fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 23: When your some is your all

On January 23 last year, my Go Team! post advised you to Give it your some. I was reminding us all that the process of building a habit will include some hard days and some easy ones and days when showing up is pretty much all that we can manage. In last year’s post, I was suggesting that you can’t always ‘give it your all’ and that it is perfectly ok to ‘give it your some.’

Today, I want to expand on that a bit and maybe help us further let go of the idea that only epic sessions that push us to our limits can count toward our practice.

SPOILER: All your efforts count. If someone says otherwise, send them to me for a chat.

This might get a little convoluted. Perhaps you should tie a rope around your waist before venturing in.

What if your some IS your all?

It seems to me that ‘giving it your all’ means that you pour as much energy as you possibly can into the project in front of you right now.

But, if you think about it, your ‘all’ will depend on a lot of factors and it will look different every day.

When you take everything into account, other priorities, how tired you are, whether you are injured, your schedule for the day, your mental energy, what you have eaten, how much time you spent on Zoom, your emotional health, today’s ‘all’ might vary wildly from yesterday’s ‘all.’

If today you have a teaspoon of energy to sprinkle on your practice and tomorrow you have a cupful of energy to pour into it, you are still giving it your all both times.

Maybe neither of those is your average effort, your usual ‘all’, but if you are pouring in all the energy you can spare, then you can’t give any more than that.*

On any given day, ‘giving it your some’ might actually be ‘giving it your all’ even if it is a different level of ‘all’ than yesterday.

And I don’t want you to be hard on yourself about that. Having varying capacity and energy levels has nothing to do with not trying hard enough or not being committed to your practice – those variances only mean that you are human with a human body and a human brain. (Sorry if that dashes your cyborg hopes or superhero dreams, Team.)

Meanwhile, phoning it in can build momentum, too

Now, you might be asking yourself ‘What about those days when I’m not giving it my all? Those times when I *could* do more but I just don’t want to?’

You’ll be shocked to discover that I think it’s ok to phone it in sometimes, too.

Showing up for yourself, going through a half-assed version of your practice, and then going back to your day is still doing your practice.

You might not see a lot of results from that specific session but you are still creating room for your practice in your life. You are still reminding your body and your brain that this activity is part of your schedule, that it is something that you want to include in your day-to-day. And besides, results take time, you won’t see a big change from any one session, no matter how hard your worked.

Every single practice session helps you build momentum whether you showed up full of energy or full of a desire to get this over with. A phoned-in session is still a session.

Today’s Invitation

Today, I’m inviting you to remember that you don’t have to put in an epic effort every day.

(In fact, if you *did* put in an epic effort every day, it wouldn’t be epic, it would be your ordinary effort and you’d have to take things up a notch in order to be epic. Improvement over time is great but seeking to be epic every day is a trap)

Establishing a habit does not depend on wringing every last drop out of every session.

Habit building depends on doing what you can, when you can – pushing hard some days, giving a solid efforts on others, showing up even when you feel meh about the whole thing, and, of course, resting when you need to. All of those types of effort are part of the cycle of building a new habit and they all count.

Your effort today – no matter where it falls on the scale of epic-ness – counts and I offer these gold stars in celebration of your hard work.

A drawing of of a vase of stars. The stars are on stems, like flowers. The drawing is resting against a black pencil case on a piece of cardboard.
I love the idea of being able to keep a vase of gold stars. I haven’t done it quite yet but I did keep a jar of a string of star lights on my desk for a while. Image Description: A drawing of a pink vase of gold stars sitting on a purple table. The stars are on stems, like flowers would be. The drawing is resting on a piece of cardboard and leaning against a black mesh pencil case.

