martial arts · habits · goals

Christine H is trying to (TKD) practice what she preaches

If all goes well, I’m hoping to test for my 4th degree black belt in ITF Taekwon-Do sometime later this year but I have a lot of work to do in order to be fully prepared.

All through the fall, my practice was restricted because I was having trouble with my leg and my foot but things are improving and I have been able to resume my regular home practice.

I’m fairly confident about the patterns I have learned for previous black belt tests.* And I feel good about one of the three I need to learn for this test but I haven’t yet fully grasped the second pattern that I need to learn.

So, I am taking my own advice from my Go Team! posts and creating a plan for a small, specific practice to really get this pattern, Yoo Sin, into my brain and into my muscle memory:

I’m going to practice Yoo Sin for at least 5 minutes a day, every day, from now until the end of February, or until I can perform it without hesitation, whichever comes first.

This is what Yoo Sin looks like:

A YouTube video of Patricia Pacero performing the ITF Takekwon-Do pattern Yoo Sin in a practice space with white walls and with blue mats on the floor. She is wearing a white TKD uniform (dobok) and her black belt.

I have been through the whole pattern step-by-step a couple of times with guided instruction but at this point I can only get about 1/3 of the way through the pattern without stopping to check the next move.

I’m not sure if 5 minutes of daily practice will get me where I want to go with the pattern in a month but it will definitely move me in the right direction.

And, as I know from my own Go Team! pep talks, I can reassess and do some course correction at any point in the process.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

For the record, this isn’t the only TKD practice I will do in February, it’s just how I plan to add this pattern to my repertoire.

*If you aren’t familiar with how things work in the martial arts, getting your black belt is not your end point, it’s the point at which you know enough of the basics to start deepening and strengthening your practice. I earned my first degree black belt in 2014. I learned 3 new patterns for my second degree belt in 2016, another 3 new patterns for my third degree belt in 2019, and I have to learn 3 new patterns for my 4th degree test. This is on top of the 9 patterns that I learned for the various belts leading to my first degree black belt.

fitness · goals · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 12: Go ahead and grumble

I have said a lot so far about adjusting your practices to meet your needs. I’ve invited you to change or drop anything that doesn’t serve you or that makes you avoid your planned sessions. And I fully stand behind those statements. If you have discovered that you hate the activities that you had hoped would lead you to your goals, then I think it is perfectly fine to adjust them or ditch them.

And, I also think that it is ok to go ahead and grumble through activities or parts of activities that you hate if they aren’t causing you distress/if they don’t make you avoid your practice.

You don’t have to love every part of your workout. You don’t have to be excited to sit in meditation. You don’t need to make every wellness activity into a party.

It’s possible to take actions that will move you toward something that is important to you without making them fun or appealing. You can just do them and check them off your list. Finding fun approaches can make it easier to take those actions but progress does not always require passion.*

I like finding the fun as much as the next person and I often need to make things extra appealing so my ADHD brain can be convinced to do them. Sometimes, however, it’s easier and more straightforward to just trudge ahead through the task at hand. There’s a time and place for both/either, and you can choose the one that serves you best in the moment.

Tangential anecdote that I probably shared before but I am going to share again anyway: Even though I am strongly pro-fun, I have a long history of resisting the idea that everything has to be fun. When I was a Girl Guide in the 80s, one of the Guide laws (at the time) was ‘A Guide smiles and sings, even under difficulty.’ and I HATED that idea. It was bad enough that I might be facing difficulty but the idea that I would have to pretend everything was ok and smile and sing through it? I WAS NOT HAVING IT. I appreciate the sentiment behind it, that a positive attitude can be really helpful in many situations but my super-charged-idea-generating brain immediately presented (and still presents) me with multiple ways that that phrasing could be used against me. I decided that while I would say the law aloud as written, in my head I would consider the law to be ‘If you can’t smile, then just try not to throw up.’ That version worked much better for me, and still does. One of the lessons you can draw from this anecdote is that, yes, I have always been like this. 😉

