habits

A Peek Inside the Balance 365 Facebook Group

Feature photo credit: Jiang Xulei via Unsplash

It’s been 4 months since I joined Balance 365 (B365), and I am finding the private Facebook group to be a valuable resource.  When I started, I was looking for community but skeptical that it would be much of a learning environment for me.  After all, my background is in science and I’ve nerdy about fitness and nutrition a long time, and I’m a health and science teacher by profession.  I’m also a regular at my therapist’s office, so I’m no stranger to self-reflection.  And yet, there’s something wonderful about the shared values and goals of the women in B365.  It is a rare place where women celebrate each other without judgement or implicit competition.  And I’m learning about myself and my habits, too.

The group affirms each woman finding their own path and supports body autonomy–the solutions for you may not be the solutions for me.  What feels good and healthy for one person may not for another.  These values are reinforced with little sayings and mantras–”keep you eyes on your own plate,” (focus on your own choices, not on other people’s), “take the cherry with the pit,” (find what you can learn from a bad decision and move on), and “be a Grown Ass Woman (GAW),” (mother yourself with healthy boundaries and with compassion).

Every day, one of the coaches posts a recurring post for that day of the week.  Women post in the comments and sometimes you get a little love, or women comment and commiserate, or maybe a coach asks you questions and prods you to think about something in a new way. (Getting the women to advise each other is a great teacher trick, by the way. Every teacher knows that you learn the most when you have to teach others.) In addition to these daily, official posts, members can post their own questions and experiences.  They share what’s working for them, ask for help if they’re feeling stuck, and celebrate NSV (Non-scale Victories).

I’ve posted a handful of times.  I like to share the occasional recipe.  I often participate in the daily recurring posts.  A few weeks ago I got outside my comfort zone and posted a video of myself doing squats.  I wanted to experience the discomfort of being seen and face my chronic expectation that I am being judged and found less-than-worthy.  I have a deep well of perfectionism, and I know that to really find a healthy balance in my habits, I need to reduce the power of being motivated by my fear of how others might perceive me.  It’s been really powerful to just get used to knowing folks have seen me doing those lifts, knowing that they were flawed (my right hip slides around and my form can get wobbly).  And as a result of the conversations in the thread that followed, I’ve come to be ok with the fact that I’m working on all of it.

In this environment, which habits you are working on, what goals you set, and to what degree you are focused on the work is entirely up to you.  Another B365 mantra, “good, better, best” encourages folks to find the solutions that work best for them in the moment, not to just seek out whatever seems optimal on paper.  At first, this do-it-at-your-own-pace aspect of B365 can seem daunting.  There are always some posts from newer members asking where they should start and how they should decide what to do next.  However, I think a real benefit of this structure is that it really forces participants to figure out what THEY believe they can follow through on successfully, and holds them accountable TO THEMSELVES. None of us are watching them to see if they’re keeping in step with some arbitrary timeline.  

For folks who benefit from more structure and guidance, I assume that joining group coaching helps with that.  However, even when they’re enrolled in coaching, you see women post about goal-setting questions and to what degree they want to actively participate in coaching calls.  At the end of the day, it’s their job to figure out for themselves what they need and what they are willing to commit to.

The only habit changes that will work for someone and last for the long term are the changes that are rooted in the realities of each person’s life, their values and beliefs, and that reaffirm what they want for themselves in the present and in the future.  That is the work that women are doing in the B365 Facebook group.  Figuring out what fits, why it matters to them, and what they can do consistently.  It’s pretty cool to watch and be a part of.  I’m happy that I joined.

Photo description: A fisherman in Myanmar balancing on the edge of his boat with a net upraised in one hand and pole in the other. I wanted an image of “balance,” and I thought this one was cool, even if it’s a bit off topic.
Photo credit: Guille Alvarez via Unsplash

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found sharing her favorite protein-filled snack foods, picking up heavy things and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon.

fitness · habits · motivation

Go Team! March 16: Encouragement Boost – You’re doing GREAT.

