fitness · WOTY

Martha’s word of the year: hold fast

A few years ago, a friend introduced me to the concept of choosing a word to define my year. It’s a popular practice, with some using it to define their art practice, some to guide their planning for the year, and some others to explore the meaning and impact of that word in their daily life.

Mina and Cate have shared their thoughts on their word of the year in the last couple of days. I thought I would share mine because it represents a departure for me. Previous years I have used create, imagine, focus, and dream. This year I chose hold fast, not one word but two.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash Image shows a blue rope with a knot against a yellow plank.

Hold on its own felt too much like I wanted to put life on pause, and heaven knows, I had had enough of that feeling in the spring. A nautical term, hold fast means to stay the course, but it also means to maintain the strength of your convictions, or to align yourself to something that will help you keep moving forward.

Last year, I felt like I was often stuck fast, firmly held back by conditions or needs not within my control, most of them arising from the pandemic. This year, it seems natural to look at all the ways I can hold fast to what really matters and why. As I work better with questions, I wrote a few down in my calendar to act as prompts for the year ahead.

  1. How will I maintain my practices in fitness, work, and home?
  2. How do I maintain my focus, keep moving forward, and still hold true to my values?
  3. When must I stay the course and when must I let go?
  4. How committed or invested am I in an outcome?

The word of the year opens up lots of possibilities for thought and for action and I am excited by the power that offers for change and growth. What else might you be thinking of doing in this new year ahead? Let us know in the comments.

MarthaFitat55 writes from wet and windy St. John’s.


Big rocks, tiny habits

Last year before the old year ended and the new year began, I wrote about making my priorities the big rocks that got placed first, and then using the remaining space to fill in with other activities.

Photo by Gelgas Airlangga on Image shows a tiny seedling.

I was successful with some parts and not so successful with others. It’s been a strange year with the pandemic so I am not surprised some stuff I wanted to do went off the rails. However, I am not spending any time on whatifs or should haves. Instead, I am looking at what I have learned and how I can change up some of my practices and habits.

I’ve gotten into scheduling and specificity, something Christine Hennebury has written about here. Then Sam reminded me about habit-making, and I remembered a post TracyI wrote back in 2016 in which she reported on a study that debunked the 21-day rule to form or break a habit. In fact, the research says it takes about 66 days to make a new habit stick.

Sam’s reminder came in the form of an article and audio piece talking about BJ Fogg and his latest book, Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything. Fogg, a behaviour scientist at Standford, has developed a framework that supports the hacking of human behaviour to make changes stick.

Fogg describes the foundation of his Tiny Habits framework thusly: There are three things that come together at the same time for any behavior to happen.There’s got to be motivation to do the behavior. Second is the ability to do the behavior. And the third is a prompt. The prompt is anything that reminds you or says, “Do this behavior now.” And when those three things come together at the same moment, a behavior happens.

At its simplest, Fogg’s theory about looking at your goals, breaking them down into the small steps, and identifying the tweaks (tiny habits) you can make to get you there. In his example of wanting to read more, he recommends first scaling back the goal to its smallest point: reading a paragraph a day. As it is so small, there’s no excuse to avoid it.

Second, he says to find a natural place in our daily lives to make this happen. Maybe reading is something you can do over breakfast, on the subway, or in the bath. Third, associate the successful completion of the activity with a positive emotion. It could be a little dance, a fist pump, or singing a chorus of your favourite song.

Reading this article came at the right time for me as I work on my plan for the coming year. I’ve been looking at why (motivation) I want to do certain things, I’ve been trying to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) about the objectives, and I have been really looking hard at the prompts and rewards.

I’ve reupped my participation in the 221 in 2021 Challenge; in light of my desire to make activity a daily habit, I’m looking at Fogg’s principles and seeing where and how I can add a little more movement every day naturally.

What might be some tiny habits you will adopt this year to help make positive changes?

MarthaFitat55 lives and works and moves in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.


