(Ask Fieldpoppy is a monthly column written by Cate; for last month, go here. Questions for future columns are welcome via the facebook page or in the comments).
I’m usually a “work out every day” type of person, and for most of the pandemic, I’ve been so great at getting up and working out first thing in the morning. But since the advent of Wordle, I’m a lay-abed blob. I wake up and instead of making my way to my mat and doing yoga or grabbing a set of kettlebells, I cosy in with my cats and all the -ordle games and then chit chat away on social media about… words. The new routine is comforting and a gentler way to wake up — but I am not as awake and focused when I start work, and I can feel my fitness slipping away. How do I break this cycle?
Well, first, I would ask, Why do you need to break the cycle? What are you getting out of this ritual? Is it something you need right now? Are there other places you can build a new, different habit of working out?
In my work in healthcare and higher education, the dominant thing I see right now is that people are… tired. Tired and short-fused and overwhelmed. The world is uncertain, and the news is upsetting, and we need to find comforting rituals where we can. Back in January, I saw a tweet that said “wordle is the sourdough starter of omicron,” and that made sense to me — we need distractions that make us feel less alone. Two years ago, trying a new, self-nourishing skill and showing it off on social media? That fit the need for us to feel like we were doing something meaningful while we were locked down. But now? We’re tired. The wordle and social media-m ritual requires attention of mind, not burpees or baking chemistry. A gentler engagement in communal connection .
It does sound like you’re feeling a little inertia because of this that doesn’t help with work focus — so maybe try to add a mini post-wordle walk or a little stretching to the morning ritual. Get outside and breathe a little. And find another place in your day to move your body a bit more. But be kind to yourself about the things that are giving you comfort right now. And keep that wordle streak going!
Why do I have energy to work out but for nothing else? I always feel well enough in the morning to work out. Long run. No problem. Strength and HIIT. No problem. Spinning. No problem. But after that, all my ailments come back and I have little energy for other things the rest of the day. How can I get that joie de vivre for other areas of my life?
–– Is it just interest?
Your tag makes me wonder a lot about what is going on in the rest of your day — what is happening at work, at home, in your other commitments and relationships that is weighing you down? In some ways, you and the first letter writer are having very similar experiences — it sounds like your morning workout is a ritual that keeps you grounded, lets you start your day by engaging with something that makes you feel strong, joyful, and — maybe — in charge and autonomous.
Try this mini-reflection. When you come near the end of your workout tomorrow, pause for a moment, scan your body and soul, and think about what adjectives describe the person you are when you’re working out. Strong? In control? Challenged? Tuned in to the present? Powerful? Connected to other people? Then think about how often you get to be that person in the rest of your life.
If the answer is “less often,” think a little bit about how you can add just a bit of those things to another activity. Is work hard because you aren’t connected to your colleagues? Try to find a moment of connection. Is housework blah because it’s endless and dull? Design it like an HIIT and do it to your favourite playlist. Are you lacking that sense of being “in charge” of your life? See where you can add a bit more autonomy. Etc.
Starting your day with your best sense of joie de vivre is amazing — because it shows how much you are tuned into what you need. Just tune in a little bit more to the other parts of your life for how you can make them what you need.
Dear FieldPoppy: I’ve never cycled for more than a few recreational kilometres at a time, yet I find myself signed up for a (gulp) two-day, 130km cycling road trip later this spring. I’m always up for an adventure with my friends (who cycle way more than I do), and I just bought my bike last year so want to get some use out of it. But I’m worried I won’t be able to do it. Would you give me some advice on how to prepare so I don’t quit before I try?
Ooooh, I’m so excited for you! Avid readers of the blog will know that I am the monarch of bike trips, and that I am never happier than I am on a bike in a new landscape. This sounds delightful, and I could go on and on about it! But I’ll try to keep it my advice to three things.
First, find out what you’re actually in for. Is this a supported ride (as in, you are just riding your bike while someone else carries your things, and there is a van to go to if you can’t go on), or are you self-supported (carrying all your things with no easy bail-out option)? Are you on rural roads (paved or soft), or bike paths? Is it hilly? Somewhere windy? When you say spring, what will the weather be? Sometimes knowing too much can be daunting, but I like to have a rough idea of I need to prepare for, both physically and mentally. If you’re going to be riding with panniers on rural roads, for example, you should do a little training in that same situation so you feel more confident.
Second, condition yourself for riding. This distance over two days isn’t overwhelming, but for someone who doesn’t ride a lot, it’s two full days of riding. So get your butt onto a bike seat. You didn’t say whether you’ve been spinning or what kind of working out you’re doing, but as soon as you can, get on a spin bike a few times a week. Spinning is a lot more intense than most touring riding, but it will build the actual muscles that you’ll need, and make you feel confident that your body is familiar with the whole concept of making a vehicle move by twirling your legs around. And it will tell you which parts of your body will need stretching, ointment, etc.
Finally, envision joy! Riding from point to point is an amazing, elemental opportunity to be with your body at its best, be in sensory relationship with the immediate world around you, and feel the unbelievable accomplishment of pulling into your sleeping place for the night on your own power. There’s nothing better!
Also, pack some saddle cream. Just, you know, because.
Dear FieldPoppy: Is it okay to despise an exercise? I abhor Bulgarian Split Squats even though I know they are super for my hip flexors. I’ve learned to like other exercises but this one gives me a cramp, literally and figuratively.
Things it’s not okay to despise: clean water; clean air; whole groups of people based on superficial traits; your own body; cake.
Things it’s okay to despise: ANYTHING IN THE WORLD OF EXERCISE THAT MAKES YOU GRUMPY. Also, capers.
Life is too short to dance with anything that gives you a cramp. I free you from even remembering this is a thing. Bulgarian Split Squats? What? Never heard of it. Pfft. Strengthen and stretch those hip flexors some other way. Or not. But don’t spend your workout hating what you’re doing.
Fieldpoppy is Cate Creede (she/they), who lives and works on the land now known as Toronto, which is the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, and is covered by Treaty 13, signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit. Cate is a coach, consultant and general thinker about relationships, meaning making and bodies.