It feels like far longer than 6 weeks since I finished my series of ‘Go Team!’ posts so it is definitely time for a little encouragement boost.

So, let me jump right to the good stuff:

You are doing great and I am proud of your efforts.

It doesn’t matter if you have been pushing your physical limits every day or if you are just barely squeezing in a few extra steps here and there (which, frankly, *is* pushing your limits, just in a different way!), you are doing what you can, when you can, and it all counts.

Your efforts matter. Either way.

And, yes, I understand that maybe you haven’t followed the plan that you meant to follow.

Maybe you had days when you *could* have exercised but you didn’t.

Maybe you haven’t been giving it your all, or even your ‘some.’

That’s okay and you’re okay.

If you keep coming back and doing what you can to take care of your body – whatever that phrase means to you – you are doing well.

You don’t have to have a perfect record for exercise.

You don’t have anything to prove.

You can keep going, you can start over, you can try again.

You get a lifetime of chances to find the type of movement that makes you feel most like yourself.

Just please be kind to yourself about the whole messy process.

Being hard on yourself gets you nowhere. Being kind to yourself leads to progress AND you get to feel good along the way.

Here’s your gold star for today – a super-deluxe-over-the-top gold sparkler star for your spectacular self.

Image description: a gold sparkler (hand-held firework) is emitting star shapes in all directions.​
I love these sparklers – it’s like owning a shooting star! Image description: a gold sparkler (hand-held firework) is emitting star shapes in all directions.

fitness · flexibility · habits · self care · stretching

Backing it up: Christine treats the symptoms and the cause

My plan for February was to do a little work on my upper back mobility every day.

Alas, that plan did not take into account the fact that February messes with me every year.

A small elderly woman sitting in a living room chair is shrugging with one  arm and holding a cup and saucer in her other hand.
Picture it, February 2021… (Image description: A GIF from the TV show ‘Golden Girls’ in which Sophia Petrillo, a small elderly woman in a stripped dress who is sitting in a living room chair, makes a dismissive shrugging gesture with one hand while holding a cup and saucer in her other hand.)

(I can’t really explain how it messes with me. It’s some sort of mid-winter slump combined with an odd sense of shortened time. Anyway, I have made note in my calendar to take it into account next year!)

But I didn’t get upset with myself about being less diligent than I had intended. I just did my stretches, movements, and yoga whenever I had the capacity and wherewithal to do so.

It turns out, though, that my lack of capacity for daily work on my upper back actually helped me to identify one of the underlying causes of my tight muscles.

Since I was aware that I wasn’t doing the stretches and everything that I intended to do, I really started paying attention to when and how my upper back felt the worst.

And observing that ‘when and how’ led me to realize that not only was my chair in my home office too low and at a bad angle for my back but my monitor was at the wrong height.

An adult man dances in an oversized Adirondack  chair.
My chair wasn’t quite this off-kilter but once I started paying attention it felt like it. (Image description: A man dances while seated in a comically over-sized red Adirondack chair. It’s a sunny day, there is greenery nearby and a few buildings are in the background.)

So I elevated my monitor and I switched out my chair for one that was less fun but better for my back.

Now, I’m not saying that this fixed the problem entirely. My upper back still needs me to do the stretching and yoga. I still need to pay attention to how I’m holding myself and how long I am sitting in one position.

But addressing that underlying cause of at least part of the problem has made an incredible difference.

It’s not just that my upper back feels more mobile and less tight, I feel better overall. I have had fewer of the specific type of headache that generates from a tight upper back and I feel more relaxed.

So even though I didn’t follow my exact plan I still got where I needed to go.

And I’m calling that a victory.

