fitness · motivation · WOTY

Collective Word-of-the-Year Update

Image description: star-shaped word cloud featuring the repetition of four words in block letters: GROWTH, WELCOME, PURPOSE, THRIFT.

A few of us chose Words-of-the-Year back in January and we are due for a check-in to see how the chosen WOTY are working for us.


I couldn’t even remember my word, when Tracy proposed this post. When she reminded me it was WELCOME, I had to go back and look at why. Oh right, because I knew how hard the year was going to be and I wanted to find something that expressed a willingness to receive what was given this year and, in that way, find flow and ease, dynamism and stillness. I rejected the words GRIT and RESILIENCE, as too much focused on survival (versus the potential to thrive). I’m glad of my choice. At this point, every time someone tells me I’m resilient, a part of me wants to punch them and then collapse to the ground screaming and crying to prove that I’m not and that I need their care. I am welcoming those feelings. I am welcoming grief. Sure, some moments I set my grief off to the side, to try to focus on work or a friend or the potential of a pleasurable moment. But I am never denying grief, or pushing it away, as if it doesn’t belong. This opportunity to be reminded of my word and welcome it anew is well-timed. Welcome springtime.


My WOTY is PURPOSE. I also forgot what it was and Tracy reminded me. I thought it was BLOSSOM, but turns out, that was last year’s word. I think there is something to the way my memory has worked with respect to the WOTY. Perhaps, 2022 was getting my mind ready to BLOSSOM, but I wasn’t in a place to actually BLOSSOM. After leaving my last job and having some time to find my next opportunity, I had the privilege of time to think about where I would like to work. I have landed in a place that will provide me with an opportunity to learn, grow, use my legal skills and work at helping others. This seems like an opportunity to BLOSSOM. It also seems like an opportunity to do my work with PURPOSE (2023 WOTY). With respect to exercise, sometimes I have to remind myself the PURPOSE of my exercise. I am good at keeping my schedule, but lately, I find myself tired and cranky, on occasion. I blame it on menopause, but it could be other factors. Either way, in the moments of tiredness and crankiness, I believe it would be wise of me to remind myself of the PURPOSE of why I exercise. It provides me with energy and a clear head and strength – life transitions be damned. I also am purposeful about appreciating the ability to experience these life transitions, as I am more often than not, cognizant of this privilege that not all are afforded. I’m glad to be reminded of my WOTY. I endeavor to use PURPOSE in both my work and working out, for the remainder of the year.


From my original WOTY post, “My word for 2023 is GROWTH. I want to expand in lots of different ways. I want to learn new things, make some new friends, discover some new music, travel to new places, read some new authors, and think about new problems. I want to challenge myself to think big and take risks. I’m not sure yet what the specific fitness applications of this new focus will be but I’m open to ideas.”

How’s that working out for me?

Well, on the one hand, not as well as I’d hoped. It feels a bit more like Groundhog Day, as I’m halfway through medical leave for the second knee replacement. Instead of doing new things, mostly I’m working hard to get back to old things. I keep thinking words like “grit” and “determination” might have served me better.

On the other hand, if I think about life on the other side of this surgery and recovery, “growth” is still a word that excites. I keep thinking about new things I can do and new places I can travel with two working knees. It’s also pushing me to think about goals bigger than mere recovery. I’m excited about a lot of strength training in my future.


New things I have EXPLORED so far this year:

  • Tap dance lessons (first time ever)
  • A new position in soccer (first time ever)
  • Handbells choir (first time in 35 years)
  • Some wild high-tech shorts that measure your shape in 3D (review post forthcoming)

Last year during a tough time @fieldpoppy wrote about following Adriene’s yoga series, Begin, in which she describes the “Beginner’s Mind.” It’s exactly the non-self-critical headspace that gives the rest of me permission to explore new things: “presence, simplicity, no decisions. […] Experience what’s there now, not what was once there, or what could be there in the future.”


My word-of-the-year this year is THRIFT. Not in the sense of “thrifting,” where you shop for bargains at thrift stores, but more in the sense of being thrifty or frugal overall. It dovetails with my no-buy challenge, which involves no purchasing clothes, jewelry, accessories, or camera equipment in 2023.

These things all made the list because they are things I tend to spend way beyond my needs on them. There is simply no need to browse the clothing every time I go to Costco, to buy earrings every time I travel, or to keep adding to my camera kit when I already have more equipment — and it’s good equipment — than I regularly use.

