Dec. 3: Remember to eat

When I was younger, I couldn’t imagine how someone could forget to eat, but here we are, me living my best life in middle age, wondering why I’m growling. When I get really into my work, the outside world fades into the distance while my overstuffed to do list nags at me and my deadlines loom. Too often, I find myself feeling hollow and anxious, my energy levels lower than the last bar on my phone battery.

The fact is sometimes what you are feeling is not anxiety but hunger. I figured out a while ago that I didn’t need to have a full meal during the day so long as I grazed my way regularly with a variety of easy foods I could grab and eat. I also avoided the sudden dips in blood sugar caused by long gaps between eating. Have some cheese and crackers, a piece of fruit, a yogurt, some nuts or a carrot with hummus. Put your snack on a nice plate or eat it with your favourite spoon or fork. It all makes a difference to how you feel.


What’s your sixth gear?

“OMG, I just realized this car has a sixth gear.”

I voice-texted this to Susan last weekend, after having driven my brand new car nearly 700 km. It took that long to actually LOOK at the gear shift. And once I found it, traveling on the highway was just… easier. D’uh.

I was thinking about why I hadn’t twigged to the actual full function of my car, despite driving on the highway several times. In my last car with a manual transmission, the highest gear was 5th. I just assumed this one (12 years newer) was the same. I did wonder why the engine wasn’t purring the way I expected it to at 120km/hr… but it wasn’t until I had a bit of an issue downshifting into 4th and looked down that I noticed.

As Susan said, it was like finding a secret room in my house. Or more literally, like finding I had more capacity than I knew I had. Which, you know, metaphor for 2020.

So — for the non-manual-car-drivers (most of the world), a car with six gears means that the transmission is designed for greater efficiency in every gear — and when you shift into sixth, a higher speeds, you have an “overdrive” mode that allows the car to operate at lower RPMs and save fuel.

This is a super useful metaphor for me right now. What IS my sixth gear? What am I doing that’s allowing me to keep moving without wearing myself out?

One of the things that’s been so trying about the Covid Times is how much effort it takes to do the simplest things. One silly example — we’re on lockdown, so I ordered holiday cards from Indigo a couple of weeks ago. They shipped them via a courier who didn’t bother to buzz in to try to get into my building (even though I was home — it’s lockdown!), and left a slip saying “you weren’t home.” (I was). “Here’s your tracking number.” The tracking number takes me to a site where every option for “where is my package?” takes me to a “this option not available” screen. The chat is overburdened. So I trot over to Indigo, who tell me I can’t claim a parcel is lost until 30 days after it’s shipped.

In the Before Times, I would have sauntered into a local shop and picked up three boxes of cards and sent them out.

So much for holiday cards.

So much effort, so much palaver. And every day seems to have something like this, some small irritant that takes up an unreasonable amount of energy, leaving aside the constant Groundhog Day of zoom meetings, the constant navigation of virtual and simulated spaces. I know I’m not alone in feeling an edge of burnout. December is often exhausting — but this time, I have no enticing, enlivening travel to look forward to.

Even my FakeTravel is not enlivening. When it was PouringNovember and 1° C outside in real life on Monday, Zwift decided it should also be pouring and dark in my FakeLondon ride. It felt like… too much.

As we head into the year end holiday time that doesn’t look like any other year, it’s helpful for me to reflect on what my metaphorical sixth gear is. How can I structure my life so I can purr along just slightly more easily, with just a little less effort?

For me, the first thing is my habit of movement. Movement is, for me, absolutely essential to my wellbeing. Like many others who write for and read the blog, I’ve been doing the “220 in 2020” group for a few years now, aiming at a yearly total of workouts. I’ve written before about how I worked hard to get to just over 217 my first year — and yesterday I logged my 410th for 2020. For me, the *habit* is that sixth gear. I don’t question where I need to move my body every day, I just do it, once or twice a day. Sometimes it’s an intense day where I do a virtual superhero workout in the morning and a ride in the afternoon — and sometimes it’s just a walk or a quick yoga. But I move every day — and the habit, the lack of negotiation about it, has kept me in way more harmony with my physical and emotional wellbeing this year than I could have expected.