*I’d also like to add that a lot of people who shout at you from ads and screens about giving it your all and putting in epic efforts and trying to shame you about whether you are working hard enough are not doing everything that you are doing in a day. A lot of those people might be bragging about their exercise efforts but they aren’t picking up their own sweaty towel, putting it in the laundry, taking a shower and then washing the tub, making their own lunch and cleaning up after, and balancing their family and work responsibilities on top of all that. If you had people to take care of all the other details of your life, you could make every exercise session epic, too.

About the Go Team! posts

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · research

Of mice, men, and morning/evening exercise: the commenters weigh in

On Saturday I posted about a new study investigating whether morning or evening exercise is better (in what sense? they don’t say) for us. Spoiler: it doesn’t matter, at least as far as they know.

The investigators did their study using mice– male mice in particular. This did not go unnoticed by me, and certainly was noted plenty in the comments section.

The male bias remains. Even with mice.
The male bias remains. Even with mice.
Don't the most reliable studies include, uh, how do you say, women?
Don’t the most reliable studies include, uh, how do you say, women?
Let me know when researchers bother to study women and then I'll pay attention to them.
Let me know when researchers bother to study women and then I’ll pay attention to them.

Some made inquiries about where the female mice might be, along with plausible explanations:

Maybe no female mice were available.

Someone suggested they (the female mice) were tied up with other duties.

The females were holding the community together, as expected.

There were commenters who tried to defend the use of male-only mouse subjects on grounds of it-being-too-hard-to-do-science-on-female-organisms. Yeah, we’ve heard that before.

Longish quote claiming that organisms with estrogen cycles are way too complicated (and expensive) to do research on. Ah, okay.
Claim that organisms with estrogen cycles are way too complicated (and expensive) to do research on. Ah, okay.

You didn’t think I was going to let that one get by me, did you?

My response: testosterone cycles are complicated. Estrogen cycles are complicated. We don’t favor one over the other in doing research science. That would wrong. The NIH agrees.

Another attempted defense of the men-mice-only research plan came from this comment:

Using males and females in the same study would result in inadvertent mating, primarily among the most popular mice. ???
Using males and females in the same study would result in inadvertent mating, primarily among the most popular mice. ???

There’s a lot here, but let me just say that the mice could be held in separate cages, which would provide a low-tech solution. Am I missing something here?

In response to the male-mice-only defenders, someone suggested maybe doing more and better science might solve the air of mystery surrounding the ovulation cycles of female mice.

If we don't understand something, we should study it more. Duh.
If we don’t understand something, we should study it more. Duh.

And I’m sure this person was trying to help, but…

Bring out the lady mice!
Bring out the lady mice!

Finally, someone got to the heart of the matter, pointing out what scientifically aware readers want to know:

What we need to know is when is the best time to exercise to metabolize cheese? These subjects should be experts on the matter…

Readers, what do you think? Do you personally know any female mice who’ve been turned down for science experiments? Have you metabolized cheese after-hours or only during daylight? Is ovulation too mind-blowing even to think about, much less study in a scientific fashion? I’m hoping that future comments sections will enlighten me as much as this one opened up a host of new questions…

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 22: Encourage Yourself

I’ve written all kinds of things about not getting discouraged and about celebrating your wins and about noticing your progress and being kind to yourself as you build your habits but I don’t think I have said this loud and clear yet:

PLEASE CHEER YOURSELF ON!

You probably aren’t used to cheering yourself on.

We all have a lot more training in keeping a detailed mental record of the ways we fall short of our plans, the times that we don’t meet our goals, and the things that don’t turn out the way we thought they would.

This isn’t the same as celebrating your wins. That’s a tricky practice in itself but, for many people, it’s a little more straightforward than cheering themselves on – you track something and celebrate when you see a change.

Cheering yourself on is motivating yourself to make an effort, it’s about noticing that effort, and reminding yourself that your effort matters.

Hmmmm, where have I heard that before? (imagine my friendly, slightly smirking expression here)

I’m thrilled to be able to offer you a gold star every day and to remind you that your efforts matter but I would also like for you to be able to practice that regularly on your own.