Dec. 26: Wellness Calendar (Collected Edition)

I’ve collected all the posts in my wellness calendar for you to keep handy. Wellness and self care steps are not just useful for the holidays. The winter will be tough in many places as we go through our second, third, or even fourth waves of the pandemic. There will be other holidays, other sets of expectations to manage. Please remember though, you are enough. You are doing your best. You have value and worth. Be well, stay well.

Photo by Deniz Altindas on Unsplash Image shows a stack of rocks.

Dec. 25: Make yourself a priority

Dec. 24: Read a book

Dec. 23: Enjoy a cup of tea

Dec. 22: Stuff the turkey not yourself

Dec 21: Embrace the light

Dec. 20: Feel the feels

Dec. 19: Get in touch with your senses

Dec. 18: Get close to water

Dec. 17: Try something new

Dec. 16: Unplug

Dec 15: Make a doodle

Dec. 14: Get dressed

Dec. 13: Have a cuddle

Dec 12: Take your meds

Dec. 11: Delay gratification

Dec. 10: Pick one thing

Dec. 9: Stomp, stomp, stomp

Dec. 8: Stretch, stretch, stretch

Dec. 7: Laughing is good for you

Dec. 6: Get some fresh air

Dec. 5: Move with music

Dec. 4: Take a nap!

Dec. 3: Remember to eat

Dec. 2: Stay hydrated

Dec. 1: You are always enough


Dec. 25: Make yourself the priority

I wish you all a happy day with loved ones, together or separately as the pandemic dictates. It’s hard to carry the weight of expectations, especially when socialized as women to look after everyone except yourself.

In the wellness calendar, I have offered some ideas you can try to take care of yourself. Back at the end of 2019, I wrote about setting priorities for fitness using the image of large, medium and small rocks.

As we move into 2021, we are all carrying heavy loads. Some we are just learning to carry and the burden of recent losses is painful and unsettling. Others we have adapted to their presence, and only occasionally they might poke at a tender spot to remind us what we have been grieving.

The new year will bring lots of changes, but growth is good. If we stayed in the same place doing the same thing without learning, changing, growing, we would be quite limited as humans. Sometimes people fear growth because it comes with change and experience. But the comfortable rut can become a cage.

Embrace growth for the positive change it is and let its light nurture you and support you the same way the strengthening sun will nurture new growth in the spring. Give yourself the gift of valuing yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Take a little time for yourself today and every day.


Dec. 24: Read a book; eat chocolate

Icelanders have a lovely tradition for Christmas Eve. Even if celebrating on Dec. 24 is not your tradition, perhaps you may like to adopt this one.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Unsplash Image shows a gray book wrapped in red ribbon with a candle and some greenery.

Called Jolabokaflod, the practice involves cracking open a new book and drinking hot chocolate, or nibbling on some chocolate treat. It started during the Second World War, when paper, unlike other commodities, was not rationed. This turned into Icelanders giving books as presents (and have turned the country into a reading culture as a result) and celebrating family and friendship on Dec. 24.

If someone hasn’t given you a book, present one to yourself. Pick your favourite reading spot, curl up with a mug of something nice and hot, preferably chocolate, and lose yourself in the power and beauty of words.


Dec. 23: Enjoy a cup of tea

There’s nothing like a cup of scalding tea prepared to your taste to create a little oasis of calm in your day. Tea, or any soothing hot beverage, offers the opportunity to create a ritual.

Photo by ORNELLA BINNI on Unsplash Image shows a decorated tea cup with water and chamolile flowers steeping for tea.

The Japanese take making tea very seriously. The Japanese call it the way of tea and each step in service to hospitality adds to the experience. The English also take tea seriously, and it can range from a small snack to a full meal.

Whether you like your tea green or black, or you prefer hot water with mint and/or lemon, drinking something hot and thinking through the steps you take to prepare it are both excellent ways to create space in a busy day for you.


Dec. 22: Stuff the turkey, not yourself

The holidays are full of stress. It’s not just Christmas. I have heard from Jewish and Muslim friends that the need to make everything just so crosses all kinds of cultures and religious celebrations.

With the pandemic, many cities and countries are recommending the cancellation of office parties and the avoidance of large gatherings. Even family celebrations are supposed to be low key. But the pressure to overindulge — be it with food, drink, or even highly stimulating environments — is often present and a source of stress.

