challenge · fitness

Maybe February is the new January: a case for showing up (late) to the challenge party

Okay, January 2023 is in the books. Along with it are the now finished (or abandoned) January challenges. Our own dear Fieldpoppy just posted yesterday about how her round of January challenges went. TLDR: they went splendidly! She’s found a structure and a set of routines that support her in other parts of her life (loads of work right now). In case you missed it, here’s one of my favorite quotes:

I like the person I am when my structure for movement is both doable and enough.

Yes to this, with an emphasis on the doable-ness. Honestly, I almost never find January challenges very doable. Even though I’m well aware of the ways the calendar works, January seems to sneak up on me every year. Before all the Christmas leftovers have been cleaned out of the fridge, before I’ve put all the presents away, before I’ve acclimated myself to another year, it’s time to change the calendars and overhaul my daily habits. Or so I’m told.

This January marked some big transitions, both in my work and family life. In short, my hands and head were full of managing those, with little space for tackling shifts in my sometimes haphazard daily movement regimen.

But now it’s February, and life is settled into a recognizable routine. I now find myself looking around and thinking, “okay, I think I can take on and try out some new things. I’m ready for my (fitness) close-up now.

So, I joined a gym last week! It’s got a salt-water pool, spin classes, lovely yoga studio, all the heavy things to lift and throw around, and lots of towels, too. I’m going this week and will report back.

For February, my goal is to swim once a week and either spin or do strength training once a week.

There’s a new yin yoga class at my local studio, Artemis. I’d like to try it out, either on zoom or live in person. I still love Iyengar yoga, too, and there are several classes there every week.

For February, my goal is to do one yoga class at Artemis (either in person or live on Zoom) every week.

I’m also dog sitting through Feb 12, which is getting me outside much more than 23 minutes a day. After Dixie the dog goes back home, I will have to walk myself, which is easy to do at school. On days I’m teaching, I’ll take an extra walk around campus or at one of the nature areas nearby.

My goal for the next four week is to take short walks on or nearby campus twice a week.

So, folks, February Challenge has been unlocked. I’ll let you know how things are going. Are any of you doing February in lieu of January as challenge month? Are you still riding the wave of an active January? Are you avoiding the whole business? I’d love to hear from you.

challenge · fitness

The Dalai Lama sticks his tongue out often, and other lessons from his Happiness Challenge

January is almost over, and with it comes a slowdown of the New Year’s challenges that show up in our inboxes and social media feeds. I’ve got mixed emotions about challenges. The novelty of them can be interesting, and maybe sometimes the intensity and repetition has lasting effects on habits we might want to alter or develop. However, I find that the novelty can soon wear off, and along with it my commitment to the challenge, especially if I’m just doing it just because it’s the season.

However, in this case the other person doing the challenge is His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who’s sharing how to achieve and maintain happiness in the course of ten days. Well, not really. It’s another of the Ten Percent Happier meditation app challenges. They went to a lot of trouble to fly out to Dharamshala, India, where the Dalai Lama lives in exile, and actually interview him about happiness, compassion, dealing with jerks in our lives, etc. And yes, there were ten days of meditations too, with Zen priest Roshi Joan Halifax.

tldr: I did all the meditations, but the best part was what I learned about and from the Dalai Lama about happiness. Here are some of those lessons.

Lesson one: the Dalai Lama sticks his tongue out after he says something funny. He did this throughout the interviews, so I think it’s his thing. Each time he did it I enjoyed it even more. I think we should all start doing this; the world would definitely be a happier and more humorous place for it.

Lesson two: Even the Dalai Lama experiences anger. When Dan Harris, the Ten Percent Happier founder, asked him if he ever felt anger, he admitted that being woken up by a mosquito in his room was irksome.

Whew, that’s a relief! The goal of any happiness challenge just can’t be the elimination of either angry or sad or negative thoughts and feelings. Neither can it be the fashioning of a wholly positive and happy environment. If the Dalai Lama can’t achieve this, certainly I can’t either. So I don’t have to berate myself when I feel negative; it’s a part of the human experience.

