fitness

Why Nicole is not planning a big 50 challenge

As I approach 50 in June, there are things I know I will never do. I will never be a Mother. I have mixed feelings about this in a motherhood-glorifying age. But, for the most part, I am comfortable knowing I was never in the right place to have a child and while I may never “truly KNOW” how hard it is, how gratifying it is, how exhausting it is, even though I have a fair amount of innate empathy and understanding of situations I am not in, I am comfortable knowing that my life is content without being a Mom.

Caricature of a blond woman in a fuchsia and black striped top, holding her hand up to her face in dismay with the works, “OMG!!! I FORGOET TO HAVE CHILDREN!”

I may never know exactly what I want to do with my career, but I will keep searching and trying new things. I will continue to work on the areas where I have strengths and build on the work I can do. I have leadership, writing, analytical, practical and other skills that will surely be put to good use as long as I am able to work.

I may have made questionable choices in my youth about my education. I may never understand why I do well in school but wasn’t able to focus on things where it may have counted or helped my career. But all of those choices have culminated into a decent place, where I still have options and “possibilities” to use a corporate-sounding phrase.

One thing I don’t plan on doing as I turn 50, is plan a big fitness challenge for the big day/year. Christine wrote the other day about formulating her fitness challenges for 50 (at 49 and a half). She noted how Tracy and Sam started this blog almost 10 years ago, as they were gearing up to Fittest at 50.

I did fuzzily entertain different fitness challenges in the last year. Will 50 be the year I conquer my fear of hanging from a rig, so that I can do a few pull-ups? NO. Will it be the year I do my third marathon (maybe, but haven’t decided yet and not really because I’m 50)?

A woman with grey hair doing pull up variations. The types of pull-ups I am likely to do, because I don’t like to hang from the rig. If I decide to conquer the “real” pull-up, it will not be for my 50th birthday.

Nothing has really landed as something I want to entertain as a big fitness challenge to mark 5-0.

When I think about this, I think there are a couple reasons. One, is David, Nobody Cares! Including, myself. Who the fuck cares if I do a pull-up for that day? I don’t.

The other reason is that I love fitness. It gets me through everything. Day-in, day-out. Part of the reason I love it is because of the way I have entertained it for 20 years.

I’m consistent. I don’t worry about if my workouts are showing physical results (OK, I admit to being a bit happy when I can see a little line in my shoulder). I don’t worry too much about my pace when I go for my long runs and half and full marathons. I don’t measure myself against others. I enjoy fitness, in a consistent, measured way, by doing all the things I enjoy doing (running, HIIT-workouts, spinning, walking EVERYWHERE, some yoga) in an intentional way, every day. It keeps my mind functioning (somewhat) normally.

Purple tank top with the words “Forward is a Pace” from this company that purports to make run wear to fight anxiety and depression. I am not affiliated but my friend Jackie sent her the link as she thought I might be interested and I might just order a few things!

One of the ideas I’d like to take with me as I turn 50 is that I don’t need to do a “big thing” to prove anything as I enter a new decade. I just need to do the things I’m already doing. With gratitude for each day and my health. Corny, but oh so true as we get older.

So, that’s my big plan for 50. Keep doing what I’m doing. As my late Bubbie would have said “From your mouth to G-d’s ear.”

Nicole P. lives in TO with her husband and two dogs. She incorporates exercise into her daily life for her overall wellbeing not for a number on a calendar.
fitness

A Prayer to the Period Gods Not to Get My Period on Race Day

Oh Dear Period Gods:

I know I am almost 50, deeply perimenopausal, and I have no right to expect my period to arrive when my FitBit says it will.

You may be aware that I have been experiencing cramps for a few days and was sure I was getting it on Monday.

Did I mention my FitBit told me I was to get my period yesterday?

Last month it was a week early. This early period thing only started a few months ago. Before that, I was like clockwork.

