Fit Feminists Answer · fitness

Christine Asks. The Fit Feminist Team Answers.

I generally know the what and the why of fitness-related things but I often get tangled up in the how. I overthink it or consider too many options or I just can’t figure out how to make all the pieces fit together.

So, I’ve taken to circumventing my brain loops by bringing my questions to the rest of the blogging team here at Fit is a Feminist Issue. I have gotten terrific and helpful answers that are based in how real people, living real lives, make these things work.

After reading everyone’s answers to a recent set of questions, the Team thought that our readers might find them useful, too. So, over the next few months, I’ll be sharing some of my questions and answers here on the blog.

The author, a white woman in her forties, with short light brown hair and wearing cat's-eye glasses looks bemusedly toward the camera.  3 questions marks are shown above her head and there is text that reads 'Christine Asks: Fit Feminists Answer'
When I bought these new reading glasses, I had to make the most of them by goofing around a little.

Here is the first part of a set of questions that I asked back in August. That was a while ago, so members of the team may have some updates for you in the comments. Please feel free to jump into the comments with your answers, too!

Is exercise automatically part of the rhythm of your day or do you have to ‘make time’ for it?

Natalie: Movement is, high intensity is not and if I don’t schedule it, it doesn’t happen.

Sam: I have three spots available for exercise–morning break, lunch, evening–and I usually use one or two of them.

Mina: Working out is almost like eating and sleeping for me now, so it is definitely part of my rhythm. I take one day off a week, but I’ll often “move” that day, if I know I’m going to be encountering a day when I absolutely can’t fit a workout in. 

Cate: A combination of both.  I assume I’m going to work out every day, but I don’t know what that will look like from day to day.   I schedule slots for Alex’ morning virtual superhero workout (830 M, W F and 730 on Tues) into my weekday calendar so no one books colliding meetings; I decide the night before if I am going to do it or not (I usually do).  I fit random other workouts in when I can – a run or yoga between meetings, a long walk before bed.  Covid means that I have to book things like spinning in advance, whereas in the past I did more of “hm, there’s a class at 530, I think I can fit that in today.”

Marjorie: I schedule my lifting days in advance.  And then in the morning, as I’m planning out my day, I decide where in the day I need to fit it in.  If I don’t do this, I will skip my lifting, now that’s it’s less fun and at home.  (Pre-pandemic, the risk was getting overscheduled, so I had to plan in advance or risk having no time to get into the gym.)  I schedule which mornings I will run, too, and that always happens after breakfast.  I take a daily walk, and I have no trouble making this happen almost every day without much planning on my part.  It is what I do before dinner.  

Tracy: It’s part of the rhythm of my day but I make a rough plan the day before of when and what I plan to do the next day.

Nicole: I have scheduled exercise into my days/weeks for many years. Because it has been scheduled as such, it has become part of the rhythm of my day. So a bit of both.

Martha: I believe I was a sloth in a former life. As a result, I have to make time and schedule it otherwise I don’t do it.

What things do you put in place in advance to make sure you can exercise when you want/need to?

Natalie: A clean space, the right clothes (go all day leggings!) and a plan

Sam: I schedule rides and races on Zwift as the fixed points on my schedule and work around those. I lift weights, use resistance bands, or TRX at lunch. Walk Cheddar in the morning. Yoga is always an evening thing.

Mina: Moving my day off, as I mentioned above. I have the luxury of being able to have a say in a lot of what gets scheduled in my day, so I make sure I leave time. But if I get squeezed, then I’ll get up extra early.

Cate:  The most important is making sure the people who manage my calendar don’t book over the class times I might want to do, so I have recurring times in my calendar whether I work out in them or not.

Marjorie: On lifting days when I feel myself dragging, I will put on my lifting clothes far in advance.  I feel silly wearing tights and a sports bra for hours without any purpose, so that makes it far more likely I’ll get it done.

Tracy: For an early morning workout I set my clothes out ahead of time to make the morning easier.

Nicole: I am all about routine. I book classes in advance on the days I usually do certain classes and I mentally book certain days/times that are my usual times for certain things – i.e. Saturday mornings are always Conditioning workout. Sunday mornings are always my long run day.

Martha: I block out the time in my calendar four months in advance.