Lesson three: as in all challenges that I’ve tried, some parts are much harder than others. Compassion is a very big thing with the Dalai Lama (obvs). He explains that compassion to others (and I mean ALL others, including even those most difficult people in our lives) gives us a benefit– the benefit of greater happiness. He calls this strategy “wise selfishness”.

His Holiness again, tongue out, punctuation for his wise selfishness lesson. I can't get enough of this...
His Holiness again, tongue out, punctuation for his wise selfishness lesson. I can’t get enough of this…

I tried the meditation on compassion for jerks (that’s what they called it), and it was pretty hard. You’re supposed to think of a difficult person in your life, and wish them health, happiness, safety and ease. I’ve done this sort of meditation before– it’s a variation on Metta or Loving Kindness meditation. It just so happened that, at the time I was sitting for this meditation, I couldn’t do it. It was too hard focusing on a very difficult person. I was resisting and losing focus and struggling.

During that meditation, though, Roshi Joan Halifax said that we could focus on ourselves instead if the going got too tough. Maybe that day we needed more help, more compassion. So I did, and that helped.

I am remembering this and trying to apply it to other challenges in my life– physical, emotional, logistical, etc. Not every day is all-go-no-stop. In fact most days aren’t. And some days our flow, our grit, our focus, our strength– they are at a low ebb. Wise selfishness includes compassion for ourselves as well as others. Okay, got it.

Lesson four: when someone is sad, offering them cake is always a help. Okay, there’s more to this one (but honestly, not a whole lot more). The Dalai Lama gave a talk with folks about how we are social animals, and that happiness comes from seeing that we are not alone. A woman in the group shared that she was grieving a loved one, and asked him how he maintained hope amidst grief.

His Holiness called her to him, and then fed her some cake.

The Dalai Lama, feeding cake to a woman. They are both so happy, as am I just seeing them.
The Dalai Lama, feeding cake to a woman. They are both so happy, as am I just seeing them.

An act of kindness, as simple as offering food, reminds us of our connections to others. This is another example of the wise selfishness that His Holiness was talking about. Do for others and you spread happiness. Wondering how you can pull this off? Easy– bake a cake. Or brownies. Your choice. And then share it.

At the end of the Ten Day Challenge, I feel like I’ve acquired a few new moves to take me in the direction of increased happiness. Thank you, Dalai Lama! Now, off to try my hand at a lemon pound cake to bring to friends.

Fellow readers, did you take away any new skills from January challenges? I’d love to hear from you.

eating · fitness · overeating

Is second-hand cake as bad for you as second-hand smoke? On sweets in the workplace

On January 18, The Washington Post was either having a very slow news day or engaging in a hazing ritual for new editors. Why do I think this? Because of this article that somehow got published about how Dr. Susan, Jebb, chair of the UK Food Standards Agency personally doesn’t like it when people bring cakes into the office:

“If nobody brought in cakes into the office, I would not eat cakes in the day, but because people do bring cakes in, I eat them,” professor Susan Jebb, chairwoman of the Food Standards Agency, told Britain’s Times newspaper. “We all like to think we’re rational, intelligent, educated people who make informed choices the whole time, and we undervalue the impact of the environment.”

Hmm. I see. Did a new study come out about workplace treat consumption and health outcomes? A randomized controlled trial to measure employee BMI before and after the experimental group had a slew of employee birthday parties? A literature review on the state of employee workplace nutritional intake?

Nope. Courtesy of Daniel Herron, on Unsplash. I don't know if the writing is edible or not.
Nope. Courtesy of Daniel Herron, on Unsplash. I don’t know if the writing is edible or not.

Someone just asked Jebb what she personally thought about workplace cakes. She added:

“As The Times article points out I made the comments in a personal capacity and any representation of them as the current position or policy of the FSA is misleading and inaccurate.”

But then she went on (fair enough– some reporter kept asking her questions, which she kept answering).

