competition · death · Fear · fitness · health · motivation

Pain and the Human Playground (a mini review)

We watched the first episode of a fun documentary series at my house the other night, The Human Playground. It’s on Netflix, narrated by Idris Elba. There’s a book project of the same name released to coordinate with the Netflix series.

Cover of the book The Human Playground: Why We Play

We watched the first episode, Breaking the Pain Barrier which included a marathon in the desert, bullfighting, a brutal bicycle race, and ice swimming.

What was striking was that three of the four athletes featured were women

The first was Amy Palmiero-Winters who raced in the Sahara Desert, in Southern Morocco in the most painful marathon in the world, Marathon des Sables, French for “marathon of the sands.” It’s a six-day, 156-mile-long ultramarathon, equal to six regular marathons. One marathon a day for six days over blazing hot sand and yet there are hundreds of participants each with their own personal reasons for taking on this very painful challenge.

Needless to say we weren’t tempted and I’m still shocked that there are that many participants. It’s not the back to back marathons that make it look impossible but the conditions including the bright sun, the heat, and the scorching hot sand.

You can watch the documentary or read An Amputee’s Toughest Challenge Yet: Her 140-Mile Run in the Desert in the New York Times to find out more about Amy Palmiero-Winters’ motivations.

Amy racing across the hot red sand of the desert

Next up was cycling and the story of the famous very dangerous Paris-Roubaix race and its first women’s event.

The episode follows Ellen van Dijk, one of the first women to ever compete.

Why is this race so dangerous? It includes sections on ancient cobblestones, the bicycle’s worst enemy. This race is so bad it’s called the Hell of the North. There are numerous inevitable crashes and broken bones and damaged bikes. It looks terrifying to me.

Ellen van Dijk with mud and dirt on her white jersey and helmet and her face

The episode also includes the story of a woman who swims below the ice in bone chilling temperatures. And there was a dude who did some sport that involved risking his life dodging horned animals while unarmed. I confess I tuned out about during that bit. Not because the athlete was a man but I’m not a fan of sports that involve animals in combat.

Back to the theme of pain and suffering.

Now I’ve written about athletes and pain before. See Are athletes masochists?, Greetings from inside the pain cave, and Why are painful workouts so much fun? (And other questions about suffering and athletic performance). Also Sam thinks about pain, endurance, and performance (Book review in progress).

And I’m someone who has enjoyed her fair share of punishing workouts and pushing myself. That said, this show did not really help me understand the athletes who seek out the extremes. The ice swimmer’s story involved recovery from sexual assault and she sought out very painful (and very risky) extreme cold swimming as a way of dealing with trauma. But I worried she was going to die beneath the ice from passing out from the cold the whole time I was watching her swim. I thought, “get a therapist!”

The scorching sand marathon? No way on earth. And even the bike racing–the least deathy of the activities and most in my wheelhouse–didn’t appeal even though the worst case outcome involved broken bones and not death and there is skill involved in not crashing. The bike race and the horned animal avoiding sport at least looked like there was more skill involved than just your body’s ability to endure the extreme conditions but still, no way on earth…

Watch it and let me know what you think.

I asked Sarah who watched with me if the show either helped her understand the athletes’ motivation or tempted her to undertake such painful and dangerous sports. She’s promised me her two cents in a separate blog post.

Stay tuned!

aging · health · injury · menopause

Menopause, depleted estrogen and increased rolling of ankles

By Martha

A few weeks ago, I ran into my house to retrieve a beach rug and I ended up rolling my ankle severely. While it wasn’t bad enough to warrant a visit to urgent care, I wasn’t my swiftest either.

Having dealt with the sprained ankles of others over the years, I knew I had to rest, ice, apply compression and elevate my injured ankle.

I was curious though: over the last few years, I have rolled my ankle just slightly enough to pause but never enough to feel pain.

As someone with ovaries and estrogen, it occurred to me maybe this might be connected to menopause. Our bodies change in response to depleted estrogen (cessation of periods being one symptom and hot flashes being another.

Turns out our ligaments are affected by menopausal hormone changes including increases in swollen tissues in our feet. Good foot care is important at this stage of life as recovery from sports related injuries such as sprains in feet and knees can take time.

