fitness · Happy New Year!

Catherine turns January blahs and writing block into a blog post of sorts

Well, it’s happened: I’m sitting here in front of the white screen of my laptop, waiting for blog post inspiration to strike, and… uh, nothing. It’s kind of like when you open the fridge or peruse a menu at a restaurant, and nothing grabs your attention. Caesar salad? Nah. Six things I don’t like about Man Flow Yoga? Not feeling it. I do have a post-in-process about the Dalai Lama’ 10-day Happiness Challenge, but it’s only day 6, so that will have to wait. (Spoiler alert: the Dalai Lama has this super-cute habit of sticking his tongue out after he makes a joke, which is often. I love this).

So, what’s been going on this week? Well, I missed a day of meditation because of travel busyness, so my Ten Percent Happier app restarted me. I always have a momentary “Drat!” response, but the upside is that I get short-streak phone confetti as I progress through the three-day, five-day, etc. streaks. Here’s one of their reminders.

I hit a 3-day streak for the 39th time. Restarting is a big part of my meditation practice.
I hit a 3-day streak for the 39th time. Restarting is a big part of my meditation practice.

My sabbatical is ending (which perhaps might explain some of the January blahs I’m feeling), so I’ve been in a flurry of last-minute-before-teaching activity. I’m cleaning out my junk room/study and turning it back into a guest bedroom/study. Clearing out stuff is in some ways easy for me– I enjoy getting rid of things and sending them on their way. Donating books to the library– check. Dropping off stuff at Goodwill or some other place– check. It’s the stuff I want to keep that creates problems. Where to put it? How to organize it? Here are some of the categories that create storage conundra for me:

  • paper crafts stuff
  • jewelry-making crafts stuff
  • lots of sports stuff– mats, roller, some weights, bands, etc.
  • books books books books books books books books
  • papers from who knows when about who knows what
  • cute furniture that I just don’t have room for given the new plan
  • miscellaneous items not related to above themes

I’m a member of a Buy-Nothing group, which I love. I’ve gotten rid of things and also picked up a few things from them. In addition, it’s often amusing to see what folks will list. One person offered up some chocolate chip cookies, which “are a little burned, so we won’t eat them. But maybe you would like them?” Seriously, this was an actual post.

I’ve made some progress in sorting and designating locations and stay-or-go decisions but am stalled at the moment.

Yes, the image of pushing a car uphill seems rather apt this week.
Yes, the image of pushing a car uphill seems rather apt this week.

Of course, once classes get going this coming week, I’ll be back in gear (get it? gear? well, I’m trying) and the feeling of being suspended will go away out of necessity. I also want to join a gym next week. I’ve picked out one to visit, but just haven’t managed to get there, even though it’s a 10-minute drive from my house.

Google maps image of the route to the gym, which takes 9 minutes.
Oh, I misspoke; it’s actually a 9-minute drive.

One more thing before I go and tackle the study again: here are some clothing items I managed not to buy this week:

Used but in good condition cardigan and dress, both red. Perused but bought by me this week.
Used but in good condition cardigan and dress, both red. Perused but bought by me this week.

If you’re still reading, thanks for stopping by. I expect to be my active FIFI-topical self next week. Keep an eye out for my Dalai Lama and how to get happier post soon. In the meantime: how’re you doing? Feeling blah? Are you energized by the new year? What’s up? I’d love to hear from you, as always.

fitness · habits · Happy New Year! · new year's resolutions

New Year, Same Me?

Every new year’s season we face the onslaught of marketing telling us that a “New Year, New You” is possible. A few years ago a friend and I started saying this phrase sarcastically, which then morphed into “New Year, Same Me,” sometimes with a few curse words added in for healthy measure.