“With smoking, after a very long time, we have got to a place where we understand that individuals have to make some effort, but that we can make their efforts more successful by having a supportive environment,” she said. “But we still don’t feel like that about food.”

Right. Public health nutrition professor doesn’t want cake in the workplace, and suggests that we are now in a position with respect to cake in the workplace that we used to be with respect to smoking in the workplace.

As you would imagine, Washington Post subscribers had much to say in the comments. For ease of digesting them, I’ll put them into manageable bites:

Clever frontal assaults:

  • Oh, please. I’ve never been afflicted by second hand cake because it isn’t possible, unless perhaps you slip on someone’s cake and fall down the stairs.
  • Is it possible to actually inhale cake involuntarily now?
  • Some of the foods in our environment are designed to kill.

Crabby and ungrateful co-workers

  •  I didn’t like the cake for my birthday at work from co-workers, even if they were excellent. I also didn’t like it when sweets or cakes were brought in for everyone to enjoy.
  • … while the person bringing cake to the office is trying to be kind, they’re poisoning their colleagues.

No more workplace cake because no more workplace!

  • Maybe it’s not the cake but the workplace that’s killing us.
  • Maybe working in an office is the real health risk, not the cake. Sitting at a desk and working on a computer for 8 or more hours a day is way worse than cake. 

Pro-cake partisans

  • I love office cakes. I love office snacks. I love goodies that distract from the daily grind.
  • How often do these coworkers bring cake to the office? They can come work with me.

My favorite is below– I wish I had written it myself, but I’m doing the next best thing by sharing it with all of you here:

The underlying assumption here is that gaining weight is just as unhealthy as smoking. Believe it or not, responsible science doesn’t actually support a clear and direct connection between weight and health outcomes. Food can be a social catalyst and cultural touchstone. Eat the damn cake if you want to; don’t if you don’t.

So, readers, what do you think? When it’s someone’s birthday in your office, should you let them eat cake? Let us know in the comments.


Sport love: thinking about the romance of movement

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but I’m just now realizing that Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us. As of this writing it’s a mere 23 days away (22 as you read these words). You may be wondering:

Exactly what is your point here?

Well, once I’ve waded through the New Years’ Challenge mania, my fancy turns to sweeter goals and pastimes. Yes, I’m talking about rekindling feelings that may have dimmed, but not gone out entirely. Feelings for:

  • Swimming
  • weight training
  • in-person yoga classes
  • dance-y style exercise classes

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post, To all the sports I’ve loved before. I was waxing nostalgic for a few sports I’d dabbled in but never committed to. Would I ever revisit them? Never say never, but I’m unlikely to start fencing or doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at this point in my physical activity trajectory. Scuba is something I hope to try again, given the right conditions (warm blue water with very pretty fish of many colors nearby).

However, the list above reflects a desire to get out of my rut of doing some yoga at home, some other movement classes on youtube and walking as primary exercise. I’ve not been feeling very motivated or energetic, and novelty always provides a bit of a kickstart. What I need is something to get my attention focused, my heart racing, my pulse quickening. I need a new exercise love. Or loves.

I can do all of these things if I go ahead and join that gym I’ve been talking about for awhile now. Yes, I’ve been dragging my feet. But getting out of the house and into the locker room may be just what the doctor ordered.

Well, maybe not tomorrow, but certainly this week, I'm going to check out the place and will join if it's not terrible. Okay?
Well, maybe not tomorrow, but certainly this week, I’m going to check out the place and will join if it’s not terrible. Okay?

i’ll report back later this week on progress.

