: Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Genocide | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

15. Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Genocide

There aren’t enough or right words to describe this read. I’m still in shock that something so devastating happened in 1994. I know most people won’t read this one, but if you can I would recommend that you do. You won’t soon forget Immaculee’s story.

Have you read any of these? What were your thoughts? What should I add to 2019 list?

Thanks so much for reading! I’m sharing the second half of my 2018 list next week. Subscribe below if you just want the post emailed to you. I’m not selling anything, it’s just an automated way for you to get my blog posts without checking social media. Up to you!

5 Things I Tell Myself While I’m Running

5 Things I Tell Myself While I’m Running

I ran the Kansas City Half Marathon on October 20th, 2018. It was my fourth half marathon race and it was a picture perfect Fall morning. I would probably hesitate to call myself a, um, runner? That just feels too official. But I put in the time to train and what kind of creative weirdo would I be if I didn’t blog and design about it? I didn’t run for almost two years. I hated it, couldn’t imagine running for 30 minutes. How boring! In life, I’m generally more productive and focused when I have a measurable goal. I want to be the kind of person who just goes for a run on any old day whenever I feel like it, but signing up for a race gives me a deadline and plan to get there. Over the past few months and years, I’ve realized how much the words I use encourage to myself during a training run are just as applicable in real life. Here’s what Katie’s Brain tells Katie’s Body during a run.

Number 1 Running Graphic | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

1. Go as slow as you want but do not stop.

I am a person who needs momentum. If I’m in motion I’m more likely to stay in motion. Newton’s First Law and stuff. A hard stop? That makes it really hard for me to mentally and physically get moving again. I track my mileage with a Garmin watch so I know how fast and how far I’ve gone. This means I’m aware of my pace; faster than usual, slower than usual, standing still waiting to cross a street. I notice that I run faster than usual on shorter runs when I know it should take me less time. My splits are all over the place, I’m winded, tense, and my expectations are unrealistic. But on longer runs, I am consistent. I mentally and physically know that I need to settle in because this one is going to take a little time. And that, I am learning, is the key to most important things in life, in business, in relationships. Go slow. Settle in. Save a little bit for later.

Number 2 Running Graphic | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

2. Take the hills one step at a time.

I’m not a fast runner, I am extremely average and extremely okay with it. Literally no one in the world cares if I run up a hill, or walk up a hill, or sit on the couch. And yet, I feel like a stadium full of spectators watch as I approach a hill. I find myself sizing up how giant and steep it looks. I’m contemplating how hard it’s going to be before I’m even there. Hysteria ensues… That’s not a hill! That’s, like, a mountain! A steep, jagged, treacherous mountain! Right here, in my suburban neighborhood! Spoiler Alert: Hills are part of the course, not the course itself. The act of running up a hill is the exact same as cruising a flat stretch. Two feet, alternating steps. Keep doing the thing you’ve been doing. It’s not one giant stride to the top. Um, is this sounding like a metaphor for life? A technical glitch, an upset client, a family miscommunication. They’re part of the course, not the course itself.

Number 3 Running Graphic | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

3. The only way home is to keep going.

Maybe this one sounds sad or harsh but I usually need a little tough-love-self-encouragement at the half-way mark or my turn-around point. I have to remind myself that I committed to putting in the work to do this run. I don’t force myself to a point where I’m injured or unhealthy or anything; this is more about accountability. In a firm, but polite manner I tell myself, “You’ve come this far. You committed to this run. You’re [X] miles from your end point. At half-way? It’s the same distance back that you’ve already travelled. You’ve gotta cover that ground to be done.” Backtracking over your first 50% requires the same amount of effort as finishing the remaining 50%. I try to employ this same mindset when finishing a particularly tedious or challenging project. Procrastination or self-sabotage inevitably set in and I just want to be done. The big idea is that there’s absolutely no substitute for doing the work. Tasks A, B, C must be done to complete the project. Power through. Keep Going. Refer to Number 1.

Number 4 Running Graphic | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

4. Measure your progress.

This is a habit I am working on cultivating. My better half is a meticulous record-keeper (gas mileage, bank account, running logs, you name it) and I’m trying to learn from him. Measuring progress is a big reason I wear my GPS watch to track my distance, speed, and frequency. Numbers help take the emotion out of certain decisions, especially for me (feelings, feelings, everywhere). Can I really run 6 miles today? Absolutely! In fact, you’ve done this a dozen times before in all types of weather! When I feel overwhelmed or discouraged, I’m learning to look back at the “analytics” of my life. According to the past 29 years, the data shows that I have survived 100% of the stressful times in my life. Track your progress and let the numbers prop you up when your heart’s not in it. Count the miles and the milestones.