A close second Sixth Gear is the investment I’ve made in making it easy to work out at home. The Bowflex spin bike, mats and weights (though I’m still waiting for the kettlebells I ordered in August), subscriptions to Alex’ Virtual Superhero classes, a subscription to Zwift, a subscription to my spinning studio’s library of virtual classes. Routines and equipment inside my house make it much easier to do that movement. I could run — I know that — but for me, putting in the effort to clothe myself and actually get outside is more like gearing down to climb a big hill. I can too easily talk myself out of it. My sixth gear mode is just hopping on the bowflex, firing up the playlist my niece made me and riding in a fake world.

A third thing that’s keeping me in flow is a direct parallel to Marjorie’s post about make ahead breakfast. I do that too. This month it’s a blueberry apple oatmeal bake. I make it with oatmilk and add granola and walnuts, then heat it up with a banana. I wake up to a gastronomical hug.

Finally, the fourth thing — and the biggest — is to just not do some things. To let go of the non-essential. See: holiday cards. And, apparently, underwear and hair product. But it’s also not adding things to my schedule, even if they seem fun, saying no to some work things, making a meal and eating it three nights in a row. Being okay with just lying around and watching The Crown and the baking shows in the evening. Being here, on the other end, for the people who need me, but minimizing the outlay.

When I minimize the effort on the simpler things, I have more energy for the bigger stuff — the work, fretting about everyone’s health, having space for the relationships and human contact possible in this strange times. And the little furls on the world that make life a bit more beautiful. Like hanging holiday lights for the first time in my six years in this condo.

What about you? What helps you shift into sixth gear, to move along with less effort?

Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede, who loves her new Subaru Crosstrek.

cycling · fitness · Zwift

Tempted by distance challenges and the #Festive500

Oh, distance goals. In 2015 I rode 3675 kms on my bike and blogged about it here. I set out to ride 5000 km in 2016 . I don’t think I made it quite to 5k km but I think I came close.

This year I will for sure. All that Zwifting! I’m at nearly 5000 km and averaging 150 km a week. There’s 5 weeks left and so, barring injury or trainer issues, I’ll make it to 5000 km by 2021.

Distance4,509.5 km

All of that is just to say that the usual, for me, distance goal of 5000 km, is no longer a goal. It just happened.

Likewise, I’ve whooshed past the 220 workouts in 2020. (Want to join us next year? Find out how to here.) I’m currently at 364, thinking I might make it to 400. The pandemic has been horrible in so many ways but for me exercising lots is helping me cope.

All of that said, I miss Holiday Challenges. In past years I’ve done a holiday bike streak. Before, when I could run, I would do an annual Thanksgiving to Christmas running streak.

I’m also on record of supporting the idea that December can be the new January. When I wrote about that back in November 2016, I said, “I like the idea of hitting the holiday season with my fitness habits in place. It’s not about weight or dieting. It’s partly the stress of all the social stuff. I like my time at the gym. It’s also about aging. When I was younger I could take longer breaks. Now I notice fitness drops off quickly. So yes, while I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions, I do think about getting fit for next year’s cycling season. And for me this year, December 1st will be the new January 1st.”

Now there are no parties this year to distract me but I still like the idea of taking on a special holiday fitness thing.

So I can keep on doing what I’m doing and make it to 5000 km, or…..

Or what?

Well, my Zwift Bike Club, Team TFC, has a monthly mileage challenge. I could try to win that for December. But that’s too ambitious. There are people riding more than 700 km a week in that group.

And then there’s the Festive 500. “500 kilometres. Eight days. Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve. Restrictions come and go but some things never change. Rapha’s annual festive riding challenge is back, with an all-new capsule collection and more ways than ever to go the distance.” I’m tempted! For the first time this year the Festive 500 allows zwift kms to count. (It’s a UK based challenge.)

Festive dancing penguins

En route to the Festive 500, I could knock off some Zwift badges, like the one for 25 laps of the Volcano. That’s also a Century and another badge. Zwift Insider says, “There’s also a “100 Clicks” badge awarded the first time you ride 100 km in one activity. If you complete 25 Volcano Circuit laps you will hit 100 km, unlocking this badge and 500XP bonus if you haven’t done so already.”

I’m still mulling it over. The issue is I think if we’ve got nice weather and snow I’d rather be outside.

(There are also less challenging annual challenges out there. If 5000 km isn’t your thing, you can start smaller.

There’s a group aiming to ride 2021 kilometers in 2021.)


How about you? Do you love holiday challenges or hate them? Love them generally but declining this year because pandemic? Are you taking on a fitness challenge this holiday season?


