221 in 2021 · gadgets · motivation · trackers

Closing those rings got Tracy motivated again

Image description: three nested rings (from inner to outer they’re red, green, blue) on a black background. This is the graphic of the Apple Watch Activity monitor app.

[I should probably start with a disclaimer: I have no stake in Apple at all, and I don’t even want to convince people to get an Apple Watch (which I myself hesitated over for years). I’m just saying how I’m using it and it’s helped me.]

Yesterday Cate wrote about slumps, and a few of us had something to say about them because it’s a thing these days. Towards the end she alluded to my new Apple watch. I’ll get to that in a minute.

I was in a serious slump. Usually I can pull myself out of them with a blog post in which I remind myself of all the things that usually work for me: keep it simple; start small; do less. But I wasn’t there. Looking back to a couple weeks ago, I don’t even think I was ready to be talked out of (or to talk myself out of) my slump. Everything besides sleep and the gentlest of gentle yoga seemed like SO. MUCH. EFFORT.

And then our covid case numbers started rising again. And this pandemic felt like it would never end (it still does). And we were on the eve of another stay-at-home order. A few months I had been asking around about fitness trackers and running watches and the like. My Garmin forerunner is a dinosaur and not the sort of thing you would wear any other time besides running. It’s been unreliable in booting up. People kept recommending the Apple Watch and the Garmin Vivo-something (I forget what exactly). So I bought nothing at first.

Then I decided to look into the Garmin and it turned out to be the same price range as the Apple Watch. And then they announced the lockdown. And I went into a spiral of: “I used to travel!” “I used to go out for dinner with friends.” “I used to go to a yoga studio and pay for passes.” “I used to DO THINGS.” Waaaa! Waaaa! And somehow by the end of that I had made an appointment to go the Apple Store the last day I could go (before everything went to curbside pick-up only), which happened to be the next day, to talk to a “Specialist” (lol) about a new watch.

The watch does lots of different things. But the best thing it does is the fitness “closing your rings” thing. I’m not a big fan of fitness tracking and step counting (as my experience with my workplace’s step-counting team competition has proven not once, but twice). But this ring thing! My friend Vicki invited me to be her “activity friend” on the watch, which means I can see when she’s made progress on closing her daily rings and she can see when I’ve made progress on mine. (I wouldn’t suggest becoming activity friends with anyone other than your good friends)

Image description: the rings as fireworks with light trails.

The outer (red) ring measures your movement (in terms of calories burned). You can set it to low, medium, high or custom, and it depends on things like height, age, weight. I chose medium and that seems about right for me. It’s manageable but not overbearing. The middle ring, sort of neon green, is the workout ring. The default is 30 minutes but I changed my daily target to 45 minutes since that seems pretty easy for me when I consider yoga, walking, running, and my superhero workouts. The inner ring (blue) is for standing, for at least one minute in 12 different hours in the day. You can change the number of hours in which you have a minute of standing to fewer than 12 but not more than 12. I kept mine at 12 and that seems reasonable but challenging on days when I am at my desk for hours in zoom meetings because it seems weird to get up and move around if I have to have my camera on. When you close all three rings you get a graphic on your watch that is sort of like the rings version of fireworks.

Okay. I know this seems somehow too simple to be motivating. But I have hit my targets all but one day since I got my watch a couple of weeks ago. Now keep in mind that though it counts steps, I do not have a step target and I don’t do 10,000 steps every day. In my pre-pandemic life steps were easy. But some days it’s all I can do to get myself out the door for a walk around the block.

Remember too that my watch was meant to replace my running watch. So in order to do it right, I did a little research and invested in a running app for the watch called Intervals Pro. It was costly for an app — $11.99 (CDN) — but it is so simple to set up custom interval workouts, with time or distance intervals, at set paces if you want, and it keeps a record of your training runs. And that too has added to my joy because my Garmin, ancient as it was, had exactly the kind of functionality for custom running intervals that I needed. I don’t know why I worried that something released almost ten years later wouldn’t be able to do at least as much. To be fair, without the app the Apple Watch wouldn’t have been able to do at least as much. But the app is a game changer for anyone who likes to pre-program custom run intervals.

Finally, and I am aware that this might make me sound superficial and self-indulgent, I have discovered a whole world of third party Apple Watch straps that you can order online for super cheap in all sorts of styles and colours. It is very easy to change the strap, and I do that several days a week. I also bought a protector thing that snaps on over it and affects nothing about how it looks and how it works, but will protect it from getting banged up and scratched.