As someone who tries to adopt a growth mindset in most areas, I really struggle with both ways of framing the new year. I’m not going to become a “new” person. And I’m not likely to stay the same, either. I hope to grow and change in ways that meet the current challenges and joys in my life. I don’t want to feel “stuck” with my old ways of doing things, but I am not going to be a new person at the stroke of January 1. I’m not going to get fitter, leaner, or smarter at the stroke of midnight.

Photo by Jess Bailey from Unsplash. Rose gold pen resting over an open yearly planner book.
Rose gold pen resting over an open yearly planner.

And yet there is a strong pull to believe that could happen, thanks to the layers upon layers of marketing that tell us it could be so. And then there are the headlines! Oh, the headlines. “It takes 21 days to build a habit” “Resolution-makers unlikely to stick with resolutions” “Resolution-makes do better with habit-building than those without resolutions” and on and on they go, each one contradicting the next.

Here’s what I know about me… your mileage may vary – I like the fresh hope a new week/month/year bring when thinking about habits or changes. I like to pause and reflect on the previous time span, thinking about how I met (or didn’t) meet the goals I put forth, what things brought me joy, and what changes I could make to get more of those experiences. I like to dream up fun ways to challenge myself and new experiences I could share with my loved ones.

I also know it takes me way longer than 21 days to build a habit. The last habit I intentionally adopted took me 6 months to adopt, and another 2 months before it felt like a natural part of my routine. Sometimes I do better with starting on a “new” block of time, but other times I’ll just randomly start a “streak” on a Tuesday afternoon and keep it going for some period of time.

I know I only have the resources to focuses on one or two new things at a time. I cannot drastically increase my fitness time and my writing time simultaneously. I can’t take up a winter outdoor activity without updating some of my outdoor clothing and gear, which may conflict with a “low-spend” resolution. I do better when I can plan some of these conflicts ahead of time. Maybe I’ll do a low-spend period with the exception of outdoor gear updates. Or I’ll decide in advance that I want to prioritize my writing over anything else when I run short of time and/or energy. My brain likes knowing what the plan is before the conflict happens, even if the plan doesn’t always get followed as written.

All that is to say…. I’m both overwhelmed with possibility and exhausted by the same. I’m embracing the quiet and cold season to reflect and rest. I’ve chosen my word of the year (create) but I haven’t really landed on what that means just yet.

How about you? Do you have plans to become a new you? The same old you? A mildly different you? What is your plan for the new year?

Amy Smith is a professor of Media & Communication and a communication consultant who lives north of Boston. Her research interests include gender communication and community building. Amy spends her movement time riding the basement bicycle to nowhere, walking her two dogs, and waiting for it to get warm enough for outdoor swimming in New England.

challenge · fitness · goals · habits · Happy New Year!

Some new year challenges we recommend

YMMV but we’re not big on new year’s resolutions here on the blog. That said, we do often embark on new year’s challenges.

Here’s three of our favorites:

Yoga with Adriene, Center

It’s January and that means it’s time for Adriene’s 30 day yoga journey. This year it’s called Center. I won’t be doing it while recovering from knee replacement surgery but in years past I’ve really enjoyed it as a start to the year.

Gretchen Rubin’s 23 in 23

Go Outside 23 in 23 is a simple habit changing—go outside for 23 minutes a day in 2023.

Outside in 23

Workout 223 times in 2023

The goal is simple, workout 223 times in 2023. We use the Facebook group as our accountability check in and we support one another through life’s many challenges. I love seeing all the different things members get up to. Here’s a link to the original group that started it all as well.

Training to smash the patriarchy

Any others to add to the list?

covid19 · Happy New Year! · motivation · new year's resolutions

4 “Old Year” Resolutions for the New Year

New year’s resolution web articles normally help readers to set and achieve their big goals. This year, some authors—including Christine, Catherine, and Natalie at FIFI—have shifted to encouraging smaller “micro-resolutions” or to changing our approach altogether. The author of this article from The Atlantic claims that resolutions aren’t “vibe” for 2022, and instead encourages folks to reflect on “small good things” that reveal why our goals matter in the first place.

