ADHD · fitness · time

What Are YOU Up To This Summer?

Now that the stresses and fun of the past month or so have passed, I’m looking forward to the mixed blessing of a flexible summer schedule.

I mean, I love having my evenings free and since I work for myself, at home, I can shift things around to take advantage of good weather or some pop-up fun.

A GIF of a meerkat popping up from its den and looking around.
This is fun, right? Pop-up fun? Image description: a light-coloured meerkat popping up from its den in a sandy surface.

BUT

Since my brain has a very casual relationship with time under any circumstances, the flexibility of summer can also be a challenge for me. If I don’t make my decisions in advance or if I don’t pay close attention to how I spend my time, I can suddenly find myself at the end of summer, frustrated about all of the things I missed out on for no good reason.

So, one of my projects for this weekend is to figure out how I want to spend my summer.

An outdoor shot of a patio railing, a shed, and trees with blue sky in the background.
One thing is for certain, I want to make sure this view plays a big role in my summer. Image description: the view from my patio chair on a bright sunny day. In the foreground is a chair with a red cushion and a table with flowers in a pot next to the rail of my patio . In the background is my red shed, wooden fence, and green trees against a warm blue sky.

I’m considering when to work and when to rest (and thinking about what ‘rest’ includes). I’m figuring out what to include in my day-to-day and which larger summer activities I want to organize and do. I’m thinking about the projects I want to complete in the house and in the yard and deciding when I’d like to work on them.

Basically, I want to make sure that I actively choose a shape for my summer instead of just reacting moment by moment.

(By the way, if a summer of reacting moment by moment is your ideal, please have at it! Do what works for you.)

I’m planning to include things like revising my novel, practicing my TKD patterns outside where there’s more room, hula-hooping, going swimming, reading in my hammock, taking a few hikes, taking Khalee on longer walks, going for longer bike rides, creating some zines, and spending a lot of time hanging out outdoors with my friends.

A GIF of a child using a hula hoop in a department store. Even after their hoop drops to the ground, they keep wiggling their hips.
This little one and I have a lot in common with our hoop skills but I think we both have fun all the same. Image description: a GIF of a small child with long brown hair and glasses in a department store aisle. They are trying to use an orange hula hoop and even after it clatters to the ground, they keep wiggling their hips back and forth.

What do YOU have planned for your summer? Let me know in the comments!

Or if it isn’t summer where you are, what do you have planned for the next few months?

ADHD · fitness · martial arts

A Victory for the Bold: Christine’s 4th Degree Belt Test

The short version of this post goes like this:

I did it! I just earned my 4th degree black belt in ITF Taekwondo!

Image description - Master Scott Downey, Me, and Master Cathy Downey right after the test. They are both in blue suits with white shirts and yellow ties, I am in my white dobok and we are all standing in front of an International Taekwondo Federation flag.
I have a version of this post-test photo where I am smirking but I was so tired that my smirk made me look unhinged rather than mischievous so I chose this ‘pretty damn pleased with myself’ one instead. Image description – Master Scott Downey, Me, and Master Cathy Downey right after the test. They are both looking polished and professional in blue suits with white shirts and yellow ties, I am grinning and looking appropriately sweaty and disheveled in my white dobok and we are all standing in front of an International Taekwondo Federation flag.

The longer version goes like this:

After deciding that I was going to be bold about my test, something shifted in how I was preparing. I stopped trying to do things perfectly and started trying to do them well, started trying to feel more comfortable with my movements.

For me, being bold wasn’t about pretending I wasn’t nervous, it was about forging ahead anyway, about showing up with everything I had.

I had a few little spots of worry on Saturday when I just couldn’t make small sections of a few patterns work but I reached out to my TKD friends for reassurance and recruited my husband and my eldest son to help me.

My husband watched a YouTube video of one pattern while I was practicing it in the living room and let me know when my movements didn’t match. My son sat with my pattern instruction book in hand and read me the descriptions of certain sections so I could be sure I was moving correctly.

A selfie of Christine, a white middle aged woman with a round face and chin length curly brown hair and green-framed glasses.  She is sitting in the driver's seat of her car, wearing her white dobok and smirking.
Me in my car before the test. I was trying to take a goofy photo but ended up looking more ‘resigned to my fate’ than I actually felt. I was a bit nervous but leaning a bit more toward excitement – or at least excitement to finally be done! Image description: a selfie of Christine, a white middle aged woman with a round face and chin length curly brown hair and green-framed glasses. She is sitting in the driver’s seat of her car, wearing her white dobok and smirking.

Overall though, I was far less nervous than I usually am. Deciding to be bold was one factor in that and the changes in my ADHD meds since my last test is definitely another but I also think that I am finally reaching the point in my training where things are coming together for me. I am more easily able to explain the purpose of my movements and I can more clearly see the connections between the theory and the practice in TKD.

That’s not to say that I am doing everything perfectly nor that I am applying my theory to every movement. Everyone in TKD is still a student, just some have more practice than others. As a 4th degree black belt (!) I am more advanced than many but I still have lots to learn.