The fun thing about perimenopause is that I could be experiencing all of the symptoms and I may not actually bleed this month. You just don’t know. It’s all kind of a guessing game.

To be honest, I didn’t see myself still getting them at all at this point of my life. My Mom had a hysterectomy at 35 and my sister started perimenopause much earlier. Knowing this and that I started my period exactly one month after my eleventh birthday, I figured it would have ended by now. I won’t get into the years of pain and misery which seems slightly a waste when I didn’t end up having children. But, I digress.

Oh Period Gods (Lilith? Zara? Esther?), I am running a half marathon on Sunday.

The last thing I need on race day is to worry about stabbing cramps, feeling like my uterus is going to fall out of my body or having to change a tampon in a Port-a-Potty.

I haven’t been on the Pill in years, so I can’t just keep taking pills to avoid getting my period on race day. If that were the case, it would be a useful strategy, since the days leading up to my period always affect my energy levels and athletic performance.

If I get my period, pretty much NOW, I’ll be in the prime part of my cycle on Sunday, right after I get my period, once the pain and cloudiness have subsided, where I have optimal energy levels.

So, dear Period Gods, I know you may have much more pressing concerns, but I respectfully request that my period comes today.

I would be im(mense)ly grateful,

Nicole (counting my Motrin supply)

Nicole P. is excited to run her first half marathon in person since 2019.
fitness

Things I don’t feel when doing yoga

I am not a yogi. Over the years, I have practiced my fair share of yoga. Partly, for the stretching and slow movement as a complement to cardio and strength work. Partly, for the mindfulness I derive(d) from it at various stages of my life (there were a couple years in my late 30s when it was very much a balm to my discontented soul when I found the perfect yoga studio for me. Not competitive or gimmick-y. Just good teachers and a community space with good classes).

I still do my favourite teacher’s classes, virtually, on occasion. I love her regular 108 Sun Salutation classes and moderate intensity flow classes. I really dig her overall vibe.

Mixed in with these sporadic classes, I do some shorter Yoga with Adriene classes to make sure I’m stretching my hips and hamstrings when I’m super focussed on running.

The other day, I was doing a short 20 minute Yoga with Adriene, specifically for hips. The lovely Adriene instructed us to slowly bring our feet together until we feel the arches of our feet connect. This prompt reminded me of the things I don’t feel when doing yoga:

  • The sides of my arches connect. I have bunions. I have always had bunions. I remember having them at 18 or 19 when first wearing heels to work, etc. They have become more pronounced with age. They don’t affect me much but because of them my feet don’t align that way.
  • My feet leave the ground for crow pose.
  • My shin at 90 degrees when in pigeon pose.
  • My elbow loop my ankle in kneeling quad stretch.

For all of the things I don’t feel when doing yoga, there are things I do:

  • My hamstrings stretching in wide legged forward fold.
  • My triceps firing when pushing up to plank.
  • My body temperature rise and my mind settle when doing 108 Sun Salutations.
  • My IT band stretch when I cross one leg over the other and then bend forward.
  • Free and light when doing a vinyasa between asanas. I particularly enjoy ones involving Warrior 1 and 2. This lightness comes more readily when I am focussing on how I feel and not whether I’m doing each pose exactly right.

When doing something such as yoga, I believe it’s important not to worry too much about what “you are supposed to feel”. Focus on the things you do get out of it. The small and big things. That’s what I try to do. And to be grateful for my bunioned feet carrying me through movement.

Nicole P. lives in Toronto and is gearing up for a half marathon on May 1.

fitness

“David, Nobody Cares!”

The other day, a friend referred to the quote from Schitt’s Creek, “David, Nobody Cares!”

She was talking about her anxiety in the past about wearing a bathing suit and the decision to let it go and have fun with her kids. Besides the focus on living in the moment and not letting our anxieties ruin simple pleasures, this post reminded me about Alexis’ point with this statement, “people aren’t thinking about you, the way you are thinking about you.”