The no-buy challenge and my WOTY have combined to make me think more carefully about my “allowable” expenses. As has everyone, I’ve noticed the prices shooting up in the grocery store and at the gas station, making everyday necessities quite a bit more expensive than they used to be. Taking a more thrifty approach means I will sometimes forgo things I would otherwise have purchased.

It’s also gotten me to try a discount airline for the first time. I’m flying out to Vancouver to see my step daughter and her partner and meet my new grand-baby. on Swoop the round trip ticket is a mere $163 CDN! If I can get away with just a small back pack (I’m gonna try!), I won’t have to fork over the additional $60 EACH WAY for a carry-on! If I wasn’t trying to economize this year I’d probably just do it. But now I feel as if it’s a challenge.

Related to my no-buy thrifty year, is a more aesthetic desire for minimalism. I’m not there but I wish I could be. If in the second half of this year I can combine no-buy with also shedding some stuff, so much the better.

I find having a WOTY can be a motivating touchstone for me when I’ve chosen well. This year I feel I’ve chosen very well. I had a brief moment today where I started browsing for dresses on a website, and pretty much the only thing that stopped me was my no-buy thing. Indeed, I almost said “screw it! I can buy a couple of dresses,” and then a friend who I ran it by said, “but think how you’ll feel after you’ve done so well so far.” That got me over the hump. The moment passed. I didn’t buy new dresses and instead I committed to going through my closet to remind myself what’s in there as far as summer wardrobe goes. I’m sure there is plenty.

I anticipate one exception, which is I need new running shoes pretty soon. I think that should be okay since it’s a well-considered purchase and my current shoes are reaching their training mileage limit.

All-in-all I’m happy with my word THRIFT and can already see a slight shift towards more intentional MINIMALISM in my future for next year.

fitness · racing · running · training

Run for Retina Research: Last year of a great local event

My team, RunFam, at the Run for Retina Research. Five runners standing arm in arm, smiling, from left right: short-haired woman (Pat) with sunglasses on and bib number 297, man (Kevin) with a black ball cap and tank and bib number 296, man (Ed) with black ball cap, woman (Tracy) with black ballcap and sunglasses and tank with bib number 192, blond-haired woman (Julie) wearning subglasses and a tank and leaning in, bib number 248
Image description: My team, RunFam, at the Run for Retina Research. Five runners standing arm in arm, smiling, from left right: short-haired woman (Pat) with sunglasses on and bib number 297, man (Kevin) with a black ball cap and tank and bib number 296, man (Ed) with black ball cap, woman (Tracy) with black ballcap and sunglasses and tank with bib number 192, blond-haired woman (Julie) wearning subglasses and a tank and leaning in, bib number 248.

On Sunday I did the Run for Retina Research 10K. It’s an event that has been running for 20 years, with options for 5K, 10K, or a half marathon. I’ve done it many times (including in October 2022), and it is known locally as a fun race where you usually get an extra jacket or technical top. It’s also for a really good cause in support of urgent eye care at one of our hospitals.

But oh wow what a brutal 10K it was. I have done other 10Ks without training enough, but I don’t think I’ve ever before been untrained quite to this degree. And of course we would be having unseasonably warm weather for April.

Despite that it was a tough slog and I ran most of it on my own, with my music and my inner voice vacillating between “why are you doing this?” and “you can do this!” it actually turned out to be all-in-all a fun day for the RunFam.

Our team was the second highest fundraising team of the event. We deserve to feel good about this considering that across all the distances there were 700 participants.

We all finished even though we didn’t feel super-prepared. For me, it was my 10K PW (“personal worst”) but oh well. I am not in the shape that I used to be and I didn’t train consistently, so to expect anything more would have been to believe in miracles. That said, I am now feeling inspired for the next event, the Shoppers Drug Mart sponsored Women’s Run on June 11th. Maybe this time, an upcoming race will be the training goal I need to actually get me out the door for regular training. The Run for Retina was supposed to function in that same incentivizing way but it didn’t. But that doesn’t mean the next challenge won’t.

It’s also just fun to get out and do things with others, even if I score a PW instead of a PB. And I’m happy we took part in the last ever Run for Retina Research. Based on the jackets hanging in my closet and the one long-sleeved jersey, I can see that I’ve done it four times. The latest jacket is quite lovely, a white and grey zip-up that fits well and looks quite smart.

I know lots of people who don’t like doing events that travel the same routes that they do on a regular basis. It’s great to do destination events, but I actually enjoy the simplicity of keeping it local and I like contributing to London, Ontario’s vibrant running community. We are incredibly fortunate to have pathways all along the river, and somehow on race day those well-travelled routes feel different and more alive.