And you don’t HAVE to have a good attitude while you trudge your activities, either. Sure, a positive attitude can be useful in many situations. And you’ll want to choose who you grumble to/with but you can be, to borrow a local expression, ‘as crooked as sin’ (translation: extremely cranky) and still finish your workout. Stubbornness and being crooked as sin can get you through the hard parts of your practice just as much as smiling and singing will get you through other parts.

a black tank top with white lettering that reads 'I won't quit but I will cuss the whole time.'  The top is displayed on a brown wooden floor.
This is a sentiment that I often employ when I am unenthusiastic about the task ahead. Go on and ask my sparring partner Kevin how often I tell him that I won’t quit but I will curse the whole time. Image description: a screen capture from Etsy shop WithLoveByJessJames of a black tank top with white lettering that reads ‘I won’t quit but I will cuss the whole time.’ The top is displayed on a brown wooden floor.

As you know, my whole coaching schtick is about being kind to yourself while you reshape the bits of your life that cause you unwanted friction. Part of being kind to yourself is recognizing that your life won’t be perfect and you will react differently to various ups and downs – sometimes you will smile and sing under difficulty, sometimes you will make changes so the situation is easier or more palatable, and sometimes you will decide to forge ahead even when you are as crooked as sin and cursing the whole time.

You already have lots of bits and pieces of your life that you do because they need to be done or they serve you well in some way. You don’t worry about your attitude toward a lot of those things because it is kind of beside the point.

Take flossing your teeth, for example. It’s a task that needs to be done but you don’t need to do it perfectly every time. You don’t need to be happy about it and you don’t need to make it fun, you just need to find a way to make sure it happens. Whether that involves creating an enjoyable environment for flossing or cursing your way through the process is your business, you can do whatever works for you in that moment.

Your practices for well-being work the same way.

If you find yourself dreading or avoiding your practice, make adjustments, ditch something, or make it more fun. If you just hate or lack enthusiasm for some parts, you don’t have to learn to love them, you can just do them and curse the whole time.

Today’s Invitation

Today, I am inviting you to go ahead and grumble about anything you don’t like about the process of building your habits. Just be kind to yourself about your grumbling.

Not enjoying every part doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you and it doesn’t necessarily mean that your practice is wrong for you, it just means that you don’t enjoy everything equally. You’ll know the difference between dreading and disliking and you can choose your path accordingingly.

And, as always, here’s your gold star to celebrate your efforts today, whether you are smiling, singing, cursing, or just trying not to throw up while you do them.

This is the eraser on my whiteboard and even though she is smiling, she doesn’t think that you have to smile. In fact, she just glad you are showing up for yourself in whatever form you are choosing today. And she is in favour of cursing the whole time if that’s what serves you best.

a whiteboard eraser shaped like a smiling star emoji is attached to a partially erased whiteboard.
This is the eraser on my whiteboard. I like how the smile is a bit smirky and the expression is a bit tentative but she has shown up in full gold-starriness all the same. She is okay with you being crooked as sin, she still wants to celebrate your efforts today. Image description: a whiteboard eraser shaped like a yellow smiling star emoji is attached to a partially erased whiteboard.

*This kind of reminds me of this writing advice from A.J. Liebling: “The only way to write is well and how you do it is your own damn business.” It’s your own damn business how you approach your practices as long as they serve you well.

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.

ADHD · cardio · fitness · goals · health · motivation · self care

Christine is aiming for better than average

I have picked a word for the year – spaciousness – but I hadn’t really settled on a fitness goal until this weekend when I found a new category of information in my Fitbit.

In my average week, I’m moving a fair bit. I take the dog for a walk or two each day, I usually have two TKD classes in a week, I do a bit of yoga and some stretches and a bit of strength training.

A light haired dog rests on bedsheets folded back from where someone got up.
Here’s Khalee supervising while I do yoga. She has such a hard job! I am really a lot of trouble. Image description: Khalee’s head, shoulders and front pays can be seen as she lies on the crumpled top sheet and blankets from my bed. She is facing the camera and her chin is resting on the blankets where they were folded back from when I got up. Her eyes are half-closed and she look looks restful but observant.

