Yesterday, Sam reminded us of the benefits of Failing Small – making sure that we are keeping perspective when things go wrong.
I’d like to build on that and remind us all that even the smallest positive efforts count.
So, maybe you can’t do the full workout you had planned but you *can* do a few pushups and squats.
Perhaps your plan for a home yoga session fell through because you’re tired and all you can do is lie on your mat for a few minutes.
Or if you are trying to get to bed early, drink more water, or build a meditation practice and you do anything that inches you forward towards those goals.
That all counts.
Your fitness and wellness don’t just come from epic workouts or hour-long meditations. They are also created rep by rep and breath by breath.
Even your smallest efforts will add up.
Consistent small efforts create momentum.
Any wellness effort you make helps you to create room in your brain start thinking of yourself as ‘someone who exercises’ or as ‘someone who meditates.’ – a very valuable mindset for creating new habits.
So, while you are taking Sam’s advice to keep your mistakes in perspective, also give yourself some room to recognize the value of even the smallest success.
PS: Here’s a gold star for your efforts, big and small.
Over the course of about ten days, I spent several hours on the phone with Elections Canada being transferred to one person after another as I tried to get correct information about my voting options, figured out how to vote by mail, and how to resolve complications with the process. I could have voted at any Returning Office before the 14th, but by the time I learned that I was in Espanola and was under the impression that I still had plenty of time to vote by mail since September 14th was listed as the deadline to apply.
Unfortunately, this is misleading since in reality it wouldn’t allow for enough time to receive the special ballot via Canada Post and then get it back to Ottawa by 6pm on September 20th. That’s right, post mark dates aren’t what count here; it has to physically arrive in Ottawa by the 20th. That sort of turn around *might* be possible, but only for those who can afford $85+ to courier it there.
Why is the government not footing this expense for all mail in ballots given the impossibility of the deadline they have listed? Disabled folx and those in remote communities (like Northern Ontario) will be disproportionately excluded by this process. How many ballots will arrive late and thereby be excluded? During the last election “11.1 percent of national ballots and 11.8 percent of international ballots were returned late” (Elections Canada Vote by Mail FAQ). Clearly this is a significant issue even outside of a pandemic.
I applied on September 9th, but even this wasn’t enough time by regular post and maybe not even by express post. My ballot finally arrived to Iron Bridge on September 15th. At that point I was in Thessalon and had been told by Canada Post that the mail left at 5pm. Express post should get it there in three days – just enough time. I packed up as quickly as possible and rode hard and fast to get there in time.
On the way I made a quick stop at Little Rapids General Store for food. I’d heard they had lots of delicious smoked meat and cheese and I needed food anyway to get through the next stretch without grocery stores. Little Rapids did not disappoint. The smoked rainbow trout and taco flavoured cheese curds were delicious. Beyond that though, the town is a beautiful hole in the wall spot that most drivers would likely miss. I was disappointed that there wasn’t time to hike out to see the salmon spawning or take in the heritage museum. It also had lots of spots that looked great for stealth camping.
About half way to Iron Bridge I realized that without taking the highway I’d never make it. Pro tip: avoid this stretch of highway 17 at all costs. There’s no paved shoulder and drivers will risk your life here. If I hadn’t been so emotional about the messed up system I likely would have bailed and hoped it would get there anyway. As it was, I plowed on.
My cousin didn’t have time to drop my ballot off and I knew there was no way I’d get to the their place and then the post office in time. A random kind gentleman in his driveway picked up the ballot from my cousin’s (only a few blocks away) and dropped it off at the post office across the road. I made it to the Iron Bridge post office just before 5pm!
But I got misinformation for the bajillionth time: mail left at 3pm, not 5pm. Couldn’t have gotten there earlier anyway. I cried… not for the first time about the likelihood of my ballot not being counted. I jumped through so many hoops trying to get this ballot in – including changing my route multiple times. Right now it’s not looking hopeful – as of now it’s showing a Tuesday arrival and has no updates since it left Iron Bridge on Thursday.
As someone who has lived in poverty since my teens, the right to vote is a huge deal. It’s how we raise our voice, call for change, and hold our government accountable. If you weren’t planning to vote today, please get moving and go vote. My vote probably won’t be counted, but yours still can (if you have the privilege of accessibility). If transportation is a barrier phone the office of anyone who is running and a volunteer will help you get there!
A Facebook friend shared a collection of advice recently and this was one I really loved. “Fail small, not big.” It resonated with me.
I’ve written before about the significance of failing well. It occurs to me that failing small is one way to fail well. You can admit failure without it being a failure of all the things. It rarely is. You had a fight with a friend? You didn’t fail as a friend. More likely you mucked up one interaction.