Usually the morning before one of my tests would be a complete blur of nervousness and practice and stress. This time, though, I decided that my only practice would be to read the movement descriptions for my last three patterns. Instead of practicing and then hyperfocusing on small mistakes, I did yoga and meditated and drew a magic symbol on my wrist.

When I was testing for lower ranks, I used to do things like dyeing a strip of my hair and/or paint my nails the colour of my upcoming belt. For my last few tests, I have painted just my thumbnails black (to remind me to focus), but this time I drew a B for bold on my wrist and then put a star and a spiral next to it.

My left forearm with a 'magic' doodle drawn in green sharpie. The drawing is an upper-case B (for bold) with a spiral (for releasing stress) on the left and a star (for effort) on the right.
Sharpie tattoos don’t hold up well to three hours of exertion. The magic worked though. This was taken while I was relaxing on my patio at home after the test. Image description: My left forearm with a ‘magic’ doodle drawn in green sharpie. The drawing is an upper-case B (for bold) with a spiral (for releasing stress) on the left and a star (for effort) on the right. Behind my arm you can see part of my right leg (in black leggings) and my right foot (which is resting on my left knee) as well as parts of my patio, my yoga mat, and the grass in my yard.

A black belt test has a lot to it. I had 18 patterns to do (luckily two students were testing for 5th degree so I didn’t have to do any of the patterns alone at that point), then we did step-sparring (a coordinated attack/defense demonstration), self-defense, endurance drills, and a solo step-by-step demonstration of a pattern identifying the purpose of each movement. After all of that, we try to break some boards.

I did not do my patterns perfectly. Throughout the pandemic, we stopped doing the loud, rhythmic breathing that helps us execute our movements effectively, as well as keeping us all on track. I haven’t even been practicing with it much at home because I was afraid that I would unconsciously use it during class when I wasn’t supposed to. We have only recently gone back to including the breath sounds and we’re a little out of practice with it. And, it turns out, I have been practicing my movements just a little too slowly. The combination trying to speed up a little, adding my own breathing and being able to hear everyone threw me off a little in a few early patterns and then REALLY threw me off for my newest ones.

Since I was concentrating on remembering the movements and remembering to breathe loudly, I didn’t have enough mental space to ALSO choose to ignore everyone else’s breathing and movements. ADHD, after all, is not actually a deficit of attention, it is (among other things) an inability to decide where your attention should be focused. Between nervousness, the challenge of performing newish patterns with an audience while being graded on them, and the addition of the breath factor, I didn’t have the capacity to tune other people out.

But thanks to my instructors’ patience, and a healthy dose of perseverance for all concerned, we got through (and, for the record, I wasn’t the only one making mistakes, which was a comfort.) And even though I was a little slow in my movements, I did my final pattern effectively and I was VERY proud as I shouted the pattern name (Choi Yong) after the last move.

I felt sharp and purposeful for the step-sparring and self-defense and drills, and I was happy with my step-by-step pattern but I was THRILLED with my board breaking.

I did a speed-break hook kick, a 360 back kick, a flying side kick (with a slight modification to minimize jumping), a middle twist kick, and then…and then…

I BROKE A BOARD WITH A PUNCH!

At my very first board-breaking test (about 8 years ago), I tried a punch for my hand-technique but I didn’t coordinate all the elements of the movement properly and I really hurt my knuckles. Since then, I have broken boards with my elbow and my knife-hand (the side of your flattened hand) and my sidefist (aka – the side of your fist) but I couldn’t convince myself that I had the power to punch through a board.

I tried for my last test. In fact, I was supposed to jump up and punch two boards in succession but while I hoped to fluke into it, I didn’t really expect that it would happen.

This time though, I wanted to do it. And because my brain is getting better at applying my theory to my movements, I could think clearly about what I had done wrong before and make a good choice about how to make it work this time.

I used a reverse punch – which means that I had my left leg forward but I was punching with my right hand – so I could generate speed and power without having to move my feet (sometimes the choreography of footwork gets me tangled up.)

I lined myself up, measured my distance, and punched clear through the board as if I do it every day.

It felt like the biggest victory of a marvelously victorious day.

Image description: a stack of pieces of pine board that have been broken in two by my kicks and punches. The stack is sitting on a red table outdoors.
And this isn’t even all of my boards – these are just the pieces I took home. Ki-YA! Image description: a stack of pieces of pine board that have been broken in two by my kicks and punches. The stack is sitting on a red table outdoors.

Getting ready for this test was hard work. I’ve been learning and practicing all through the pandemic – sometimes in person, sometimes on Zoom. During that time, I have been dealing with a variety of challenges in all areas of my life but throughout it all, TKD has been a great way to take care of myself – giving me an external focus that had all kinds of personal benefits. I’m really grateful to have that outlet and I am grateful for the support of my instructors and my fellow students as I train.

Thank you to Master Scott Downey and Master Cathy Downey for the instruction and support, to Ms. Reid and Mr. Dyer for the instruction, trouble-shooting, and encouragement, to Ms. Vere-Holloway for the extra practice, to Mr. James for the encouragement, to Mr. Lake, Mr. Abbott, Mr. Hooper, Mr. Power, and Mr. Codner for holding all of those boards, and to Ms. Gathercole for the empathy. Special thanks to Steve and Alex for helping me with my last few practice sessions, to Lori Savory for choreography help, and to Team Codner for the on-site encouragement.