When do you exercise and why did you pick that time?

Natalie:  The morning before I run out of self discipline.

Sam: It’s the time I have! My workday starts at 8 and I’m often working until 7 or 8. Long days. But I always take lunch and I usually take breaks in the morning and afternoon.

Mina: I’m a bit all over the place, because I have a flexible schedule. I love a workout before breakfast, but I also like sleep, so that’s not always possible. And when I’m signed up for a class (now on Zoom), I worry less about a workout later in the day, because I know the class-ness (and cost)  of the workout will inspire me to attend.

Cate: I am not an early morning person – my ideal time to work out is like 11 am, after I’ve been awake and fed and digested and mobilized for a while and need a little break.  However that rarely works – sometimes I can fit a run in then.  So I compromise with pre-work virtual classes (730 still feels early most days), runs throughout the day if I can fit them in and post-work classes.  I rarely manage to actually work out in the evening if I don’t book something or commit to it with a friend.  

For me food is kind of tricky – I need to have some food in me, but I think I digest slowly, so I can’t eat lunch and go for a run or spinning an hour later.  Similarly if I’m doing a class at night I can’t eat dinner first – I end up feeling nauseated.

Marjorie: (answered in part in Q1 plus the following comment) Cate, I really relate to what you say about timing exercise around food! I have to do it just right to feel good–enough food to give me energy, not too much (or too soon) or it can lead to indigestion. Running requires the most care, so I always do it the same–eat a lower fiber, lower fat breakfast (less fruit, butter, etc, than usual), then wait until my body tells me it’s digested enough that I can safely head out without distress.

Tracy: I like to exercise first thing, at 6 or 7 or 7:30 a.m., the earlier the better. I do that because it gives me a sense of accomplishment before I’ve even had breakfast. And also, with running, I go early in the summer because otherwise it’s too hot. But I can and do exercise at different times of day, like at the end of the work day or at lunch.  The only time I don’t workout is in the evening after dinner, unless a wind-down yoga class.

Nicole: I prefer working out in the morning, or earlier in the day, whenever possible. I find it benefits me for the rest of the day if I exercise in the morning and I like the feeling that it is done for the day. If I can’t for some reason, I will schedule it later in the day, but that is a back-up. One exception to this is a long walk at the end of the day. It’s “easy” and therefore welcome at the end of the day.

Martha: I prefer the mornings. If I have it in first thing, it gets done.

fitness · stretching

Get to know Doctor Jo (or at least her YouTube channel)

I have a few spots that give me a bit of trouble at Taekwondo or during other exercises.

My right hip and the side of my right knee give me a bit of grief. My wrists misbehave a little from time to time. And I apparently like to carry tension in my shoulders and neck (A novel and shocking situation, I know. No one else does that. 😉 Ha!)

Yoga helps with a lot of that but sometimes I need to give those areas a little extra attention with some focused stretches/movements. Since my chiropractor isn’t on call 24-7, and since I prefer to follow along with a video than overthinking about how many reps to do, I have become a big fan of the Ask Doctor Jo channel on Youtube.

Dr. Jo,   a woman with dark hair  who is wearing a dark-coloured Supergirl  T-shirt.  She is surrounded  by three  large dogs, one black and two brown.
Here’s Doctor Jo with Remy, Kali, and Bear. Photo from Instagram – Ask Doctor Jo

Doctor Jo is calm, friendly and casual, often appearing in a tshirts with a funny saying on them. The sets for her videos are minimal (sometimes just her on a chair with a white background) and her advice and instructions are really clear.

She can also be delightfully goofy and seems like someone I could be friends with – which is always fun. (Anyone who includes audio of themselves saying ‘Disclaimer Alert! Disclaimer Alert!’ over their disclaimer alert is my kind of person.)

And, as an added bonus, she often has one of her dogs with her in the video. (For example, Remy is featured in this video of neck stretches.)

This Dr. Jo video on neck pain is a great example of all of the things I like about her approach – useful, well-explained exercises, a visit from her dog, some goofiness, and a Wonder Woman t-shirt.

In addition to her videos that just demonstrate the movements and tell you how long to hold them, she also has a variety of ‘real time’ videos (Here’s an example of one of her ‘real time’ full body stretch videos) in which she keeps you company for the stretches. I particularly enjoy those because they make it easier for me to stick with the program.