Dec. 2: Stay hydrated

We all experience stress for various reasons. Holidays can bring their own levels of anxiety, regardless of the traditions in which we grew up. Instead of an advent calendar, to borrow an image from Christian practice, here’s a month of tips to help you stay grounded.

Are you feeling tired, overwhelmed? Got a headache? Feel a little achy? You might not have enough fluids in you. Staying hydrated makes a difference, whether you are working out or not. It’s easy to forget to drink water, especially when we have too much in our heads and too many balls in the air.

Photo by Erda Estremera on UnsplashImage shows a drop of water striking the surface of a pool of water creating a crown with the splash.

Here’s your reminder for today: go drink some water. Get a glass, run the tap to flush standing water, and then fill. Your water can be cold, room temperature, dressed up with a slice of lemon, or packed with ice. Drink it slowly. Drink it standing up or sitting down. Drink it in a different room from where you were before. A glass of water will give you the space to refocus and re-energize. Be well, stay well.

aging · feminism · inclusiveness · stereotypes

I Chose Not to Have Children and I Belong Here, Too

Today, I hit 2 years straight in my daily meditation streak. When I started, I set myself the goal of 30 days. As time passed, I kept moving the goalposts. I feel good about my accomplishment (and I’ve written elsewhere about what I’ve learned). And yet, as soon as I sense those first inklings of pride, I hear the voice: “Well, you don’t have children, so it’s easy for you to meditate every day.” That’s the collective voice of women I’ve known, friends even. It’s also the voice of our society, which has insinuated itself into my psyche, passing itself off as my own judgments of myself. Every accomplishment I might celebrate is diminished by this subtext, “You don’t have children, so it’s easy for you to …” Write a book. Run an ultra-marathon. Start a new venture offering emotional intelligence workshops and one-on-one facilitations.

Not only do I not have children, I am one of the extreme few women who are childfree by choice. 6-10% by some estimates, but that number sounds high to me; especially given that the total percent of women without children is 15.4%, which includes women who tried without medical success or would have had children, if partnered. In other words, I neither tried, nor was I circumscribed by circumstance. Oh, and my decision is irreversible at this biological point in my life. That’s right, I’m also over fifty. What a disgrace! I’ve allowed myself to age and I did not contribute to society’s diktat of the highest and best use of my female body—having children. Not that our overburdened, beleaguered planet is in need of more carbon footprints. But it turns out that I’m the carbon footprint the world can do without. I am surplus. Not even worthy of pity, because I chose my condition.

How many times have I heard variations on the phrase, “you can do that because you don’t have children”? How many times have I watched a mother’s face cloud over when she asked me if I had children and I answered? How many times have I been told that children keep you young? How many times have I endured pronouncements and opinions prefaced with “as a mother”? How many times have I been told that one has to be unselfish to have children? How many times have I heard that a woman can only truly know love once she has children? How many times have I heard during COVID that it’s the grandparents who can’t see their grandchildren who are suffering most?

The subtexts of each of these statements are demeaning and hurtful.

How about this? –A friend once said that I could (and should) make the effort to buy a fuel-efficient car, but that she could not, because she had children. Not only is it my responsibility to pay school taxes (which I absolutely 100% want to do!), but apparently it would also be helpful if I reduced my consumption, to allow for more by people with children. 

This is the moment when I make the disclaimer: No, I don’t hate children. In fact, there are children I love a whole lot. Same as most people, regardless of their procreative status. More, I enjoy cooking for people and engaging in other standard nurturing activities. And, it distresses me to have to have to clarify these points; in case people think I’m the Wicked Witch for not having children.

Playful sign on homey porch that reads: “Beware the Wicked Witch Lives Here”.
Bee Felten-Leidel on Unsplash

This is a caveat to my disclaimer: Children’s parents can be self-important and insensitive.

I was moved to write this after reading this interview with Jody Day, psychotherapist, author and founder of Gateway Women—I’m losing my shame. Day talks about the pernicious pronatalism of our society, which tells a woman without children, “You’ve failed, you’ve got nothing to offer, you don’t fit in.” This message crashes up against what Day points out is our all too “human desire to be generative.” After all, aren’t children the ultimate generativity? Of course, that standard only applies to women.