Congratulations to Ms. Vere-Holloway, Mr. Power, Ms. Gathercole, Mr. Abbott, Mr. Lake, Mr. Codner, and Mr. Hooper for your hard work and for your success yesterday!

ADHD · martial arts

Christine’s Plan for her Belt Test: Being Bold

Cast your thoughts back to the beginning of May when I had a great plan for how I was going to steadily work toward my next black belt test on Sunday, June 19th.

I was so young and foolish then. That was back before a series of migraines (or was it just one long migraine?) and the associated pre & post symptoms kept me groggy and out of sorts for over two weeks in the first part of May.

GIF of two dogs at a car window. At first you see one alert dog looking out the window and then a second rises slowly next to the first, looking disheveled and only half-awake.
Guess which dog represents me in early May? Image description: a GIF of two dogs at a car window. At first you see one alert dog looking out the window and then a second rises slowly next to the first, looking disheveled and only half-awake.

And that was before the perfectly reasonable amount of work tasks I had scheduled for those two weeks had to be jammed into the week before I had to travel to the other side of the country for a conference. And it was before I was travelling, and at a conference, and then off to a writing retreat, and then off to teach a workshop, and then teaching another workshop. And it was before my knee decided to get cranky for a few days and before my back got jealous and did the same.

So, let’s just say that my slow and steady plan was not at all feasible.

Instead, I had to follow a nooks and crannies plan – jamming patterns and practice and exercise and theory into any little space that I could pry open in my schedule.

GIF of a Tetris screen
A visual representation of me fitting practice into my life over the past few weeks. Image description: a GIF of the videos game Tetris in which blocks of various colours fall from the top and you have to move a mass of pre-existing blocks around to let the new ones drop into a space where they will fit.

I had to use persistence (which, when I can activate it, is one of my superpowers) to just keep plugging away at everything and trust that it would work out.

I did my written theory test last week and I did quite well. I’m proud of the fact that I was able to work out some of the correct answers by applying my knowledge, even when I didn’t *know* the answer for sure.

All the physical testing will be on Sunday and even though I haven’t been able to do things the way I meant to, I still feel good about it.

I wasn’t able to physically practice as much or as often as I had planned to, but I did extra mental/visualization practice whenever I had a chance.

During my physical practice, I alternated between focused practice on my most recent patterns and directing my energy towards sharpening some fundamental movements that will improve my technique overall.

A GIF of a villain from the Austin Powers movies shouting ‘Fire the laser!’
Pretty much what my brain looked like whenever I started practicing. Image description: Frau Farbissina, a villain from the Austin Powers movies, a small woman in a suit with her hair in a business-like updo, is shouting ‘Fire the laser!’ while Dr. Evil, another villain, reacts.

And now I am down to just a few days of practice and I want to spend them wisely.

As I was planning my week, I was tempted to try to create an epic schedule of practice and exercise, but, luckily, a more sensible part of my brain prevailed.

Instead, I plan to do daily yoga, daily practice for my patterns and for other specific movements, and to do some specific stretches and rehab exercises for any persnickety body parts. I’m going to work smart, and work as hard as I need to, but I am not going to run the risk of exhausting myself before my test.

Normally, I go into belt tests reminding myself that ‘chance favours the prepared’ but right now that aphorism is drawing my attending to the gap between my intended preparations and my actual preparations. Focusing on that gap will NOT help so, instead, I have been reminding myself of another saying, ‘fortune favours the bold.’

On Sunday, I am going to show up bold.

In fact, I am determined to boldly go where I have never gone before – into the mental and physical space of being a 4th degree black belt.

A GIF of a character from the animated series ‘Star Trek: Below Decks’ saying ‘That’s boldly going.’​
Yep, just watch me! Image Description: A GIF of Boimler, a character from the animated series ‘Star Trek: Below Decks,’ saying ‘That’s boldly going.’

So, if you were thinking of wishing me luck for Sunday, please wish me boldness instead.

After all, that’s the best way to get fortune to favour me.

Ki-YA!

health · planning · schedule · self care · traveling

Go Team! May 31: Your future self will thank you.

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those posts about how your hard work now will pay off later.

In fact, this is a post about trying to schedule LESS work for yourself.

I just got back from my first work conference in many, many years. The event was held in British Columbia and I live all the way on the other side of the country in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I have a lot of stress around travelling under normal circumstances (I’m not afraid of flying, I find being at the whims of the airline schedules nerve-wracking) and that stress was intensified by concerns about Covid.

And, of course, flying across the country, across multiple time zones (there is a 4.5 hour difference between home and BC), added another layer of trickiness to the whole process. My flights to BC found me getting up at 2am to be at the airport form my 5am flight, and after complications, delays, and waiting for flights, I had been up for 26 hours by the time I got to bed that night. My flights home were less complex but I took off in Nanaimo at 3pm Sunday and got home at 11am on Monday – a schedule that included a 5 hour wait in Toronto airport in the middle of the night.