I was lucky. I bought new shoes, acquired some fancy compression socks and regularly applied a topical pain reliever. I’m back to walking lengthy distances without post walk aches. However I’ll keep practicing my ankle exercises (flexing, pumping, and writing the alphabet with my toes) while also stretching my upper leg muscles which compensated for my injury.

So if you are a pre, post or experiencing menopause person, maintain your weight bearing exercises for strong bones and remember to pay attention to your ligaments and soft tissues in your feet.

MarthaFitAt55 likes learning new things about how our bodies work.

fitness · health

Teetering on the edge: more misleading news on balancing and mortality risk

Once again, news outlets are booming out warnings about the life-or-death-level importance of balancing.

Balance training is an important but often-neglected skill, one that impacts both our longevity and our quality of life, beginning around age 40.

Every news article about balance will remind us of the World Health Organization grim stats on the effects of falls on health and life globally. However you manage it, having good balance is super-important, especially as we age. There are loads of tips in this article about ways to improve our balance through various exercises. You all undoubtedly know a lot about this already.

How can we know how good our balance is? Maybe they should devise some sort of test.

Luckily for most of us, what researchers have in mind is a 10-second balance test. But what sort of balancing should I be doing? Where does the other leg go– to the side, bent or straight, lifted or near the standing leg, what?

The internet fails to offer a consensus opinion.

You might be thinking, this isn’t that big a deal. Well, the media outlets beg to differ. Based on this article that was published recently in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, news outlets are saying that passing the 10-second balance test is linked to living longer. Then they follow up with ways to improve your balance, in hopes that, by balancing longer, you’ll also live longer.

Sigh. No, just no.

As we know, science is complicated. As an illustration of that fact, the researchers came up with this graph to show the role of balance in longevity. I hope this clears things up.

Star-shaped network graph of factors contributing to health, with 10-second one legged stand being one of them.
Oh yeah, that helps a lot. Thanks!

Okay, enough idle snarking. Here are my two takeaway points:

Takeaway point one: medical science researchers are always looking for easy, simple and inexpensive-to-implement predictors of future health status. Checking to see how someone performs on a 10-second balance test is easy to do and can be done in pretty much any indoor setting in well, 10 seconds. And it costs nothing.

But, it’s just *one* metric among a lot of others, some of which are *much* more salient to a person’s health status. And it’s partly predictive, not causal. Yes, problems with balance can contribute to falls, which contribute to complicated health problems throughout the life trajectory. But, the results from this study are simply offering some statistical evidence that this cheap ‘n’ easy test might be useful information for clinicians and patients. Performance on the test doesn’t determine how long you’ll live, and cramming to do better on the test won’t affect your longevity (not really).

Takeaway point two: what about those people who, for loads of reasons, the 10-second balance test isn’t appropriate or doesn’t apply? We come in all sorts of bodies, with all sorts of structures and limitations and conditions and medical histories. Using metrics from the 10-second balance test excludes lots of otherwise healthy and functioning people, as predictive health algorithms or processes won’t be applied to them.

Also, relying on the 10-second balance test alone ignores ways in which lots of people navigate, balance and manage their environments within whatever constraints or limitations or different structures they live with. And if those ways are ignored, then clinicians won’t detect changes, so patients won’t get help they might need to maintain their ways of life.

It’s important to remind ourselves, researchers, patients and the media that cover such stories that good medical care doesn’t always come in a cheap, easy and quick packages. That’s because we (the humans) come in a variety of packages ourselves. So we need some variety in the ways we take care of ourselves and the ways others take care of us.

fitness · health

Catherine finds a great health provider: some things that make them great

CW: mention (by me, not the provider!) of body weight and adjustments in eating habits.

Finding a good health provider is not always easy. Here’s something I’m not looking for:

Gray-haired white and male-presenting doctor explaining to patient where their heart is, using a plastic model.

I found this article on what makes for a good primary care physician. It emphasizes communication, which includes listening and being patient– all good qualities. But then I read this section:

…the doctor must be a good role model which means at least attending to his or her own weight, exercise, stress, smoking (not) and other symbols of disease avoidance, health promotion and wellness. 

No. Just no. Clearly the person writing this article (a physician themselves) needs to take some remedial classes in the complexities of health behavior change. Or at least read our blog.