I have been struggling lately with feeling generative. Because Day is right. I want to contribute to our society. I want to have a positive impact during my time here on earth. My last book came out in July 2019. I don’t have another one underway … yet. Early this year I founded a new venture offering emotional intelligence workshops and individual facilitations. We launched right as COVID hit, so we’ve been pushing uphill against all those obstacles. I don’t have a regular pay cheque, so I suffer the psychic degradations of an uncertain income. On occasion, in desperate fallow-feeling moments, like now, I think, “If I’d had children, this would be okay; because I could point to them as my raison d’être.” My children would be my accomplishment, my meaning. Instead, I have to stand in my own shoes. Live my own purpose. Find my own meaning. Offer my own grace.     

To do so, I need to overcome the explicit and implicit negative messaging that assaults me from all sides. Women should not be shamed or feel shame for choosing not to have children. One last quote from Day’s interview: “… [J]ust being a childless woman living shamelessly as you age is already radical enough.” Radical? I feel more generative already. I embrace that label. I don the cloak of radicality with insouciant pleasure. I slip it on over the cloak of invisibility assigned to me by society when I reached a certain age without children. My shoulders could feel crushed beneath the weight of the double cloaks. Instead, they feel lighter, looser and easier. The lens through which I’m looking at my life shifts. Free of society’s shoulds and musts, I feel the vitality of energies that want to flow. I remember that I made a conscious choice to be who I am. That choice was a generative act. A decision to share my energies beyond the borders of home and family.

Women without children are abundant; a radiant, radical power source. Let’s plug into our own energy shamelessly, so we can fulfill our highest and best purpose.  

cycling · fitness · Zwift

Sam adds the Dutch Diesel Cycling Dames Peleton to her list of fave group rides on Zwift

Ride Schedule | dutchdiesel

I blogged about great group rides on Zwift here and made some additions here.

Then last night–thanks to a stone cold dead iPad–I missed the start of the Monday night TFC race. Grrr! I also missed the new Canadian Cycling group ride. I love Zwift but hate the technical challenges.

By the time I (okay, we, thanks Sarah) sorted out how to connect my phone to the big TV my planned options had passed. I scoured the Companion app, as one does, for another ride and came across the Dutch Diesel Cycling Dames Peleton group ride.

Aha! Flat, with sprints. Right up my alley. I’ve been riding up some pretty big hills lately and this sounded like a welcome alternative. And it was. I had a terrific ride and I think I’ll be back.

What did I like so much about it?

First, it was run by women and the women on the ride far outnumbered the men but men were welcome. I generally don’t like sex segregated spaces–where do my gender non binary friends go?–but cycling can be pretty male dominated. So, for me, a ride that’s run by women but allows people of all genders to take part is a pretty wonderful thing

Second, it was exactly as advertised. They advertised a pace and they stuck with it. They put up the fence and called upon the faster riders to help out at the back.

Third, sprinting! Yes, there was a fence and yes, there was a commitment to sticking to speed but they also allowed and encouraged sprinting. Whee!

Here’s my sprint times. Happy to get a PR that last time through.

The loop is about 5 km and approaching the sprint, the fence came off, and after the sprint, we coasted and regrouped and the fence went back up. Perfection.

Fourth, it was that perfect time of day–late in Eastern Time zone –very early morning in parts of Europe, early in the evening on the West coast of North America and midday in Australia. I loved all the flags!

Thanks Dutch Diesel Cycling Dames Peleton! I’ll be back.

covid19 · fitness · fun · Guest Post · hiking · temperature and exercise · winter

So Many Reasons to Hike with Friends this Winter (Guest Post)

By Elan P

As the days of winter get shorter and colder, we begin shifting our thoughts and habits to account for the winter. Tracy I , Nicole P , and Sam B have all blogged on winter exercise and how they love it, have grown to love it, or have chosen to love it (respectively). 

Of course, there is an added layer of challenge this year, as catherine w describes, when we must exercise during a pandemic. Many bloggers in the FIFI community emphasize how maintaining physical health also supports mental health during COVID-19 isolation.

Over the past few years I’ve posted about group exercise in a summer fun run and winter fun run. In her post, Catherine invited FIFI readers to share our winter pandemic plans: mine will be regular winter hiking with friends.

Just starting out on the Elgin Trail. Photo by Elan Paulson (CC-BY SA ND NC)

Using a social media chat channel, each week those available agree on a 2 to 5 hour hiking route in SW Ontario, of easy to moderate difficulty, then on weekend mornings we just get up and go. If we carpool together, we wear masks. We keep track of our journeys with GPS, pictures, and good memories. Only a few times so far have we canceled due to poor weather conditions.