Lately though, I have come to realize that I am not really moving the metaphorical needle on my fitness level. I’m maintaining what I have but my efforts are not particularly focused and I’m not feeling any sort of expansion in my capacity.

Part of this is due to my issues with my toes/heel/calf/knee, of course, and luckily that situation is improving steadily. And, up until now, I have been juggling about three things more than I had capacity for at any given time – I could manage to hold most things in the air most of the time but that was it.*

However, some combination of ADHD and personality also factors into this. I never really know when and how to push myself, it’s tricky for me to judge my capacity and energy levels at any given time, and I am never sure if and what I should measure.

I’ve been keeping an eye on my resting heart rate over time but since I don’t wear my Fitbit when I sleep, apparently that’s not a very accurate measurement.

And I check off the box for daily movement but my effort levels vary from day to day. I’m not criticizing myself for that but it does mean that I am maintaining rather than expanding my capacity.

However, this weekend, I accidentally nudged a different part of my Fitbit screen and discovered that I can get more information about my cardio fitness above and beyond just my heart rate.

This puts my numbers in context. I LOVE context!

Fair to average isn’t bad but I’m sure with a little more focused effort, I could get to good and maybe even beyond.

So, in a move that is probably startlingly obvious to anyone who doesn’t live in a ADHD time/pattern soup, I looked up how long it takes to improve cardio fitness and what kinds of exercises will help me see a little progress ASAP. (I know that you can’t rush results but I also know what my brain needs.)

So, now I know that I need to make some of my workouts HIIT workouts and, in about two months, I should see myself inching toward that next blue bar.

In the meantime, I going to try not to check this screen every day hoping for a magical shift. I’ll post about it once a month though, just to keep myself on track.

A screen capture from a Fitbit app showing that the user's cardio fitness is between fair and average.
Image description: A screen capture from my Fitbit app that indicates my cardio fitness on a multicoloured bar with numbers ranging from 24.6 to 39.5. My fitness level is indicated at Fair to Average 27-31 and is in a blue segment of the bar. Text at the top of the image reads: Heart Rate. Cardio Fitness. Your estimate is between Fair and Average for women your age.

PS – I undoubtedly knew some or all of this before. And I may have put some pieces together before. If you had asked me, I probably could have told you that improving cardio fitness is a good idea and that things like HIIT would help. However, when I want to take things on for myself, I always need to have proper context in order to hold on to or apply the information I have. For some reason this chart gave me the right container for the information and let me make a plan. The new level of ADHD meds I started in early December are probably helping this whole process, too.

*Yes, I know that is not an idea situation to be in but I knew it would be relatively short-lived and the effort to juggle was far less than the effort to adjust all my other routines so I just got help where and when I could, took breaks whenever possible, and just juggled the heck out things the rest of the time. And, finally, as of mid-December, a few things finished up and I was back within my capacity and mostly in charge of my schedule. YAY!

goals · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 10: Feelings Part 2 of 3

Now that we have talked…ok, now that *I* have talked about things to consider when you don’t feel like doing your workout, let’s look at your feelings in a different way.

Today, I’m inviting you to consider how you WANT to feel and how your habit will help you get there.

I wrote about this a bit last year and invited you to consider how some aspects of feelings and exercise and now I want to expand on those ideas a little.

How do you want to feel?

In general, goal-setting advice in the health realm promotes picking something you can measure – number of sessions, increases in strength, changes in skill – but considering something trackable but intangible, like feelings, doesn’t come up as often.

Obviously, it can be easier to use a measurement of some sort, if that kind of thing serves you well. Noting minutes spent, reps completed, and skills gained is very straightforward and can be very useful – I have just started tracking something like that myself.

But, often, our wellness goals are not just increasing skills or strength, they are also about how we want to feel -physically or mentally.