Likewise, with workouts. You had a bad run. It’s one bad run. Move on. I know the voice that says, why did you think you could do this? You’re not a runner. And all of of a sudden it’s not even just running. It’s everything in your life.
I think it’s important to take risks and to not be afraid of failure. “Failing small” strikes me as one way of letting failure in but keeping it in its place. Racing the Snipe (a small 2 person sailing dinghy) this weekend, Sarah and I had a couple of really bad mark roundings. One in particular stands out in my mind because it was my fault. But we were able to keep on racing and keep our spirits up by admitting our mistakes but not making them into a giant catastrophe. It was just a bad mark rounding. We can practice mark roundings. There’s room to get better.
In case you don’t get the Race/Related newsletter from the NY Times, I wanted to share a few of the lovely photos and reflections on the joy of the outdoors, submitted by NYT readers of color. They made me smile and encouraged me out the door (I’m writing this an hour before going swimming with Norah).
Leesa: I am in loving motion with CoCoBaby. Yes, I named my bike. Street hustling and sidewalk flowing every morning and every evening, with her. She brings me joy — my CocoBaby! She helps me forget my woes and absorb myself with nature: the sultry heat of the summer sun, the crisp fall air with crunchy leaves under her tires, the rainy downpour of the Pacific Northwest rains. Riding on CocoBaby is a mindful meditation of how to be present and breathe in my joy, my gratitude for life and every adventure in between.
Roslyn: My mother tells the story of how at age 3, she put me down to feel the sand on my feet for the first time at the beach and I shockingly took off, fast, racing straight toward the waves, chubby arms extended, as if I knew how to swim. I did not. But I have always loved the water.
Here, I am walking one of many paths along the Palisades, the water and New York City skyline to my right, with my favorite four-legged girl, Moxie, in tow. Paired with endless sky, I can remember how small my worries are, and I am thankful for this bit of time where it is my Moxie, the water and me.
Faith: One day last year I went kayaking in the bayous of City Park in New Orleans. As I shoved off from the bank, the rental attendant looked concerned.
“Have you used a kayak before?” she asked.
“Yes, I know what I’m doing,” I replied.
It struck me a few minutes later — I did know what I was doing! Because I did not grow up with any regular tradition of outdoor life, I’m a little proud of myself for learning to handle a kayak.
Biking, hiking, paddling: all of these bring joy and offer ways to navigate the natural world. Seeing other people loving nature reminds me of my own relationship with it. And, like all relationships, it flourishes only when we tend to it. So I’m going to wrap up now, make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and get my swim bag together. See y’all later!
Readers, what kinds of experiences remind you of your love of nature? Do you have to go far, to a mountaintop? Can you get that warm feeling in your backyard? Let us know.
Today was my first day back since the lockdown last winter, and only about the fourth since the start of the pandemic. Swimming is a time of contemplation for me, so here is the list of things I was thinking about today.
It’s great to see everyone! I have missed my pool buddies, and I really enjoyed catching up on work and life news as we changed after practice.
I have forgotten how to do this. The flippers, pull buoy and flutter board are all in the cupboard at home. I nearly went into the water wearing my glasses. When do I take off my mask? I completely missed the rest after that set. Again. Oops.
There are so many people! I don’t know them all. Ack! also, I am really bad at introducing myself to new people, and it’s nice to know that the club is at maximum membership. It will help our little non-profit stay afloat financially. Plus it is a welcome option for people who were struggling to find suitable lane swim times at the city pools.
Swimming with four people in a lane is hard. We aren’t all the same speed and I need to figure out how to work with that again. On the plus side, it is way easier to track my distance, even without a swim watch.
My arm hurts. I really should have mentioned that to the coach before starting. On the other hand, taking it easy in the pool means I can swim five strokes or more without breathing – yay!. But I am a worse kicker than ever because I barely use my legs in open water – boo!
It’s really noisy in here. Enclosed space, 20 swimmers, music on the speaker system… I miss the pond or the river, where I rarely hear anything except the wind and in the waves while swimming.
Pachelbel’s Canon is perfect for swimming, at least at my pace today. Air on a G String works pretty well too. I haven’t felt like singing songs in my head in ages. It was pretty sweet.
I forgot to ask E about how the arm she broke last winter has healed. Obviously it’s better since she doesn’t have the cast, but is she back to all the running and so on? Thank goodness there is another practice next week!
Diane Harper lives and swims with the Ottawa Centre Masters in Ottawa.
The truth is, my high-flying fitness plans aren’t going all that well. I’m swamped at work and life is… well, being life. I miss moving, but I just don’t have time to do more than swimming once a week and maaaaybe a run, if I’m lucky. I look at my count in the 221 in 2021 challenge and it’s just laughable at this point. There’s no way in hell I’m going to make it, and as a completionist this bugs me more than I’d like to admit.