I asked this group how likely they are to continue hiking outdoors together this winter. Here is what some of them said:

  • I’m very likely to continue group hiking this winter. Why? It’s fresh air. It’s exercise. It’s community with amazing, diverse women who inspire and support one another. It clears my mind, works my body, and fills my heart. (Kimi)
  • As a single person during covid, it’s even more important for me to keep contact with my friends doing what we love, which is being outside being active. It’s all about mental health check-ins. (Sarah)
  • Our small hiking group this summer allowed us a sense of normalcy during a mentally and physically challenging pandemic. Hiking provided the perfect outlet for our need to stay safe and stay connected. I look forward to continuing our hikes this winter as COVID cases continue to rise and our fears and anxieties fester. Fresh air, friends and physical fitness are the remedies that will get us through this darker than usual winter. (Sheila)
  • Hiking has become a regular component of our self-care, especially since Covid. Everyone in our hiking group decided that we need to make time for this self-care ritual. For me, when I immerse myself in nature, combined with the methodical pace of hiking, I am soothed. And as a group, we are sharing this experience. Often we find ways to avoid, replace, or distract us from self-care. The hiking group has kept us all accountable and motivated to keep it a priority. We will continue even in tougher weather as part of our commitment. Self-care is non-negotiable. And snow and cold add a layer of physical challenge. (Marnie)
  • I am likely to continue group hiking over the winter because I’ve found a great group of like minded women who have a desire to challenge themselves to get outdoors, stay in shape and enjoy a beer. (Julie)

Exercise. Support. Clarity. Check-ins. Safety. Normalcy. Accountability. Motivation. Challenge. Sharing experiences. Self-care (which for our group usually includes enjoying a beer during or after the hike). I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Friends hike the Elgin Trail. Photo by Elan Paulson (CC-BY SA ND NC)

One person isn’t joining us for an upcoming hike due to a recent COVID-19 outbreak at her workplace. Here’s what she said:

  • I enjoy doing sports that are social. Hiking in this respect is social, and as Sarah said, for our mental well being this is so important! It might also be the laughing that happens is also food for the soul. Hiking is in the outdoors, and you don’t touch things, so the risk of spread is super low as long as people are hiking a bit apart. I feel our group has been smart and conscientious of our social distancing, while being able to enjoy and look forward to outdoor activities. Still, I will continue group hiking after this gets resolved at work. I don’t want to cause anyone stress.

Even when we hike outdoors together, we can’t forget to be vigilant about staying safe.

So, if you’ve been practicing physical distancing and you’re not showing signs of illness, grab a few friends (well, don’t grab them) and head outside for a winter hike. There are so many good reasons to do it. If you’re looking for a new crew, there are hiking groups available. Choose a group with clear safety practices that follow local health guidelines.

A woman walks across a small wooden slat bridge in the forest with leaves on the ground
Marnie M. hikes the Elgin Trail. Photo by Elan Paulson (CC-BY SA ND NC)

It’s December 1: Remember you are always enough

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash Image shows fir boughs with red berries circling a chalkboard sign saying New Year.

It’s December 1. If you are someone who celebrates Christmas, or even if you are someone who does not but feels the weight of this particular event deeply, and you are beginning to feel the edges of panic curling around your ankles like a cat that wants your attention or she’ll barf in your favourite pair of shoes, this is for you.

It’s okay to let go.

It’s okay if the edges on the gift bag are a little frayed and the paper is a little wrinkled. If you are feeling the weight of tradition, it’s okay to do it differently or not at all. If you are feeling sad because you lost someone or just because, don’t worry about not feeling the Christmas/holiday spirit.

If this is not your holiday and you feel badly that you feel resentful, don’t. If it is no longer fun, stop. It’s okay to want to make things special. It’s not okay if that effort turns you into a crispy critter.

It’s okay to want a timeout from the glitter, the elves, the emotional and physical labour of managing it all.

If you need someone’s permission, here’s mine. I won’t judge you because you forgot the elf, or you lost your cool and said many bad words, or you went to the bathroom to shriek into the last clean towel. I won’t make you write lines or sit in the corner.