A person in a yellow,tubular costume waves their arms as they walk through booths at an event.
It’s a very wiggly victory, apparently! Image description: a person in a yellow tubular costume with a happy expression on it waves the long skinny arms of their costume while they walk between booths at an event.
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.

habits · self care

Working Out When You’re Experiencing Depression

Feature image credit: Anthony Tran, via Unsplash

I have experienced depression off and on for most of my life.  I also now experience symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder which can feel a lot like depression, with moments of low moods coming seemingly out of nowhere, triggered often by nothing of which I am aware.  It can be very difficult to maintain exercise and nutrition habits while feeling like crap for days at a time.  The nature of depression is to feel like nothing matters, to feel like life is beyond our control and out of our depth.  These are not motivating, inspiring feelings!  So what do you do if you find yourself feeling low and notice it impacting your healthy routines?

I try to start with some self-compassion.  My self-talk can be especially self-critical during these times, and it’s important for me to notice that and counteract it with less judgy thoughts: I’m doing the best I can; I’m just having a hard time right now.  These moments come and go and they don’t define who I am or how I live my entire life.  If I can remember this last point, that the feelings of low mood are just that, feelings, and by definition feelings are impermanent and changeable, it goes a long way to helping me feel ok with where I’m at in the moment.  It’s just this moment, not forever.

Related to this last point, I try to focus on what I am doing rather than what I’m not.  Most of us don’t throw in the towel on EVERY healthy behavior when we’re feeling down.  Still brushing your teeth and taking a shower?  Still eating breakfast and taking your medications?  Took some time to connect with your sweetie?  All these count and are good.  If you can talk yourself into taking a walk or doing 5 minutes of exercises, that’s great, too!  Give yourself credit for doing that much and know that tomorrow, you might feel up for more. There can also be an element of emotional inertia to these small behaviors, when I can find that doing one small thing for myself helps me feel more up to doing something else I know is good for me, too. 

Speaking of taking a walk, I have found that time outside is one of the most restorative things I can do for my mood.  I almost always feel better.  Sometimes, all I want is to sit on the porch or do a little gardening.  Even that much is a boost. Especially in winter, any moment of sunshine or even just a bright patch of clouds relative to the darker grey around them seems to help.  If your outdoor space doesn’t accommodate some gardening or lounging, or the weather is too miserable, try setting up in a sunnier window.  Put a comfy chair where your face will get hit with some light and take a moment to bask.

During moments of depression, it is especially important that we connect with others.  If you have a routine of exercising with others, even virtually, you may find that these connections help to lift your mood.  I’m very introverted and I don’t seek out a lot of time with others, but I still benefit from feelings of connection.  I try to spend more time playing or snuggling with my cats, to hang out with my husband, or to send notes to friends I haven’t heard from in a while.  Even exercising to a familiar old workout video can give me the illusion of company and help me feel better.  I also like to relisten to beloved audiobooks while I go on my walks or to put in the actors’ commentary for one of the Lord of the Rings movies to play in the background while I’m lifting!

Finally, I try to notice when my depression-related behaviors seem more unhelpful or counter to my long term goals and gently attempt to prevent them from becoming new habits.  I don’t expect myself to never soothe myself with food or to always go to bed right on time.  However, if I find that emotional eating has become more of a norm, or I’m fighting going to bed early enough night after night, then I try to gently redirect those behaviors.  I notice when I’m eating when I’m not hungry and consider if there’s something else that would feel good.  I notice that I’m staying up too late again and consider turning out the light 10 minutes earlier.  This isn’t time for drastic, life-changing transformations but gentle nudges back in the direction of my health and long term happiness.

Feeling crappy sucks. But, there are things we can do to help us move through it and make it slightly less awful.  We will come out the other side; we will feel better again.  I’m going to keep trying to give myself the time and space to be where I am now to know that it is not where I will be forever.  When I can, whatever exercising I can do will help to reduce the impacts of my depression and trauma, and may reduce the length of time that I experience those feelings.  If you can relate, I hope you can also give yourself the space to do what you can do today and be kind to yourself along the way!