I’m home as I sleepily write this on Monday night and I am finding myself grateful for something my past self did for me.

When I booked those flights, I thought about how I would probably be extra tired right now from traveling, time zones, and from several days of peopling, and I put a note in my calendar to protect myself this week.

Part of a paper calendar page with notes in blue pen about returning from a conference and keeping schedule light.
My calendar entries for May 30 and 31. The dates are in grey text on the left side of the page and the days are under one another rather than next to each other going across the page. The note on Monday reads ‘Back from SCCC’ and the note on Tuesday reads ‘Keep schedule light’

It might not seem like much but that note to ‘keep schedule light’ made me mindful of taking good care of myself. Every time I turned to add something to this week in my calendar, I had a reminder that my capacity was going to be reduced right now and that it would be a good idea to schedule accordingly.

Obviously I have certain commitments and obligations this week, and I have to keep preparing for my black belt test on the 19th, but I managed to avoid adding very much extra to my schedule and I feel very relieved about that.

So, Team, I would like to invite you to help your future selves a little.

If you have busy or stressful times ahead, how can you give yourself some extra space in your schedule?

Can you avoid taking on extra things at that point?

Is there anything you can drop or reschedule?

If you don’t have a lot of control over your schedule, can you give yourself permission to take some things a bit slower or do them in a easier or more straightforward way? (i.e. Even if you can’t take a break, can you cut yourself some slack?)

Sometimes, giving yourself a little extra space can be as straightforward as reminding yourself after a long weekend that you can’t get as much done in a 4 day workweek as you can in a 5 day week and to consider that fact when you make that week’s schedule.

This may take some practice. We’re all very used to pretending that we work at the same capacity all of the time and then just gritting our teeth and struggling through our low-capacity weeks.

In fact, if it hadn’t been for the fact that my flights home were on two separate dates, I probably wouldn’t have thought to cut myself some slack this week. But I am so very glad that I did.

And no matter whether you manage to cut yourself a few moments’ slack, to go easy with your self-talk in a busy time, or if you can organize your schedule to accommodate your lower-capacity times, I think you deserve a gold star for your efforts.

Taking good care of ourselves in this cult-of-productivity world is a challenging thing and your efforts count.

PS – Your future self will thank you for anything you do to make their life easier.

A drawing of a gold star with rounded points.
A photo of a drawing of a cartoonish gold star with rounded ‘points.’ The colour is darker, almost orange toward the edges of the star and the entire star is outlined in black. The background is made of thin black diagonal lines. And the drawing is resting against lined paper.
ADHD · fitness · fun · yoga

Choosing the fun part first

The weather here in Newfoundland and Labrador is tricky at any point and doubly tricky on the May 24th weekend.*

I have spent May 24th weekends wearing shorts, I have been rained out of planned adventures, I have shoveled snow from in front of a tent. And, on several occasions, I have worn shorts, a raincoat, and then mittens all on the same day.

So when Saturday rolled around and the weather was beautiful, I knew that my usual Saturday stuff inside could wait.

I had to get outside ASAP just in case things took a turn.

a selfie of Christine wearing sunglasses with her hair pulled back by a black bandana. She is outside, the sky is blue and the sun is directly behind her.
I couldn’t actually see my screen when I took this but since it made me laugh, I’m sharing it. This is a rare, non-smirking photo. Image description: I put my phone on my yoga mat and took a selfie looking upward. The majority of the image is blue sky but my head is looming at the bottom of the image and only the top 4/5 of my face is visible. I’m wearing sunglasses and my hair is pulled back unevenly in a black bandana. The bare branches of a tree can be seen to my left in the photo and the sun is behind me so parts of my hair are glowing. I look resigned but I am actually happy to be about to do yoga outside.

Normally, this would be cause for a scrambly brain of indecision – Should I do yard work? Bring inside work outside? Make plans for my garden? Take Khalee for an extra walk? What is the BEST use of this time?

This time, though, I bypassed all of those questions and just asked myself “What would be the most fun to do right now?”

And that’s how I found myself in the sunshine, doing yoga on my patio, laughing at the way my shadow makes me look like a fur ball or some sort of tendrilly sea creature.

a person's left hand (with a wedding and engagement ring and a watch on a woven band) rests on a blue patterned yoga mat outdoors.
Before doing my actual yoga practice, I did a few twists and I liked how my hand looked in contrast with my mat so I snapped a photo. Image description: A shot of my left hand, complete with wedding band, engagement ring, and Fitbit with a woven elastic strap, resting on a blue and teal yoga mat. My shadow, including the shadows of bits of my hair sticking out in a bizarre pattern, is covering most of the mat but there are some sunny bits at the top and the light wood of my patio is visible at the top of the image.

PS – For the record, Khalee and I took a long walk later in the day… and neither of us had to put on our mittens.

*Apparently, the May long weekend in Canada is not called ‘May 24th’ everywhere but that’s what we’ve always called it – no matter which date it falls on. If your brain hates that, imagine that I have said ‘Victoria Day’ instead.