Leaving aside my omnivorous metaphor in the headline, if you are trying to maintain an even keel, too much of any thing will not go well for you.

It is okay to say no. When my child was small, we only did one thing per day over the holidays. We said thank you, wished them well, and said “maybe another time.” Once my child was old enough not to get overstimulated, I found I still enjoyed the one activity per day rule.

It’s okay to let go. Last year, with kitchen renos, sewer collapses, and annoying illnesses taking over my plans for my annual elegant Christmas Eve dinner, I created a sandwich buffet instead. It was fine, it was different, and it was fun.

You don’t owe anyone an explanation. Whatever your reasons for declining a beverage, a food, or an event, you don’t have to explain, give a reason, or ease someone else’s curiosity. You could just say, “not now, thank you; maybe later.” Or try EB White’s favourite exit: “I decline for secret reasons.”


Dec 21: Embrace the light

The Winter Solstice arrived today at 6:22 am in my part of the world. In practical terms, it means I got up in the dark to watch the sunrise on the shortest day followed by the longest night.

Photo by Emanuel Haas on Unsplash Image shows weak sunlight shining on icicles.

But it means more than that. After today, the days will begin to lengthen. By the first week of January, I will be noticing how much later twilight comes. The sunshine may still be weak, but we will have more of it. And two months after that we will be approaching the spring equinox.

Today though, it can still be too dark for some of us to manage. If Seasonal Affective Disorder is an issue for you, try taking some Vitamin D. If you have some money to spare, perhaps a sun lamp will help. You could also try lighting a few candles to keep back the dark. Look into the flame and meditate on the shapes, the colours and the way the light moves with your breath.

Today the light begins its return journey. Celebrate its return and while you are at it, look for other sources of light and happiness in your life. Those good memories can help relieve stress and remind you of the goodness in the world.


Dec. 20: Feel the feels

Sometimes when we are super busy, we tend to park our feelings, or stuff them away, to deal with later. The holidays can bring up all kinds of feels. I’m not a weepy person by nature, but listening to small children sing will always prompt a tear. Or two. Or maybe even three.

Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Image shows a wave, with the sun setting in the background against a cityscape.

It’s okay to feel. Showing emotion is sometimes seen as a negative. However, I am here to say in some cases, it’s much better to let the wave of emotion wash over you. Take a few deep breaths and let any tension ease from your body.

Acknowledge the emotion — fear, anger, sadness, anxiety. If you can, take a moment to identify what prompted the wave. Maybe it was a scent, a sound, a word, or a place. Take a moment to recall a happy moment and let that positive energy flow through.

In the picture above, there’s lots of water. It can look and feel a little frightening. But there’s also light and if you look at it sideways, you can see a heart. Life is a lot like that picture. Lots of emotion and activity, but also lots of light and love. Be well; stay well.


Dec. 19: Get in touch with your senses

Since the pandemic started, I have written here, here, and here about mental health approaches to coping with stress and anxiety. We live in stressful times, and there are often peaks and valleys as things settle and others start to bubble. In December, the holidays add their own layer of stress; regardless of your faith and traditions, the weight of expectations can be weighty indeed.

In developing this calendar, I remembered a technique for calming anxiety. Different organizations have described it, but I like how the Mayo Clinic sets theirs up. First sit quietly. Look around you and notice:

  • Five things you can see: Your hands, the sky, a plant on your colleague’s desk
  • Four things you can physically feel: Your feet on the ground, a ball, your friend’s hand
  • Three things you can hear: The wind blowing, children’s laughter, your breath
  • Two things you can smell: Fresh-cut grass, coffee, soap
  • 1 thing you can taste: A mint, gum, the fresh air

The clinic says: This exercise helps you shift your focus to your surroundings in the present moment and away from what is causing you to feel anxious. It can help interrupt unhealthy thought patterns.

Focusing on your senses takes you outside your head and into the world around you. Number, categories, and structure help bring calm through order.

Photo by Tamanna Rumee on Unsplash Image shows a row of coloured pencils lined up neatly.