Perhaps you want to have greater peace of mind.

Or you want to feel happier or calmer.

Maybe you want to feel balanced…or to feel like you have good balance.

Or you want to feel nimble or fluid.

Maybe you want to feel capable or grounded or solid.

Perhaps your practice gives you space away from certain feelings or gives you room to hold them.

Those are all valid and helpful things to seek from your practice. Fitness is about your whole self, not just about your muscles. Positive emotional or sensory experiences in addition to physical results will give you a richer sense of well-being overall.

But, just as building muscle takes time, finding the feelings you are seeking is a gradual process and I hope you’ll be kind and patient with yourself about them. It may take time for your practice to produce those positive effects and you’ll have varying results from day to day. Slow and varying results are a natural part of the process, not an indication that you are doing something wrong.

Keeping Track

If you look back on any measurements of reps or minutes you have kept, you will probably find it surprising to see how far you have come because we forget that we couldn’t always do what we can do right now. I think that emotional changes are even trickier to remember and without some sort of record, you might not realize that you have moved closer to your goal. But, even though you can’t measure emotional or sensory results in minutes or reps you can keep track of how your habits contribute to experiencing the feelings you are seeking.

It would probably help to start by making some notes about what that feeling means for you or how you have experienced it in the past. That way, you’ll know it when you feel it. So, for example, if you want to feel fluid in your movements, try to recall a time in the past when you felt that way and take note of what your body and mind were doing at that point. You can then use that remembered experience as a point of comparison for future experiences of fluidity.

Once you know some specifics about what you are seeking, you can put reminders in your calendar to check in with yourself regularly about those feelings and then either make a journal entry or a short note about them.

If you like to keep daily records of things you can use a spreadsheet or a journaling app or you can do some more elaborate bullet-journaling style tracking. Just be kind to yourself and don’t make the tracking process so onerous that you end up avoiding it. (so says a person who has fallen into that trap many, many times)

And, if you also make notes about what you did in your practice on a given day, you may be able to see if certain actions or activities provide a more positive emotional effect over time. Perhaps you are less anxious about your writing on days when you have meditated, or maybe you feel more balanced on days when you do squats.

Obviously, your experience will be specific and personal but it is definitely worthwhile to see if your practice is bringing you closer to the feelings you want to experience more often.

Today’s Invitation

So, today, I invite you to consider your feelings.

Are there any specific emotional or sensory experiences you are hoping to get from your practice?

Is there anything you can add (or take away) from your practice to contribute to the experiences you are seeking?

If it interests you, is there an easy way to track your feelings that will show you changes over time?

How can considering your feelings ADD to your overall kindness to yourself?

And finally, if all of this feelings stuff isn’t relevant to the habits you are building, I invite you to ignore me completely! 🙂

Here are several gold stars for your efforts today, whether you are journaling your answers to these questions, sweating your way through a workout, meditating with ease or dragging your mind back to your breath over and over, or still just figuring out how you might move a little more today.

Gold coloured wood stars against a textured blue-painted background.
Today’s stars are on one corner of a piece of multi-media art that my sister Angela made for me. Feelings are complex and layered things so I thought that this textured, layered, multi-star art was a good symbol for our celebration. Image description: three gold coloured wooden stars sit on a blue textured background that features tiny green stars and gold dots.

Note: When I wrote the first feelings post yesterday, I thought I would be able to cover everything in two posts. It turns out that I need three. So, please tune in tomorrow when I’ll be talking a bit about how building habits can stir up challenging feelings. I am not a psychologist, I am not a mental health professional and I don’t have any training in trauma, so I won’t be delving into anything that requires expertise I don’t have. I’ll stick to general advice about self-compassion and link to a few articles that address issues around when exercise or meditation generates relatively manageable stress or anxiety. If your emotional reaction to building wellness habits goes beyond that or is overwhelming or all-encompassing, I hope you can seek professional help from someone trained in supporting people through processing those emotions. I wish you ease and I am earnestly trying not to cause additional harm.