How do you feel about local events?

blog · blogging · food

Tracy’s new blog

I’m excited to announce a new blog in relation to a major project I am working on. The blog is called “Vegan. Practically.” I just published the first post yesterday: “Welcome to ‘Vegan. Practically’.”

The blog is going to explore what I call “imperfect veganism” from a philosophical, ethical, strategic, and practical perspective. I have been vegan for ethical reasons since 2011, vegetarian for quite some time prior to that. But, as I explain in “Welcome to ‘Vegan. Practically.” I am not 100% perfect at it. Many people both inside and outside the vegan community think of it as an all-or-nothing undertaking, that you can not be “properly vegan” if you ever falter. That has never seemed right to me, and as a philosopher I have been mulling it over for a long time.

I have blogged here a bit about veganism: “Veganuary, Anyone?”, “Veganuary: Not Just for Vegans,” “Vegan Is Not a Fad Diet,” “Can an Ethical Vegan Gain Muscle? Yes!”, “Trending Now: Plant-Based Eating,” and “On He-gans and She-gans: The gendering of a plant-based diet,” to name a few. But I have a lot more to say than is appropriate for a feminist fitness blog, even if Fit Is a Feminist Issue is a big tent.

The book-in-progress, and its new blog companion “Vegan. Practically.” will carve out a space for a principled approach to veganism as an ethical practice. I emphasize the idea of practice because I think that is a great way of understanding the ongoing, but sometimes flawed, effort, much as we do in other practices, such as yoga, meditation, religion, even physical training in athletics from hockey to running.

I started the new blog because as I’ve been writing the book over these past few months, I’ve had some challenges hitting the right note in terms of tone. I want to be inviting, offering these reflections not just to vegans, but also to anyone who might be curious, or anyone who might be more than curious but feels convinced veganism is “too hard.” I don’t want to be scary, combative, strident, or (overly) self-righteous (tough to navigate when you’re taking an ethical stance on something, but I don’t see that as a productive way for me to be). I also don’t want to evangelize or preach. I’m a philosopher, so argument, commentary, and analysis are my go-tos, with some personal narrative thrown into the mix. Hopefully it’ll be inherently interesting subject matter presented in an approachable and engaging way (a women can dream!).

As a writer I can sometimes overthink things like tone, but I know that I when I blog I feel as if my authentic voice comes through. I tried to approach some parts of the book “acting as if,” that is, pretending I was blogging. But I guess I’m not such a great pretender. Why not just do it for real?

As I was grappling with this question of tone and the possibility of blogging for real, I felt a bit of resistance because a blog is a commitment not to be undertaken lightly. Then my writing coach (Daphne Gray-Grant, The Publication Coach), whom I’ve been working with for a few months, said that a blog is an excellent platform for making a success of the book. I know from my experience with Fit Is a Feminist Issue and the book, Fit at Mid-Life: A Feminist Fitness Journey, that I co-authored with Sam, that this holds true. We did much better with the book because of the blog — indeed without the blog there would have been no book.

I plan to start modestly, with one to two posts a week on a range of topics from the various reasons in support of veganism to Veganuary pros and cons to cell-based meat to my favourite vegan recipe sites (I won’t be offering much if anything in the way of recipes). The photography will be my own (I’m intensely into photography so this is a way of showcasing some of my work).

Unlike this blog, I have no plans to expand the author-group, at least not for starters. I would love to find readers who are interested and curious. No need for readers to be vegans or ethically-guided eaters of whatever kind. I’m not focusing on health, though there are actually some compelling health reasons for following a plant-based diet and I might sometimes mention it.

Please check it out and ask your friends to do the same.

athletes · competition · fitness

Tracy couldn’t survive Physical: 100

Image description: Netflix page for Physical: 100, with the title of the show and a short description on the left, and a series of images of contestants super-imposed over one another, four men and two women, men all bare-chested with chiseled torsos, all in action shots.

When I first noticed the Korean show Physical: 100 on Netflix, I was intrigued. It reminded me of The Shape of an Athlete, Howard Schatz’s amazing photographs of the wide range of athletic body types across diverse Olympic sports, from his book, Athlete.

Not only did it remind me of that, but I am a fan of Korean tv and I am a fan of competition shows (okay, mostly baking and cooking, but back in the early-90s I did name one of my first cats after an American Gladiator named Storm). Since I’d just finished Snack vs Chef and I like having one reality tv competition show on the go to dip in and out of, Physical: 100 seemed worth a try.