My past experiences with and continued fear of fat phobia from my health provider have kept me out of the doctor’s office and delayed regular physical exams and tests. However, my experiences with this practice have been pretty positive. While they usually ask to weigh me (annoying and unnecessary when I go in with a sinus infection), I’ve practiced my spiel of “I don’t want to be weighed today”, which they quietly respect.

After putting off my annual physical for oh, about three years and then rescheduling it four times, I finally finally showed up at the office, ready to meet my new provider, Dr. K. She joined them last fall, and specializes in geriatric medicine. A healthcare friend of mine said this was good, as geriatricians are trained specifically to listen to patients. I think this was said tongue in cheek, but I’m not sure. Anyway, why not?

Spoiler alert: my appointment went swimmingly, which is to say I loved Dr K! Here are some things I really liked:

One thing: Dr. K came in and sat down on a stool (I always sit in the chair in the office before getting on the examination table) to talk directly to me. She didn’t sit in front of the computer. Now, this was possible because this practice uses medical scribes– people who type information from the conversation into the medical record. This is such a great thing; it means the provider isn’t pausing during discussion to find the right field for input, and also the provider and patient can have a real conversation face to face.

But it wasn’t just the presence of the medical scribe. Dr. K looked at me and listened. For realz. It was lovely.

Another thing: Dr. K didn’t mention my weight once. We talked about physical activity, and she even asked me what I do for exercise in the winter! It took a little while to explain what a bike trainer was (I should bring photos). This discussion provided an opening for me to talk about eating and self-care. I said that since the pandemic, I’ve had some trouble feeding myself and cooking in ways that felt good-to-me. But, I added, I was working on it. She made a few comments about the Mediterranean diet (not D-I-E-T, but rather foodway), I nodded, and that was that.

A third thing: in the course of discussing health maintenance, and in particular mammograms and colonoscopies, Dr. K listened to me and we worked through my comments, potential objections, and worries about these tests. But she did it in– how can I put this– a fully adult way. She took me seriously (which she bloody well should, but still) and took the time to offer her views on e.g. fecal occult screening vs. colonoscopy. She then responded, rather than fending off my comments. And she was clever: after I said, “there’s no way I’m taking time out of my sabbatical to get a colonoscopy. If I’m doing it, I’ll take sick time from work!”, she said, “Absolutely! So we’ll schedule you for February.”

I saw what you did, Dr. K. And I respect you for it… 🙂

A fourth thing: Dr. K helped me be more patient with the processes of maintaining my own health. What does this mean? Here’s an example: in previous labs, my triglycerides were high. It was a worry of mine, particularly because I don’t want to take a statin. Yes, I know that millions of adults take statins, but I’m concerned about side effects. I declared my pre-refusal to take a statin (totally jumping the gun), and Dr. K said, “but they’re great!” I replied, “are we going to have to sit down with laptops to go over the studies on side effects?” At this point, her cooler head prevailed, and she said we should wait until the tests come back. I agreed. But she said she’d work with me on this. I felt mollified, which was her goal and mine. Winning.

Turns out, my tests came back fine. Triglycerides a little on the high side, but we’ll monitor it. And I’ll futz with my diet (again, meaning eating practices) to see what changes might result in lowering of those numbers.

Last thing (for now): I left the office feeling like I had been taken care of, looked after and listened to. That’s pretty high praise. And I mean it. I’m feeling bullish on working with Dr. K. Yay! Whew…

Oh, and it turns out that we are both from South Carolina and went to the same university (University of South Carolina)! We discovered this in the last minute of the appointment. I don’t require this of my health providers, but it was a nice little extra added bonus.

Readers, do you like your healthcare providers? What do you like about them? What do you look for in a provider? I’d love to hear from you.

cycling · fitness · health

Heat cramps and aging? Really?

In this morning’s blog post on training for the bike rally during a heat advisory I mentioned that I “might have learned a lesson about electrolytes, cramping, and barfing.”

What happened after our very long, very hot ride?

Well, I was sitting in a chair in the backyard, having a drink and cooling off in the shade, as one does after a long ride, when all of a sudden I got incredibly intense painful cramps in my legs, starting with gracilis cramps. They were so painful I thought I might pass out and instead I ended up laying in the grass trying to stretch.