Readers, what do you do when you’re yearning for a little something-extra, something-novel in your movement regimen? Do you try out some new activity? Or is a change of venue the solution to your exercise ennui? I welcome any suggestions.

celebration · fitness

Advance birthday activity party planning: throwing and hitting things

Last night I went to dinner with five friends, all of whom I’ve cycled with or skied with or kayaked with. In addition to catching up on each other’s families, jobs, pets and travel, talk naturally turned to the following subjects:

  • gear– who has bought or upgraded lately, and what do we all think about it (some new ski boots were discussed)
  • activity trips– either sandwiched in during work trips (yes, one of us is conferencing/skiing in Aspen soon) or planned as actual bona fide vacay (two are headed to Costa Rica for whitewater kayaking in February)
  • whose kids and dogs are doing what, activity-wise, e.g. little kids using chairlifts with some help, and dogs doing mountain biking and hiking in the same day (with different human groups)
  • who is taking on new activities/sports– one snowboarder wants to try downhill skiing, and another person is thinking about taking up women’s chilled-out hockey team (yes, there is such a thing)

For the most part, I’m minding the shop at home for at least the next month or so. I’m back on the job after sabbatical, and feeling like returning to the yoga studio and trying out a new gym. I’ll cross country ski locally if and when there’s snow.

But, in the course of conversation, I had an idea: my friend Steph and I have birthdays in adjacent months (March and April). We both like having group parties on our birthdays. I thought: why don’t we organize some active and maybe cheesy fun in honor of our birthdays? We both like hitting and throwing things, Also, trying something new appealed to all of us. I’ve deputized myself to research the options.

Axe throwing first came to mind. As it does. I’ve yet to try it, but our dedicated FIFI staff have blogged about it here and here. I wonder if we could get a cake like this one?

Cake with a red-and-white target on top and possibly a real axe beside it. Will they allow us to use the axes to slice the cake?
Cake with a red-and-white target on top and possibly a real axe beside it. Will they allow us to use the axes to slice the cake?

I’ve never been to a batting cage, but I was a pretty good softball player when I was aged 11–13. Maybe it’s time to check out the old swing again. In my head, I picture myself doing at least as well as Susan Sarandon did in the romantic baseball movie Bull Durham.

Susan Sarandon at the batting cage back in the late 80s. I hear she later switched to ping pong and is in that business now.

Once we got started talking, more ideas cropped up. For golf, there’s the driving range, golf simulators (I don’t know what this is, but a bunch of them popped up in my google search), and of course mini golf. As for bowling, in New England facilities include both candlepin bowling and uh, the regular kind.

One game, three options: candlepin, duckpin, tenpin. How to choose?
One game, three options: candlepin, duckpin, tenpin bowling. How to choose?

For now, that’s all I’ve come up with. On the other hand, these activities will suffice to guarantee much enjoyment and hilarity for all of us. There’s nothing like taking on some physical activity in a low-stakes, high-amusement-level environment with people you enjoy being with and laughing with. This is what we are shooting for.

So, readers, any other ideas? What am I missing? Let me know if you have thoughts or if you’ve done any group outings like this. How did it go? I’d like to hear all the details.

fitness · Happy New Year!

Catherine turns January blahs and writing block into a blog post of sorts

Well, it’s happened: I’m sitting here in front of the white screen of my laptop, waiting for blog post inspiration to strike, and… uh, nothing. It’s kind of like when you open the fridge or peruse a menu at a restaurant, and nothing grabs your attention. Caesar salad? Nah. Six things I don’t like about Man Flow Yoga? Not feeling it. I do have a post-in-process about the Dalai Lama’ 10-day Happiness Challenge, but it’s only day 6, so that will have to wait. (Spoiler alert: the Dalai Lama has this super-cute habit of sticking his tongue out after he makes a joke, which is often. I love this).

So, what’s been going on this week? Well, I missed a day of meditation because of travel busyness, so my Ten Percent Happier app restarted me. I always have a momentary “Drat!” response, but the upside is that I get short-streak phone confetti as I progress through the three-day, five-day, etc. streaks. Here’s one of their reminders.

I hit a 3-day streak for the 39th time. Restarting is a big part of my meditation practice.
I hit a 3-day streak for the 39th time. Restarting is a big part of my meditation practice.