Physical: 100 starts with 100 of the fittest athletes in Korea (who are mostly Korean, but there are a few foreigners in the mix), from diverse sports and sectors. From an Olympic gold medalist to an extreme rescue worker, an MMA champion, boxers, body builders, fitness influencers, dancers, cheerleaders and martial artists, men and women, the diversity of strong and fit bodies is most definitely represented.

Watching them all enter the room in episode one and find their “torso” among the room full of plaster cast statues of each of their torsos was way more interesting than it sounds. Each time someone new came in they were all in awe. And though they all turn out to be super competitive, they also have a next level culture of respect that is nicely captured in those opening scenes.

Over the course of nine episodes there will be five challenges, with one person standing by the end. They win 300 million Korean Won (or just over $315,000 Canadian). They start with a pre-challenge to see how long they can hang suspended high in the air from a bar. the winner of that challenge gets a “benefit” (I haven’t seen enough to know what that means).

The hanging challenge was kind of interesting, seeing who could hang on and who dropped and when. But they divided into two groups of 50 and it spanned two episodes. Part of the intrigue is watching the people who are out of the game (because they dropped) react to the people who are still in.

The first actual elimination challenge sees 50/100 go home. It involves one to one combat, where the top 50 from the hanging challenge get to choose their opponent and the “arena” for the game — either an astroturf area with some obstacles and equipment, or a dirt patch with a muddy pool in the middle. The point of the game is simple, after three minutes in the ring, the person holding the ball (a large medicine ball type thing) wins. The loser has to smash their plaster torso and go home.

So it was this first challenge where they lost me, mostly because it’s just not interesting enough of a game for me to want to watch very many iterations of it. And also there just seemed to be more fighting than was necessary (though perhaps I underestimate how hard it would be to hang onto a ball and keep it for three minutes). Even with the added intrigue of who chose whom, interviews with the competitors in each match to hear what was going through their heads, and the other contestants watching and reacting as spectators, I got bored before the end of the second episode. The same game was going to spill over into the third and I just couldn’t.

Probably as an author for a feminist fitness blog I should have more to say of a critical nature than “I got bored.” I assume that the subsequent challenges will challenge them in different ways, where different bodies will face different advantages and disadvantages depending on what the challenge is. I also like that there is gender-diversity and the contestants challenge stereotypes, with some extremely hefty women bodybuilders, some small slight men, and some more androgynous athletes. I can’t say for sure that anyone identifies as non-binary, but many of the contestants defy gender-stereotypes.

I may go back to it at some point, but there is a lot of streaming content available these days. And right now, at the end of a long day the Australian dessert competition, Zumbo’s Just Desserts is winning out over Physical: 100.

fitness · racing · triathalon

Kincardine Women’s Triathlon Is Kind of Back (new name, new location)

Image description: logo with three black horizontal lines sloping upward, getting progressively shorter, over top of the words “lakeshore women’s TRIATHLON”

Ah! The memories! If you’ve been with us from the very beginning, you might remember that my “fittest by 50 challenge” was to do an Olympic distance triathlon (and I did two of them). That goal arose out of my first triathlon experiences at a very friendly women’s event, welcoming to beginners: The Kincardine Women’s Triathlon.

I signed up at Sam’s urging, during the annual sign-up frenzy (spots always used to fill within 2-3 hours of registration opening) on January 1st, never having done a triathlon before. It gave me a training goal the very prospect of which filled me with fear and awe. It got me training. And even though the swim was cancelled, turning it into a run-bike-run event (First Triathlon Try: The Tri That Wasn’t).

The following year I was more prepared, after a winter and spring of training with a club. I had a better sense of my ability and a much stronger run. The swim wasn’t cancelled and I had a nicer bike. The bike was still my weakest event, but I had a good day nevertheless. My race report for 2014 is here. A year later we went back as a group again: Road Trip! Sam, Tracy, and their badass friends and relatives head off to the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon.

Well the triathlon has now moved from Kincardine to Saugeen Shores. It has changed its name and is no longer in July. But it promises the same welcoming, friendly, encouraging vibe. If you are interested, sign-ups for the Lakeshore Women’s Triathlon in Saugeen Shores on August 12 are coming up: registration opens on March 18, 2023. If it is anything like before, registration will also close on March 18, a few hours after it opens. They haven’t posted details yet beyond saying registration is limited to 300 people and that it opens at 10 a.m. on March 18th. You can keep an eye on their webpage here.