Long story short: the watch has motivated me to run again, to get out for walks at lunch time or at the end of a work day, to stand up from my desk and stretch my legs more than I used to, and to include at least 45 hours of scheduled workouts in my day.

I’m now activity friends with two people (Vicky and my friend, Diane, who I actually convinced to get a watch so that we could be activity friends). And I like seeing their progress through the day. It motivates me without making me feel competitive. It’s more in an inspirational way.

As I write this the night before I’m scheduled to post, my watch just reminded me (ever so gently, not at all in a “you should be standing!” way) that I can still get a “stand” in, bringing my daily total to 11/12 with just one more to go before bed. That’s all I need to do to close my rings today. So I’m doing it.

Do new gadgets motivate you?

219 in 2019 · 220 in 2020 · 221 in 2021 · covid19 · fitness · habits · motivation

Workout guilt (no not that kind)

Image description: two canvas tote boxes tucked under two stacked chairs, yoga mat rolled up and stashed beside the chairs, yoga two wood and two foam yoga block between the canvas totes, two kettle bells in front of the blocks, blanket on chair. (Tracy’s home workout equipment)

Usually when people associate guilt with working out it’s guilt over NOT working out. I don’t agree with guilting ourselves over that but that’s not what I want to talk about. Instead, there is a new kind of guilt creeping into my awareness since I started being a part of a group that tracks workouts. This year it’s 221 in 2021. The fact of counting our workouts generates no end of hand-wringing, especially among people who are new.

I get it. When I first started I wanted to know what people “count.” But it’s only since COVID that I’ve noticed people expressing guilt that maybe they are counting too much. I mean if I count a Sunday 10K run as one workout, does a 20-minute walk at lunch count equally? If I counted a vigorous hour at the yoga studio back in the days before COVID, does one of Adriene’s 10 or 15 or 20 minute practices count?

Some people have an idea that it has to be at least 20 minutes to count. Many, including me, work with the idea of deliberate movement. But even then, I often will combine a short walk with yoga of whatever length as one, even if they were both deliberate and at different times. I do this because now that I am working home, almost every time I move it is deliberate. Sometimes I make myself do a short yoga session or go twice around the block or do a short run with hill repeats at lunch just to move. I don’t use a fitness tracker, but I bet I’m not reaching 2000 steps some days. That is not how I used to live pre-COVID. I used to walk a lot. The workouts I counted were at least 45 minutes because I didn’t really do other kinds of workouts back then.

I think there is a worry lurking behind some of the stress people are experiencing over counting too much is that they are somehow cheating. But cheating whom, I ask? There is no prize. There is no “system” to “game” here. All we are doing is tracking workouts. And to me, if someone deliberately works out, then yay! That’s a win.

It’s hilarious actually because lately I’m doing Superhero workouts 4-6 times a week, yoga pretty much daily, and a run or a walk every day. In January I counted them as three separate things most days. Now I’m more likely to count the superhero workout as one, and the yoga and walk or run as one.

It’s the end of February and I just hit 110 workouts. That seems somehow impossible, almost halfway to my annual goal. In fact, I’m bored of counting my workouts. If the point of it was ever to get a habit going, then I’ve achieved the goal already. And now it just feels embarrassing or something to be racking up so many workouts.

I wondered whether this was a “woman-thing” where we deny our achievements and want to downplay them. Kind of took me back to when people were all impressed when I signed up for the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon and I would say “it’s just a little triathlon, not an Ironman or anything.” Why do we do that to ourselves? It was a big thing to me, never having done one before! I was terrified and I did it. Yay me. No need to downplay it. Is that what’s going on now with the guilt of counting deliberate movement as workouts during COVID?

We are living through a global pandemic. We are housebound, sometimes in an actual lockdown. We are doing our best to show up for hour upon hour of virtual meetings for work (well, this is my reality) and stay upbeat even when the idea of one more hour on zoom is soul-crushing. We haven’t been able to sit down to dinner with friends since the patios closed last fall. We didn’t see our families for Christmas. We wear masks to the grocery store. We’ve lost family members and friends and not been able to mourn them together in person because of COVID restrictions on travel and gathering and touching one another. We have been unable to make solid plans. We don’t know what life will look like post-COVID.

We have cobbled together home workout spaces over time, tucking our yoga mats and dumbbells in the corner when we’re not using them to make space for our (albeit truncated) daily lives at home. We are actually using that equipment (remember back in the day when we bought stuff to workout at home and it just gathered dust? Remember?).