(Yes, I am asking you to put a practice on top of the practice you are already working on. I am ruthless like that. )

When I’m doing a Yoga with Adriene video and she asks us to say, aloud, ‘I am strong.’ I feel silly but I do it anyway and then that silliness is (mostly) replaced by the thought ‘Huh, I AM strong.” Which is way better for cheering myself on than the other thought (How long to I have to hold this?) that would probably be running through my head otherwise.

If I turn on an exercise video and say ‘Ok, Christine, let’s go!’ I feel much more energized that if I start with ‘Ugh, I guess I should do this.’ (You saw that vile word should in that sentence, right? *shudder*)

If I remind myself that I overcome challenges all the time, if I roll my shoulders back and take a deep breath before I begin my practice, or if I give myself a solemn nod or a high five in the mirror as I start my day, I feel better about my practice and my momentum.

All of those actions make me notice and acknowledge the efforts that I am making on my own behalf.

Now, I am not suggesting that you need to become sort of ridiculously-positive, high-energy whirlwind. After all, I DID say it was ok to grumble. You only need to do the things that work well for you. And frankly, if angry self-care or pushing through is all you need then forge ahead!

But I always like to have a variety of tools at my disposal and cheering myself on through my day, through a practice, or through a few extra seconds of plank has proven to be an extremely useful tool.

Cheering myself on never fails to remind me that even though things might be challenging, my efforts count.

Today’s Invitation

So, today, I invite you to find a way to cheer yourself on as you build your habits.

Can you choose an encouraging phrase to repeat or an action to take that signals that you have shown up on your own behalf?

Can you set a reminder on your phone or your email that tells you that your efforts matter? You don’t have to make it an embarrassing string of words – you could choose a gold star (obviously!) or a turtle (slow and steady wins the race) or a crown or a medal or a cookie or anything else that helps you take a moment to notice your efforts and (hopefully) to agree that you are doing pretty damn good with this whole practice thing thankyouverymuch.

You can also do a screencap of the gold stars I have shared here and send them to yourself one at a time with scheduled emails.

(The details are up to you, of course. Just please find the thing that will serve you best – don’t do this just because it works for me!)

No matter what kind of self-encouragement you choose, I’m offering this gold star as encouragement from me.

As always, you matter. Your efforts matter. It is ok to take time to take good care of yourself and it is ok for you to choose the form that will take for today.

Go Team!

A small drawing of a gold star with a variety of black and white patterns in the background.
I went all in with meditative drawing for my ritual this morning. After drawing the gold star, I filled in the background with a variety of doodle patterns. Image description: a small drawing of a gold star with a variety of black and white patterns in the background. Some patterns are overlapping lines, others are spirals or circles. The card is sitting on a wooden tabletop.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · research

Why it doesn’t matter whether you exercise in the morning or evening

This week, the NY Times published an article with the headline “Is is better to exercise in the morning or evening?” The answer, when I dug into their article and the original research paper, was this: we learned many groovy facts about male mouse metabolism this week, but we still don’t know what time of day is best for you (a human) to exercise. Or even them (the mice), really.

Huh. You might be wondering why, after the NYT went to all the trouble to write this headline, that they don’t have an answer for us. And then there are those scientific researchers, who published this paper that shows a lot of results and many beautiful multicolored charts and graphs.

And yet. I maintain that we still don’t know what time of day is better for exercising. Why not? Here are some reasons.

No one has worked out and gotten other people to agree about what counts as a “better” or “best” time to exercise. Better in what sense? Feels best? Burns the most calories? Burns the least calories? Results in quickest muscle recovery? Contributes most efficiently to this or that training goal?

These are all really different ways to optimize on an exercise session. The researchers do mention time-dependent metabolic processes and effects on the mice-bros, but don’t offer general recommendations. The NYT article cites some studies (here and here) done on type-2 diabetic dudes (always and only the dudes… sigh) that show preferential effects from afternoon exercise. But that’s a particular sub-group, so the results don’t apply to everyone.