Photo description: Woman sitting in a sunny windowsill reading a book. She is wearing a white tunic and boots. Photo credit: Thought Catalog IcU, via Unsplash.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher.  She can be found getting a little sunlight in her eyes, picking up heavy things and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon.

fitness · habits · motivation · running · winter

Of streaks and inertia: Tracy’s COVID winter

Image description: Selfie of two women, Anita and Tracy (in 2019!), inside a diner, wearing hats and smiles, after a 20K Sunday run, others in the background.

The other day Anita posted one of those memories we get these days on our social media. It was from two years ago, the two of us smiling, in the diner we used to go to for breakfast after our Sunday runs. Its 2019 caption said: “The epic runs begin for the Round the Bay race. 20k, easy peasy!” And its 2021 caption said: “I can’t even imagine easy peasy 20km now. Tracy?” My reply: “No, I cannot. I am impressed with those two!”

And I am. They seem like different people, all excited to be winter running for 20K, in preparation for a late March 30K. Smiling even after the 20K. Able to go out for breakfast after. Two people from different households leaning in for an unmasked selfie. With other people in the background. Was that really just two scant years ago?

My experience, my very quiet experience, this winter has been of streaks and inertia. Both have their own quality of momentum in my life. The more I do (or do not do), the easier it is to do the same (or continue to not do) the next day.

I look outside this afternoon. The sun shines. It’s cold, but not as cold as it has been of late. I started January with a commitment to get outside for a run or a walk every day. That was one of my streaks that I hoped to keep going through the winter. But the runs soon turned to shorter runs. Then shorter runs turned to longer walks. Then longer walks became walks around the block. The streak ended before January did. And on the weekend I cancelled both a walk and a run with others (and heaven knows I could benefit from the company of others) because it was just too cold and I couldn’t face the windchill. My toes froze just thinking about it.

The Tracy who did the easy peasy 20K two years ago would be incredulous. But the less one runs 20K, the less likely it is that one will run 20K. That’s the inertia of ramping down. As I said to Cate, inertia and streaks are equally strong in their respective energies.

I am considering going out before the sun goes down today. It is in fact a little bit warmer, only -11C with the windchill, and I am after all a Canadian who has trained through many a winter. But I am also considering a nap. All of this rages on as an internal debate. I know how even just a little bit in the other direction can take me out of inertia (I have blogged about this SO MUCH, how scaling back can get me back on track, how small starts are all we [I] need). But I don’t feel like doing a short run or walk. I feel like staying inside. And in the end no one else does (or even should) care.

Counterbalancing the inertia are some divinely satisfying streaks! I have been on a meditation streak since September, meditating at least a little bit almost every day. I started the Insight Timer January Mindful Mornings challenge on January 1st, and I didn’t miss a day until yesterday, which got me thinking about streaks and how much they motivate me to do the same again. The Insight Timer app tells you after your meditation how many consecutive days you meditated. And there is something about that total that pulls me to my cushion the next day (it’s probably counter to the very idea of meditation to call it a “challenge” or a “streak,” so fixated the meditation teachers always are on just “being” in the “present moment” etc.). Still, I once had a daily meditation streak that lasted unbroken for years (I forget how many; it was a while back). I might have missed yesterday, resetting my “consecutive days” to a sad “one consecutive day” this morning. But I think I can jump right back into that because a streak’s momentum is not undermined (for me, anyway) with one little miss.

Added to my meditation streak is my yoga streak. I started 2021 with Yoga with Adriene’s Breath practice, the 30-day sequence. I didn’t miss a day, and some of those days the ONLY reason I didn’t miss a day was that I had not missed a day. Having not missed a day, it became harder to let that happen. This, to me, is the simple and elegant beauty of a streak.

And when January ended, I wanted to keep going. Why? Because I hadn’t missed a day of yoga in 2021, of course.