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 · goals · habits · mindfulness · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 3: Pick A Time

One of the trickiest things about adding something new to our lives (or about continuing a habit when other parts of our lives have changed) is actually fitting it into our schedule.

We can have a clear plan and all the good intentions in the world but we still need actual time to exercise, or meditate, or stretch, or whatever we have chosen to explore right now.

And if we don’t consciously choose a time for that new habit, it will probably get pushed down our to do list until we are scrambling to fit it in before we let ourselves go to bed or we end up putting it off until “tomorrow.”

I know this happens because I do it ALL THE TIME. My ADHD brain thinks time will expand to let me fit everything I want to do into a day. It NEVER works. I apparently do not have control over the flow of time after all.

So, if this happens to you, too, I invite you to take a few minutes today to consider WHEN you will work on your new habit.

Do you need to be in a specific location? Do you need particular equipment? Will you need to shower/sleep afterwards? Is it too noisy to do at night or early in the morning? Do you have caregiving responsibilities that you need to work around? When do you PREFER to do your practice and is it possible to do it then?

I know we would all like to assume that we will just automatically do the things we want/need to do in a day but the truth is that we need to make room for them.

And while you’re trying to figure out your timing, please ignore the nonsense advice that says “If you *really* wanted it, you’d make it happen.” because that’s garbage. Your desire to include this new habit in your life is only one factor in the equation and reality is much more complicated than that. Please do NOT let advice like that add to your pile of guilt-related shoulds. (In fact, burn that pile of shoulds at your first opportunity.)

If you discover that you don’t actually have time in your schedule for your planned habit right now, it’s ok to make a note in your calendar to reconsider it later. (I like to put things like that in my calendar so I don’t forget to return to them.)

And it’s also okay to scale down your habit so you can fit them in at the moment. For example, if you can’t figure out how to fit 10 minutes of meditation into your days right now, maybe you can start by taking three deep breaths while the kettle boils for your tea. Or you can do 5 squats while you text a friend.

Every little bit counts and your efforts will help you feel a bit better, even if you have to go slowly.

And, speaking of your efforts, here’s your gold star for today.

I’m proud of your hard work.

A star-shaped ornament covered in gold covered sequins hanging from a yellow pushpin on an orange wall.
One of my year-round gold stars that I keep hanging next to the wall calendar in my kitchen. Image description: A star-shaped ornament covered in gold covered sequins hanging from a yellow pushpin on an orange wall.

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.

cycling · fitness · goals

How far do you ride in a year? Sam sets her eyes on 5500 km

Form 5500 - Admin America
5500 in blue on white background

5500 km is an odd number for an end of year goal, I know.

5000 is the more usual number. In 2015 I blogged about riding about 3500 km in a year and considered setting my sights higher, maybe 5000 km. See How far do you ride in a year? I didn’t make it. The next year I topped out at 4,002.1 km.

I finally hit the 5000 km mark during the pandemic, thanks to Zwift and you know, not leaving the house much. In 2020 I rode 5,326.9 km.

This year I will easily ride 5000 + again. Where I am today: 4614 km (tracked on Strava) This includes all my road cycling, Zwifting and gravel and trail riding. It doesn’t include bike commuting on my Brompton and fat biking. But likely that’s not much. My commute is under 5 km and my fat bikes rides are usually in the 10-15 km range. My Zwift teammate Jim is going to hit 10,000 km but I am trying not to be jealous.

5000 km is just under 100 km a week. I set my Strava goal as 100 km a week and I make that most weeks so where I am now makes sense. But I am feeling the need for an end of year challenge. I’d like to beat last year’s 5326.09 km. A little extra push rather than just coasting to the 5000 km mark.

6000 is too much but could I make it to 5500?

Let’s do some math. There are 48 days left in the year and roughly 900 km to ride. That’s less than 20 km a day. Seems doable. 140 km a week? Also, doable. More than I have been doing but not ridiculous.

Let’s do it!