I also really like the videos in her ‘Top Ten’ series that demonstrate her 10 favourite exercises for a variety of frequently searched issues.

Exercises for knee pain AND a T-shirt that says ‘Dog Hair is my glitter’ ? I am HERE for this.

Obviously, if you are having major or chronic issues with specific muscles, you need to see a medical professional in person, if at all possible.

But, if you are having a small issue with one body part, if you need a refresher on how to do the exercises that were recommended to you, or if you just need some video company while you work out a few tough spots, give Doctor Jo a try.

I’m tempted to say ‘Tell her Christine sent you.’ but since I don’t actually know her, that would be weird.

fitness

Taekwondo is a little strange these days

I had to do a lot of thinking before I returned to Taekwondo this fall.

Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, we have the advantage of isolation/low population density and that, combined with early strict measures, kept our COVID numbers low overall (fewer than 300 cases in a population of approximately 500,000.)

So, this fall is finding us slowly getting back into something that looks similar to the old normal. It’s a more complex normal – physical distancing, elaborate sanitization, and more rules than you could shake a stick at- but it does bear a certain resemblance to the before-times.

Kids are in school, Guide and Scout groups are starting up, you can eat at restaurants but capacity is reduced, a lot of things are happening outdoors and there is tape on the floor everywhere.

When my instructor contacted me in August to tell me that classes would start again in September, I couldn’t commit right away. I wanted to see my friends from class, I wanted to get back into that routine again, and I wanted to re-sharpen my skills. But, I didn’t want to do something foolish and take a health risk so I could punch things in my fighting pajamas.

A selfie by the author. She is wearing a white dobok (martial arts clothing) and a white mask and her hair is pulled back in a bandana.  Two masked people   in doboks are far away in the background.
Myself, Mr. Power and Ms. L. Zurel during one of our breaks. I only realized after I took this photo that I didn’t even try to smirk or smile. Everything feels a bit more ‘serious business’ these days, doesn’t it?

I relaxed a bit when I saw the list of rules for the school. The timing of classes has changed (to accomodate cleaning between groups), there is tape on the floor to mark a distanced spot for each student, we have to wear masks on the way in and out and during breaks and we are welcome to leave our masks on all during class (at 2m apart, we technically don’t need to be masked.)  All of that helped but the thing that made the most difference for me was the fact that we are prohibited from breathing out sharply when we execute a move. That was one of my biggest concerns – the idea that I would be in a room of people projecting their breath out forcefully into the room.

So, I have been to about half of the classes* so far and it is great to be back but it is also very strange.

The class is both familiar and unfamiliar. It’s like when you dream about something that you do in real life – it has basically the same shape and the same purpose but the elements aren’t quite right.

The 2m difference in spacing is just slightly more that we would usually be apart when we are Doing our patterns. So my friend Kevin, ahem, Mr. James, is in the correct place on my right hand side but he’s too far away from me. So the unconscious cues that I would normally get from his movement under normal circumstances are now gone.

A photo of beige flooring with two pieces of red duct tape  approximately  2 m apart from each other.
Usually, only the youngest students have duct tape on the floor to keep them from piling up on each other during kicking drills. Now, there are duct tape markers to indicate a spot for each student.

I’m slightly too far away from my instructor to see them well without my glasses on. I have to keep my glasses off because I’m wearing a mask and the steaming up is too irritating. (Yes,I leave my mask on the whole time, I just feel better that way.) This isn’t a crisis, there aren’t too many subtle movements that I need to see, but it adds to the weird feeling I am experiencing.

The weirdest thing though, the most eerie, is the fact that the class is quiet. Under normal circumstances as we are doing our patterns everyone is breathing out on almost every move. So the classroom is filled with the sounds of this rhythmic breathing. Now we are all quiet. I’ve noticed myself adding comments or slightly nervous laughter more often and I am working on reigning that in. I guess you could say that the patterns could be more meditative now but it is hard to adjust to that idea in a context that was not particularly meditative before. For right now, it feels a little like something is wrong, like we are sombre as a reaction to something (and I guess we are.)