My sabbatical is ending (which perhaps might explain some of the January blahs I’m feeling), so I’ve been in a flurry of last-minute-before-teaching activity. I’m cleaning out my junk room/study and turning it back into a guest bedroom/study. Clearing out stuff is in some ways easy for me– I enjoy getting rid of things and sending them on their way. Donating books to the library– check. Dropping off stuff at Goodwill or some other place– check. It’s the stuff I want to keep that creates problems. Where to put it? How to organize it? Here are some of the categories that create storage conundra for me:

  • paper crafts stuff
  • jewelry-making crafts stuff
  • lots of sports stuff– mats, roller, some weights, bands, etc.
  • books books books books books books books books
  • papers from who knows when about who knows what
  • cute furniture that I just don’t have room for given the new plan
  • miscellaneous items not related to above themes

I’m a member of a Buy-Nothing group, which I love. I’ve gotten rid of things and also picked up a few things from them. In addition, it’s often amusing to see what folks will list. One person offered up some chocolate chip cookies, which “are a little burned, so we won’t eat them. But maybe you would like them?” Seriously, this was an actual post.

I’ve made some progress in sorting and designating locations and stay-or-go decisions but am stalled at the moment.

Yes, the image of pushing a car uphill seems rather apt this week.
Yes, the image of pushing a car uphill seems rather apt this week.

Of course, once classes get going this coming week, I’ll be back in gear (get it? gear? well, I’m trying) and the feeling of being suspended will go away out of necessity. I also want to join a gym next week. I’ve picked out one to visit, but just haven’t managed to get there, even though it’s a 10-minute drive from my house.

Google maps image of the route to the gym, which takes 9 minutes.
Oh, I misspoke; it’s actually a 9-minute drive.

One more thing before I go and tackle the study again: here are some clothing items I managed not to buy this week:

Used but in good condition cardigan and dress, both red. Perused but bought by me this week.
Used but in good condition cardigan and dress, both red. Perused but bought by me this week.

If you’re still reading, thanks for stopping by. I expect to be my active FIFI-topical self next week. Keep an eye out for my Dalai Lama and how to get happier post soon. In the meantime: how’re you doing? Feeling blah? Are you energized by the new year? What’s up? I’d love to hear from you, as always.

body image · fitness

On revisiting the body positive zone (reblog)

This week I went to the American Philosophical Association Eastern meeting in Montreal to give a talk and to see friends and colleagues. Sam and Sarah and I breakfasted and chatted, and I saw and talked with many other friendly feminist philosophers. The Eastern APA meetings are traditionally one of the big conferences in my field, and used to be the site for most of our academic job interviews. So you would see scads of young, anxious besuited graduate students standing around in groups or rushing to the candidates’ area to look in their folders for messages about upcoming interviews. There would also be throngs of tweed-jacketed men of various levels of prestige, all in search of the perfect conversational clutch: a combination of the famous, the fashionable, and the eager hangers-on. At least it seemed that way to me.

But not anymore. Those days are gone.

In addition to being a much smaller conference (thanks, Covid), the Eastern APA is now a scene of mostly casually-dressed people who look relatively happy to be there… Gone are the crowds of anxious job candidates and interviewers; most universities have shifted to Zoom interviews (and then campus visits for finalists). The dress code has relaxed considerably, too. I saw people wearing sensible clothing, interesting clothing, warm clothing (it was Montreal in January, after all). Most of all, I saw my outfit (jeans, shirt, pretty sweater, some jewelry and sensible winter shoes) as all part of the conference clothing mosaic. This is such a good thing.

Then I remembered this post from 2016 about Visiting the Body Positive Zone. I was at a conference of friendly feminist philosophers, and I felt this level of comfort with what I was wearing, how I was presenting that felt different and good. It also felt unusual.

Six years later, I don’t feel so much like I visit body positive zones. Rather, I contribute to body positive atmospheres in the world by bringing my own positive sense of self and get validated and supported by seeing others acting similarly. This isn’t limited to professional conferences. We can and do bring our own little positive zones to the beach, the park, the classroom, the office, you name it.