“David, Nobody Cares!” Schitt’s Creek Scene

It got me thinking about how this statement relates to so many things in life.

As a person who easily finds myself in my head too often, getting a PhD on rumination, trying to grab onto the space (life) outside of my head, but ending up grasping on to the side of my brain, and slipping back into the basin, whether I like it or not, reminding myself that “David, Nobody Cares!”, is a worthwhile thing to do.

This line of thinking has helped me in the past. I used to have great anxiety about public speaking. In some situations, it’s still not the most natural thing for me to do (although, I have discovered a love for facilitating certain discussions). I don’t remember where this nugget of wisdom came from, but someone said, “When you walk into a room and you are nervous – when you are thinking about how you are perceived, everyone else – they are doing the same thing. They are not thinking about you. They are thinking about how THEY are perceived.

When I find myself wondering if my forehead frown line has deepened or if my chin is starting sag or if I should re-consider my decision to avoid Botox – “David, Nobody Cares!”

When I wonder if I should eat the thing or not (bagel, sour kids, noodles, etc.) – “David, Nobody Cares!”

When I finish a great long run, let’s be honest, it feels great for me but – “David, Nobody Cares!”

When I am annoyed that the driver is still moving while I’m crossing the street and they should know better, and what is wrong with drivers these days? – “David, Nobody Cares!”

When I am lamenting my life career choices and considering what I should do about them. These are very important questions for me and worthwhile for me to spend some time considering, but really other people – “David, Nobody Cares!”

When someone asks whether I am running the half or the full marathon and I feel the need to say “The half, but I have run the full, twice” – “David, Nobody Cares!”

When I am wondering whether I should continue wearing my mask in certain places. There may be some people who care, but on the whole, we have reached the stage of the pandemic where – “David, Nobody Cares!”

What people care about is how you make them feel. How present you are when it counts. They will remember the time they laughed with you. They will remember the time you did something that helped them believe in themselves a bit more. Hopefully, they will remember some of the tasty food I made for them. They will not remember the superficial things that we have been socialized to care about and which may continue poking our brains, and trying to sap our energy, in spite of our best efforts to ignore them.

So, the next time you are feeling stressed about something you know really isn’t important, perhaps it will help you too, to remind yourself that “David, Nobody Cares!”

Nicole P. loves fitness. She’s currently training for a half marathon and continues to enjoy her spinning workouts and strength/HIIT sessions.

fitness

6-week Half Marathon Training

Sometime in the past week, one of the thoughts going through my head, in the middle of the night was OMG the half-marathon is soon! Next I was trying to calculate weeks in my head as I “slept”.

This morning, I went for a run. Strava told me I ran 10.96 km. But, if I map it out on the trusty old GMAPs Pedometer, it’s around 9.5 km. It was a good run.

A screenshot of Nicole’s run from Strava for the day. Shows Distance 10.96 km, Pace 6:17/km.

When I got back from my run, I looked at the calendar. 6 weeks until May 1st. Not 12 weeks, which is what I am used to, for a gradual and responsible training half-marathon program. Usually the goal is not to increase distance more than 10% a week. This is to try to prevent injuries.

I have other tools in my chest for minimizing injury. Strength training. Stretching (not as much as I should be doing, ever). Some yoga. Long spins on my stationary bike when the sidewalks have been too icy to run.

Here I am. Part of me is happy that MAY is so close. The other part of me is uncertain about training faster than usual.

“YAY! SPRING!” made of flower-filled font on white background

I read this article today. Will it help my normally risk-adverse self just go for it and not worry about the outcome? The article talks about the Polish phrase,

‘Jakoś to będzie’ (pronounced ‘Ya-kosh toe ben-jay’)

Literally, the phrase means ‘things will work out in the end’ – but it’s so much more than that. Rather than sitting around and hoping things will work out by themselves, ‘Jakoś to będzie’ is acting without worrying about the consequences. It’s reaching for the impossible. It’s taking risks, and not being afraid.