Number 5 Running Graphic | Katie Kassel, Graphic & Web Designer

5. Find yourself a few good cheerleaders.

I do not mean that you need to arrange a large crowd of adoring fans. It probably wouldn’t hurt, but it’s not necessary. I do mean that you need a few people in your life who notice. A few trusted souls who acknowledge you’re working hard, putting in the hours. A few people who ask if you’re eating, sleeping, stretching, telling you to “just get it done already.” A few people who will linger after the race to sit with you while drink chocolate milk and eat a banana. I have found this to be true during each race and in my first year running a small business. I do not mean that only good friends refer clients to you. Again, wouldn’t hurt (I’m kidding!). I mean that a handful of people have trusted me to take care of businesses and people they care about. No crowds of screaming fans. A small circle can make such a big difference.

Race Day

When people ask why or how I could possibly RUN THIRTEEN MILES, I usually tell them that any hesitations are shattered on Race Day. I know life-long runners likely don’t want or need the loud, spandex fanfare of an organized race but I love it. There is an electric energy the morning of a race. It’s early, it’s dark, the strangers next to you have run their hills and healed their blisters. Most folks will have one spectator along the route–a spouse, a kid, friend, coworker, etc–to shout a few encouraging words or hold a clever sign. Some runners are going it alone. You can hear the noise and celebration of the finish line a mile away. You might only recognize one voice in that crowd, but it doesn’t matter. Everyone is cheering for someone. Let the cheer spill over because it could encourage someone else.

Thanks for reading. If you’re one of my cheerleaders, thanks from the very bottom of my heart. If you’re someone else’s cheerleader, thanks from the very bottom of my heart, too. I don’t think you have to run half marathons or a business to know that slow and steady helps you stay consistent. But if you do want to run a half marathon or a business, settle in. This is gonna take a minute.

It’s OK to Design for Fun

It’s OK to Design for Fun

Happy Friday! This is not a lengthy deep or personal post but I’m try to put more effort into my website and blog. The truth is like genuinely like designing and writing so I’m using my season of change to implement new creative habits. Before April and May of this year I had not designed or photographed or written anything for the pure joy of designing in at least a year. A YEAR. OF NOT DOING THE THING I LOVE TO DO. I mean, the glorious part of a J-O-B in the creative field means using one’s “creativity” each day in the office for clients. But after months and years of strictly making stuff for other people, you get burnt out or uninspired or both. I felt like I was withholding the very thing I like to do, from myself, because I should only spend my time on paid work. Getting paid to do what you do is, well, important and probably (definitely) the ideal scenario. There’s value in design; it’s important for communicating things. There are many technical aspects that can be most efficiently understood and completed by a professional. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FUN.

2 Hours of FUN

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a perfectionist in almost every area of my life. But the books I enjoy reading, the art I enjoy looking at, and the people I enjoy spending time with are not perfect. And it’s OK. We’re all better for it. So I’m getting back to the basics by blocking off 2 hours of “Design for Fun” time to my calendar each week. I can make whatever I want for those two hours and the result can be simple, complex, dumb, ugly, or whatever else. The graphics below are the result of a couple hours of Design for Fun time a few weeks ago. I’m also experimenting with finalizing my own brand color palette so that’s how I ended up with those colors.

It's OK rosy graphic | Katie Kassel Graphic Designer

It's OK stoplight graphic | Katie Kassel Graphic Designer

It's OK blush graphic | Katie Kassel Graphic Designer

Things I am OK with this week:

  • I made progress on but am not done with my UX mobile app design.
  • I worked out almost every day this week.
  • There are emails from recruiters and miscellaneous other contacts I did not follow up with.
  • I have not done my business accounting for May yet.
  • I finished a 20 page document layout that was a day late but my client was flexible and excited about the result.
  • I ordered, like, 12 dresses and shoes for upcoming events and I didn’t really like how any of them fit or looked.

If you didn’t get everything on your list done this week, it’s OK. You’re OK. I’m OK. OK then! Thanks for reading.

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