I imagine I will adjust to this over time. After a while, it probably won’t seem so weird, the silence will just become part of how class works. But, for right now, it really makes me conscious of how things have changed. And it makes me aware of the sensory clues I was picking up from other people. 

If you had asked me before, I would have said that I spent too much time glancing at other people to make sure I was on track with a given pattern* (it was a habit I was trying to overcome.) However, now I am realizing that hearing breathing patterns and judging people’s proximity were also a big part of staying on track with both the pattern itself and with the group as a whole.

But, all of that being said I really appreciate being able to return to class – especially since so many people around the world are still unable to have any sense of normalcy in their days. 

And, I especially appreciate the flexibility my instructors and my classmates are offering right now. 

Everyone in the class is able to participate at their own level of risk-tolerance. My comfort/lack of comfort with the current risk level means that I am leaving my mask on, that I am a bit rusty in my movements because my ambient anxiety affects my concentration, and that I could not participant in certain drills that would bring me ‘too close’  (for my comfort) to another masked person. All of that has been fine with everyone else. We are all being very careful of everyone else’s feelings, needs, and comfort levels and that is what makes our classes work well right now.

I’m ending this with a kiya because we can’t shout it in class these days.

KIYA!

*I misjudged the weight of something while cleaning my shed and wonked out my shoulder for a while so I stayed home from class a few times.

**While that could be interpreted as a lack of confidence on my part, that is not exactly it. Sometimes, I lack confidence, but mostly I think my challenges with proprioception keep me glancing around. Sometimes, for example, I firmly believe that my foot is in the right spot for a given stance but something twigs me to the fact that it isn’t – a quick glance at my neighbour lets me correct something that I can’t quite figure out by how my body feels.)

fitness

A Little Help Getting Started

As I have mentioned umpteen times, I am on a continuous quest to make it easier to begin every exercise session.

ADHD can make task initiation (a.k.a ‘just start!’) a real challenge so I’m always seeking ways to reduce the friction involved in deciding to exercise.

A light-haired medium-sized dog sits upright on a patterned mat on a wooden patio.
A somewhat gratuitous photo of Khalee but she fits the theme of this post. Her need to go for a walk often makes it easier for me to ‘just start’ walking.

Lately, I have had two triumphs so I thought I would share them with you in case you find it hard to ‘just start’ too

I found a cool-down video.

After I have finished the intense part of my workout, I usually go to one of two extremes with my cool-down/stretching.

Either I drag it out, stretching every muscle I can. Or, I stretch my neck and lower back and call it a day.

Both of these extremes actually make it harder for me to talk myself into exercising because I know I will either be there half the day or I will be uncomfortable and sore later.

Recently though, it occurred to me to look for a cool-down video* so I could have a fixed routine that didn’t involve a lot of decision-making or time tracking on my part.

I found this Fitness Blender cool-down and I LOVE it. It’s not flashy but it is effective – I get a full body stretch with what feels like very little effort. And, since it often gets you to stretch two muscles at once, it feels efficient, too. My brain loves feeling efficient (it’s a rare feeling for me.)

The above video features a white woman in colourful exercise clothes performing a variety of cool-down exercises and stretches while a narrator provides verbal instruction.

I made an Exercise Dashboard in Google Docs.

Since the videos are so helpful, and my current workout is in an online article, I was finding myself digging out links over and over. The (admittedly minimal but still) hassle of finding and following those links was creating a little friction for me so I decided to put all of my current exercise/wellness links in a document so I would have easy access to them.

This has been incredibly helpful. Having all the links in one spot makes it easier to start my workout because I know that I won’t get on my own nerves trying to find them. I don’t have to think about the links, they are all right there in front of me.

I’m sure there are other ways to achieve the same thing but this solution is working for me. If you’d like to see a public version of my dashboard, it’s here: Exercise Dashboard

What kinds of things do you do to make it easier to start your workout?

*I’ve been using this warm-up video for ages, I don’t know why it took me so long to look for a cool-down video. Brains are weird like that, I guess.

fitness

Sunscreen, Yoga, and Other Tangents

I’ve been finding it hard to get into gear with my writing lately and I have been walking the fine line between ‘distracting myself for a while and then returning to the project’ and straight-up procrastination.