Working from home last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve started a few random habits that motivate me to help me care for my health. After reviewing this article on the “small good things,” I realized that these are behaviours I’d like to carry over from the previous year because they connect with things I value.

So, here are four of my “old year resolutions” for 2022:

#1 Sun Salutations – D&D Style

D20 on a yoga mat
A die with 20 sides on a yoga mat.

Because I work at my desk all day, I need to stop and stretch. But I find stretching boring. So, for my stretch breaks I’ve started doing sun salutation sequences while regulating my breath. But how many cycles do I do?

I also like to play games. So, when I get up for a stretch, I’ll roll a D20. Whatever my roll, that’s how many repetitions of the asanas I do. I get a needed break from sitting and the die roll connects with how I value games and keeping exercise fun.

#2 Empty and Refill Station

Over the years I’ve tried so many ways to drink more water–setting a timer, drinking a glass of water at every 3rd hour, toting water bottles around with me everywhere, using flavour crystals, etc. Nothing seemed convenient for me (my value) to work.

This past year, I discovered that I will have multiple glasses of water in a day if I drink them…right after my pee break. So, I keep a water glass in every bathroom now, because while I’ve already got the faucet on and am washing my hands, I might as well fill’er up. I also wash the cup now and then with the soap!

#3 The “Hungry Enough” Apple

Because I enjoy snacking, I normally don’t wait until I am hungry to eat. Snacking has been made easier during WFH. But I have a sensitive tummy, I will snack mindlessly until I start to feel sick.

Then, I remembered the “hungry enough” apple (or any fruit equivalent) to avoid over-snacking, a tactic I learned from a past colleague. Now I keep a piece of fruit on my home desk, and if I am “hungry enough” to snack I tell myself to eat it first.

I am NOT suggesting that others should police their food consumption in any kind of way–everyone’s relationship with food is their own and I fully respect that. However, I’ve found that I feel better when I eat fruit before other snacks, even though fruit is not my first snack choice.

#4 Permission to Feel Comfortable

I have about 6 pairs of dress pants in my closet that I used to wear regularly for work, but they have not seen the light of day since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

At first, I reproduced my time-consuming rituals and put on uncomfortable clothing items in order to “dress for work.” But after many months of WFH, I have started giving myself permission to be more comfortable. I still make myself presentable for a professional work environment, but at my desk I use a heating pad, aromatherapy, and stim toys that help me to manage my fidgeting.

I am fortunate enough to have the space and the freedom to adjust my clothing and working environment, but comfort while working was a value I never knew I had until recently.

Making Evolutions, Not Resolutions

These are small behaviours I stumbled on over time that have become helpful habits for my health. They are evolutions, not resolutions, that I hope to keep this year and as long as I can because they reflect what I value.

What “Old Year” resolutions do you hope to keep or maintain in the new year?

221 in 2021 · habits · Happy New Year! · new year's resolutions

A serial overcommitter tries undercommitting

I’m a serial overcommitter. I’ve always been bad at not having some sort of side project going – at least one. But last year, I really overstretched, and it showed. Having a baby/toddler at home, going back to work full-time, and doing an MBA on the side would have been difficult in normal times. Add a pandemic, and it became a recipe for constant exhaustion. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to glorify “being busy” (quite the contrary)! I’m not burnt out either, not in the true sense of the word. I’ve sailed close to it a few times over the last year and a half though – too close for comfort.

As a result of my overcommitment, I didn’t exercise nearly as much as I wanted. In fairness, some other factors also conspired against me achieving my “221 in 2021” goal – the pools were closed until May due to Covid, I caught a few of my son’s daycare colds, etc. I made it to just over 160 and was honestly a bit disappointed with myself. But I’m trying to take a page out of Christine’s book and go easy on myself this year (see also: here. Christine is really killing it!).