This study was done ON MICE. So, any effects they found, they found IN MICE. Yes, animal studies are common and often helpful in directing further investigation. But these results don’t tell us much of anything about humans. Which is no one’s fault, because the research subjects were MICE.

Mouse on a mouse-exercise wheel. Go mouse, go!
Mouse on a mouse-exercise wheel.

The study used only male subjects. In this case, it was male mice. Argh. So, if you’re a non-male person reading this, then you can’t know if the study results (if they had something even approaching advisory, which they don’t) apply to you. This is not a one-off case. Recall the research articles the NYT cited testing the metabolic effects of different exercise times on type-2 diabetes. They only used male subjects, too.

Woman fit to be tied, about to pull her hair out. Yeah, that's me.
Woman fit to be tied, about to pull her hair out. Yeah, that’s me (metaphorically).

What the research article never mentions and what the NYT saves until the end of their piece is the number one reason why it doesn’t matter whether I exercise in the morning or evening: the best time to exercise is the time I actually can and will and do exercise; it doesn’t matter when I move; it matters THAT I move. Here’s what the NYT said:

…as additional studies build on this one’s results, we may become better able to time our workouts to achieve specific health goals. Follow-up studies likely will tell us, for instance, if an evening bike ride or run might stave off diabetes more effectively than a morning brisk walk or swim.

But for now, Dr. Chow said, “the best time for people to exercise would be whenever they can get a chance to exercise.”

Yes, I can fully endorse that recommendation.

Readers, do you need to know what ways you can optimize on your physical activity? Do these results matter to you? Do you have your own optimal times, or do you mix it up in your workout schedule? I’d love to hear from you.

ADHD · fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 21: Support Systems

As yet another alarm went off on my phone this morning, I started thinking about our support systems and how you might make good use of them as you build your practices.

Note: every time you see the words should or shouldn’t in this post, please imagine me rolling my eyes and sighing it out as if I am fed up with the very concept of it. Because I am.

Story time

(There is no escape from my stories.)

Because I have ADHD, I use a lot of external cues to help me do the things that I want to do. I have umpteen timers, reminders, and alarms. I make good use of the timer on the stove when I am in the kitchen. I try to shape my environment by putting things in the place where I will need them – like putting my meds on the kitchen table before I go to bed so I will see them first thing in the morning. I have routines and checklists. I ask other people for reminders and I have accountability partners for all kinds of tasks. *

Before I was medicated (and especially before I was diagnosed), I tried to get away without using most of those things. I felt that, as an adult, I shouldn’t need so many reminders to get through the day – especially since, in many contexts, I have a good memory. I tried to fake my way along – this is called masking, by the way – and I did ok sometimes, maybe even most of the time, but with A LOT of additional stress and worry.

It was MUCH harder for me to manage the details of my life and to follow through on my plans without those things. Once I was diagnosed, I gave myself ‘permission’ to use any supports that worked for me and life got a bit easier. Once I was medicated, I could make even better use of those supports, and every increase in my medication makes them more and more useful to me.

Accepting that it was ok to have that support system in my days made a huge difference in my life. I could use more of my mental energy to actually do the things I wanted to do instead of using that energy to try and remember to do them.

And the really annoying thing is that I could have been saving that energy all along by just letting myself do things the way that I needed to do them. I could have had those supports in place all along and felt much better every day.

Instead, I fell victim to our cultural message that if things are difficult it is because we aren’t working hard enough. From that perspective, my reminders and notes and systems would be a sign of being inept or being weak, or being stupid.

What a load of crap, hey?

Now that I am aware of that whole set of messaging, I am so annoyed. I am annoyed with the message and I am annoyed that I was stuck in that mindset for so long.

Find/create/use your support systems

Maybe ADHD isn’t an issue for you but I’ll bet that you have other things that get in your way as you try to build your new practice.