Sometimes, I combine distraction, procrastination, and virtue by taking the dog for a walk. This is useful because it moves me, my brain, and Khalee all at once.

However, as always, there’s a sticking spot. Not a sticky spot – that would be a whole different issue.

In this case, it’s sunscreen.

A small figurine stands on a wooden dock holding a bottle of sunscreen and a towel.
Things have come to a pretty pass when even figurines need sunscreen on a sunny day. Photo source: https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1170890

I’m not going to argue about the need for sunscreen, I have had enough bad sunburns in my youth (when we would put on baby oil in hopes of tanning MORE) to know that I need it.

But, I hate sunscreen. Absolutely hate it.

It’s a finicky thing to apply. It’s hard to get off my hands. It makes a mess of my clothes and anything else I touch. And I know it mostly soaks in but there always seems to be some left on the surface for me to make a mess with. (and don’t even get me started on the fact that I am supposed to plan ahead and apply it 30 minutes before I go out – I just don’t have that sort of brain)

It’s worth it if I am going to spend a long time outside but it makes for an unpleasant workday if I just want to take a short walk and then return to my desk.

And yes, I could take a shower after my walk but I have usually already taken a shower by that point and I feel conscious about wasting the water. And, since I am the owner of a distraction-prone brain, I don’t necessarily want to add an extra task into my routine.

So, sometimes, I decide not to go for a walk because I can’t face the sunscreen at that point in the day.

TANGENT!

Today, as all of the above occurred to me, I veered into procrastination and looked up ‘easy ways to apply sunscreen’ and encountered this marvelous article full of hacks for sunscreen application.

I don’t really see myself applying sunscreen with a paint roller but I think it’s hilarious. I may, however, buy some makeup sponges for sunscreen application and see if it helps reduce any of the static for me.

One of the most interesting hacks, though, is the idea of practicing cow face pose* – gomukhasana – in order to put your sunscreen on more easily.

Now, I am all about anything that gets people motivated to move and to stretch and if easier sunscreen application does it for someone, I think that’s terrific. Yoga for Sunscreen Application isn’t a special video yet (I checked!) but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone developed one.

Two people  connect their fingertips to create a heart shape around the setting sun.
Two people joining hands to make a heart shape around the setting sun. I can only assume that they are both wearing sunscreen. Photo credit: Thanks to Mayur Gala for making this photo available freely on @unsplash

TANGENT!

Then, I got to thinking.

What other tasks do you do in your daily life that you could ‘train’ for by doing a specific exercise?

Yes, I know about functional fitness and how useful it is

And, of course, I have done physio rehab for specific injuries and tasks.

But I’m thinking of something way more specific and task-related – for minor annoyances in your day-to-day life.

For example, my ‘cupboard reach’ exercise from the Wakeout app might be making it easier for me to reach a little further into that top shelf of my cupboard. The logical thing to do might be to use a stepstool or to not store things that high but the idea of training for that reach is fun to me.

Perhaps another yoga pose could help you to reach behind you to put stuff in the pouch of the driver’s seat in your car?

Or a specific exercise could help you strengthen your hand to hold your hardcover book?

What do you think? What minor frustration could you deal with through a specific exercise?

Follow me on this tangent and add your suggestions in the comments.

Meanwhile, I’m off to take the dog for a walk – sunscreen and all.

*See it here: https://www.yogauonline.com/yogau-wellness-blog/yoga-pose-primer-how-get-cow-face-pose-gomukhasana

fun · habits · health · motivation

Christine works out with Wakeout

I’ve been having big fun with the Wakeout app.

Wakeout, which bills itself as ‘Exercise for busy people,’ delivers exactly what it promises – short, fun workouts to do in a variety of settings.  

As you probably know, I find it challenging to decide what exercise to do when and how long to do it for. Wakeout helps me sidestep those issues because I can set a reminder in advance (always useful for me!) and then I only have to choose the location and duration of my exercise. 

The duration choices are short  – one, three, or six 30-sec exercises (although you can do multiple Wakeouts in a row) and the settings are limited – you can choose home, office, travel, or outdoors and then select different categories within each. Even though there is a lot of possibility contained within each category, I find the process of choosing to be quite straightforward in this case. 