A picture of a kite flying in the blue sky. This is the ease Bettina aspiring to this year.
Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

My new year’s resolution this year is to try undercommitting. I’m nearly done with my MBA – I just need to finalise my thesis/field project, which is nearly finished, and take a few more online lectures. The only things I want to do more of this year are reading (which also fell by the wayside last year, mostly because I’d normally fall asleep after a couple of pages) and exercising. I’ve joined 222 in 2022 and we’ll see how I do this year. Here’s to hoping the pools stay open, but I also want to bike, run and hike a lot, which will be easier as the days get longer and my weekends free up from MBA coursework. A bit of yoga every once in a while would be nice too, but what did we say about overcommitting?

How about you – are any of you trying to commit less this year? And how are you planning to do that? Let me know! I’ll keep you posted how it’s going for me (I’ll confess I was very close to making a monthly check-in commitment on this here blog. But I won’t. Ha!).

fitness · habits · Happy New Year! · mindfulness · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 1: New Year, Same You! Yay!

Hello Team!

Welcome to January and welcome to my 2022 series of encouragement posts.

Even though the changing of the year is a fairly arbitrary thing, January 1 is as good a day as any to take a step toward something you want. And I am going to be here all month to encourage you to be kind to yourself as you figure out the steps you want to take to build your fitness, wellness, or mindfulness habits.

If you are making changes in this area of your life, please feel free to join me and to collect your gold stars for your efforts all month. We are all in this together, whether we are just starting out or if we have long established practices and habits. Making changes can be challenging (and non-linear) and it’s good to remind yourself that you aren’t alone in facing those challenges.

Now that I’ve explained myself, onto today’s topic:

As you may have guessed by the title of this post, I am not a fan of the ‘New You!’ narrative that pops up all over the place this time of year.

I may be overthinking* it but the ‘new you’ thing gives me a bad feeling.

Obviously, if you find the phrase inspiring, forge ahead. But, to me, the idea that you need to become a new person in order to add enjoyable things to your life, or to subtracting things that no longer serve you, is a bit weird. It feels like there is something wrong with the current you.

SPOILER: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE CURRENT YOU.

And I don’t want you to start this new year with the feeling that you are some how less than, that you are a project, or that you need fixing. None of that is true.

You, just like all of us, are doing the best you can with the resources you have. If you want things to be different, if you need more time, space, fitness, energy, mindfulness, or whatever, I want you to be able to make changes that let you have those things but I don’t want you to think that you need to be a different person in order to have them.

With slow and steady effort, and a lot of self-compassion, you can change your routines, your systems, and the necessary parts of your schedule, and reshape your days so they serve you better.

Making those changes may alter your self-perception, add layers of confidence and skill, and may bring different aspects of your personality to the forefront, but I like to think of all of that as an expansion of your current self rather than becoming a new person.

And when you think of those changes in terms of expansion, it means every little thing about the process counts. Every time you try, it matters, even if those attempts don’t pan out. You can celebrate your efforts in every direction.

Whether you jumped into your January plans or if you are in your pajamas getting your mind wrapped around what you might do this month, I’m proud of you.

There are a lot of thoughts, small steps, and stages in making changes, no matter how committed we are to them, and when we learn to celebrate all of those thoughts, steps, and stages, we are encouraged to try, to try again, and to keep going.

Here is your gold star for your efforts today.

A person’s hand holding a slithery star ornament into a patch of sunlight on a green wall.
Our first Go Team! Gold star for 2022. Image description: My left hand holding a glittery gold star ornament into a patch of sunlight between two stripes of shadow with a light green wall in the background. The star is intended as a tree-topper for a small tree so it has a coiled stand as a base.

*Overthinking *is* one of my superpowers so I may as well lean into it, hey?

220 in 2020 · fitness · Happy New Year! · new year's resolutions

Opening up the goals for 2021: let’s see what we can do…

Dateline: Dec 31, 2020. Location: Catherine’s laptop. I posted my last of the 220 workouts for 2020. See below:

My 220th posted workout for 2020– a soggy dog walk, some yoga and meditation. It did the job.