ADHD · fitness · health · meditation

The effect of music on Christine’s brain: A (very) small sample experiment

As someone with ADHD, I am always looking for ways to improve my ability to focus. My medication, my planning, and environmental cues all help but it can still take a lot of energy to keep myself on task, so when I came across some music that made it easier to stick to my work plan, I was delighted.

I’m not sure how I happened upon Greenred Productions ADHD Relief Deep Focus Music (embedded below) but I can only assume that it was something the algorithm churned up after I watched a How to ADHD video at some point.

Embedded YouTube video from Greenred Productions called ‘ADHD Relief Deep Focus Music with Pulsation, ADD Music for Concentration, ADHD Music’ The video includes 12 hours of music but there is a single still image on the screen for the whole video. The image is of a mystical looking stag with antlers that look like gnarled tree branches. The stag is standing in light that seems to be shining through the trees that surround it. There are broken tree stumps, plants, and a large rock near the stag.

Maybe there is a scientific reason why this music works for me or maybe it is a coincidence but, either way, playing this video helps me to focus. And the fact that it is almost 12 hours of music means that I won’t lose track of time while selecting music or creating a playlist.

I don’t always have music on when I am working but it has been great to have this on hand when I need a little extra help to focus.

A couple of weeks ago, I was returning to the video over and over throughout the week but, for some reason, I wasn’t resetting it, I was just letting it play from wherever I had paused it the session before.

So, even though it is a 12 hour video, I eventually reached the end and THAT’S when I found the best meditation/relaxation/body-calming music (embedded below) that I have ever encountered.

Embedded YouTube Video of Greenred Productions video “Deep Cello Meditation Music: Dark Meditation Music, Relaxing Music, Dark Cello Music for Relaxation” There is two hours of music but there is no actual video just a still, black and white image of a person with shoulder length hair playing the cello outside a stone house with a set of double doors and a window set in the front of it.

It turns out that I find cello music incredibly calming. In fact, when I listen to this music, I feel the same kind of sensory-soothing calm that I feel when I put on a weighted shoulder wrap or lie in my hammock. Something in the music just really grounds me and puts me at ease.

I have been playing it while I meditate, draw, colour, or read and I swear I can feel myself sinking deeper into those relaxing activities as a result.

Do you find specific types of music help you to focus or to relax?

Does music contribute to your peace of mind?

Did YOU know that cello was so relaxing? Am I the last person on earth to discover this?

Tell me all about it in the comments. Pretty please!

PS – I really wanted to call this post ‘Cello, it is you I’m looking for’ but then the first embedded video wouldn’t make any sense and besides, I wasn’t sure if the Lionel Richie reference was too much of a reach for the joke to work. 😉

ADHD · fit at mid-life · fitness · planning

Another Week, Another Countdown for Christine

I saw a tweet a while ago about how one of the disappointing parts of adulthood is the fact that no one asks you about your favourite dinosaur.

Image description: three wooden dinosaurs standing on a stack of books.​
Image description: three wooden dinosaurs standing on a stack of books.

And that is sad (mine’s triceratops, by the way) but you know what else is sad about adulthood?

Hardly any grown ups add a fraction to their ages. 

We all just go for the whole number. That’s kind of dull, don’t you think?

I mean, what’s more fun? 

Christine is 49 

or 

Christine is 49 and A HALF!

I think the answer is clear. 

49 and A HALF has way more pizazz.

Now, as you probably know, Sam and Tracy started this blog because they wanted to talk about the Fittest by 50 challenge that they were both working on. They took a long term approach to it (2 years), had a solid plan, and tracked their progress.

(And, in a cool coincidence, Sam posted on Monday about being 2 years away from 60, so this is around 10 years from when the initial ‘Fittest by 50’ plan started.)

I’m a bit late and a bit too me-ish for that sort of long-term, methodical approach (even six months is a bit too far into the ‘not-now’ for my ADHD self, frankly) but it’s not too late for me to become fitter by 50. And that’s what I plan to do.

: A woman with short hair​, who is wearing exercise clothes, has her arms outstretched and she is holding a large blue exercise ball in her hands. Her upper body is slightly twisted away from the camera.
Image description: A woman with short hair, who is wearing exercise clothes, has her arms outstretched and she is holding a large blue exercise ball in her hands. Her upper body is slightly twisted away from the camera.

Just to be clear, I’m not really viewing my 50th birthday as a deadline. I’m not planning to get fitter and then give up once my birthday rolls around. And I am not labouring under the assumption that it is now or never. 

I’m just taking advantage of a milestone birthday to give me some focus, to help me direct a little more time and energy into my fitness plans.