My other streak-ish sort of thing are my virtual Superhero workouts. I started out with the once-a-week membership. Then I increased to the three-times-a-week membership. And then I went to the unlimited membership, which gives me the option of six workouts a week. You can pretty much count on me for five a week. The idea originally was to do four a week and run on the off days, walk on the “on” days, and do yoga everyday (whatever Adriene was offering, without asking too many questions [not that there is anyone to ask]).

My COVID winter is basically me bouncing between streaks and inertia, with maybe a bit more mindful awareness of what is going on (my WOY is “mindfulness”). I’m working my way out of being totally stalled in my running. And when I am ready to bust out of it, I’ll take tiny steps in the other direction. Who knows? Maybe by the end of this winter I will have a running streak to report, letting the momentum carry me back to 10K.

How about you? Any streaks? Any inertia?

diets · eating · habits · overeating

Diet Deprogramming: Diet Mindset and Time

CW and Note:  This is part of an ongoing, occasional series based on the work I’m doing as a participant in Balance 365.  You can read about my decision to join the group here.  Discussion of nutrition habits and diets.  Feature photo credit: Mick Haupt via Unsplash

Are you struggling to make changes to your nutrition without swinging between extremes–first you’re on a roll, aiming for optimal and then you’ve got a big case of the eff-its and eating ALL THE FOODS?  In order to make healthy, consistent changes to our nutrition habits, we need to have healthy, consistent thinking about them and find a way to reduce these swings in behavior.  If you were raised in a “Western” society, your thoughts have been influenced by diet culture, even if you’ve never been on a diet.  Diet culture and it’s equally problematic sister, dieting mindset, make it harder for us to make the consistent habit changes we aim to make.

Diets limit when you can eat, how much you can eat, and/or what you can eat.  Each one of these limitations creates patterns of thought that we might need to address in order to successfully make healthy changes to our nutrition habits.  Today, I’m going to address only the first one, how limiting when we can eat influences our mindset. Diets might say you can’t eat before or after a certain time each day, or when it’s ok to eat your next meal.  Even if you’ve never been on a diet, you’ve probably been told everyone should eat breakfast or avoid late night eating.  The coaches at Balance 365 teach that these kinds of rules create habits of thought, and therefore behaviors, that can contribute to diet mindset, and we must address our mindset, if we want to make long-lasting, sustainable changes to our behaviors.

Returning to my area of expertise, my own experiences, I can see that I sometimes have thoughts about limiting when I can or should eat.  I wrote this summer that I’d noticed that I was experiencing hunger between breakfast and lunch and was preventing myself from eating more because it seemed like I “shouldn’t” be hungry.  If I didn’t want to add a snack between breakfast and lunch, there were other options besides just going hungry.  I could change what I ate for breakfast to something more satisfying. Or, I could increase the size of the portions of some or all of what I was eating at breakfast.  Notice that in order to consider these options, I had to first be ok with the reality that I was hungry between meals and accept that it was problematic for me.  The dieting mindset showed up as invalidating the information my body was giving me, and telling me to ignore my hunger.  My solution this summer was to increase how much protein I got at breakfast–making sure I have eggs AND Greek yogurt most mornings.  Recently, I’ve also started adding kale or some frozen veggies to my eggs, and I’m finding that it is helping me feel even more satisfied and to have stable energy levels before lunch.

Another example of time-based restriction I’ve observed in myself is that I adhere to strict meal times.  I don’t ever remember deciding that breakfast is at 8:00am, lunch is at noon, snack at 3:00, and dinner at 6:30, but every day this is my routine.  I look at the clock, and use that cue to inform when I am eating.  3:00pm snack can be especially powerful, and I sometimes find myself anxious if I’m doing something that interferes with this schedule.  Diet mindset kicks in, I become worried I’m going to go hungry (another consequence of dieting mindset, fear of hunger and treating it like an emergency, worthy of a post all its own), and I begin to figure out how I can make that snack happen.  A downside for my health is that I often make less nutritious and less satisfying food choices when I eat in order to assuage my anxiety.  For now, my solution is to preplan some healthy afternoon snacks so I know I have options that will keep me satisfied without ruining my dinner, and I’m working on tuning into my internal hunger and satiety cues to determine when I eat, at least to the degree that I can within the confines of my job.  This is a bigger task, and I imagine it will require some time for me to become consistent with this skill.