We call this just-in-time delivery.

You might think, well, that’s 2020 for you. However, looking back on my posted workouts in 2019 and 2018, my last workouts were all after Christmas. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it does point to a pattern. I have moved through the past few years in fits and spurts, with more dormancy than I would like (as I also know that, *for me*, regular activity coincides with greater functionality and well-being).

So, I’m making a change this year. Even though I’m very happily ensconced in the 221 workouts in 2021 (with the goal of 221 workouts), I’m not making a specific schedule for how many times a week I do cardio, strength training, yoga and meditation (my current lineup). Rather, I’m going to see what I can do this week in these categories, based on my sleep and work schedules, general mood, etc.

You might be thinking:

Say WHAT?!
Say WHAT?!

Hey–I’ve got science on my side! Here’s the Conversation on this topic.

Generally we’re advised to set specific, or SMART, goals (where SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound). Aiming to walk 10,000 steps per day is a common example.

That’s why you might feel you’ve failed after “only” recording 9,000 steps when your goal was 10,000. In reality, 9,000 steps might actually be an achievement (especially on a busy day) — but because you didn’t reach your specific target, it can feel disappointing.

Yeah. I can relate.

One alternative is to set what’s known as an open goal. Open goals are non-specific and exploratory, often phrased as aiming to “see how well I can do”. For example, professional golfers in one study described performing at their best when aiming to “see how many under par I can get”. One participant (in a study) said open goals “took away the trauma of failing”…

Oh yes– no trauma of (feeling like I am) failing. I am down for that.

To set your own open goals, think first about what you want to improve (for example “being more active”). Then identify what you want to measure, such as your daily average step count. Phrase your goal in an open-ended, exploratory way: “I want to see how high I can get my average daily step count by the end of the year.”

Excellent! Here’s my open goal: I want to see how many times in a week I can engage in three types of activity:

  1. cardio activity; my current modes (for January) are: ride trainer, walk outside, or do Body Groove dance-y 30-minute video.
  2. yoga; I can do live zoom classes through my local studio Artemis, or Yoga with Adriene, or Bad Yogi videos, all of which I love.
  3. strength training– so far what is easily accessible to me are the NYT 6 and 7-minute workouts, the Bad Yogi strength training program (which I bought a while back but didn’t really get to), and whatever else comes to me. You can see I’m in the initial stages of the “let’s see what I can do” mode.

For now, doing anything in either cardio or strength training or yoga/meditation counts FOR ME as a workout. As I get stronger, I may adjust the way I count them. I may restrict to more purposeful workouts on the bike (e.g. trainer, road bike ride) or just count workout days, regardless of how many types of activity I do in that day. We shall see; I’m leaving it open.

Readers, what are you doing about activity or movement, now that we’ve tumbled into 2021? Are you all about the scheduling? Are you staging goals? Are you planning by the seat of your pants? I’d love to hear what you’re thinking.

blogging · Happy New Year! · top ten

2020’s Top Posts

These are most read posts in 2020 that were also written in 2020. Tomorrow I’ll share a list of most read posts in 2020, regardless of when they were written.

1. COVID-19 and the gym, guest bloggers and building engineers Cara and Sarah weigh in.

2. JLo and Shakira are very fit older babes. They performed at a football game, controversy ensued, and Sam blogged about it here.

3. Sam watched Brittany Runs a Marathon so you didn’t have to.

4. Catherine had things to say about the NYT six minutes workout.

Ernie and Bert and the number 6

5. Tracy blogged about the covid 19 and how she thinks it’s fat phobic.

6. Catherine on yoga posts she cant do and what she does instead.

Cat yoga

7. What is really okay for exercising outside, in Covid times, by Cate.

8. Catherine writes that women with jobs occasionally also wear bathing suits.

9. Burpees are bad for you? Sam is surprised

Dog and owner do burpees

10. Here’s a great thing about zoom yoga, by Catherine.

fitness · Happy New Year! · new year's resolutions

Starting the New Year today

No, you don’t need to check your calendars– today is February 9, not January 1.