I’m not entirely sure what those plans are yet but I have some thoughts:

  • Six months is too long for me to think of all at once so I have to break it down into 6 week sections and just think about one of those at a time.
  • My first six weeks will be focused on my preparations for my belt test, so that’s a good start. 
  • My second six weeks will be during the summer, so that gives me lots of different movement options.
  • My word of the year for 2022 is spaciousness and last year’s was consistency. I think both of those concepts can be useful for my plans – I want more room for fitness, I don’t want to feel like I am adding yet another thing to my to-do list. And I know that going for the consistency is the only way that I will make progress. After all, if there was a way to make erratic exercise session pay off, I would be the fittest person on earth right now.
  • I need to keep the bar low to encourage consistency and I need to keep my intensity high to maximize my interest in the project. I don’t know how to balance those things yet.
  • And, finally, I need to figure out what ‘Fitter by 50’ actually means for me: What criteria will I use? What will I measure? What aspects of fitness feel tangible for me? What do I care enough about, fitness-wise to stick with for the next 6 months?

Anyway, stay tuned while I fine tune my plans and make my way from 49 and ½ to 50.

PS – Anyone want to keep me company?

a GIF of a tortoise moving slowly across a patio. Text beneath reads ‘Here I come…’
I’m not slagging myself with this GIF. I’m trying to inspire myself to be slow and steady on my way to be fitter. Image description: a GIF of a tortoise moving slowly across a patio. Text beneath reads ‘Here I come…’
ADHD · fitness · martial arts

Upcoming: Christine’s 4th Degree Black Belt Test

Sunday, June 19th!

That’s the big day.

I’ve been preparing in a low key way for ages but being only 6-7 weeks out puts my test into a time frame that my brain will accept as ‘real.’

And that means that I can prioritize project Earn My 4th Degree Belt and focus more effectively on the things I need to do to prepare for my test.

Here’s what I am working on:

Fitness

Obviously, improving my fitness level is an ongoing project but with a little over six weeks before my test, I have a very clear short term goal to work toward.

Six weeks is a bit of magic time frame. It’s a short enough time that my brain will buy into pushing myself a little harder – after all, six weeks isn’t forever. And it’s a long enough time that I can actually make some small improvements in my fitness level.

A little girl striking a body building pose.
Borrowing some of Michelle Tanner’s determination for my fitness plans. Image description: Michelle Tanner, the youngest sister from the 80s show Full House, is staring intently forward as she curls her arms down in a pretend bodybuilding pose. This is a joke about a teeny person imagining that she is muscle-bound, but she looks fierce.

I’m in good enough shape to pass my test now if I had to but after six weeks of TKD-focused exercise, it will be just a little easier. And since I want to improve anyway, my impending test gives me a bargaining chip to use if my brain starts chiming in with objections.

Theory

Part of my testing involves being able to complete written and verbal exams about different aspects of TKD, ranging from the technical specifications of movements to historical details of the sport.

I always find this tricky even though, in other contexts, I am perfectly ok with written or verbal tests. I think that having to connect the physical movements of TKD with the surrounding theory trips me up a little.

I have done ok with my theory in the past so it has never been a major crisis but it has made me nervous.

I think this time will be different though because the improvements in my medication, combined with some changes in my day-to-day obligations, has increased my capacity to structure my thinking around TKD.

And, having this capacity six weeks out means that I can also structure my study plan more effectively.

 a person unrolls a set of elaborate plans on a wooden desktop
My plans are a little less complex than this but I like the spirit here. Image description: a person unrolls a set of ‘battle plans’ drawn in crayon.

Patterns

Improving my meds and changing my day-to-day obligations also means that the process of learning my new patterns has been more straightforward this time. I seem to be able to grasp the flow of things more easily and I am holding on to details with far less work than I have had to invest in the past.

This may not all be attributable to the changes mentioned above, it may also be related to the fact that I have been training for a long time and some key elements may finally be firmly in place. (Being a martial artist is a commitment to continual learning so I imagine that I will experience this same sort of feeling again, just on different level, as I progress.)

So, I had three new patterns to learn for this test. I am very confident in one, pretty confident in another, and building my confidence in the third. Six weeks is more than enough time to bring all three up to the same level of confidence.

Three people standing side by side with text below reading ‘Way too many patterns for one person.’
Okay, not toooo many patterns but there are A LOT of things for me to learn and remember. Image description: three people standing side by side, there is a string of lights behind them. Text at the bottom reads ‘Way too many patterns for one person.’

Board Breaking

This is where I really want to do some extra work.

Even though board breaking is the most impressive-looking part of a belt test, it is really a tiny aspect of the process. And because there are a variety of elements involved, no one fails a test if they can’t break one of their boards.

BUT

It still bugs me when I can’t do it.

I struggled with my spinning hook kick break for years but I finally managed it on my last test. And I am not too worried about having to repeat the process with that kick and others for this test.

Three people wearing doboks during a martial arts belt test, two are kneeling and holding a board and one is in mid-air for a kick.
I don’t have a photo of my spinning hook kick but this is me during my last test, about to execute a flying side kick. Shoutout to Mr. James and Mr. Dyer for holding the board for me and to Ms. Zurel for the video I clipped this from. Image description: Me, in my dobok, in mid-air at the edge of a gym mat. Mr. Dyer and Mr. James are kneeling on the mat holding up a board for me to kick.

This time my personal marker of my skill will be to finally break a board with a punch.

I have used a variety of other hand techniques to break boards but I have never managed to break a board by punching.

