I wrote about it last month and I did have a very mindful March, even though I didn’t do every activity on the calendar. I’m always happy to add more focused moments in my day so every activity I did was bonus.
If you didn’t hear about Mindful March until now, you can do the last two activities today and tomorrow. Today’s activity is “Mentally scan your body and see how it is feeling” and tomorrow, March 31, is “Discover the joy in the simple things in life.” That last one is a tall order for a single day but perhaps you can think of one simple thing you really enjoy and take a moment to do that.
For example, I really love when my tea mug is the perfect temperature for me to hold it in both hands and enjoy the warmth radiating from it. I’m going to take an extra moment or two to enjoy that feeling in the next couple of days.
And, of course, you can always do the Mindful March activities at any time. It’s a good list of small ways to take a breather in your day.
And, of course, the daily tips from Action for Happiness switch up every month so, as Mindful March ends, we move right into Active April. If you click on the link in the previous sentence and scroll down to the bottom of the calendar, you have the option of downloading an ics file of the April calendar or viewing it on Google calendar – you can even add their calendar to your calendar list so you see the daily tips in your own calendar.
Here’s a copy of April’s calendar in case you want to do a little planning before Active April starts.
As we age, we notice lots of changes in our bodies. That includes pretty much all parts of our bodies. Yes, I’ve adapted to increased clothing sizes and even shoe size; I’m about 3/4 shoe size larger than I was in college– from US women’s size 8 to almost 9 (depends on shoe brand and type). One thing I forgot about until recently though, was how my fingers have changed over the years.
I used to wear rings in my teens and twenties, but got out of the habit after that. When I tried one on a few months ago, I noticed it was tight-ish. No big deal. However, I faced an actual ring size reality moment when I inherited a ring from my aunt Winifred, who died a few months ago. It is a platinum-set art deco diamond ring that I always admired. I was very touched that she left it to me, and it has great sentimental value as a reminder of her.
I went to a jeweler last week to see about getting the ring resized. When asked what ring size I was, I said, “well, I used to be a six and a half”. “Yeah, weren’t we all”, responded the jeweler. It was time to find out my current ring size, so out came the ring sizer.
Note: at this point in the blog, I wanted to offer some background on both ring sizing and what we know about how ring size increased with age. However, when I googled, this was one of the top sites I found:
Okay, that was a google fail. Trying again, I found a bunch of jewelers’ sites offering bits of information to the effect that yes, ring size can increase with age. Mainly it’s because our knuckles get bigger as we age– all of our joints change in composition, and we can get bone spurs (called osteophytes) in our fingers as well.
Great. All I wanted to do was get my ring resized, and now I’m examining my hands to check for bone spurs. Sigh.
But I digress. The business at hand was to find out my current up-to-the-minute ring size. We needed a ring sizer. There are all kinds of them, ranging from fancy to very DIY.
The jeweler I saw used the key chain of ring sizes, and also we tried some rings from the cases. I am now about a 7 1/2. They will resize my ring and also give it a “little TLC” according to the jeweler, making sure the setting is holding the stones in place. Yay!
Now that I’m noticing my hands in their current state, awaiting my resized lovely ring, I’m thinking they can use a little TLC as well. For me this means massaging with lotion more often, and maybe even getting a hand massage. This site offers instructions on doing a hand massage on yourself, but I may go out in search of a professional one sometime. If I do, I’ll report back. And I’ll show you my aunt’s ring once it’s sized to be just right for me and my hand.
I’m sure that, by now, we all know what my brain is like.
It either wants me to do all of the exercise things or none of the exercise things. It either thinks that I can’t possibly do enough or that there’s really no point in doing just a little.
Even though I know better, my brain gives me pushback on these things every damn time.
Recently, I’ve had some successes.
Last week, I wrote about how I managed to reframe my muscle soreness into a positive sign.
This week, I wanted to tell you about how I have coaxed my brain into believing that mobility exercises “count.”
Obviously, intellectually, I know that mobility exercises count. Everything counts when it comes to movement (and to building new habits!)
But I’ve always had a lot of trouble making myself do them because there’s no immediate payoff – they don’t FEEL like they count. They’re annoying and they are boring and it takes a lot of work to make myself stop what I am doing and start those exercises.
Now, despite all that, I’ve actually done pretty well for the last couple of months with doing one hip mobility drill before bed. And most days in March I’ve managed to do one shoulder mobility drill in the morning. A good start but it has often taken way more energy than I’d like to make myself do the drills.