A light haired dog sleeps on a partially-made bed. There are bookshelves in the background.
This morning, I had to do my Wakeout on my chair instead of the edge of the bed because Khalee had made other plans.

I really like that the exercises are done in 30 second bursts instead of by reps – I love a timer but I hate counting reps. I appreciate just sinking into the movement and not having to focus on counting.

And I like the types of movements the app gets me to do.  

It’s not just bicep curls or squats, it’s movements on all sorts of different planes. For example, 

In a recent Wakeout, I was holding a pillow and moving sort of sideways figure eight with my arms – as if I were in a pillow fight and had an opponent on either side of me. This exercise had me moving my arms in a whole different way than I would normally do and I felt like my range of movement increased over all. 

I am much too used to working forward, sideways, or up-and-down and I forget about making more circular sorts of movements. Wakeout’s prompt to move different, helped me to engage different muscles or at least to engages the same muscles in different ways and that really really felt great.

One of my favourite exercises that I had to do involved standing in front of the counter in the kitchen and reaching upward into a high cupboard. That specific movement felt great for my arms, my back and my legs and I have repeated it often even when I wasn’t doing the app – sure, sometimes I was just reaching for something in the cupboard but mostly it was for a little extra stretch.

The app keeps track of your workouts and tells you your accumulated minutes and how many minutes it will take to reach the next level. I also enjoy this encouraging feature and it’s rewarding to push a little hard to get that visible (on the screen) result.  One of my ongoing challenges with consistent exercise is how hard it is to SEE the benefits of my efforts. This small visual makes a big difference for me. 

A screen cap of the Wakeout app.  A black background with green text and images. It says 'Awesome' at the top and then shows an image of a green bear with sunglasses surfing through some planets. Below the image are some stats revealing that the user is at Activity level 5 and that they can reach the next level  in 12.5 active minutes.  They have 6 total wakeouts, a 6 day streak, and 9 active minutes. At the bottom is a green button inviting them to wakeout again.
Sure, it’s only a small thing but I love seeing these numbers and knowing exactly what I have to do to get to the next level. Even if the level itself only has meaning inside the app, it coaxes me to keep moving.

Often, I will shy away from short workouts because of the decisions involved – trying to figure out what is ‘enough’ to do is especially tricky for people with ADHD. The Wakeout app removes some of my obstacles to bothering with a short workout – I can just open the app and do what it says and not have to think too much about it. 

Obviously, I would have to either do a lot of Wakeouts to become seriously fit but I find these small bursts of activity encouraging and rewarding and they really feel great.

I haven’t been through all of the workouts yet, of course, but from the ones I have seen so far, I would like to see a greater variety of body types/sizes and abilities represented in the demos. (To be fair, though there may be greater variety than there currently appears to be. I may just not have seen everyone yet.)  

I like that the demo models aren’t all white but not having seen the entire range of workouts yet I cannot comment on whether the diversity of the models is truly representative or just a nod to inclusion. I am hoping that it is the former rather than the latter.

Overall, I really enjoy the workouts and features in this app. I didn’t it like it much when one of the reminders made me feel entirely responsible for our sedentary society but that’s on my overdeveloped guilt reflex, not on the makers of the app!

I don’t know if it would be helpful or frustrating for someone who already spends a large part of their day exercising. It might be enjoyable to try some different movements – especially if any part of their day was spent at desk work – or it might be annoying to do these small exercises that might not work their bodies hard enough for their liking. 

As far as I can tell, Wakeout is only available for Apple products so far. You get a 7 day free trial and then you can purchase a monthly plan for $6.99 which you can share with up to 6 people. I enjoyed it enough to sign up for the monthly plan but I wish I could include my family members who use other non-Apple devices. 

fitness · motivation

Tricking Myself Into Getting Started

I know that a lot of our bloggers and our readers are into exercise for its own sake. They don’t have to ‘convince’ themselves to start and they look forward to their workouts. 

For me, exercise can be a bit like this famous writing quote attributed to Dorothy Parker

A purple background with an image of writer Dorothy Parker, in the foreground is text that reads 'I hate writing. I love having written. '~ Dorothy Parker

It’s not completely accurate because I enjoy exercise once I have started – I just have trouble making myself start.