Training for a half marathon, for me, is not really taking risks. It’s very possible. I’ve done this many times before. Just more measured. Not after a couple years of pandemic, when there haven’t been any regular running events. Not after February and early March, where I haven’t been going for long runs because WINTER. What I did today was my max distance for a long time. My brain can be overly cautious though. I may use this phrase as motivation to quiet that part of my brain.

I have been able to keep my fitness up throughout the pandemic. I am aware of my privilege to have the time, health, ability, etc., to do so. Because I have kept up my fitness, this is doable. I can do it (barring injury or other unforeseen obstacles).

While I’m running, I also think about things such as letting myself settle into the discomfort of the parts that feel sticky and challenging. Running is good for my brain because I am impatient. It forces me to tap into my ability to BE PATIENT. The end of the run is coming but it’s not now. I will need this patience when ramping up my distance in the coming weeks.

My current plan, entered into my calendar, is to increase my long run by 2km each Sunday. Also, to get out at least 2x week for shorter runs. Right now, I’ve only been doing one long run (usually Sunday) and a shorter run. I know from experience, I do not need to reach 21.1km before the race. I can get to 18 or 19km and the adrenaline on the day will get me through the rest. Also, I am an endurance runner. I don’t run for speed. So, whatever the time is, will be good.

In addition to my running plan, I plan on hitting up one of the health professionals I know for some extra mobility exercises to do during the 6 weeks to help with injury-prevention. I tend to get stiff in the glutes and hips in the longer distances. I will ask for work to prevent that.

Here I go with my 6-week half-marathon training. Wish me luck!

Readers, have you ever trained for a fitness event in less time than desirable? How did it go? What did you learn?

Nicole P. is prepping for a half-marathon taking place on May 1st.

As a side note, I do not usually raise money when I run marathons. However, I have decided this time, I will be raising money for the Odette Cancer Centre at Sunnybrook Hospital. My Mom has been/and will be getting care from them for her non-small cell lung cancer. Thankfully, she is currently symptom-free and it is slow growing, but this cause is near and dear to my heart. Raising money for the Odette Cancer Centre will help her and many others with their journey with cancer: http://support.sunnybrook.ca/SupportCancerResearch.

fitness

The end is in sight. The key is it’s in sight. It’s not here.

When I am more than three quarters through my planned running route, I often start anticipating the end. It feels like the run is almost over when it’s not. I have to remind myself to stay steady and that it is not the time to slow down. It’s definitely not the time to switch to walking. I need to trick my brain and give it my all.

A long run can be divided in three parts, in my mind. The first part, your body is warming up. You may be wrestling with getting into the groove, either in body or mind. You’re assessing how your body’s feeling that day. Somewhere in the middle, you typically hit your stride. The middle is the best part. You’re warmed up. Your body is moving efficiently. Your mind is benefitting from the efficient, consistent, movement. The last part is necessary to get to the end. You might be getting tired. Your mind may be wandering. Your body may be seizing up in places. Mostly, for me anyway, it’s the mind that’s the tricky part in the last leg.

I had a spin coach who liked to come out for a run with me sometimes. She used to suggest we pick up speed towards the end. Do the opposite of what our minds tend to want to do. Distract the anxiousness to get to the end by moving faster.

This thinking something is over, or willing it to be over, when it’s not really over can happen in other areas. Academia, work tasks, even reading a book that feels like a slog. You might start off strong and give it your all. But if you get tired or bored and you see the end near, you may determine that you are “pretty much done”.

When it comes to running, I have learned to hold steady. To see it through. Doesn’t mean it’s always easy. There are days when my motivating mantras can run thin.

When I was Googling about this phenomenon, I came across this article about how this behaviour can be linked to anxiety. Well, of course. #%!*!! anxiety. The root of many ill-thought-out behaviour.