And while my hips and shoulders have shown a little improvement, I knew that I needed to do more if I wanted a bigger improvement.
So I needed to figure out how to make it easy to get started, how to do enough to give me more results without wearing myself out. And I needed to find a way to make sure that I could tel that my exercises counted.
So, I have been doing the good habit-building technique of adding them to something I’m already doing. i.e. I’m doing my mobility exercises before or after my Fitness + exercise sessions each day.
So that’s one part of the trick – I am already in exercise mode so it feels pretty easy to add in my hip circles or foot stretches or whatever.
The second part involves making sure those exercises feel like they count…or at least, making sure they are counted.
I hate counting reps (it makes everything feel like it takes waaaaaay longer) so I usually set a timer for anything I need to do over and over. Using a timer didn’t help me convince my brain that the exercises counted though, because I was still only seeing a few minutes here and there.
But tracking with the fitness app on my watch has let me overcome that issue. Now I choose a video of the kind of exercises I want to do, I tell my watch that I’m doing a workout in the ‘other’ category, and it starts recording my minutes.
This makes all the difference in the world for my brain because the video length lets me know that I won’t actually be stuck doing these exercises forever (even if it feels that way) and using my watch to track it as an ‘other’ workout means that I can see how the short sessions are adding up to something bigger.
At the end of the day or the end of the week, I can see how much time I spent doing ‘other’ workouts and it feels tangible and useful instead of piecemeal and pointless.
By using my watch and a video, I can spend less time thinking about when and how to do these exercises and more time actually doing them. This process is way less frustrating because even though I have described this as tricking myself, I am actually working WITH my brain instead against it and that means I require far less energy to get each exercise session started.
Do you have any tricks you use to get your exercise sessions started?
Do you also have trouble making yourself do mobility or rehab exercises?
Do you have a favourite YouTube channel or Instagram account for these kinds of exercises?
I’m on the home stretch to second knee replacement surgery. It’s scarily close. And my left knee is getting better and better.
I thought I’d share some of my good left knee news.
1. This week I made my step goal five days running. Well, not running. Definitely not running. Walking. You know what I mean.
2. I’m Zwifting more often and it feels more normal. That first few minutes of stiffness is getting shorter and shorter. Also, Estee my physiotherapist had this great idea, stretch first. It helps! She’s a rock star for putting up with me.
3. When I’m using my cane these days it’s definitely because of my right knee.
4. When I go downstairs I often do it the normal way but when I don’t, it’s the right leg that goes first in “bad leg goes to hell” fashion.
5. I’m getting my strength and power back on the bike. I won a sprint segment on a group ride recently and hit 400 watts power for the first time since surgery.
Of course this won’t last. In two weeks it’ll be back to rehab and physio, but–I keep reminding myself–it’s better to do that from a place of strength. My left knee is ready for my left leg to be the good leg. Go left knee go!
Canadians aren’t Europeans. We don’t tend to take big chunks of time off work. But we aren’t Americans either. We do tend to take some time off during the summer.
That said, this year will be different for me. Spring will begin with 6-12 weeks of medical leave while I recover from knee replacement surgery. I don’t think I’ll feel like vacation right after that. And I’ll have physio twice a week all summer. I don’t think I’ll want to stray too far away from town that often. So this has my mind turning once again to small adventures.
“In his book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, Oliver Burkeman briefly references the concept of radical incrementalism. Burkeman writes about psychology professor Robert Boice, who studied writing habits of other academic professionals. Boice found that PhD students who wrote a little bit per day—even as little as 10 minutes—were more productive and less anxious than those who tried to write in big chunks (which they often procrastinated on until they had a deadline coming up).
Radical incrementalism has been mostly embraced in academia, policymaking, and even self-improvement. But I think it’s also an interesting way to look at having more fun: Instead of wishing I had the money and time to take a month or several to do some sort of very notable human-powered adventure to the top of a mountain or across a country, how about doing some less-notable stuff near where I live every week, or every month?”
I’ve written about this a bit before…
I love the idea of treating weekends like a vacation. So while I don’t plan to take a lot of time off this summer, I’m thinking I will plan lots of long weekends–biking, sailing, swimming, boating, camping…
But I am also thinking some weeknight evening drives to the beach might be in order too. Each summer, at the end, I regret that I didn’t go swimming more often and spend more time at the beach.
Even at work it feels especially summery when I take my lunch outside and chat with friends, or read fiction.
What kind of micro-adventures do you think you might get up this summer?