So, I do everything I can to reduce the challenges of getting started and make the whole process as easy as possible so there are fewer parts that I dread. (To be clear, I do challenge myself with my workouts, I’m not taking it easy in that sense, I just try to find ways to keep my brain from arguing with me about exercising.)

So, I have a few handy tricks that I use to reduce my mental static around exercise. These aren’t particularly innovative or new but they are handy so I thought I would share three of them in case they are useful for someone else, too.

Counting Down

When I have reps ahead of me, I prefer counting down to counting up. Whether I am counting bicep curls or jumping jacks or trips up the stairs, I start with the number I am aiming for and count downwards. 

This might be an ADHD thing. Any challenging task, even an enjoyable one, is hard to start because it feels like it might go on forever. If I count upwards, it could continue for ages. If I count downward, it has to end at zero. 

I mean, yeah, I could go into negative numbers but the risk of me doing that is minimal at best. 

Savasana

When I do yoga, I always tell myself that I can just do a single pose – corpse pose. I rarely ever stick with that but I have promised myself that I can always stop after 13* breaths in that pose.  

Knowing that something so relatively easy still ‘counts’ is freeing and it makes my yoga more of a choice than an obligation.

An  upside down photo of the author’s head and shoulders.  She is lying on a greenish-blue yoga mat  and she is smirking in a friendly  way.
Upside down smirking still counts!

Music/Audiobooks/Podcasts 

This isn’t particularly quirky but it was a big deal for me when I figured it out. 

I have a few workout playlists but I sometimes find that they don’t match my mood or the activity I want to do that day and that makes me feel kind of blah about getting started. So I have given myself ‘permission’ to listen to a podcast or an audiobook while I exercise instead. 

Not only does that mean that I am less likely to get bored (the overarching fear of the ADHD brain) but knowing that I get another episode or chapter gives me additional motivation to exercise.

How about you?

Do you have these kinds of quirks or tricks to help you get moving?

Do you have a workout playlist or a podcast that you can recommend?

*I do all kinds of things in increments of 13 (13 reps, 13 breaths, 13 minutes of writing/tidying/reading) For starters, despite its reputation, 13 has always been a lucky number for me. Also, 10 minutes often feels too short to be ‘worth it’ but 15 minutes can seem like a long time so 13 is a solid compromise.

fitness

Take It Outside

My 15 year old son has been taking a ‘Healthy Living’ course this past semester and I’ve been keeping him company as he worked on projects ranging from cyberbullying to dangerous drugs*. 

When we received notice that this week’s project would be his final one for the course, we were happy to discover that his teacher was keeping the increasingly nice weather in mind.

J’s project for this week is to take photos of himself doing outdoor activities and I have decided maximize my fun by joining in.

I won’t be sending my photos to his teacher, obviously, so I will be posting here instead.

The author,  a white middle-aged woman is standing on the grass in front of a wooden structure. She is wearing a flowered dress and her arms are outstretched.
For your amusement: This is an author activity that won’t be included this week. In this 2017 photo, I am at an outdoor Storytelling event. It looks like I might be exercising but that’s just my full-body story style. It’s actually more mental effort than physical effort.

Keep an eye out for my post of seven outdoor photos at the end of next week.

Maybe you would like to join me for this final project for the school year?

*There is also a physical activity component of the course but he didn’t really need my company on the elliptical machine or while doing his steps in the living room.

fitness

An afternoon stroll is good for the brain…and for the dog

After reading Chapter 6 of Joy of Movement and learning why exercising outside is helpful, I decided to make an extra effort to get outside for my exercise this week.

Of course, the best way to encourage myself to do that was to take Khalee for a walk at around the same time everyday. 

A light-coloured medium-sized dog stands on pavement that is partially covered in snow.
Even Khalee is a bit tired of the snow.

Choosing the same time (around 5pm) was useful because it took away some of my ADHD-related challenges around starting to exercise, having the routine made Khalee come to me looking for her walk, and because I made it a fixed point in my schedule, my brain started to include it as part of the landscape of my day. In only 6 days, I already started to plan supper around my walk at that time  – either starting things cooking before I left or planning a meal that could be prepared quickly when I returned. 

And, to make it easier for me to stay out for at least 30 minutes, I chose a route before I left. If I leave for a walk without making a plan, my brain won’t go into the expansive mode that McGonigal mentions in her book. Instead, I spend my whole walking considering if I have walked far enough and if I should take the next turn.