Take a look at my post from 2016, and see what you think. Has your view of body positive zones shifted in the past six years? Are you still looking for such zones in your life? I’d love to hear from you.


challenge · fitness

Catherine’s 2023 reflections (and one complaint) about New Year challenges

New Year Challenges can be fun. Or at least that is what every single media outlet is trumpeting, from Self Magazine to the Tricycle Buddhist Review.

Honestly, I shouldn’t be complaining at all. Gone (at least from my media view) are the Do-100-Burpees-A-Day and Become-a-Contortionist-in-30-Days challenges. Or rather, they’re taking a backseat to what seem like more well-being and happiness-directed challenges. Not that there’s anything wrong with, say, doing a Plank Challenge. Sam wrote about hers here in 2020.

Things I like about it: It’s a short time commitment. I can do it while supper is cooking. I’ve got a yoga mat in the living room and I can do planks in my work clothes. The gradual increase in difficulty is good so far. I’m just at the beginner level. My view might change when I go up to moderate or advanced.

Cheddar, the ever-present and ever-loving golden retriever, helped, which I think made it even more fun. Click on this link for photos.

I’m doing some challenges this year, swept along by a) the general feeling of new-year-new-you-ness; b) an atmosphere in which friends and colleagues are doing challenges; and c) the more reasonable and relevant challenges that are out there now. Recall a recent post by Sam about some interesting new year challenges: Some New Year Challenges We Recommend.

Here are the ones I’ve signed up for so far:

  • 223 workouts in 2023
  • Yoga with Adriene, Center, a 30-day challenge
  • The New York Times 7-Day Happiness Challenge
  • The Dalai Lama’s Guide to Happiness (on the Ten Percent Happier App)
  • Buy-Nothing-Until July 1 Challenge (with a few exclusions and some fine print)

I don’t list Meditation-Every-Day as a challenge this year because it’s now just something I do. It’s probably the most important contributor to my well-being and mental health, and it’s taken a while to get it locked into my day. But it’s there now. Having an app helps me keep on track (yes, everyone knows I use Ten Percent Happier. But But it’s really good and I love it…:-)

On to the reflections (and one complaint).

Last year I did the 222 workouts in 2022, and it was my hardest year for getting across the finish line. I had to to two workouts a day for the last ten days to make it. What happened?

Uh, I dunno. Wonderful image of a young man shrugging his shoulders by Oyemike Princewill on Unsplash.
Uh, I dunno. Wonderful image by Oyemike Princewill on Unsplash.

Rather than do a lot of post-game analysis, and in the spirit of new-year-newish-me, I’m starting again, with the new 2023 challenge. I’m resolving to pay more attention to my activity during the winter this year and see where things stand in April.

Yoga-with-Adriene’s 30-Day January Challenge has never actually worked out for me. I always get started– yes, I did day 1– and then speedily poop out. I’ve done days 1 and 2, but failed to do day 3. Today is day 4. I’m starting to think this challenge isn’t for me, which is to say that I’m not actually committed to doing it. That’s fine. But I’d like to make a decision one way or the other in the next day or so. Letting challenges fall by the wayside doesn’t feel great. Deciding to eschew them or replace them with something else (challenge-y or not) seems like a better idea.

Time for my challenge complaint. Just for fun, I signed up for the New York Times 7-day happiness challenge. It consists of taking a relationship quiz to see where your deficits are, and then following a week’s worth of tips for improving connection and the good feelings that come with it.

I took the quiz– a 10-question survey– and got my results. Not to brag, but I aced this one.

My results: I’m in tip-top social shape. Go me!

I kind of knew this already; my greatest resource is my strong connections to friends, family and community. I’m a phone person (that is, talking real-time with other people on their phones) and I do social and activity and cultural and creative things with others regularly. Not that I don’t have my problems, but this isn’t one of them.