My triathlon days are behind me, but I can’t deny that triathlon is great fun, especially when it’s new and exciting. Back then, heading into our Fittest by 50 Challenge, it really mobilized my motivation for training and my enthusiasm for challenging goals that were new and a bit scary. If you’ve been tinkering with the idea of giving it a go, I can’t recommend this event enough.

fitness · motivation · running · training

Let the 10K training begin!

Image description: digital readout of a treadmill screen on the “track” mode and with a water bottle perched beside it, spin bikes and mirror in the background.

It’s been ages since I have had an actual training goal in my running. And I feel the lack of focus a lot. So I’m excited to say that with my regular Sunday RunFam, I’ve signed up for the last-ever Run for Retina 10K on April 16th. That means I have eight training weeks to go, including the week we are still in. It’s sad to see it go, but I’m excited that it’s going in the spring this year rather than the fall as it did in 2022.

Signing up with a few others has been enough to get me motivated enough to train for it. At the same time, I have old memories coming up from years gone by, when Anita and I were doing things like running over 20K on a Sunday morning then going out for breakfast, followed by pie for dessert. I can hardly fathom the determination and motivation that got me out the door for that sort of thing, regardless of the weather, only a few years ago. It feels very unlikely to happen again.

Settling on the 10K this time gives me something to reach for but still feels do-able, especially with it still eight weeks away (okay, very soon to be seven weeks away). It feels exciting to have a training goal again, and it has had the motivating effect that I was hoping for. Whereas for the past few months a week where I’ve run even once between my Sunday get togethers with the RunFam is a real accomplishment, this week I actually hit the gym three different days for a short run. Granted, they have been really short, like 20-30 minutes. But still, it’s something. And I’ve felt good afterwards, and I am now building up to be able to get seriously into a 10K training plan that is going to ask more of me on my weekday runs.

I also borrowed the audiobook of James Clear’s Atomic Habits this week, and that has mostly resonated. (we disagree on some things that he thinks of as good habits, such as weighing yourself daily — for me that is not a good habit). There are lots of tools for getting started on good habits. And in general I agree that a focus on process is more helpful than a focus on goals. Goals are so far away. I can think about that 10K, but unless I have a plan that is in itself motivating, I’m not going to do the work. This week I used the 2-minute rule to get me down to the fitness room in my building. I told myself that if I can get down there then I only have to spend a few minutes (okay, I confess that I have made my minimum 15 minutes, not 2 minutes). Each of the three times I stayed on the treadmill for at least 20 minutes.

Yesterday I followed that with 10 more minutes of resistance training. Again, 10 minutes isn’t a gamechanger, but having a habit where some resistance training follows a couple of my mid-week runs has no downside.

Between the YouTube trainer experiment a couple of weeks ago, and then the 10K training plan starting this week, I feel some hope that I can regain some of that old conditioning and endurance enough to enjoy running again.

Wish me luck!

fitness · strength training · training

Exploring the world of YouTube trainers

Image description: overhead shot of runing shoes, a resistance band, two sets of dumbbells and a kettle bell beside a yoga mat on a wood floor (Tracy’s home set-up).

Despite fulfilling my January challenge by staying more or less consistent with Yoga with Adriene‘s Center (Canadians and such will need to get over the spelling of “center” as opposed to “centre”) practice, I don’t feel as if I’ve hit my 2023 stride yet. Yoga is fine, but I can’t have yoga be the whole of it. I need strength training. I need regular running. And I have neither in my life in anything like a routine. So earlier this week a co-worker said she uses some trainers on YouTube for her strength training. I asked her to send me some names and she did (thanks Gayle!): Larie Midkiff, Sydney Cummings Houdyshell, and Caroline Girvan. My task this week: to do one session with each of them and report on it.

Wednesday Morning: Larie Midkiff’s “30 Minute Dumbbell Only Full Body Workout | Strength Cardio Endurance | Giant Sets | Low Impact” This was a tough full-body workout that made me sweat. Larie Midkiff is a lowkey trainer who doesn’t talk a lot. There is peppy instrumental music running in the background. She has a sparse set-up, which is reassuring for home workouts. This workout is as described — low impact, full-body, giant sets that develop strength, cardio and endurance. After a short warm-up on the mat, we went straight into the first of four giant sets. Each giant set had two rounds of four exercises. The first round was 30 seconds of each exercise with heavier weights. The second was 60 seconds of each, lighter weights. They all involved combination of moves familiar to me: cleans, thrusters, presses, rows, sumo squats and lunges to name a few. She ended with a short cool down of stretches that felt amazing. Total time: 35 minutes (after which I needed a shower).