Given all that, it’s pretty darn awesome if we do something active on purpose. Maybe we’re on track to 650-700 workouts this year and without COVID we wouldn’t be. Silver linings and all. Go us! Let’s check the guilt at the door.

#deanslife · 221 in 2021 · fitness

Sam tries hourly movement #JustMove

I keep telling the blog that I am zooming ahead in the 221 in 2021 group because working out for me still ticks off some pretty important boxes–my bike racing and weight lifing is social, and it’s fun. Likewise, I know it’s good to get outside with Cheddar for walks and I enjoy some quiet time with Adriene on my yoga mat. And it’s also true that lots of the other fun stuff in my life just isn’t available.

But, but, but…I also sit for hours at a time.

I feel like I’ve added in more workouts but lost a lot of everyday movement.

So when a Guelph RMT started posting activities to do on the hour during the workday, I thought I’d play along. The first two, Monday and Tuesday below, are ones that are extra good if you’ve been sitting too much. Also, they are ones I can do in meetings if I just turn the camera off for a few minutes. Now thats only true if I’m not chairing.

I don’t always get breaks on the hour so setting a timer and doing some mobility exercises has been good for me. Let’s see if I can keep this up.

Wish me luck!

221 in 2021 · covid19 · fitness · yoga · Zwift

Will I be this physically active when I have more activities to choose from?

There’s a bunch of us in the 221 in 2021 group speeding along, racking up big numbers of workouts. It’s just the start of February and I’m up to more than 50 workouts.

An aside: Want to join us? Here’s how. It’s a very friendly, supportive group.

We had a discussion the other day, those of us who are often working out more than once a day, about why.

Here’s me: “Yes, I’m working out more than once a day most of the time in these strange pandemic stay at home times. It’s partly the Yoga with Adriene January challenge. It’s partly lifting weights with adult serious lifting offspring who has moved back home. Family bonding over sandbag deadlifts! And then it’s Zwift team stuff. I’m taking Saturday as my rest day with a a commitment to no serious lifting and no Zwifting. But even then there are extra long dog walks and yoga.”

So why? And will it last through 2021?

  • This pace of working out certainly won’t last once there’s evening work commitments out in the world plus theatre and music to go see. So the part of the explanation this year is that it’s a thing I love doing that I can do. I’m missing out on a lot of my work and entertainment activities. There’s no gallery openings and no theatre. No parties on the weekend, no lunch Sunday brunch with friends. Options are somewhat limited right now.
  • I do read books and watch some shows but when I am stressed I can have a hard time concentrating. I have a short attention span when I’m worried and I’m worried a lot through the pandemic. Again, moving my body in ways that challenge me phsyically is both a thing that I can do-it’s an available fun option– and it helps with stress. I sleep better if I exercise in the evenings and go to bed physically as well as mentally tired. See Bikes and Books, about the dangers bikes may pose to books, and Virtual Communites, which talks about my international book club.
  • There’s very little everyday movement in these stay at home lives. All movement, it feels like, is intentional movement. I’m either sitting at my computer not moving much at all, working some ridiculously long days, or I’m working out. In the run of the day on campus I do a lot of walking between meetings. I also bike commute to work. There’s none of that anymore. As Cate said, way back at the start of all this, we’re all indoor cats now.
  • Not everyone has the space to set up a home gym or the means to buy exercise or sports equipment. But we’ve got a lot of stuff and some space. That said, things are cramped even here. I’ve got a combo home office/gym and it contains my desk and computer and several monitors as well as three person’s worth of workout gear including three bikes, a lot of free weights, and soon, a rowing machine. It’s all here. It’s nearby. And I’m wearing workout clothes to work (with some dressier clothes thrown over top) and that makes working out easy. Again, this won’t be the same when I’m back in the office.

So, yes I’m working out more than I usually do during the pandemic for a slew of reasons. You?

I’m not sure I’ll go back to the gym. Maybe the hot yoga studio. Maybe. What about you?

And I’m pretty sure I’ll work out less–but I’ll also have more everyday movement–once the pandemic is over. You?

That’s Sam doing yoga in the dining room with Cheddar the dog

221 in 2021 · fitness · monthly check in · Zwift

Sam is checking in for January!