I ended up throwing up and having cramps in pretty much every muscle group of my legs. I don’t know how long it lasted. It felt like a very long time. I sipped on a gatorade and eventually the cramps eased up enough so that I could walk around. Thanks Sarah for helping to stretch the cramps away.

Later, after dinner and lots of stretching, I turned to Google to read up up on muscle cramps after exercising in the heat and I learned they were called heat cramps. See Healthline on the causes of heat cramps.

They weren’t like regular muscle cramps. They were very painful muscle spasms that were really difficult to get to go away. These are new to me. I’ve never had them before.

What’s changed?

Age, obviously. The Healthline articles says, “As people age, their bodies become less efficient at temperature regulation. This may be caused, at least in part, by the shrinkage of sweat glands. Sweat glands become diminished in size as part of the natural aging process. Less sweat equals less perspiration and a diminished ability to cool the body down.” Great.

Also, the heat where I live. With global warming our summers are getting hotter. That’s true all over. It’s scary reading about the Tour de France conditions with riders racing over melting pavement.

Finally, electrolytes. I used to be pretty religious about riding with one bottle of water and one bottle of electrolyte replacement, usually lemon-lime skratch, but that habit kind of dropped off. I’m not sure why.

Looking at the things I can change and the things I can’t, it seems pretty obvious that I’m returning to drinking skratch while riding. I drink a lot of water on my bike so it’s not just dehydration. In fact, drinking too much water can also throw off your electrolyte imbalance, I read. So yeah, back to skratch. Aging is out of my hands and global warming is a collective problem. The one thing I will do is try to avoid leaving for long rides in the middle of the day. I’m going back to early mornings.

Anyway, that was a terrifying experience, super intense and painful and associated with one of my fave activities–cycling. I’m scared now it will happen again. I drank a ton on Sunday’s ride, including lots of skratch and gatorade, and it didn’t happen on Sunday. Here’s hoping that’s enough to keep them away.

Have you ever had heat cramps? What do you do to prevent them?

fitness · health · season transitions · self care

Sweaticating. Yes, I made that word up.

Just to be clear, I’m not complaining about the heat. We don’t get enough good weather here as it is. I don’t want to complain and risk a weather deity’s vengeance.

So, this is not a complaint.

It’s an observation.

I’m just observing that it has been especially warm and humid (for this part of Newfoundland) this past week or so and I am not acclimatized to it at all.

In fact, it often leaves me feeling a migraine is hunting me and it could catch me at any minute.

And that’s just about as fun as it sounds.

So instead of trying out new exercises or adding a bit more time to my usual routine, I’ve just been sweaticating.

According to the lexicon of my 9 year old self (and that self’s friend Rochelle) sweaticating is when you are so warm that everything you wear sticks to you and you mostly feel like lying around eating popsicles.

A woman reclines in bed saying ‘I’m sweating’ while fanning herself with her hand.
She’s just sweating, not sweaticating but she does look like she could use a popsicle. Image description: GIF of Alexis from the TV show Schitt’s Creek is reclining in bed fanning her armpits with her hands and saying ‘I feel like I’m sweating.’

Popsicle lounging what I *feel* like doing but since I’m an adult (or a reasonable hand-drawn facsimile, at least) I know that lying around eating popsicles will eventually leave me feeling much worse.

So, while I have eaten my fair share of popsicles and I have done a nice bit of lying around recently, I have also been following my bare minimum self-care plan.

What does that look like?

Taking Khalee for walks after supper instead of in the late afternoon.

A light haired dog on a leash stands on grass near a wooden fence
I picked this photo because Khalee’s expression cracks me up but that particular evening it had rained a bit so it wasn’t quite so warm. Image description: Khalee, a light-haired dog in a harness and leash, stands next to a fence. Her body is pointing away from the viewer but head is turned back toward the camera and she looks like she is asking ‘Are you going to catch up or what?’

Doing some writing on my patio under the shade of a tree.

I set up one of my outdoor tables so I can stand and write/draw. Foolishly, my first attempt had me facing my neighbour’s fence. This view is way better. Image description: My notebook is open on a white table that is attached to my patio rail. My pencil case and pen are covering most of the lined page of my notebook and I have a travel container of iced tea on the wooden railing above it. There’s an orange lawn chair and an empty fire pit amid the grass beyond the patio rail. (The firepit is on concrete slabs but the grass is too long to see them in this shot) Tree trunks, lower tree branches and a wooden fence are in the background.