And yet. After totally nailing this quiz, the Happiness Authorities are telling me to do EVEN MORE. They say this:

Even if it’s a bit outside your comfort zone, consider ways that you can be even more proactive in broadening your social universe and staying connected to people you value.

What?! But But I aced the relationships test! You are telling me I need to do better than tip-top? What’s beyond tip-top?

Climbing to a cloud above the tip-top is implausible and in this case ill-advised. Watch out, dude. The graphic dude is standing on a cloud above a sharp mountain peak.
Climbing to a cloud above the tip-top is implausible and in this case ill-advised.

Maybe sometimes it’s okay not to do more, in particular when what you’ve done or are doing is good enough. Honestly, from taking the quiz, it seems to me as if I should cut back a bit from my socializing and being-in-touch schedule. The quiz people generated this graphic representation of me and my relationships. Frankly, it looks dizzying and scary.

Tiny me in the middle of a psychedelic swirl of social patterns, closing in on me in tenacious concentric circles. Help.
Tiny Catherine in the middle of a psychedelic swirl of social patterns, closing in on me in tenacious concentric circles. Help.

For the record, I’ve followed the first three days: 1) take quiz– did I mention I killed it? 2) make an 8-minute phone call: done! I talk to at least 4 people a day on the phone just to chat; and 3) make small talk with people I don’t know as I go about my daily life: done! My good friends make fun of me for my habit and obvious enjoyment of talking to people I don’t know. What can I say? I’m a textbook extrovert.

The Dalai Lama 10-Day Happiness Challenge hasn’t started yet, but I’m looking forward to it. I’m guessing that it is more focused on cultivating moments of happiness and recognition of joy or beauty. That’s very different from chit-chatting on the phone. And, it’s something I’d like to work on, as it’ll help with mitigating anxiety, rumination and distraction– all issues for me. I’ll report back later.

Finally, I’m doing the Buy-Nothing Challenge, along with several FIFI bloggers. I followed in Sam’s footsteps starting last July, and it was great. I’m signing on for another half-year challenge, with the following special conditions: I can buy used clothing at my favorite consignment shop Wearovers when I bring some of my own clothing to consign. I can replace worn-out or wrong-size workout gear (e.g. I bought a new helmet to replace my very old one– a safety thing). I can buy clothing gifts for my family. Other than that, I’m good with what’s in my closet and dresser drawers.

It surprised me how much I liked this challenge. It’s a relief not to have to think about whether I really want some bright-patterned top that flits across my computer screen. I can look, which it turns out is still fun. In a way, it’s more fun, as I don’t have to worry about whether to buy anything. I’m not.

You, dear readers, will be hearing back from us as the year unfolds about our challenges: how they’re going, why we’ve kept them up or abandoned them, and what new challenges present themselves in 2023.

What are you doing, challenge-wise, this year? Are you taking a break from challenges? Are you aiming for heights above the tip-top? Let us know– we’d love to hear from you.

family · fitness

Strolling through the holidays

This year I’m spending the Christmas holidays with my family in South Carolina, where it is unseasonably cold (but nearly as cold as most of North America right now). This is no news to anyone who knows me, as it’s my usual holiday routine– fly or drive from Boston, arrive at my sister’s or my mother’s house, and divide up my time between towns and relatives. It can get a little hectic, but it means seeing more family, which I love, and listening to more audio books or podcasts, which makes the shuttling manageable.

What makes my holidays most meaningful, though, is the sweet combo of nature, activity and loved ones. I thought I would share a visual holiday stroll with you, my dear readers. I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to share some of your holiday activities with friends, family or yourself.

In no particular order, here goes.

First up, a stroll and chat along the Riverwalk in Columbia, SC with my nephew Gray.

We talked about music, what to make of Ye (formerly known as Kanye West), urban walk spaces, and whether an adjacent ant hill was occupied (he poked it with a stick despite my recommendation against it, but nothing terrible happened. Whew.)

Some years, my sister and her kids (and friends) head to Litchfield Beach right after Christmas. There are fewer tourists, so we have the shoreline to ourselves. We walk all we walk, collect shells, and catch up on each others lives.