This week’s weather has been all over the place – flurries, rain, freezing cold, bright sunshine, and today, temperatures warm enough that I could almost leave my sweatshirt at home. (I live in Newfoundland, I know better than to go off in May without a sweatshirt but it *was* pretty warm for most of my walk.) For several of those days, my commitment to my plan (and to my dog) was the only thing that got me out the door – cold, windy days don’t make for fun walking – but once I was out, I was fine.

A light-haired dog stands on a curb, the shadows of two people are on the pavement next to her.
Bonus: On Friday, Khalee and I had my son’s company on our walk.

And, I feel calmer over all. I like having a specific time for a walk, I like having this as part of my daily routine, and I like how my brain feels when I’m out strolling along. 

Eventually, I will probably make my walks a little longer or I will choose more challenging routes but for right now, I am enjoying this consistent effort and I am going to stick with it for a while.

Khalee votes yes.

A light-haired dog with her tongue sticking out walks along some pavement.
You can’t see her tail here but trust me, she was excited to be out in the sunshine..

The snout and front paw of a light-haired dog who is sniffing at some winter-dried grass.
So many things to sniff!

PS – For the record, I am not the only person who can/does take Khalee for a walk. Please don’t assume that she wasn’t getting out before now, I have been just been more consistent with the timing this week.

fitness

Best Laid Plans and All That

Spoiler: Although I have spent a fair bit of March feeling under the weather, there was no point at which I had more than a passing concern that it was anything more than a cold. Please don’t worry!

I had envisioned March as a pleasantly busy month.

I was going to undertake my dance/cardio challenge. I was going to get out for lots of walks.

I was going to check in regularly with goofy posts about energetic flailing to music.

There was going to be photos.

March was going to come in like a frolicking lamb and I was going to frolic right along with it.

Yeah…soooooo, that didn’t work out.

The first few days of March were marvellous – I went for walks and danced it up a little.

Then, around the 3rd, I was suddenly as sick as the proverbial dog. Some sort of strange cold that left me feeling like my head weighed 3000lbs. (Approximately 3000, I didn’t weigh it.)

A light haired dog  sits upright on a dark brown laminate floor.
Khalee is neither proverbial nor sick, luckily. She’s just hoping there will be snacks.

I didn’t even try to exercise, I know when I should exercise through illness and this was not one of those times.

My head gradually returned to its normal weight after 4-5 days, just in time for me to start sneezing.

(It’s a blessing really. If I had been sneezing while my head was so heavy, it might have just gone flying right off and I really don’t have the right energy to live as a disembodied head.)

Those sneezes and a sore throat were the first symptoms of a whole different cold.

The worst of that cold only lasted a few days but it left me with one of those post-cold coughs that acts up at night and keeps you from sleeping well.

And that brings me up to the point in the month when social distancing, Covid-19 reports, and the like became the focus of all of our lives.

Did I do what I intended to do this month?

Most certainly not.

Am I being hard on myself about it?

Most certainly not.

This has been an unprecedentedly bizarre month. My plans were knocked sideways through no fault of my own and then they were kept firmly in that sideways position.

This isn’t about me not following through. It isn’t about me not setting the right structure or not making the right space in my life for a new habit.

This March has been about me playing the hand I was dealt.

So, I have taken the dog for walks when the weather and my health cooperated.

A light haired dog walks down a sidewalkawayffom fbe viewer.  A green leash extends back toward the camera.
I only had a few extra minutes on Monday past but I made sure to take Khalee out in the sunshine. This was just before she started racing into the bitter cold wind.

I have done at least a little yoga every day and a little bit of TKD every week.

And I have taken extra steps in my day and worked a little harder when I had the capacity to do so.

It hasn’t been perfect but it has been good enough.

I’m not making myself any grand exercise promises for April. I’m just going to keep doing bits and pieces here and there and let it add up.

I know that exercise is an important factor for my mental health while I am spending so much time at home. But I don’t think a specific plan is the right thing for me right now.

I’m just going to do what I can and aim for things that help me feel good.

I hope you are doing the same.

Let’s just be kind to ourselves and to each other.