You don’t need a reason or an excuse to seek support. I know it can be hard to seek support or help but don’t let the idea that you shouldn’t need it be part of the challenge of asking.

If you need a reminder, a pep talk, or some sort of tool in order to remember/start/do/complete your practice, then please seek those things out and use them.

Please don’t should yourself out of making your own life a little easier.

Try to think in terms of solutions instead of whether you should need support.

Use the timer on your phone, your watch, your stove, or your computer.

Stick notes all over the place. I often write notes in dry-erase marker on my bathroom mirror and I frequently attach sticky notes to my kettle. I have also been known to put a sticky note on my phone, which I find hilarious – a literal note to self on my phone!

If you need a pep talk, ask your friends for one or look up pep talks on YouTube, TikTok, or on a podcast app.

If you need an accountability partner, check for online groups who are doing a similar practice to yours. Or ask on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram or via text for someone to check in with you after a certain amount of time.

If your arms are strong enough to lift some weights but gripping them hurts your hands, could you wear gloves? Could you put the weight in a bag that is easier for you to lift?

If you don’t want to get on your yoga mat because it is hard to get back up off the floor, what can you use to help yourself up?

In fact, yoga can be an excellent example of how to casually allow yourself to use the supports you need. In yoga, you are supposed to meet yourself where you are today. If you can’t reach the floor with your fingertips, you put a block down and touch that instead. If you are struggling with a pose, you either adjust it to meet your needs or you use a strap, a bolster, a blanket, or a block to support your efforts.

Today’s Invitation

I know that it is hard to ask for support, even if we are just asking ourselves to use something that makes our lives easier.

This whole cultural thing we have around independence and how we should be able to operate with out support is a racket but it is a pervasive one. It keeps us all stuck and prevents us from getting the help to manage all kinds of situations.**

Today, I’m inviting you to seek and use supports for your practice, whether those supports are post-it notes or a friend to walk with you. Let yourself make your own life easier whenever possible.

And here is your gold star for today’s efforts, whatever they entail.

Your efforts matter. You matter. And it is ok for you to ask for help, to use supports, and do the things you need to do in the way that you need to do them.

Sending you ease.

a small drawing of a gold star surrounded by black dots
It occurred to me that I should try to make my star drawings connect to the topic of the day but then I noticed the word ‘should’ in that sentence. Should is always a sign that I need to reconsider. If I start trying to connect my drawings and my topic, it will box me in and make it a bit harder to do my drawing (and my writing) and that goes against my big picture plans for spaciousness. Sooooo, I’ll just stick to drawing whatever star shows up when I start moving my pen. Image description: a drawing of a gold star surrounded by tiny black dots on a white card. The edges of the card are outlined in a wavy black line and the card is resting on a black computer keyboard

*Because of how the huge variety of ADHD traits work in each individual brain, all ADHDers will have some traits in common with others and also have their own unique spin on the condition. Most of the time, my reminders, timers, and environmental shaping works for me but for other people with ADHD, these things may not work at all. Please DO NOT use me as an example of why someone else should be able to use these things effectively.

**For this post, I am generally talking about some pretty straightforward things, small supports that we can use to expand toward our new habits. But, I want to acknowledge that this same thinking trap extends in all directions and has all kinds of deep implications for vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our society. Vulnerable and disadvantaged people are discouraged from asking for the things they need. If they do ask, they are criticized, judged, and put through all kinds of extra work and invasive questions to try and get it. And many of us with privileges and advantages are encouraged to think of this as ‘the way things are’ because we are used to the ambient sense that no one should ask for support and that becoming an independent person who can do everything on their own is the ultimate goal. Obviously, this post about supports for the practice you are building isn’t going to create social change but I didn’t want to pretend that the need for support in our society stops at a pep talk or putting a chair next to your yoga mat.