I will say I am here. Listening as you take a breath and then another, and one after that. It’s okay. You are okay. It may not be fine, but it will be okay. And sometimes, that’s enough. You are enough. ❤️

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash Image shows grey back ground with a profusion of stars and lights in the lower right hand corner.

I first wrote this back in 2017, and I share it every year because I think it is something that needs repeating. This year, with COVID-19, there is greater stress to make things brighter, cozier, better, and often that burden falls on women. Do what you need to do to feel better, to build resilience, and to connect, safely. Be well, stay well.

MarthaFitat55 lives in and writes from St. John’s.

fitness · mindfulness · planning

Mindfulness and Daily Movement: Christine H Eases Into December

Between holiday commitments, year-end chaos, and, in this bizarre year, stress about the pandemic, about work (or the lack thereof) and about the world in general, December can be a bit of a circus.

No matter how well-organized you are, no matter what you may or may not be celebrating, it’s really hard to avoid succumbing to the ambient stress of this time of year.

Buddy the Elf from the movie Elf (Will Ferrell , a tall white man with  curly hair) in a green elf costume, goes round and round in a revolving door while screaming.
I think Buddy the Elf sums it up nicely here.

In the past few years, I have helped reduce that ‘revolving door‘ feeling for myself by employing an easy and short mindfulness practice. It doesn’t eliminate the stress of course, but it gives me a little more space to deal with it and it helps me keep some perspective.

I’m hoping that will hold true for this strange and anxious year, too.

Here’s what I do:

On the first of the December, I choose an instrumental Christmas album and commit to listening to at least one song from the album each day for the month. I might do yoga, draw, colour, or just breathe while I listen but I can’t do anything that even looks like work while the song of the day is on.*

It’s only a tiny thing but it really does help.

This year, to amp up my self-care, I’m also adding a little extra movement to each day.

I *could* frame this as one of my beloved 30 day challenges but that would put it into the category of things I MUST do.  

Instead, I’m trying to think of the extra movement as a gift to myself – giving myself a little more time and space to be more fully in my body instead of being mostly in my head.

A square present is wrapped in red wrapping and tied with a large red bow.
I have never wrapped anything in this fancy a way in my entire life but I admire those who can make gifts look this pretty!

A gift feels way better than being challenged at this point in the year.

If you like the idea of gifting yourself a little extra movement, I’ve rounded up a few suggestions for you:


Yoga with Adriene’s December Calendar – This year’s theme is ‘Honor’ (or, as we say in Canada, Honour) and is about hono(u)ring yourself.

Movement-based Advent**calendars:

Nutritious Movement’s ‘With a Twist’ Program – This will include daily movements and will likely have a sort of functional-fitness slant.

 Darebee’s Full Body Advent Calendar – Both this calendar and the one below will feature short daily exercises and they include a timer right on the page.

Darebee’s Upper Body Advent Calendar – See above.

12 Day Plans:

If you aren’t jazzed about a full month of movements, maybe a 12 Days of Christmas plan will be more fun for you?

Darebee’s Fit Christmas

Participaction’s 12 Days of Fitmas – this is a link to the information about the program but I think you will need to download their app for the program itself.

*You might be asking: Why doesn’t she do this during the rest of the year with non-seasonal music? It’s because it literally never occurred to her until she was writing this post. Brains are weird, weird things. 

**Speaking of things that haven’t occurred to me before: Why do Advent calendars start on December 1 instead of on the first day of Advent?

fitness · fitness classes · motivation

How to get out of bed for a 6 a.m. workout

Image description: Screenshot of an iphone screen with alarm set for 5:20 AM, black background, green “on” activated beside digital reading of 5:20 AM

Motivation. That’s probably the number one theme for anyone who struggles with working out. Yes, we deal with injury, weather, and interrupted routines. But how to get and stay motivated? That can be our undoing. Today I want to zero in on one really specific thing that people say they are not motivated to do: get up for an early morning workout.

Since shortly into the pandemic, I have been doing Superhero Workouts with fieldpoppy Cate’s amazing trainer, Alex of ABH Movement (I guess Alex now counts as my trainer too, since I’ve been working with her since May). These are one-hour live Zoom workouts, where Alex leads and a fluctuating number of us (usually somewhere between 8-15 these days) follow. Because we’re live, Alex can give us pointers on our form and we can ask questions or request alternatives. And I definitely work harder than I would if I had to make up my own workout and do it alone. My time of choice: 6 a.m. (MWF) or 6:30 a.m. (Tuesdays). On Saturdays it’s at 9:30 a.m., so that’s not a motivational challenge as far as the time is concerned. Thursdays it’s from 7:30-8:30 a.m., which is too late for me most days because of work. On MWF there is also a 9 a.m. class, and that draws its own regular crowd but I have never been. I like the early workout.