Verdict: I liked Larie’s style — quiet, with a sense of purpose. If you are looking for instruction, you won’t find it here (maybe she has other workouts that are more geared in that direction). But if you have experience with weights and feel comfortable with your form on a variety of familiar moves, which is the category I would put myself in, she’s really good. I will definitely go back for more of Larie Midkiff’s workouts.

Thursday Morning: Caroline Girvan’s “20 MIN Dumbbell Full Body Workout – Compound Movements | NO REPEATS“. I chose this in part because I didn’t have tons of time and in part because I wanted to be fair and compare full-body workouts to full-body workouts. This was not quite as challenging as yesterday’s with Larie Midkiff, but it was a clearly presented series of movements, 40 seconds of work followed by 20 seconds of rest. The exact exercises are listed under the video, so you can make an informed decision about whether the workout appeals to you. Other than the preamble, Caroline didn’t talk at all. But she is an upbeat young woman and her energy is palpable throughout. There is music playing throughout the workout and the timer counts down so you know when the move will change. The last three seconds of the timer sounds a tone that indicates it’s about time to switch. The next exercise shows up in the top right corner, the name of it (for example, “goblet squats” or “should press” or “upright rows”) in the bottom right, and Caroline gets into position to do the exercise, which she does with control and perfect form. There is often a form prompt at the beginning of each exercise too, such as for the Single Arm Bent Over Row where it says “CONTROL the lowering portion at all times! Think about moving through a large range of movement.” We covered quite a few minutes within the 20 minutes of active work, including two back-to-back core exercises at the end for 60 seconds each. While there was no warm-up, there was a stretching cooldown for about 3 or 4 minutes after the weight training.

Verdict: I enjoyed this workout a lot. Maybe I’m discovering that the YouTube trainers don’t do a lot of talking as they walk you through the workout. Again, I would say that these workouts assume a baseline of knowledge and experience. But if you have it, then it’s great. I thought the production value here was pretty high. Even though it 40-seconds on and 20-seconds off is a fast pace, I liked her emphasis on deliberate and controlled work, and I didn’t feel rushed. I was able to manage with the weights I have, though over time I will need to take it downstairs to the fitness centre in my building. I will certainly try more workouts with Carline Girvan.

Friday End of Work Day: Sydney Cummings Houdyshell’s “30 Minute Full Body Strong & Fit Workout | Effort – Day 1.” This workout is clearly the beginning of a series called “Effort” and wowza. I had to dial it back a few times. Sydney Cummings Houdyshell is much more what I was expecting from YouTube trainers, where she is talking throughout in that way they do in classes at the gym. She is a high-energy, pep-talking, “you can do it!” style of trainer. She does it with you, but offers enough guidance and prompts to let you know what’s coming. This was a high-intensity workout where you do 45 seconds on with 15 seconds rest for two rounds, then 30 seconds amped up for one more round followed by 30 seconds rest. Then on to the next exercise. It’s a mix of lower, upper, and core, with some cardio (burpees anyone?) thrown in. There is a bit of a warm-up to get the blood flowing and then a stretchy cooldown at the end.

Verdict: This was the hardest, possibly because it was at the end of the day but also because it tested my endurance with the pace of it and the integration of more cardio. Again there is no instruction, so if you are not sure of your form on squats, bicep curls, shoulder presses, one-legged Romanian deadlifts, or burpees you might want to get right with that before you workout with her. In the end, I think I am more likely to opt for one of the other two, but if I’m looking for cardio with some resistance training, I will choose Sydney Cummings Houdyshell.

In the end, I think all three of these trainers have something to recommend them. I imagine I will go back to all of them and over time it will become clearer to me whose programs suit me best. If you decide to check them out, my guess is that you’ll want to do the same. Their styles are different enough that it’s worth trying a few sessions with all three to see where you land.

If you have a favourite YouTube trainer, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear about others, or about your experiences with one of these three.

advice · habits · planning

The two-minute rule: start really really small

Image description: digital timer set to 02:00, framed by a circle with options “cancel” and “resume” underneath.

Early January is crammed with all sorts of advice about how to make those January 1st changes stick. I have often dissed the idea of resolutions as a sort of set-up for failure. But this year I’m actually in a change-is-good mindset, and I have high hopes for the blank page that a new year seems to offer. Having said that, like so many other people, I have been here before. And those high hopes for change often feel dashed by the end of the month. So how to make things stick?