The article linked above, provides advice about how to stop anxiety from intruding on your behaviour. The points that stood out to me, along with my own commentary, are:

  1. Don’t buy into the idea that thoughts, feelings and behaviour are a package deal. My interpretation of this is “just because your mind is telling you that you should be done, doesn’t mean it’s true!”. Challenge those thoughts. What is your goal here? How do you feel? Can you do it? Can you give it your all until the end? If yes, tell your thoughts to mind their own business and then do the thing that you are there to do.
  2. Act as if you can. The mantras I repeat in my head help during the middle part of a long run. I think I need to add specific mantras for the last leg of a run. “It’s not over until it’s over” might work? “You enjoy this! Keep going.” “Be the athlete (student, employee) you are and give each part of this your all!”
  3. Be guided by what you want, rather than what you want to avoid. I mean, to be honest, at the point in question, I may want to be done, feeling all the “end of the run” runner’s high, buying my coffee from my favourite local joint. But, I also want to earn that high. To finish the route I set out to do.

In addition to the above points, it is important to plan ahead of time. Knowing that you have certain tendencies or patterns that may play out, and having a plan, whether mantras, or a plan on how to react with your body (slower/faster) can help you stay focussed on your goal. Planning will probably help in other areas where the anxiety trigger may try to veer you off course.

In most cases, whether it’s a run, a course, a task, giving it your all in the last leg, will make the end feel that much sweeter.

Can you relate to this readers? What do you do when your mind wants to tell you are over when you still have a ways to go? What works? What doesn’t?

Nicole P. lives and works in Toronto with her husband and two dogs. She enjoys running, spinning, HIIT/strength workouts, long walks, a bit of yoga, and streaming shows such as Somebody Somewhere.
fitness

Pushing through

It’s Tuesday morning in the third week of January. It’s the 22nd month of the pandemic. It’s been about a month since Omicron reared it’s ugly head and asked us to pull back from our gradually easing lives, so that we can try to stop the spread. Some people do. Some people don’t. People have different views. Individualism veiled as fatigue or self-determination. Collectivism veiled as hermitism or hysteria.

There has been a big snow storm. The biggest since 1999 in Toronto. A city prepared for snow but not expecting it. Even in mid-January.

Bad news abounds in people’s circles. Pandemics don’t stop senility, cancer, old age, seniors from falling. Bodies age and house people who want to live and who many other people love. Don’t forget your privilege to worry about these things. Young people get sick and die too. Scan the apps and see people huddled in public busses to stay warm. You’d like to feed and house them all but there is not a simple way to do so.

There is good news too. Some people are getting better despite the odds. The sun is shining a lot these days, as it tends to do on the coldest days. Work is there. There is the ability to do it with a coffee in hand, food in the fridge and the furnace is working. There are friends to commiserate with. Amy Schneider’s incredible winning streak on Jeopardy. Communities, such as FIFI, that look at things that may seem mundane, relating to fitness and health, in a way that hopes to make the world a better place. There are husbands who make sure a new bottle of face cream is ready to go behind the almost empty one in the bathroom cabinet. There are snuggles and laughs and dogs. Thank goodness for dogs.

There is exercise. Something many lament but is something that gets me through. Some days exercise feels like all I need. Whether running in the sun, spinning with a Peloton instructor or laughing in the park with a coach while doing more jump squats than I thought possible.

But, some days are sticky. You wake up with your Fitbit telling you that you slept well. You have a 90 score. But, why are you so tired? You’ve had your coffee. Played Wordle. Smugly shown your husband that you got it in less tries than him (only because it is so rare to be better at a game than him). You know which 60 minute ride you plan to do, but you are sluggish. You bitch about the world for a few minutes. Something you try not to do first thing in the morning. Then you get yourself set up to ride.

You start the ride, waiting for the endorphins to kick in. Waiting for it to feel easy and fun and fast and satisfyingly steep. The music CDE is playing that day isn’t your favourite. You have to pee AGAIN but trying to hold it so as not to interfere with the ride. You try to sync your Fitbit with Strava for some incentive to go faster but that doesn’t work. But you keep going.