body image · diets · fitness · link round up · walking

Fit is a Feminist Friday Link Round Up, #113: Five Things to Read or Listen to on a Friday

The Overthink Podcast Episode on Walking

“Some podcasts only talk the talk, but in today’s episode David and Ellie walk the walk (or talk the walk?) by diving into the philosophy of walking. Walking is a complex sociocultural practice that raises fascinating questions about history, power, and freedom. Why did our ancestors transition from walking on all fours to walking on two legs, and how did this shape our evolution as a species? Why have so many philosophers throughout history (from Aristotle to Rousseau) insisted on incorporating walks into their daily routines? And how do systems of oppression—such as classism, racism, sexism, transphobia, and ableism—mold our experience of walking, determining where and even how we can walk?”

Why Sweden Clears Sidewalks Before Roads

“After analyzing government services through a process known as “gender-balanced budgeting,” many Swedish cities, including Stockholm, prioritize snow clearance very differently. They now clear walkways and bike paths first, especially those near bus stops and primary schools. Next, they clear local roads, and then, finally, highways.”

Maintenance Phase, Diet Book Deep Dive: The Karl Lagerfeld Diet

Who’s that Bond villain stroking a cat and yelling at beloved public figures? It’s Karl Lagerfeld! This week, Mike and Aubrey go in on fashion’s favorite turbo troll and his fancy, joyless diet. This episode serves four.”

The cover of a book called “The Karl Lagerfeld Diet” by Dr. Jean-Claude Houdret features a full-body photo of a very thin Karl Lagerfeld wearing tight jeans, boots, a black blazer, black sunglasses, and a bright white ponytail.
The cover of a book called “The Karl Lagerfeld Diet” by Dr. Jean-Claude Houdret features a full-body photo of a very thin Karl Lagerfeld wearing tight jeans, boots, a black blazer, black sunglasses, and a bright white ponytail.

OPINION: Take ‘weight loss’ off your New Year’s resolution list

“New Year’s resolutions. We’ve all had one at some point, and we’ve all probably given up on at least one, if not more. In fact, the next couple weeks are the time when most people will give up on their resolutions, from being nicer to their mom to going to the gym. If your resolution is to get along better with your mother, maybe you should try to stick that one out. But if your resolution has anything to do with weight loss or dieting, it’s actually OK to let it go.  You should base your New Year’s resolutions — or any self-improvement goal, really — on health and fitness rather than dieting or losing weight. “

Body Image Series: All about Body Neutrality

“In this episode of Eat the Rules, I’m continuing the body image series and talking all about body neutrality – what it is and isn’t, and what it looks like in real life.”

fitness

Angry self care: it’s a thing

Some of you may remember the funny meme circulating last winter of a winter scene featuring a baleful eagle. In case you can’t remember, or didn’t see it the first go around, here you go:

The meme struck a chord with me. I have never been someone who goes for leisurely walks. I do enjoy a good brisk walk, or a lovely stomp, especially when I am trying to work out a problem for a client.

The pandemic has brought home for me the need to maintain regular physical activity, so when I came across this reel on Instagram with a reference to angry self care, I was intrigued. The video shows a person who presents as young, able, and white making her way determinedly and spiritedly down a snowy street.

There’s something appealing about angry self care, the same way rage baking took off as a way to ease and redirect rage and anxiety in the last Republican presidency. We often see anger as a negative emotion when it can actually be a spur to useful and productive activity that takes us outside our headspace and repeating interior monologues.

Going for a walk, drinking your water, getting your sleep, meeting your swimming goals to name a few examples are all great ways to look after yourself and aren’t really stupid at all. However, as this pandemic stretches on, even the most positive and optimistic among us have days when we don’t feel like doing all the healthy things. That’s when stupid walks can help.

These days I can get down with some motivational resentment. If it gets me out the door, why not? Come join me. Get your footwear, get your coat, and yank that hoodie on your head. Or put on an especially stompworthy tune — like London Calling by the Clash or Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life — and stomp your fine self around your space.