So I’ve been thinking about how I could get more movement in. I used to get a lot of my exercise through my commute, either biking or running. But now that the tiny human goes to nursery at the staff kindergarten where I work, I’ve been going by car every day and I’ve completely lost those workouts. If you look at the old post about my run commute I’ve linked above, you’ll see that I work up a very steep hill from where I live. Biking up with a normal bike and a kid’s trailer is just not feasible.
That’s why I’m very seriously contemplating an e-bike. I see other parents with kids in the same daycare do it and I get an itch. It would be perfect. I’m going to do it, I just need to find the right bike and make friends with the idea of parting with a whole bunch of my hard-earned euros (wow, these things are expensive!). Wish me luck on my search!
Better eatsNick Whitaker: The kitchen of 2020 looks mostly the same as that of 1960. But what we do in it has changed dramatically, almost entirely for the better—due to a culture of culinary innovation.
And this year, Feminist Philosophy Quarterly ( a journal I helped found and co-edited for a few years) published a special issue on Feminism and Food. This collection of anonymously peer-reviewed articles is the result of the call for papers inspired by the 2019 meeting of the Canadian Society for Women in Philosophy hosted by the University of Guelph, on the topic of feminism and food.
Did you know there was a feminist food club? I didn’t either. I don’t know if this yummy looking banana and blueberry French toast is particularly feminist but I might make some this week for #FrenchToastFriday.
Sam recently shared an article on the links between too much time and mental health, with the comment that this was not her problem. My immediate thought was “Ha! I’m willing to test this hypothesis!” The study looked at perceptions of well-being and how that rose or fell depending on the amount of free time, controlling for scenarios such as depression, which might leave a person with too much free time.
The basic result was that the sense of well-being rose with about 2 hours of free time, but dropped if the person had more than about 5 hours of free time. But, what counts as free time matters. The sense of well-being came primarily with productive free time, for meaningful activities such as hobbies, social activities, etc. “Wasted” time (undefined in the article, but for me it means things like doomscrolling, social media, and playing computer games) does not have the same effect.
So what is my takeaway on this? I’m mostly doing okay with making time for things I enjoy. I get enough fitness activities to be healthy. If anything, I need to start paying more attention to possible overuse injuries. Right now, I am dealing with what appears to be swimmers elbow. This may be a perfect time to rebalance my activities a bit, especially since the weather is cooling so I will be swimming outdoors less over the next few months.
My rebalance will probably involve more horse time. My daughter is looking seriously at a younger horse for her own riding, since she likes to jump and Fancy, though still healthy and eager, is 19. Like me, she is getting to an age where we need to pay more attention to the risk of injury.
She is still great for flat work though, which suits me fine. Until now, I have been riding about once a week so that my daughter could get as much time in as possible. However, I will likely increase that to two or even three times a week over the next little while. Will I ever reach the 5-6 rides a week that would be optimal for her? Probably not. That is a big time commitment, and would move this leisure activity into the category of becoming a real chore. Besides, as we continue to age, we are both going to need more recovery time between outings.
And I’ll need that recovery time to do all the other things that are meaningful to me – gardening, elder care, cooking, sewing, spending time at my cottage property, possibly even some home renovations. More and more lately, I have been thinking about retirement. Unlike Sam, I don’t find my job as fulfilling as I once did, and I am definitely not as busy. Time spent on work increasingly feels like something that is crowding out the things I enjoy, and I work hard to cram them all in before or after work. Maybe my sense well-being will will improve if I make more free time.
Hmm… this post has taken a strange turn. How about you readers? Are getting enough free time to make you happy? If not, what might you do to adjust?
Diane Harper lives and swims in Ottawa (among many other activities).
Reason 1: My new tacx neo 2 smart trainer is so quiet I can actually get up and ride without waking anyone up.
Reason 2: I can race with the Australians on Zwift. Friends from my former cycling club are racing in this series. It’s 6:30 pm EADT which is 4:30 am my time. I could even shower after and have breakfast and still make an 8:30 am meeting on campus.
Reason 3: I don’t usually have difficulty getting to sleep but when I am worried I sometimes wake up too early. Racing would help with stress and stop me sitting around in bed early morning scrolling.
Reason 4. I used to do it. And I liked it. (Though I think what I liked best was breakfast after and then going to work.) See here and here and here and here for my changing thoughts through the years about early morning workouts.
Reason 5. I hopped up the other day and did Zwift Academy workout #3 at 6 am and it was weirdly more tolerable half awake. But 6 am isn’t 5 am….
How about you? What’s early for you if you’re an early morning exerciser?