One way that’s getting some attention (or at least Sam brought it to my attention) is “the two-minute rule.” According to the article, “How the two-minute rule can help you beat procrastination and start new habits,” consistently spending two minutes on something can lead to transformative change. The rule says: starting a new habit should never take more than two minutes. It is a take on author and productivity consultant David Allen’s rule that “if it takes less than two minutes, then do it now.”

I am a big advocate of starting small and “doing less.” That’s why Sam tagged me when she posted about the two-minute rule. But even for me, two minutes seems so negligible as to be almost pointless. It’s not, though. I recognize that line of thinking — the “what’s the point of two minutes” line — as a mind-game to talk myself out of something. We have been conditioned to think that if something isn’t really hard or challenging, then it’s pointless. But really, if the alternative is NOTHING at all, then what’s the harm of doing just a little something towards your goal.

I’ve recently signed up for some writing coaching again with Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach. In the application form for her program, she asks how much time you’re planning to commit to your project each day. The first option is 5 minutes. The options go up from there: 15 minutes, 20-30 minutes, and if you want to choose 60 minutes or more there is a note that says you will need Daphne’s permission. Why? Because as a rule, people aim too high and then they lose steam and give up. Instead, making progress in small increments gives you a manageable habit that you can realistically maintain.

Knowing all of this, I still felt a voice in my head telling me I’m an under-achiever when I ticked the 5 minutes/day box. But I ticked that box because I can realistically expect not to feel overwhelmed by spending five minutes a day, five days a week on my book. It seems like ridiculously little time, but if the other option is spending no time at all on it, then I’m sure I will get further with five minutes a day than with zero minutes a day.

Having set that low expectation in the past and worked with it, I can also be confident that at least some days I will work beyond the five-minute timer. And I think where workouts are concerned, this is even more likely. I remember my yoga instructor once saying that if you want to start a home yoga practice, start by just putting down the mat. Next time you might put down the mat and do child’s pose. After that, you might put down the mat, do child’s pose, and follow it with downward dog. It actually works. Similarly, if you pack your gym bag, go to the gym, and commit to spending two or five minutes doing something there, that’s a start. It’s a small start, but doing it three days a week is the start of a habit. And in the end, that’s the goal: to establish a habit.

This year, besides my writing habit, my other “start small” thing is to spend time in the workout room in my building. We’ve got brand new treadmills and spin bikes, and enough free weights and weight machines to get a decent workout in. My goal is to get myself down there for at least five minutes, four days a week. Even as I type that, I can feel that voice saying “five lousy minutes — gimme a break.” But is five minutes better than nothing? Yes. And it gets me over the initial hump of not even putting on my workout gear or getting to the room, which is arguably the bigger challenge than making best use of it once I’m there.

I encourage everyone who is excited about the fresh pages of 2023 to experiment with starting small, especially anyone with a history of jumping in with both feet and then hitting a wall before the month is out. The goal is to establish a new habit, not to transform overnight into a completely different person. We are a week in and it’s not too late to moderate expectations, even for those of us who went out of the gate a little more ambitiously than is sustainable. Small habits grow. And even if kept small, they yield fruit. The voice in the head that says “this isn’t enough” needs to be challenged, perhaps with a stronger voice that says, “Oh really? Just watch!”

Is there anything you’ve been wanting to start that you can give two minutes a day to, a few times a week? Go for it!

eating · food

Veganuary: Not just for vegans!

Image description: Veganuary logo, which is the word “VEGANUARY” in block letters of a variety of fonts, and a little “v” up in the top right corner that looks like a heart.

I’ve blogged about Veganuary before, and in the six years since then the Veganuary web resources have just gotten better and better. If you want to take the January challenge, it’s certainly not too late to sign up. But you don’t have to sign up to gain access to all that the Veganuary website has to offer. It’s not just for vegans or even just for people who want to try it for the month of January. It’s really a wealth of resources for anyone with some curiosity.

Maybe you just want access to some recipes. The website has that, broken down into categories (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and sweet treats). It gives you some tips for getting started. And it has a really great blog with more recipes, articles recommending great vegan books to read, how to survive Christmas or Diwali (bookmark for next year) as a vegan, and even a whole post about vegan bacon alternatives (for the UK — here in Canada I can vouch for Lightlife Smart Bacon).

If you sign up, which you can do for free, you will get a daily e-mail through Veganuary, a free cookbook, a nutritional checklist, and three meal plans — low calorie, medium calorie, and high calorie).

Veganuary is a non-profit, and they’re doing good work worth supporting. So there is of course an opportunity to donate to them. They make it easy to do, but it’s not a requirement.