This story about Ontario islands came through my social media newsfeed recently–7 Breathtaking Islands to Visit Around Ontario That Feel Like a Slice of Paradise — and I confess I was intrigued. I’ve always had a thing about islands. I was born on an island, Great Britain. More specifically I was born in England but the island is called Britain. I spent some formative years, ages 4-10, on a large Canadian island (Newfoundland). I’ve sabbatical-ed on some big islands, Australia and the South Island of New Zealand.
And since then I’ve spent a few vacations bicycling on or around islands. And there’s a bit of a “bikes and boats” theme to my vacations.
Of the 7 Ontario islands listed above–Manitoulin, Flower Pot, Mackinac, Wolfe, Pelee, Toronto Islands, and Heart Island. I’ve been to most of them, and a few aren’t suitable for biking. But I’d like to go cycling on Pelee Island this summer.
The Waterfront Trail might be a great first ride after my second knee replacement surgery while I’ll still be riding short distances. “The Pelee Island Waterfront Trail is a 30km circular route, following close to the Lake Erie shoreline all around the Island. The route travels quiet country roads, through farmland, vineyards and natural areas, and has equal sections that are paved and unpaved. The Waterfront Trail also connects to the Islands’s Ecological Trail System, providing access to beaches, forests, sand dunes, marshes and alvars found nowhere else in Canada. “
Any other islands you’d recommend for cycling?
Of the big, faraway islands I often think I’d like to go cycling in Tasmania.
Just yesterday I had a fun walk in the woods at the Middlesex Fells Reservation with friends Rachel, Ethan, baby Teagan, and Wiley the dog. Here’s a picture of them with Wiley in opening of a dead tree and Teagan snug in the baby carrier:
The Middlesex Fells is a very popular nature area where people walk, hike, bike, ski, picnic, etc. It’s a 14-minute drive from my place, and a 7-minute drive from Rachel and Ethan’s house. It’s also bikable distance for us from both of our places. But what about public transport? Not so easy– one hour by bus/train from me, and 40 minutes from their house. Of course, because we have cars and bikes, it’s not an issue.
But it is an issue– for many communities and for many nature areas. In a report on equity and access to the Blue Hills reservation state park that came out recently in Boston,
…many in the community say they have never been there, and have never heard of the ski slope, the horse-riding facilities, the hundreds of miles of wooded trails, the large swimming and fishing pond, and even the National Weather Service observatory on its peak…That discrepancy in expectations is more pronounced among the 35% of residents dependent on public transit, which doesn’t move across the Blue Hills.
I’ve been to the Blue Hills reservation many times. There’s swimming, hiking (including ranger-led and meetup group hikes), picnicking, skiing in winter (including downhill), and all kinds of organized activities. It’s about 16 miles from me, and I can get there in 30 minutes in my car. But for residents of the Mattapan and Dorchester neighborhoods who are around 4–6 miles away and depend on public transit, it’s out of reach.
State Rep. Chris Worrell, who represents Grove Hall, said that few in his district would go to the Blue Hills Reservation despite it being so close. “Transportation deserts are real, and my constituents feel the repercussions of them daily,” said Worrell. “The study examined what we already knew, but it’s a step in the right direction toward awareness and change for our community.”
The solution in this case? Reroute one of the existing bus lines to stop at one of the main entrances to the park. A more expansive option would be to create a new bus route that takes in popular nature and recreational facilities in the area. Cost? $80K for the bigger plan, and much much less for the more modest one. That doesn’t seem like a lot of money in the context of a state budget, especially to open up state-owned resources like these to local residents.
This problem is all-too-common and not addressed nearly enough in North America. When I looked up “national parks public transport” I found this Outside online article touting “8 national parks you see without a car. Really? Well, no. You have to drive to get to the national parks, and then you can take a bus that makes its way around some routes in the park. That’s cool, but it’s not what I was looking for. And totally not the same thing.
Transportation inequity is real and it’s everywhere. And it’s a feminist issue– equal access supports us all and builds community solidarity, support for environmental concerns, and spreads of joy and beauty of nature to everyone.
So, readers: how do people access nature in your area? Are there public transportation routes? Is there talk in your communities about creating or expanding on them? I’d love to hear from you.
I am a list-maker at heart. I love making them and I enjoy checking things off. I also like reading lists, or listicles as they are sometimes called. It’s a handy thing to look at when you want some quick insights.