Yoga, stretches, slow-motion TKD patterns, and other low-key exercises outside once it gets dark.

A nighttime photo of a patio lit with string lights.
Night yoga for the win. Image description: An inviting nighttime photo of my patio. My railing is lit with string lights and a small patio burner, my yoga mat stretches out from the right hand side of the photo and in the far corner is a chair with a red cushion and a table with a flowering plant on it.

I’m not following my ideal plan but I am doing what I can and taking good care of myself while (mostly) avoiding that predatory migraine.

How about you?

How are you taking good care of yourself these days?

PS – If things haven’t been going so well on that front, why not give it a whirl today.?

Start small, rest a little…maybe have a popsicle.

A GIF of a dog eating a popsicle
A GIF of a small brown dog in a striped sweater eats a yellow popsicle that is clutched between its front paws. The words YUM YUM are at the bottom of the image.

health · planning · schedule · self care · traveling

Go Team! May 31: Your future self will thank you.

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those posts about how your hard work now will pay off later.

In fact, this is a post about trying to schedule LESS work for yourself.

I just got back from my first work conference in many, many years. The event was held in British Columbia and I live all the way on the other side of the country in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I have a lot of stress around travelling under normal circumstances (I’m not afraid of flying, I find being at the whims of the airline schedules nerve-wracking) and that stress was intensified by concerns about Covid.

And, of course, flying across the country, across multiple time zones (there is a 4.5 hour difference between home and BC), added another layer of trickiness to the whole process. My flights to BC found me getting up at 2am to be at the airport form my 5am flight, and after complications, delays, and waiting for flights, I had been up for 26 hours by the time I got to bed that night. My flights home were less complex but I took off in Nanaimo at 3pm Sunday and got home at 11am on Monday – a schedule that included a 5 hour wait in Toronto airport in the middle of the night.

I’m home as I sleepily write this on Monday night and I am finding myself grateful for something my past self did for me.

When I booked those flights, I thought about how I would probably be extra tired right now from traveling, time zones, and from several days of peopling, and I put a note in my calendar to protect myself this week.

Part of a paper calendar page with notes in blue pen about returning from a conference and keeping schedule light.
My calendar entries for May 30 and 31. The dates are in grey text on the left side of the page and the days are under one another rather than next to each other going across the page. The note on Monday reads ‘Back from SCCC’ and the note on Tuesday reads ‘Keep schedule light’

It might not seem like much but that note to ‘keep schedule light’ made me mindful of taking good care of myself. Every time I turned to add something to this week in my calendar, I had a reminder that my capacity was going to be reduced right now and that it would be a good idea to schedule accordingly.

Obviously I have certain commitments and obligations this week, and I have to keep preparing for my black belt test on the 19th, but I managed to avoid adding very much extra to my schedule and I feel very relieved about that.

So, Team, I would like to invite you to help your future selves a little.

If you have busy or stressful times ahead, how can you give yourself some extra space in your schedule?

Can you avoid taking on extra things at that point?

Is there anything you can drop or reschedule?

If you don’t have a lot of control over your schedule, can you give yourself permission to take some things a bit slower or do them in a easier or more straightforward way? (i.e. Even if you can’t take a break, can you cut yourself some slack?)

Sometimes, giving yourself a little extra space can be as straightforward as reminding yourself after a long weekend that you can’t get as much done in a 4 day workweek as you can in a 5 day week and to consider that fact when you make that week’s schedule.

This may take some practice. We’re all very used to pretending that we work at the same capacity all of the time and then just gritting our teeth and struggling through our low-capacity weeks.

In fact, if it hadn’t been for the fact that my flights home were on two separate dates, I probably wouldn’t have thought to cut myself some slack this week. But I am so very glad that I did.

And no matter whether you manage to cut yourself a few moments’ slack, to go easy with your self-talk in a busy time, or if you can organize your schedule to accommodate your lower-capacity times, I think you deserve a gold star for your efforts.

Taking good care of ourselves in this cult-of-productivity world is a challenging thing and your efforts count.

PS – Your future self will thank you for anything you do to make their life easier.