MarthaFitat55 really enjoys good stomp for her mental health. She hopes you will too.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 20: You’re Worth It

Have you ever sat around feeling kind of meh about doing anything but then someone needed you and you sprang into action to help them out? Didn’t you feel less meh when you were done? Maybe kinda tired but decidedly less meh?

You probably decided to take action for them because you value them, they are important to you, and you want them to be happy and at ease. *

They are worth taking action for.

Well, Team, I’ve got some news for you: YOU are also worth taking action for.

Let’s talk about that a little.

Inertial Meh

I know it is tricky to generate internal motivation sometimes. Inertia is a powerful force.

Plans, and encouragement, and rituals can help but there will still be days when things are kind of meh.

Even if your practice is important to you. Even if you really want to do it. Even if you have the time and the capacity and the ability to do it. You still may struggle.

And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean that you have given up. It doesn’t mean that you don’t ‘really’ want to build your habit. It just means that things are, well, meh, right now.

If that meh feeling compels you to rest, have at it.

But, if that meh feeling is generating thoughts like ‘This isn’t worth the effort.’ ‘I won’t bother.’ ‘Who cares if I do this?’ or ‘It’s not making any difference anyway.’ Then I want to remind you of why you are putting in the work to build a habit in the first place.

You Want Something Different

Sorry to spoiler you by putting the main point in the heading but here we are.

You want something different in your life. You want to be stronger or calmer or more flexible or to have more ease or to have less pain. And your planned practice is a path toward that new thing, that expanded self.

Yes, it takes effort. Some days are easy, some days are hard, and some days you have to take a break. But you are trending toward the difference you are trying to create.

If you knew that your effort on this meh day was going to make a difference for someone you care about, if it was going to move them in the direction of something they wanted for themselves, you would be up stretching/dancing/meditating/practicing your Taekwon-Do/doing the hokey-pokey and turning yourself around, in a heart beat.

Today’s Invitation

I’d like to invite you to treat yourself with the same kind of care and compassion.

I’d like you to consider your practice as a way to put that caring and compassion into action.

You, your well-being, your feeling of ease, your sense of satisfaction, are worth the effort to do your practice.

It may not be fun today. It may not be easy. But, like Nicole said in her post today. It can be worth it to push through.

You matter. Your efforts matter. You are worth taking care of.

It makes sense to put effort into your well-being, even when you feel meh.

And my robot friend here is offering you a gold star for your efforts today, whether your efforts were epic or whether they were about creating a tiny sliver of space in your brain for the idea that you are worth the effort you need to put in to have something different in your life.

an ink drawing of a robot holding a gold star
I don’t just draw gold stars, sometimes I like to draw a robot holding a gold star. That’s me, living on the edge over here. Image description: An ink drawing of a mostly rectangular robot with arms drawn as spirally wires. The robot is holding a gold star and smiling. The drawing is on a small white card and the card is resting on my black keyboard.

*Yes, I know this is a very positive spin here. You might also spring into action to avert disaster, to get someone to stop whining, to prevent a mess, or because you don’t want to/are unable to face the repercussions of inaction. I’m not denying or downplaying the existence of that sort of motivation but for this post I am talking about times when you’re just kind of sitting there and ANY sort of request from someone you care about can shake you out of your malaise.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

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 · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 19: Create a Ritual

Do you find it hard to start new tasks or to switch from one task to another? I do.

It’s not that I don’t WANT to do the next thing. It’s that if I am already doing something it feels incredibly hard to stop. And then it feels hard to start the other thing. And all of that creates a lot of static around the task I plan to do.

I imagine that this happens to everyone sometimes. Especially if you are enjoying (or are committed to) the task at hand or if the task ahead is poorly defined.