Diet culture tells us to use external factors like time to determine when we eat.  Unlearning this element of dieting mindset requires noticing when we are limiting ourselves temporally, and finding solutions that work for us that address the underlying challenges.  How this shows up will be different for each of us.  For me, I’m noticing that I have strong feelings about when it’s ok to be hungry and when I expect to eat. I look forward to a time when I have fully let go of some of these restrictions and anxieties and have found patterns that support my health and help me feel my best in a sustainable way.

Image description: Red neon sign in front of a dark, brick background. It reads “EAT.” Photo credit: Tim Mossholder, via Unsplash

Have you ever noticed yourself using external, time-based restrictions on when you eat? Does it feel problematic for you? Is it a mindset that you’ve considered changing?

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found noticing how she feels before and after meals, picking up heavy things and putting them down again in Portland, Oregon.

fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 31 : How Do Things Look From Here?

It’s the last day of January and the last day of this Go Team series so it’s the perfect time to do a some ‘big picture’ reflection.*

The short version of this post would read: It’s ok to change anything about your plans, even your goal itself. Success may look different now than it did in January 1st.

The longer version? Well, that has more details:

If you’ve been reading this series (thank-you!), you probably started this month with plans and ideas for the habits you want to add into your life this year.

Perhaps you had a specific goal in mind, or a set of conditions you want to meet at points throughout the year. (Similar to a goal but maybe not the same.)

Now that you have had a month to explore those ideas and work on those things, do you still want them?

Perhaps this month has solidified your plans and you are dedicated to the path you chose.

Or, maybe you’ve realized that you still want the end result but the path/speed you chose isn’t going to get you there.

It could be that you’ve realized that that goal isn’t something you want after all, or, at least, it isn’t for you right now.

Now that you have a month of extra experience concerning that goal you could have any of a million different ideas/feelings about how much it suits you.

You are not stuck with the plans/goals you chose on January 1.

At any point you can change your plans, change your goals, change your approach.

Only you can know what success looks like for you. And since you are always changing and your life is always changing, your interpretation of what success means will change over time.

It’s all about how you want to feel, what you want to do, what you hope to train your body to do…at any given point in time.

You are the only one who can figure out what you want and if your plans and methods will get you there.

Only you can decide if you just need more time or if you need a different method or if you need a different goal.

Changing goals, changing methods, or changing direction are all valid things to do after a month of experimenting with fitness and wellness.

You haven’t failed. You didn’t do anything wrong. You are not lost.

If you feel like you have failed or that you have gotten lost, I invite you to Rudner your plans.

Ages ago, I heard Comedian Rita Rudner make this great joke about how she handles being lost and I have used the idea metaphorically ever since – sometimes literally.

I never panic when I get lost. I just change where it is I want to go.

Rita Rudner

To extend the metaphor a bit: Making changes at this point (or any point) is like when you are listening to GPS directions and you get off course.

The GPS voice will be telling you that you missed your planned turn-off and it will give you directions to get back to it. (Which is one option.)

If you keep going, it will tell you it is recalibrating and it will give you new directions to the same destination. (Another option.)

Or, you can reprogram that chatty machine and give it a whole new destination. (Also a good option.)

You are in control and you can choose how to respond to the directions from the GPS. Up to, and including, reprogramming it or turning it off.

You are the boss of you and YOU get to decide what success means.

Well, mostly.

Because, at this exact moment, *I* am deciding what success means. I hereby declare that you have been successful thus far.

You have made an effort, physically, mentally, emotionally, over and over, to move forward with your plans.