You ALMOST get off the bike. But you keep going. You modify some of the intervals to your liking (I will stand and run if I want to – no offence CDE). The last 10 minutes have finally arrived. You can’t give up now. You decide to go faster. Head down, sweat dripping. You close your eyes and try to let your mind go blank and enjoy the fast moving pedals. The few moments of your day you are actually in control of how things might go. It’s brief, but you feel the high. You pushed through. You have that. It may not have been your fastest or hardest but you PUSHED through.

There are times in life it is OK to take breaks. But when you can – it can be so worth it to push through. That is the beauty of endurance exercise for me.

Nicole P. lives in Toronto with her husband and two dogs (sorry Pope Francis) and craves her daily exercise whether running, spinning or HIIT strength workouts.
fitness

Wordshop with Christine D’Ercole

I can be a cynical person. The last two years haven’t made me less cynical, that’s for sure. I might be the type of person to think mantras are not very helpful. Can mantras realistically help you “be the person you want to be”? Nervously laughing inside my head, I might shrug them off as trivial new age nonsense.

So why did I sign up for WORDSHOP: Real Resolutions: Navigating the Unfathomable 2021-2022″ with Christine D’Ercole on New Year’s Day?

The description on D’Ercole’s website “Wordshop is where we wordshop the words that make up the our stories. We listen unwittingly to the words in our heads, on autopilot. Often, what we hear in our heads, starts with “I AM…” and ends with something awful. In Wordshop we catch the storylines that hurt us, identify words that do not serve us, change those words and write a new story about who we are and who we are capable of being.”

December was not my strongest month. I am familiar with the practice of self-sabotaging through our thoughts. December wasn’t crap only because of my thoughts. There were external factors that I won’t describe for privacy reasons. But, December made my quest for purpose, agency, using my abilities, seem more urgent. I’ve always struggled with “fulfillment and purpose” which can seem self-indulgent.

In Tracy’s post about FIFI blogger’s word of the year (WOTY), I explain that my WOTY for 2022 is “Blossom”; as I approach 50, I would like to encourage myself to blossom not settle or become stagnant. Whether it’s improving my speed when running or trying new strength exercises or finding things in my career that inspire a sense of blossoming. When I shared this with the other bloggers, Mina asked if “blossom was my opposite to existential dread?”, to which I said “Yes! You know me pretty well :)”

White greeting card with black letters that say : “Along with age comes wisdom and existential dread.”

I have written about D’Ercole’s mantras previously. I am not ashamed to admit that I have written I AM I CAN I WILL I DO on a sticky note that I kept on my home desk all year and which I read to myself when it serves me. I also use this mantra when I’m running and I get to the sticky parts where my body is getting tired and I may be tempted to stop early. You know that part in an endurance sport where your thoughts might sabotage what your body can do.

So when I read about the Wordshop the week before it was taking place, I thought “why not?”. It wasn’t cheap but I have spent more on food or clothes I didn’t enjoy. It may be an hour-long event, but hopefully it will permeate the part of myself that holds inspiration. I have also been hunkering down (again) because of the Omicron surge, so I figured I certainly had the time.

I don’t typically idolize celebrities. When I like someone, I do really like them though. I’ve taken a number of D’Ercole’s Peloton rides after a year of using the app and my admiration for her or the benefit I feel from taking her classes hasn’t faded. That was another reason I thought I would take the workshop.

Was it worth it? I think so. D’Ercole started the seminar sitting in her living room. Just her on the screen. I was worried it might have an over-the-top quality to it. Or a TED talk triteness. But it didn’t. It felt casual and authentic. Her charisma also shone through the screen. It also felt useful.