I decided to amuse myself one evening and check out lists of health and fitness tips. I quickly found more than 30 different kinds of tips. In reviewing them all, I saw I could group them into five broad categories:
Goals (setting goals, tracking goals, and evaluating goals)
Motivation (positive self talk, asking for help, having a health and fitness buddy, rewards)
Nutrition (what to eat, when to eat, what not to eat, how to eat, how to shop)
Drink (how much water to drink, switching from coffee to tea, soda to sparkling water, reduced to no alcohol)
Movement (when — every day!, outside, what kind — stretching, cardio, resistance, weights, yoga, rest/sleep/recovery).
If I tracked the frequency of certain suggestions, the number one types were:
Getting enough sleep
Eating good food
Doing a variety of things
Curiously, the most varied content came in the form of food tips. These included
Eat good food every day
Make healthy choices
Eat your vegetables
Track your calories
Watch your portions
Buy from the perimeter of the store
Makes sure 80 percent of food choices are healthy
Eat more protein
Now, this isn’t a scientific meta-analysis of trends in fitness tips but I did find it interesting, especially the vast array of guidance relating to nutrition and fitness. My top five favorites of all the tips were:
Move every day.
Get good sleep.
What would be in your top five?
MarthaFitat55 is w writer and listmaker who enjoys powerlifting, yoga, and swimming,
Recently a woman who serves on our local board of public health received a letter from a stranger telling her that she did believed she “cannot fulfil that role because of your unhealthy status. It is unacceptable to be overweight by the 20 pounds you appear to be carrying”.
Other women serving as elected officials in my city have been harassed in ways that range from their choice of lipstick (“makes you look like a cheap whore”) to violent threats that required police intervention.
It is no-one else’s business what someone weighs. There is plenty of evidence that being fat does not equal being unhealthy. How we define fatness is very subjective anyway. And don’t forget, diversity is a good thing. Having a broad range of of people can only help make public policy better by bringing their experience to decision-making processes.
Want to learn more? Skim through this blog, Google “fat women politicians” for many articles about the issue, listen to the Maintenance Phase podcast, or read Aubrey Gordon’s book “You Just Need to Lose Weight” and 19 Other Myths About Fat People. I’m reading it now and it is very solidly based on science.
It is true that men in public life sometimes get mocked about their fatness or some other characteristic, but it is almost always in the context of some other policy-based criticism. And there is almost never criticism of men of a similar size/ shape to the women being bullied.
I couldn’t find any images of larger women politicians that weren’t accompanied by stories about the harassment they had faced, and sometimes why they felt forced out of the public sphere. It made me so angry I ended up settling for an older photo of local open-water swimmer and former politician Catherine McKenna.
But then I got mad again that I couldn’t find something suitable, so you get a few more images of smart, capable women.
We often talk about how finding time for rest is important and a form of self-care. We talk about giving ourselves permission to miss a workout. If we miss a workout or we couldn’t find the energy that day or life got in the way in a myriad of ways, we talk about being kind to ourselves and not overthinking it. Think about the next workout. Think about what you can do – not what you haven’t done. This is all true. However, it is also important that we think about finding time to fit in exercise as self-care.
It is often said that the caretaker (of children, parents, patients, clients, etc.) must ensure they look after themselves so that they are able to look after others. We try to mitigate our inclinations to feel guilty about carving out time in our days to look after ourselves.
I don’t think there are any circumstances where a person should feel guilty about finding time to exercise. If it’s something the person wants (and is able) to do, then, it is important and there should be no need to justify finding that time. Whether it’s an hour run or 7 min HIIT workout or a walk or a gentle yoga class.
Finding time to rest is important and a form of self-care but it is OK to know and to appreciate that finding time to exercise is also important and a form of self-care. If we want to exercise (and we are able to, physically, in that moment) and we want to reap the benefits – better sleep, clearer head, more energy, feeling stronger, more patience and more – we should consider it our right to find the time.
If you are starting a new job and you are unsure about taking time to exercise – I hope you give yourself the love you deserve and go for that swim.
If you are thinking about a loved one in the hospital and you feel guilty thinking about how to fit in your daily jog – I hope you ditch the guilt and lace up.
If you have kids going back to school after March Break and your head is stacked with lists of things to do – don’t forget to give yourself the gift of movement – in that list – even if it’s 7 min a few times throughout the day.
If you haven’t been exercising and you are finding it hard to picture yourself at the gym – perhaps try some of the movements you would have done at the gym – at home – try some air squats or jumping jacks or wall push-ups or whatever works for you to try and build your confidence.
I hope you find the exercise that works for you and the self-care you deserve – this week, this month, this year.