It doesn’t matter how far you have moved, I say that your efforts count and they should be rewarded.

Hence, I award you the largest gold star on my collection:

For your efforts, my friends!

Forge ahead. I believe in you.

 A large gold coloured paper star decorated with gold spirals and star-shaped cut-out sections rests against a dark blue backdrop.
In celebration of our efforts together over the last 24 days, I offer my giant paper star- the largest star I own. It’s gold coloured paper decorated with gold spirals and star-shaped cut-out sections. Each point is 30cm/11.8 inches from the centre. Photo credit: My son, J. Image description: A large gold coloured paper star decorated with gold spirals and star-shaped cut-out sections rests against a dark blue backdrop.

*I revisit this theme on a regular basis. Here’s a post I wrote on Facebook a few years ago that expands on what I wrote above.

Hey Team!

Here we are at the end of January. Go figure!

The end of any month tends to make us compare what we did with what we meant to do, and there is extra weight to January’s reflection because of all the new year brouhaha.

But, here’s the thing, that mental review only has the meaning that we give it.

And we don’t have to be hard on ourselves about it.

Not getting to the end of your to do list is not a personal failure, it is JUST information.

It might be telling us that our list was too long. (This often happens. We think our future selves will be at peak performance levels all the time.)

It might be telling us that we had less time this month than we thought we would have.

It might be telling us that our schedule doesn’t work well for us.

It might be telling us that our systems aren’t serving us well.

It’s information for our future selves to use in making the next steps, it is not an indictment of our past or present selves.

So, that being said, when you make your plans for February, see how you can use that information to be kinder to yourself. See if you can make your requests to your future self a little closer to their capacity and their reality.

(For example, please don’t make the mistake I make and think that a work day with three meetings can also include all of your routine tasks for that day. That’s not how time works, apparently.😏)

And, most importantly, as you look ahead to next month, add in time for rest and for play – especially during busy or stressful times. You need time to recover, physically and emotionally, from challenging times. That’s not weakness, that’s just how human bodies and human minds work.

Finally, as you look at your lists, remember to consider the routine things and the non-tangible things you did. Making meals, returning phone calls, providing emotional support, filing papers, those all count and they all take time.

(Or as I said to a friend of mine recently – “If I measure my success this week in words written, I’m not accomplishing much, but if I measure it in emotional support delivered, I am knocking it out of the park.”)

Be kind to yourself, my friends, things go a lot more smoothly that way.

⭐️<- for your efforts today

Image description: A sketchbook opened to a page filled with drawings of black and white patterns. The words ‘Let’s Start Here’ are drawn in heavy black letters at the bottom of the page.
The patterns in the background of this drawing of mine are from a meditative drawing practice called Zentangles or Zendoodles. If you are trying to meditate but can’t quite get there, it might be worth giving this kind of drawing a try. Image description: A sketchbook opened to a page filled with drawings of black and white patterns. The words ‘Let’s Start Here’ are drawn in heavy black letters at the bottom of the page.

fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 30: All About Your Feelings

About 5 years ago, I was all tangled up in how to design and organize my website and a friend of mine gave me some great advice:

“Think about how you want people to FEEL when they visit. Think about how YOU want to feel when you direct people there. Use those feelings to guide your decisions.”

That was a lightning bolt moment for me.

I had always been focused on how I wanted my site to work and what I wanted people to see but I had never included feelings in the equation.

(Which was weird considering how often I nope out of a site because something about it squicks me out.)

It was an excellent way for me to make the decisions* I had to make about my site. And, of course, once it helped me in one area I used it in all sorts of others, too.

I found that it works especially well when it comes to fitness and wellness. And I include emotions and physical feelings in fitness/wellness decisions.

And, often, they become my ‘in the moment’ goals, letting me focus on my process, instead of on my ‘results’ goals which might be a long way away.

How do I want to feel during my practice?

