fitness · mindfulness

Fitter in 2020 (from the neck up)

2020 will be remembered as (among other things) the year of zoom fitness classes and challenges, Zwifting, building and using of home and backyard gyms and yoga studios, widespread dog acquisition and subsequent walking, etc. Movers gotta move, and a global pandemic has proved insufficient to slow many of us down for long.

Gotta Move!

I have to say, I’m not in the above-mentioned group. Sam posted about being on Team More during the pandemic, and writes about some of the ways she’s changed up her workouts. I wrote here about being on Team Less is More, doing more meditation, even when I couldn’t do more cardio. This brings me to my first increased fitness item:

  1. Daily meditation is transforming my life, my world, my sense of self.
Oh. Well. Uh, good for you, I guess.
Oh. Well. Um, how nice for you, I guess.

Sorry– did things just get awkward? Let me see if I can help.

What meditation does for me is to slow things down so that I have a front-row seat to the show which is my awareness moment to moment. And what happens in that show? Not much. Thoughts come and go, itches and pains and warm and cold sensations appear and disappear. Feelings of desire or fear or shame or pride or whatever– they show up and then recede. Any of this can happen during 10–20 minutes of sitting. Then I get up and go about my day.

The cool thing is, awareness of thoughts and feelings and sensations persists. It offers a subtle shift in how the world feels to me– it’s still great and horrible and delicious and mundane and tiring, but I experience it from a stable perspective. This is a good thing.

2. I’ve finally gotten a bit better at the New York Times crossword puzzles (even Thursday and Friday!)

“It’s not like you solved world hunger or anything, but congrats” card. I need some of these.

You may be thinking, well, congratulations, but what does this have to do with fitness? Glad you asked. Scientific American explored this question here, and the answer is complicated (because science…) Whether doing crossword or Sudoku or Scrabble or other word games improves or preserves cognitive function is still not clear, as studies show conflicting results. But some recent work suggests that doing crossword puzzles calls on skills at the intersection of short-term working and long-term memory:

In 2014, researchers in Claremont, Calif., examined how Scrabble and crossword experts process and store information in short-term memory. They found that these puzzle whizzes had extremely strong working memories as compared to their control group, college students who had scored 700 or higher on the verbal section of the SAT.

It’s hardly surprising… but things got interesting when the researchers looked at how their short-term memories were firing. Both groups, but especially the crossword experts, appeared to use both verbal and visuospatial components of their short-term memory—that is, that instead of separating out visual cues from verbally processed ones, the crossworders [and Scrabblers] were integrating both types of perceptions in their short-term memories.

Well that’s something. It’s 2020, and I’m counting it.

3. I’ve devoted more time to crafting (albeit with mixed results). Still, it’s relaxing and also social (in that Zoom way). Here are some things I made this year:

See what I mean by mixed results? It’s okay, I can face the fact that I’m not a great crafter. But it’s so relaxing, and satisfying. And, I didn’t do it all alone. This year I had my annual Women’s Craft Gathering (I think this is year 13 in a row) via Zoom. My friend Pata put together manilla envelopes with card stock, pretty paper (both big and small), and red and green colored felt pens. She also mailed them! A bunch of people showed up online– some to craft, some to chat, some to just hang out to listen to others chat. It was fun and companionable. I’ve done this a few times with Pata, and several of us are interested in continuing the Zoom crafting together. Winning…

4. I’m trying on for size the idea that attending to my emotional fitness is just as important as (and contributes to) attending to my physical fitness.

I love moving under my own power. On land, sea or air– it’s all exhilarating and makes me feel like me. But the moving life isn’t simple; not lately, anyway. The huge advantage of 2020 for me has been that when regular life came to a screeching halt in March, I had the opportunity and excuse to be more still and more quiet, to listen and observe. And what have I noticed?

  • I tend to impose lot of expectations on myself when I do physical activity.
  • These expectations almost always result in me feeling bad about myself.
  • Letting go of expectations is scary, too– what if I never move again?
  • Lately, when I let go, I often find joy in movement. Or exhaustion. Or boredom. Or satisfaction. Which makes it like life.

In 2021, even when the world speeds up again, it’s important for me to remember how to slow down in this way (whatever that is), to stay in touch with a life of movement.

What about you, dear readers? How is your emotional fitness doing? What have you got? What do you need? I’d love to hear from you.