I keep telling myself that January will have been the hardest of the pandemic winter months. I’m not sure that’s right but it felt hard. For the first time in a few years I didn’t fly or drive south with my bike for a week. I’ve had a run of very lovely wintertime breaks. In years past I’ve gone to Florida 2020 and 2019, Arizona in 2015 and 2010, and South Carolina for bike club training camp also in 2015.

Here we are:

image
Top of the hill with Coach Chris and friends

This year instead there’s been a lot of Zwifting–so much Zwifting–806.6 km worth to be precise. My first pandemic Zwifting goal way back last spring was 100 km a week and then I upped it to 160 km this fall and now I’m averaging just over 200 km a week. Whee! Between that and Yoga With Adriene it’s a busy month fitness wise.

Outside has been dark and cold and windy and icy. Sarah and I got in a couple of long, happy fat bike rides and I’m hoping for lots more in February. Depending on how my knee holds up I’m hoping to get out the snow shoes at the farm in February too. We did have a yurt reservation at a provincial park for winter camping and some actual vacation but that’s now cancelled in light of Ontario’s ‘stay at home” orders.

“As of January 21, campground and backcountry campsites and roofed accommodations (including cabins, yurts and cottages) at Ontario Parks will be closed during the current provincial restriction period in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and support Ontario’s stay-at-home order.”

I get it. You can’t both stay at home and go winter camping. But still…

At work we’re making plans for summer and fall and that makes me hopeful. Sarah and I will make a bunch of summer camping reservations in hopes of spending time in Algonquin with the canoe. I’m also looking forward to a summer of local bike rides and Snipe racing.

How are you getting through the winter? What are you hoping for in the spring and summer?

No photo description available.

220 in 2020 · 221 in 2021 · cycling · fitness · motivation · winter · Zwift

Start as you mean to continue: Sam’s happy new year rides

New year’s eve
New year’s day

A friend asked for advice the other day. Not in a serious way, in that Facebook joking way, asking for random advice about anything.

I need some advice. Not about anything in particular. Give me random advice.

My advice giving theme for her was grandmother’s advice. In my family that’s things like ‘take care of the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’ and ‘an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after.’

The other grandmother favorite of mine is ‘start as you mean to continue.’ I think I’ve even blogged on that theme before. Let me go look… Why yes I did. It’s here.

What I like about it is the thought that you should just begin.


“Don’t make big plans for your future self. She’s busy and easily distracted. Instead, do it now, whatever it is. Make it routine, part of your everyday. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike.”

So on New Year’s Eve I was part of a small but mighty team riding up the Road to Sky, the climb portion of which is Alpe du Zwift. I’d never done it before and now I have a baseline time to beat. It was a team time trial but we didn’t make much effort to stay together once the climb part of the ride began.

Tough going but lots of encouragement and conversation kept me pedaling.

We raced down together at the end and laughed a lot. Thanks friends!

I entered the workout in the 220 in 2020 group this way, “Epic last workout of 2020. Climbed Road to Sky in a team time trial including 1000 m of climbing on Alpe du Zwift.”

The next morning, January 1, I joined in on a meet up organized by some teammates to ride the full PRL (Prudential Ride London) course, about 173 km. I joined in for the first 30 to meet my weekly 160 km goal. They abandoned the meet up version once the rubber banding in Zwift which keeps riders of different speeds together went wonky. For me it meant starting the new year with another 400 m of climbing. Box Hill twice on the first day of the year!

Now we’re off to Prince Edward County and the farm for a couple of days. There’ll be walks in the woods and some Yoga With Adriene. We had hoped for fat biking but there’s no snow here. That will have to wait until we come home to Guelph.

Welcome 2021.

I’ll write about plans for the year later but for now I’m starting as I mean to continue, with Zwift, supportive teammates, yoga, and time outdoors in the winter sun.

There’ll also be more home weightlifting now that the weightlifting son has moved home for the semester.

As always, here’s Cheddar watching me ride!

Cheddar watching Sam ride
221 in 2021 · motivation · yoga

Kicking off 221 workouts in 2021 with 30 days of Yoga with Adriene. Join us!

I’ve invited you already. See Want to join our merry band for 221 workouts in 2021? Here’s how…

But I now want to also suggest an excellent way to get started. Make Yoga with Adriene part of your plan. It’s a great way to kick off January and to get at least 30 workouts in in month 1 of the challenge.

It’s my plan. I think it’s Cate’s plan. And I know other bloggers who are also counting workouts who plan to do that too.

See you there!

Read more about Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Day Challenge here.