When I’m in Darlington, I always take the opportunity to walk in Williamson Park, which has a cypress swamp. It’s always interesting to me how the swamp changes and adapts over the seasons and years.

Then, of course, there are times when it’s necessary to try out some of the cache of Christmas toys the kids received. Gray let me go for a ride on his three-wheeled swivelly scooter. I think I did pretty well. By the way, that December it was very warm, so I was in short sleeves– another South Carolina holiday treat.

I'm concentrating to get the hang of swiveling on this scooter.
I’m concentrating to get the hang of swiveling on this scooter.

And of course, there’s a lot of dog walking. I have dozens of holiday photos of us taking out Kiwi the Yorkie and Bailey the Golden Retriever.

My niece Gracie, Kiwi, Bailey and my sister Elizabeth, at a moment with the dogs at Sesquicentennial State Park.
My niece Gracie, Kiwi, Bailey and my sister Elizabeth at Sesquicentennial State Park.

There’s always more to share, but my sister is reminding me that I still have to gifts to wrap before heading to my mother’s house. I wish all of you a peaceful, nature-included, happy December 25.

222 in 2022

20 workouts in 11 days: Can Catherine do it? Yes she can!

Yes, folks, it’s that time of year. No, I’m not talking about

  • The onslaught of Christmas holiday season
  • The obligatory end of year reflection time
  • Winter solstice
  • Fake sales of stuff we definitely don’t need
  • Frantic gift-purchasing or party-attending flurry we sometimes get ourselves into

Nope. I’m talking about the time of year where I’m trying to finish my (in this case) 222 workouts in 2022, and I’m way behind. And I start planning my holiday vacation plans around workouts or workout-like activities (dog walks, family walks, short yoga sessions with sister or niece or aunt) to try to make it across the finish line before January 1.

Finishing and I have a complicated relationship. I’m not a good or happy finisher. I always imagine that finishing something big will feel like this:

This woman finished something big-- she's on top of a high rocky outcropping.
This woman finished something big– she’s on top of a high rocky outcropping. Yay!

Instead, I often finish at the last second (or even after the last second, which is to say late), all hurried and embarrassed and feeling more like this:

Two kids, chasing after a possibly speeding bus. I actually did this once, in New York, but that's another story.
Two kids, chasing after a possibly speeding bus. I actually did this once, in New York City, but that’s another story.

Each year I’ve done the 2XX challenges in 20XX (with many fine Facebook friends), I’ve finished on Dec 29–31. I could cite reasons, but in fact my workout intensity and consistency wax and wane throughout the year. I would like for this not to be true. However, several years’ worth of 2XX challenges in 20XX participation show a consistent pattern of ebb and flow of activity on my part. Is this bad?

here is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. William Shakespeare, from Hamlet.
There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. William Shakespeare.

What I have seen lately in my logged workouts is that I’ve been counting a small amount of physical activity (like 15 minutes of yoga or stretching or balance/strength exercises) plus meditation as a workout. This has been easier to do more consistently. I credit meditation for carrying me through to doing something physically active; after sitting still for 10+ minutes, I want to move. And, I feel calm enough to be able to devote the next little chunk of time to some kind of movement, rather than returning to my laptop or chores or something else.

What I’d like is to apply this more to walking and cycling and swimming in 2023. Doing small workouts seems to work fine for me. What relationship these small activities will have to longer or bigger or harder workouts, I don’t know. We’ll see. Will doing these get me across the finish line sooner? Who knows. But, I’ll get across that finish line this year. Again.

So, I’m ending 2022 feeling a bit less embarrassed and a bit more like Bob The Builder. Remember him? Can we finish it? Yes we can!

Bob the Builder song: Can we fix it? Yes we can!

Can Catherine finish? Yes she can!

I’ll report back after Dec 31.

Hey readers, are you rushing to finish up something by the end of the year? How’s it going? Don’t forget Bob’s encouragement…