My ADHD brain has been known to get caught in a task switching loop for ages. I might keep telling myself that I will do ‘just this last part’ of the task at hand. Or I may know that I need to start something else but I can’t quite make myself do it. The task ahead could be something I love doing or something that is very important to me, and I still struggle to start it.

Whether or not you have ADHD, I’ll be that something similar comes up for you, at least sometimes, when you are trying to practice your new habit.

Your habit may be important to you. Your action may be relatively easy. You may not even be enjoying your current activity. But you are still a victim of inertia, you still feel unable to get started.

That’s when a ritual* can come in handy.

A ritual gives you somewhere to start, an on-ramp, and it lets you see the path ahead as a series of steps instead of sheer drop into (insert ominous voice here) THAT THING YOU MUST DO.

Your ritual doesn’t have to be complex and it doesn’t have to involve anything from beyond the veil (but feel free, if that’s your sort of thing), it just has to give you a way to get started.

Let me give you an example.

Story Time!

One day last week, I was caught in a can’t-get-started loop about one of these posts. I knew what I wanted to say. I was interested in writing about it. And I knew that it had to be posted that day at 2pm EST. My brain wasn’t having it.

I tried logic-ing my way out of it but still no go. And since I couldn’t write this, my brain wouldn’t let me write anything else. So, I went to my back-up back-up plan and started to draw.

I drew a gold star, of course.

And then I realized that I could use the drawing as the star for my post.

So I took a photo and uploaded it into a draft post. And I gave the post a name. And I set up the tags and categories. And did an image description.

And, as I sat there, looking at a screen with all of the detail-oriented bits already done, it was suddenly much easier to start writing.

The next day, I started by drawing and then I went through all the same steps. I’ve used this same little ritual for 5 out of the last 6 posts. (My post for Saturday was about going easy on yourself and it was pretty easy to write, I didn’t need the ritual.)

Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk to write but instead of actually writing, I was putting pencils away and tidying all the stuff on my desk. Instead of just trying to push myself to start, I actually said aloud “Oh, right! I start by drawing!” and I grabbed one the half-index cards from the box on my desk and drew a gold star and surrounded it with lines. Once that was done, I knew the next step was to take a photo.

Having the ritual doesn’t remove all the challenges of getting started but it does reduce them and there is momentum built into the process.

If you have trouble getting your practice started, having a ritual could really help.

Today’s Invitation

Today, I’m inviting you to prepare for a time when it is hard to get started on your practice. Even if today isn’t particularly hard, it can be useful to use the ritual so it becomes part of the momentum of your practice even sooner.

So, what kinds of things could help you get started?

Could you play a specific song (or part of one) as you set up or as you do the first parts of your practice? Or could you have some specific phrases that you say to get you started?

Is there a specific piece of clothing you could put on or furniture that you could move/close/open/cover that could signal that you are getting started? Would it help to write out your practice like a checklist?

Could you make a ceremony out of putting out your mat? Or maybe light a candle or turn on a specific lamp? Would it help to tell someone else you plan to do your practice? Perhaps your ritual could involve putting on a specific TV show or podcast?

The details of the ritual will differ from person to person, of course. The important thing is that you have something that prompts your brain to accept that *this* is the time when you do your practice.

Gold Star!

Here is your gold star for your efforts today, no matter what they were.

Please be kind to yourself about the things that feel hard and celebrate the work that you have put into everything you did today.

(My ritual for writing these posts includes drawing. It doesn’t include worrying about whether the drawing is perfect. Please apply that to your own rituals and may those rituals serve you well.)

a drawing of a person perched on a stone wall lifting a gold star on to a hook hanging from the sky.
Image description: a small drawing of a long-haired person in a pink dress perched on a stone wall reaching overhead to a gold star on to a hook hanging from the sky. The drawing is on a small card that is resting against a black computer keyboard on a white desktop.

*You might prefer to call it a routine and that works marvellously. I chose ritual because I like the connotation of invoking great power and because I like the idea that people might use ritual words or movements as a starting point.