There are a variety of reasons this could be happening. I know that one of them is that I don’t use enough speed but I may also be pulling my punch a little (I don’t think I am afraid of hurting my hand but perhaps I am, subconsciously.) And I may not be coordinating my movements effectively.

Luckily, I have lots of help to work on this and six weeks is enough time to figure out what’s going wrong and how to fix it.

Focus and Perseverance

Test preparation is not the only thing on my agenda for the next few weeks but I have lots of time and (mental) space to dedicate to the project.

I’m not sure how often I will check in about it because it’s hard for me to figure out which milestones will make sense to other people but you can be sure that I am going to be mentioning some details as I go along.

And I will definitely be asking for good wishes on my post right before my test.

I am focused and I will persevere.

KI-YA!

Fear · martial arts

Stepping Up To Lead At TKD. Finally!

I am pleased to report that after a mere thirteen years of Taekwondo training*, I am finally virtually unfazed by being asked to lead the warm-up for my class.

a GIF of the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants standing in the Krusty Krab restaurant with his arms raised over his head. The text below reads ‘Victory Screech’
Out of consideration for the other students, I only screech internally. Image description: a GIF of the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants standing in the Krusty Krab restaurant with his arms raised over his head. The text below reads ‘Victory Screech’

If you recall, my post for International Women’s Day was about my challenges with stepping up to lead in that specific way and how important it is/was to me to get past those challenges.

So, back in March, I had decided that the way to get over my reluctance was to 1) lead the class for several weeks in a row- so I would be able to get used to the feeling and 2) make a lesson plan in advance to reduce the risk of going blank while I was up in front of everyone.**

And it totally worked!

I didn’t even end up leading the class every week that I was planning to – I was sick one week and my instructor led the entire group together another week. It was still enough time to get used to being up in front of everyone, to find my own groove with instructing, and to prepare enough lesson plans and warm-ups that I can use at any time.

a GIF of Moira Rose from the TV show Schitt​‘s Creek. She is wearing a referee’s uniform and she looks as is she is admonishing someone. Text below reads ‘One must prepare for any event.’
Image description: a GIF of Moira Rose from the TV show Schitt‘s Creek. She is wearing a referee’s uniform and her expression (lips pressed together, eyes looking to one side) looks as if she is admonishing someone. Text below reads ‘One must prepare for any event.’

I have to say, I like knowing that I am prepared and that I won’t feel overwhelmed by being asked to take the class. In fact, two weeks ago, I was asked on the spur of the moment to take the class and as I stepped up onto the small stage at the front I realized that I wasn’t uncomfortable at all.

That was exactly what I was hoping for when I made my plan for March.

In June, I am going to be testing for my 4th degree black belt, a rank that means there is a lot lot more teaching in my future. I am grateful to know that the ‘trick’ to making myself more comfortable with that really is to prepare and to practice.

(Yes, this is the same ‘trick’ I apply in every other area but it had never occurred to me to apply it at TKD.)

A GIF from the show Power Rangers Dino Fury that shows an outdoor shot of a woman clapping her hands. She has long brown hair and is wearing jeans and a pink shirt over a darker pink ​tank top. Text below reads ‘Amazing Trick.’
A GIF from the show Power Rangers Dino Fury that shows an outdoor shot of a woman clapping her hands. She has long brown hair and is wearing jeans and a pink shirt over a darker pink tank top. Text below reads ‘Amazing Trick.’

Do you have one area of your life where you can’t quite bring the same oomph that you bring in other areas? Have you found a way around it? Were you able to transfer a skill from somewhere else?

*I’m being funny here, or at least trying to be. My fear of taking charge of the class has only been an issue for the past few years since I wouldn’t have been asked or expected to lead the class for most of the early part of my training. Previous to the past few years, I might have been asked to lead a small group or to lead students who were behind me in my training but my reluctance to step up in front of the whole group – my peers and students with more advanced ranks – was a relatively recent issue.

**Taekwondo is practically the only time I fear going blank on stage. I tell stories, give speeches and presentations, and do workshops regularly and while I might feel a bit nervous, I don’t worry about going blank. I guess that because TKD involves coordinating what I am saying with what I am doing it adds an extra layer of stress for me.

dogs · fitness · walking

April is Active Dog Month: Who knew?

Yes, it’s true.

April IS Active Dog Month.

And, yes, there is truly a month or a week or at least a day for everything. Maybe that fact makes you a bit meh about all of these sorts of declarations (and that’s fair!) but I kind of like the idea of finding something to celebrate on any given day.

Maybe I am not going all in for National Garlic Day today, I haven’t planned any celebrations for Coin Week this week, and I don’t even think I have the required millinery to celebrate Straw Hat Month but I *am* strongly pro-fun so I vote yes on anything that brings a little levity to your day-to-day.

ANYWAY, back to the celebration at hand.

Apparently Active Dog Month was started by Natasha at Om Shanti Pups but I didn’t delve too far into the history of this auspicious month, so I can’t be sure of its origins. However, I do know that she has some good posts on keeping your dog active so check those out for some ideas.