Perhaps I want to feel at ease, or I want to feel challenged, or I want to feel energized. It changes from time to time.

How do I want to feel afterwards?

Perhaps I want to feel happier or I want to feel like I have worked every muscle or I want to grounded. I pick the activity that will (likely) give me the mood I want.

How will this make me feel in my day-to-day movements?

One of my major motivations is that when I exercise regularly the change in my leg muscles makes me feel more grounded and more powerful. Seeking that feeling instead of hoping my legs will *look* a certain way has been helpful for me. (Note: There’s nothing wrong with wanting your legs to look a certain way, I just can’t use it as a metric because I don’t have enough control over the results.)

I have even been considering tracking how my exercise/wellness practices make me feel every time so I can revisit them when my motivation dips and I need a reminder of why I practice.

Do you use you physical or emotional feelings to guide your exercise plans?

If not, do you think it might be useful to consider them?

And maybe even track them?

I strongly FEEL that you deserve a gold star for your efforts today, this week, and this month. Whether you have been moving, meditating, being mindful, drinking more water, or just trying to do all of those things, your efforts matter.

Keep at it!

Image description: A heavily decorated gold starfish shape with a shiny fake gem in the centre stands on one of its points on a base covered in shiny gold and silver fake coral and shells.
Tomorrow your gold star will be the biggest star I have, today it’s the most over-the-top star that I own. I bought it at Ripley’s Aquarium gift shop in Toronto in 2016 because holding it made me fell like I had won the encouragement Oscars or something. Yes, I know it’s a bit much, but it’s super fun and I love how it makes me feel (see what I did there?) Image description: A heavily decorated gold starfish shape with a shiny fake gem in the centre stands on one of its points on a base covered in shiny gold and silver fake coral and shells.

*Perhaps this is a natural part of your decision-making process? Previous to that point, I hadn’t really brought my feelings into a lot of those sorts of decisions.

fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 29: Claim An Easy Win

Whether you have been able to work on your habit every day so far or you have been trying to figure out how to make your habit work, I’d like you to claim an easy win today.

What’s the teeniest, most straightforward, simplest example of the habit you have been trying to develop?

Maybe it is one mindful breath.

Perhaps a single yoga pose.

One rep.

One stretch.

One sip of water.

Think of a tiny thing that represents what you are trying to include in your life.

And do it right now.

Can’t do it right now? Pick a specific time to do it later – use an alarm, a reminder or a cue (i.e. I’ll do a squat while I cook supper.) to ensure that it gets done.

Then, celebrate that easy win – put a star on your calendar, pat yourself on the back, pump your fist in the air, shout ‘Go me!’ Whatever feels good to you.

You can do more than the teeny thing if you want to, of course, but the win lies in doing the small thing. Everyone who does the small thing can claim a victory no matter how much or how little else you do.

You might think of a small win as unimportant but pushing back against the challenges you face and creating that foothold for yourself can be the key to establishing the practice you want.

When it comes to building habits your repeated effort is the most important thing. Once your tiny wins are routine, you can build on them and you’ll be glad that you started small.*

So, go on and lift your arms over your head in a stretch or put your hands out in front of you and roll your fingers into a fist. Stand up slowly and sit back down even slower. Gently stretch your neck to one side and then the other. Squeeze your shoulders up to your ears while you inhale and then let them drop while you quickly exhale.

Do the small thing you can do as soon as you can possibly do and then be proud of yourself for carving out that time today.

I’m proud of your efforts and I offer you this gold star in celebration.

 Image description: a drawing of a gold star with lines of other small shapes radiating outward from each point.
Another of my star drawings. Yes, I draw stars often. Image description: a drawing of a gold star with lines of other small shapes radiating outward from each point.

*PS – Even if you did something huge yesterday or the day before but today this tiny win is a challenge, it is still a win. You are still showing up for yourself. Yesterday, I did a single yoga pose (frog) but I still counted yoga as done.