A few people told me flat-out that I would never see them at a 6 a.m. workout because that’s just way too early. I confess that as much as I love the early workouts, sometimes I need to give myself a pep talk to make it out of bed. The absolute best part of working out this early in the day is that by 7 a.m. (or 7:30 on Tuesdays) my workout is done! So how do I get out of bed for an early workout several times a week? Here are some of my strategies:

I get to bed early enough the night before…This sort of goes without saying but it’s key. If I don’t get at least (or close to) seven hours of sleep, I’m not likely to make it out of bed for the early workout. I set my alarm for 5:20 on the 6 a.m. workout days. That means I need to do my best to be sleeping by 10:30 at the latest.

I don’t get up right before the workout; give myself some time…Lots of people who have a 6 a.m. workout would probably get up at 5:50, especially if they don’t need to go anywhere. Even when I used to do swim training at 6 a.m. at the Y, I used to get up at 5:40 and just pull on my suit and my sweats and go. But now I have a different routine that involves hanging out with the kittens, feeding them, and perhaps meditating before the workout if there is 20 minutes of time. That means that by the time the workout starts I’m awake, not groggy. My usual wake-up time for the 6 a.m. workout: 5:20 a.m.

Have a pep talk ready for those days I don’t want to get out of bed…I have those mornings when I don’t want to get out of bed. But I also know myself. I’m the type of person who, once I am out of bed I’m ready to go. But if it’s raining, or snowing, or cold, or dark, or some combination of those things, then bed feels so cozy. The number one thing I tell myself is: “think of how good I’ll feel by 7 a.m. when I’m done my workout!” But I also tell myself: “I’m going to feel glad I got up within a few minutes of getting out of bed–really I will.” My pep talks aren’t of the style in Welcome to the Grind (have you seen that? -It’s a bit too earnest for me but I include a link here since some people find it really motivating and inspiring).

I work out with a group…That’s another thing that gets me going: “It’ll be fun to connect with the team.” Alex has great energy and really gets us going in the early morning, and I am starting to know some of the others (albeit in a very limited way because we’re Zooming) as well. Since I first tried group training I have come to appreciate its motivational magic. I feel the loss when I miss out on a group workout. I miss them. They notice I’m gone. Working out alone is rarely a replacement for a group workout, even though solo workouts always have their place in my training. It’s not just about accountability. It’s also about the energy of others. I love what Alex has created with the Virtual Superhero team and I always feel better not just for having done it, but while I am doing it.

I work out with friends... This is similar to working out with a group, but it’s more direct. On Tuesdays, a friend of mine whom I introduced to Alex’s workouts has started coming to the 6:30 class as well. When we touch base the night before to say we’re both doing the 6:30 class the next day, that’s basically enough to guarantee I’ll get out of bed for that workout. It’s not that much different from planning to meet a friend at the gym at 6:30 — you would not want to stand someone up that early in the morning (if ever!).

I take afternoon naps…I know naps are killers for some people, making it difficult for them to sleep at bedtime. But I learned the virtues of a power nap from my Dad, who used to come home from the office at lunch, eat, and then have a 10-minute nap before heading back to work. I usually go for a bit longer, but rarely longer than 30 minutes (I set a timer). It’s a great refresher that I can fit in now that I’m working at home. The kittens love it too (they always come and nap with me). And if I’m feeling tired from having been awake since 5:20, it’s gives me enough of a boost to feel good until bedtime without interfering with my ability to sleep at night.

I am flexible; sometimes I bail…I don’t always follow through with the early workouts. About once or twice a month, on those mornings when I got to bed too late or if I feel ache-y or if my body or mind needs more rest, I turn off my alarm, cancel my workout, and go back to sleep.

I should add that I’ve always been a morning person. I appreciate the quiet of an early morning. If we had to rate times of day from 1-10, where 10 is the time of day we love the most, I would rate 6-9 a.m. as a 10.

Those are my gentle strategies for getting out of bed for early morning workouts. How do you feel about early workouts? If you’re into them, how do you motivate yourself to get out of bed for them?