As you know, our dog Khalee is my constant companion and she and I walk every day. I’m not really sure if I am keeping her active or if she is keeping me active but it seems to work out, either way. And if I ever forget that I need a daily walk just as much as Khalee does, she reminds me.

a light-haired dog stands on a sidewalk next to snow covered grass and trees, she is looking back towards the camera and one of her front paws is lifted off the ground.
I love how Khalee looks like she has quite enough of my lollygagging here. Image description: My light-haired, medium sized dog, Khalee, is standing on a sidewalk next to some snow -covered grass and bushes. She is wearing a harness that is attached to a neon yellow leash. Khalee’s left side is toward the camera and she has turned her head to look at me while raising her left front paw off the sidewalk.

There’s a fair amount of dog talk here on the Fit is a Feminist Issue blog (a while ago, Sam compiled some of them into a post here) so I thought it would be fun to get a few of our bloggers to chime in about dogs and exercise.

Diane:

I no longer own a dog. I like being able to travel and not worry about boarding. When I had a dog, I always resented having to take him out for long walks when I was trying to get ready for work, or it was time for bed. But I love dogs, and enjoy a moment of interaction as many as possible while out walking, even if it is just a quick whispered “who’s a good pup?” as we walk in opposite directions.

A white poster from a prank website called Obvious Plant, poster is trimmed in green and lists joke dog commands.
This poster from Obvious Plant (a satirical/joke social media account from a person who also places posters and products in public places as a prank) always cracks me up. I have yet to teach Khalee how to hover ominously but we’re working on it. Image description: a white poster trimmed in green with a list of joke dog commands. The poster heading reads ‘Most Common Dog Commands’ and the list reads ‘ Sit, Stay, GLOW, Hover Ominously, Resurrect a fallen ally, Split yourself into two so I have more dogs to pet, Seal the portal, Shoot lasers, Channel the fire breath of a mighty dragon, Spread love, destroy evil. ‘

Elan:

I do not have a dog, but I walk/hike semi-regularly with two friends’ dogs, Ellie and Ricky. I notice a heightened, vicarious enthusiasm for walking while with a dog. With a dog, the walk seems more interesting, perhaps because humans and dogs find different things interesting while walking. There is a sense of companionship and satisfaction when walking with a dog that even some non-dog owners notice. Is there a difference between dog walking and walking while with a dog? Dog owners probably know.

Sam:

Cheddar is around the blog a lot. The blog turns 10 this summer and Cheddar is 7 so there’s a lot of overlap! These days Cheddar is the reason I’m out walking at all. While waiting for total knee replacement, both knees, I’m not a fan of walking even though it’s good for me. It hurts. But Cheddar gets me out there three or four times a week. He’s lucky that I’m not the only person who walks him. I’m lucky he’s excellent at adjusting his pace to the person walking him. He’s also a most excellent yoga dog, though unlike Adriene’s Benji he’s not good at staying off the mat so he gets his own.

a dog is resting on a pink yoga mat on a wooden floor, a grey yoga mat is next him.
Cheddar has obviously grasped the essentials of a good yoga practice: get on the mat, find ease. Image description: Cheddar, a light-coloured, long-haired dog is resting on a pink yoga mat on a wooden floor, his rope toy is next to him. A grey yoga mat is next to Cheddar’s mat, and the wheels of an office chair can be seen in the background.

Nat:

Walking Lucy has become my partner and my touch point time before work, on our lunch break ,and after dinner during the week. Our youngest kid is 20 and regularly takes Lucy out solo but also subs in for one of us if cooking, work or other exercise needs my time.

Since the walks have to happen I’m out way more consistently and for longer than I’ve ever been before.

a dog sits in a porch waiting to be taken for a walk
Lucy seems to think that it is time for the humans to hurry up a bit. Image description: Lucy, a light-haired dog whose ears stand up straight, is sitting down in a porch looking expectantly up at the camera. Two rugs can be seen on the floor behind her and someone’s foot and leg can be seen on the left side of the photo.

Back to Christine:

Whether we are walking our dogs or they are walking us, at least everyone has the chance to get some movement into their days.

I am intrigued by Elan’s comment about companionship and about the difference between walking a dog and walking with a dog. When my kids were small, I used to love going for a walk and pushing the stroller – more often than not I would be yammering away to them and they would be asleep! And as much as I enjoy walking on my own, I had missed the feeling of pushing the stroller.

I thought that I was missing the extra effort that the stroller required, that my brain needed the extra work to calmly stay on task instead of filling up with other ideas about what I should be doing. (ADHD brains have a knack for that kind of thing.)

I don’t think that I really considered it before now but I think that walking Khalee gives me a lot of the same feeling that walking with the stroller did. There’s a larger purpose to my walk and I have company (which, as many people with ADHD will attest, makes almost any task more doable.)

So, now that I think about it, I definitely know the difference between walking a dog and walking with a dog, and I am doing the latter.

I’m not walking Khalee, we are walking together. I do most of the talking and she does most of the sniffing – everyone working to their strengths, you know?

And maybe her blog posts are all about hoping that I am getting enough exercise this month.