Maybe you’re thinking: she’s on one of those inspirational jags, urging us to see our lives afresh each day.

A rosy "today is the first day of the rest of your life" image.
A rosy “today is the first day of the rest of your life” image.

No, that’s not it.

Or, you think, oh, she’s using one of those implicit New Year’s resolutions gone awry memes to make a point about resolutions and habits.

"My 2020 is going to start on Feb 1. I've decided January is my free trial month."
“My 2020 is going to start on Feb 1. I’ve decided January is my free trial month.”

Nope.

My late start to 2020 is more practical in nature. January was a complete blur of a month this year. I was sick as a dog with a virus/sinus infection all month, I had 19 tenure committee meeting to prepare for, attend and then to write six letters for, I started classes January 23, and finally, I was finishing up my job as co-warden of my church. Today is our church annual meeting, where we elect new wardens.

Pineapple doing a happy dance.

This means that as of today, Feb 9, I am DONE with my church leadership job. I am DONE with my university tenure committee, I am DONE with this wretched virus/sinus thing, and I am READY to get going on my year. But what does that mean?

Mainly it means moving. January was exhausting. All I could do was work and sleep, and very occasionally do a little yoga and walking. I miss movement. I miss strength training. I miss cycling (albeit on the trainer these days). I miss daily yoga. But my new year is starting today, so I can get back to those things, starting with a vengeance!

Wait— hold on a minute. What was true on Jan 1 is still true on Feb 9. It’s not like Feb 9 resolutions are any less prone to over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations than Jan 1 resolutions. I mean, my head is filled with all the new year’s advice we have to manage and make sense of:

  • Just do it.
  • Be in the moment.
  • Breathe.
  • Forget the past.
  • Today is a new day.
  • Focus on the process, not the product.
  • Failure is not an option.
  • Failure is your friend.
  • ACK!

So what should I do and how should I do it?

I’m starting by walking to yoga class this afternoon. I’m setting up my bike trainer in my study, too. My yoga mat and some weights are in the living room. It’s time to move, one day at a time. Also, it’s time to make plans to do physical activities with friends, and put together a weekly doable schedule. I’ll check in next month to report on how things are going.

What about you, dear readers? How is your new year going? We can declare restarts any time we want. Or we can just restart every day. This whole dedicated habit structure thing is not my forte, but I’d welcome your thoughts or ideas about what works for you.

fitness · habits · Happy New Year! · motivation

Happy Quitters’ Day!

Based on loads of data (48 million users worldwide logging their training), Strava says today’s the day when lots of us who made big new year plans give up. We abandon our new year’s fitness resolutions. This year Strava predicts January 19, two days later than last year.

It seems early to me. But who I am to judge? I typically don’t make super big “new year, new me” style resolutions. I did quit smoking on January 1 but that was in 1989, a very long time ago. And I started by cutting back in September so it wasn’t exactly cold turkey.

New year, new me!

Running Magazine has some good tips if your motivation is starting to wane but you want to stick with it: find a buddy, revise your resolution, schedule a race, and don’t be so hard on yourself. I like them. They’re good tips.

I also like a line I learned from Precision Nutrition coaches a few years back, quit tomorrow. It’s their motivation secret #2. “If you’re struggling with your fitness goals, feel free to quit. Just do it tomorrow.”

The idea is that we often quit at the start of a day or activity when things feel especially hard. Or in the middle of a really tough day when we’ve just had enough. Instead, just do the thing and see how you feel after. Still feel like quitting? Quit then. Allowing yourself the possibility of future quitting can help you keep going now.

What works for you to keep you going when quitting beckons?