A screenshot of Christine D’Ercole. Her platinum blond hair is pulled back. She has tortoise shell glasses on and is wearing burgandy lipstick. She’s wearing a white blouse with blue splashes and patterns punched in the fabric such as stars. She’s sitting on a brown or black couch in front of white brick wall and white stairs.

D’Ercole explained that this was the 7th annual New Year’s Day wordshop. She suggested having a pen and paper handy and explained that you could use an electronic device if they wanted but explained the impact using a pen and paper can have. She also explained the usefulness of doing these exercises over time and looking back at them to see where you’ve been and where you are. She recapped the purpose of the seminar and why the last couple years have made it increasingly important to work on our internal chatter. One thing she said was that we should spend as much time editing how we talk to ourselves as we do editing an email we send to others. She also cautioned that working on self-talk won’t “change your life” with respect to big things (diagnoses, loss) but it can change how we navigate challenges.

D’Ercole explained a bit about her “back story”. She described wanting to be a ballerina when she was little. How her family couldn’t afford lessons but her father set up mirrors and a barre in their basement and that made her feel he believed in her. She describes being told by ballet instructors that her thighs were too big to be a dancer. She decided to be an actor and despite getting into a “fancy acting school” she was again told she was talented but her thighs were too big. Somewhere the way she became a bike messenger in NYC and she reveled in an activity where her thighs made her fast and good at that job and it was the first time something about herself that she had been taught to dislike because of others’ ideas worked in her favour. She became a mother and became much larger and she decided to embrace her size and become a plus-size model. However, again she was the wrong size (too small) according to the agencies. Eventually she went back to competitive cycling where embracing her self became her superpower. I’ve paraphrasing and have condensed this story quite a bit. D’Ercole is indeed a gifted storyteller and I can’t do it justice. But weaved throughout this story was how learning to use wordshopping to frame her internal chatter, helped her embrace herself fully and navigate life’s challenges in a better way. She makes it clear it’s an ongoing journey. This I respect. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that therapeutic coping mechanisms that we teach ourselves need to be practiced and assessed. They are not static.

D’Ercole then had us go through each part of her mantra, I AM I CAN I WILL I DO and had us wordshop our own parts which had us all come up with our own mantra (for now, not for eternity!). She asked us to share in the chat and mine ended up being “I am fearful. I can deserve. I will enjoy. I do envision better”.

Not surprisingly, and as D’Ercole pointed out, when we look at everyone’s mantras, there are many similarities. People are very much the same in the fears they hold, their wants, desires, etc. She also said acknowledging this can help us know that others have their hands on our back (she uses this a lot in spin classes – picturing someone’s hand on your back helping you through a challenging part).

All in all, it was a worthwhile hour (she went a bit over the hour and seemed pretty casual about the time) on a quiet New Year’s Eve Day. Maybe it left me a little less cynical (for today). Perhaps it will even help me direct my internal dialogue to a place of blossoming for 2022.

Nicole P. lives in Toronto with her husband and two dogs and enjoys running, spinning, HIIT-style strength and conditioning workouts and “just enough” yoga and stretching.
fitness

Good advice for teens and others

I want to be a journalist one day, I told a friend in high school. I think it was Grade 10. The friend said she didn’t want to go to university. She planned to get married. This was the mid-80s. The idea of not going to university was surprising to me. I had always been a good student. I don’t think I ever learned good study skills but I naturally did well in school.

Cut to Grade 12. I was barely going to class. I don’t remember when it started, but sometime in Grade 11, I stopped going. I didn’t do anything exciting either. I didn’t do drugs. I wasn’t into drinking. I worked part-time in retail as many kids did and I worked a lot. Something about being at work separated me from the numbness, the drift, I was experiencing at school. I think of those days as a kind of blankness. I don’t remember much other than I didn’t go to class. When I did, teachers who knew me as a decent student would talk to me about coming to class and I remember feeling embarrassed, if grateful, that they were trying, but it didn’t help me go more. I remember friends getting skip sheets because their grades were low, but I evaded the skip sheet because I managed to keep mine in the 70s even with not going to class (I’d show up to write exams).