Whether you want to try it or not, I recommend taking a look at the website and picking at least one recipe that looks good to you. There are lots of delicious-looking recipes and I would be shocked if even the most fervent omnivore didn’t find at least one thing that looks worth making.

As someone who struggles the most with missing eggs, I’m going to try the Tofu Benedict. What do you want to try?

Bon appetit!

fitness · habits

Habits and routines: What do you do first thing in the morning?

Image description: early morning scene on a country road winding to the right, big sky, mountains in the distance (Photo: near Salida, Colorada, July 2022, Tracy Isaacs).

In the spirit of the new year, blank page, fresh start mindset that many of us find ourselves in every January, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes it easy to establish habits and routines. We’ve all read that it takes 21 days or 30 days or 66 days (“they” are undecided). Regardless of how many days or weeks it takes, one thing is certain, it takes some time, and it’s hard to make a habit stick.

My main focus this year, for myself, is to establish habits in the form of regular routines. Here are the things I want to do regularly: work on my book 5x/week; yoga daily; meditate daily; run 3x/week; strength training 2x/week. There’s a lot of advice out there for how to make habits stick. The advice involves things like making a plan and sticking to it (seriously, this is not helpful since making a plan and sticking to it until it becomes habit or routine is the entire challenge), start small (my favourite, and I’ll be posting about that on Saturday), have an accountability partner (besides your smart watch), roll with setbacks, track or log your progress. It’s all helpful and I’ve used all of these tips at various junctures in my life to establish habits and routines.

But the one thing that has been most helpful, especially with things that I am likely to avoid (like working on my book, which always seems to take a back seat to everything else) or forget about once my day starts (like meditation, which is not something I tend to think about other than first thing), is the advice to do whatever it is first thing in the morning upon getting out of bed.

This approach has been so effective for me that I am often engaged in an inner struggle about which thing to put in that cherished spot of being the very first thing. Clearly, I can only choose one. Before January came along my morning routine immediately upon getting out of bed looked like this: play with the cats, give Lily-cat her meds, feed them, meditate, do the wordle (and 3-4 other word puzzles!), and after that it was anybody’s guess because I’ve been on sabbatical. What was missing from this regular routine were regular yoga or workouts (which I fit in as desired but somehow became very haphazard in December) and writing/working on the book (which I just avoided, catching me in the downward spiral of procrastination and self-reprimand that goes along with it).

And what had an undeserved place in this routine is the word puzzles. I have no objection to word puzzles, but they are not more important than writing my book. I feel pretty strongly that the morning hours are a precious time of day that hold a lot of promise. What I choose to do first thing in the morning is in some ways a reflection of my priorities. I wouldn’t, for example, pick up my phone and start scrolling through social media before I’ve done anything else. What a horrible way (for me) to start my day. And yet when I reflected on how my mornings go, I had to admit that I was giving these puzzles, and then some reporting on them on various friends’ social media feeds, pride of place immediately following my meditation.

So, starting today I have rejigged the order of priority of the first-thing-in-the-morning task list as follows: cat care (can’t really put that in any other place because they will torment me until they’re fed anyway, and Lily needs her meds), meditation, working on my book for a specified time (exceedingly short but the goal is to establish a routine, so it has to start off short and attainable), yoga (this month it will be Adriene’s January practice), and a short stint downstairs in my building’s fitness centre. Puzzles can wait until later, and are a great reward for successfully making it through my “first-thing-things.”

I did it all today partly as a test run to see how long it would take me. Not being on sabbatical anymore, I need to be more attentive to the timing. That all took about two hours, so when I actually have to leave to be at work by 8:30 or 9, it’s not really going to work. I mean, I didn’t even include showering, getting ready, and breakfast in that. Noticing that, I am moving yoga to the afternoon since I am much less likely to skip it than I am to skip, say, running at the end of a long day.

If there is any advice lurking in this post, it’s that deciding which things will go first is a great way of establishing at least some things as routine. Clearly this won’t work in the case of everything (for example: bedtime routines. But I have even noticed that in order to stick to my morning routine I need to have a closer look at my winding-down process at the day’s end). I do believe that the choices I make early in the day are an indication of what I think is important. To me, though I realize others might have different perspectives on this, the idea of starting my day on an activity that feels like a waste of time (such as scrolling social media or watching tv) makes me feel as if I’m off-kilter with what I care about. This feeling is compounded when I am struggling to find time to incorporate the things I say I care about into my day.

What do you prioritize in the morning? Do you think it reflects what you value in your life?