My timeline was different than others. I did go to university at 21. I had a great average for a couple years, but I still also suffered from crippling anxiety and terrible self-worth that felt like a cloud a lot of the time. I still hadn’t learned good study habits, so I would procrastinate and then cram, procrastinate and then cram, then feel sick after I got everything done. I also felt the stress of living on student loans. I hated the feeling of having $13 dollars to buy groceries for the week.

I had a great student summer job in Toronto and when it was done, I decided to get a full time job, stay in Toronto and finish school part-time. In many ways, this decision worked out for me, but I still wish I had finished at the time. I wish I knew that another year was nothing and sticking out would have positive lifelong effects.

Since then, I’ve finished many degrees, certificates, programs, etc. I’m a lifelong student, because I love learning but also likely because I’m trying to make up for my younger days.

Never Stop Learning Handwritten by white Chalk on a Blackboard. Composition with Small Chalkboard and Stack of Books, Alarm Clock and Rolls of Paper on Blurred Background. Toned Image.

I remember reading a book in book club that was about a journalist, whose son lost track in high school and wanted to take the year off. His father agreed if the son agreed to watch the father’s choice of movies for the year, as a way of learning in an unconventional way. I remember one of my book club pals saying “I just don’t understand why someone who was doing well would want to drop out.” It was a shame I kept inside (still do for the most part) so I didn’t say “there are SO MANY reasons”. None of them have to do with ability. No one would have guessed that 8 year old, 13 year old, 15 year old Nicole wouldn’t finish high school with the rest of her year. I still didn’t believe or understand it.

Why am I rehashing this? Because one thing I know at 49 is that no part of me is shameful. That what others think about my history has nothing to do with me or my ability. What I think DOES matter because it will shape how I live each day. Each day provides experience. Some experiences make sense and some don’t. I am the person I am today, to be cliched, because of all of those experiences. And I am doing better than OK. There’s no one way to a fulfilling life.

“The goal is to live a fulfilling life, not a perfect one.” on a grey/blue background

I’ve learned so much as an adult and continue to learn each day. These are some of the lessons I would impart on my teenage self.

Be yourself without apology. The people who get you are your people. Pay little attention to those that are not.

Take chances that make sense for you. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith. You need to feel a little uncomfortable. But listen to your inner voice telling you or shouting at you to try.

Ignore your self-doubt and help others. Seeing how your gifts can help others can be it’s own kind of ego boost.

When you know you are good at something, don’t be afraid to brag. Not every day and not in all settings. Even if only to yourself, a little bragging is healthy

Feeling lost, bored, self-conscious, etc., are all normal human emotions. Learn healthy ways to re-direct those emotions.

Move more. It helps with the anxious mind. It also helps you feel strong and capable. In terms of the benefits on the brain, here’s an article.

Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, stop.

Stop dieting.

Look after your body as it’s your vehicle through which to travel in life. There’s no guarantees, there’s no one way for bodies to be healthy, but as much as you can – move, rest, eat, mindfully.

Figure out how to re-direct your mind from scrutinizing your every flaw. Direct that to something good. Helping someone. Moving. Laughing. Reading. Anything.

Whether people “get you” or not, you are worthy.

Don’t take dating too seriously. Don’t settle. Even if it takes you longer to find your partner, or you never do. Being single can be a gift. If you do find the right partner for you, you’ll know. No need to agonize over someone who isn’t the right one. Remember the “get you” part? Don’t waste time on those who don’t.

Learn about active meditation.

Help others. I might have mentioned that already, but if you can find a way to use your gifts (and we all have gifts) to help others, either in your career or in your day-to-day life, help others.

Oh and laugh. Find ways to laugh and have fun.

Readers, do you have advice for young people?

Nicole P. lives in Toronto with her husband and two dogs and is learning, moving, practicing gratitude for each day.