A drawing of a gold star with rounded points.
A photo of a drawing of a cartoonish gold star with rounded ‘points.’ The colour is darker, almost orange toward the edges of the star and the entire star is outlined in black. The background is made of thin black diagonal lines. And the drawing is resting against lined paper.
ADHD · fitness · health · meditation

The effect of music on Christine’s brain: A (very) small sample experiment

As someone with ADHD, I am always looking for ways to improve my ability to focus. My medication, my planning, and environmental cues all help but it can still take a lot of energy to keep myself on task, so when I came across some music that made it easier to stick to my work plan, I was delighted.

I’m not sure how I happened upon Greenred Productions ADHD Relief Deep Focus Music (embedded below) but I can only assume that it was something the algorithm churned up after I watched a How to ADHD video at some point.

Embedded YouTube video from Greenred Productions called ‘ADHD Relief Deep Focus Music with Pulsation, ADD Music for Concentration, ADHD Music’ The video includes 12 hours of music but there is a single still image on the screen for the whole video. The image is of a mystical looking stag with antlers that look like gnarled tree branches. The stag is standing in light that seems to be shining through the trees that surround it. There are broken tree stumps, plants, and a large rock near the stag.

Maybe there is a scientific reason why this music works for me or maybe it is a coincidence but, either way, playing this video helps me to focus. And the fact that it is almost 12 hours of music means that I won’t lose track of time while selecting music or creating a playlist.

I don’t always have music on when I am working but it has been great to have this on hand when I need a little extra help to focus.

A couple of weeks ago, I was returning to the video over and over throughout the week but, for some reason, I wasn’t resetting it, I was just letting it play from wherever I had paused it the session before.

So, even though it is a 12 hour video, I eventually reached the end and THAT’S when I found the best meditation/relaxation/body-calming music (embedded below) that I have ever encountered.

Embedded YouTube Video of Greenred Productions video “Deep Cello Meditation Music: Dark Meditation Music, Relaxing Music, Dark Cello Music for Relaxation” There is two hours of music but there is no actual video just a still, black and white image of a person with shoulder length hair playing the cello outside a stone house with a set of double doors and a window set in the front of it.

It turns out that I find cello music incredibly calming. In fact, when I listen to this music, I feel the same kind of sensory-soothing calm that I feel when I put on a weighted shoulder wrap or lie in my hammock. Something in the music just really grounds me and puts me at ease.

I have been playing it while I meditate, draw, colour, or read and I swear I can feel myself sinking deeper into those relaxing activities as a result.

Do you find specific types of music help you to focus or to relax?

Does music contribute to your peace of mind?

Did YOU know that cello was so relaxing? Am I the last person on earth to discover this?

Tell me all about it in the comments. Pretty please!

PS – I really wanted to call this post ‘Cello, it is you I’m looking for’ but then the first embedded video wouldn’t make any sense and besides, I wasn’t sure if the Lionel Richie reference was too much of a reach for the joke to work. 😉

advice · fitness · health · hiking · meditation · nature

Hiking with a Book

I almost always go on 2 to 3-hour hikes with friends. I enjoy the great conversation topics, the companionship, and the treats we often enjoy together afterwards.

But one recent morning, and for the first time, I found myself wanting to go on a solo hike outside. Because I also enjoy the company of books, I decided to bring one with me.

The place

three trees and water (The Thames River, London, Ontario)
Spring! Photo by Elan Paulson

Hiking with a book is not exactly like reading in your backyard or on a deck. One of the best parts about hiking with a book is that you have find a spot to read. While I was outside primarily for exercise, I was also side-questing for the best place to stop. On the hill or by the water? On a rock or a log? Behind or facing the sun?

Once I hiked as far as I had wanted to go, I doubled back and settled on the best of my mentally shortlisted spots: a great, flat tree stump that was surrounded by trees but also eye-line to the river. It was perfect!

The book

On sites like Bustle and Goodreads, and on blogs like thehikinglife there are lists and lists of books to take along hiking and backpacking. But I am mostly a short-distance hiker who is not really drawn to stories about radical feats of extreme hiking.

Cover of One Story, One Song, by Richard Wagamese

Instead, I brought a book I had just bought: One Story, One Song (2015) by Ojibway author Richard Wagamese. He is one of my favourite writers, and it was a happy coincidence to read Wagamese’s reflections on what he has learned from the land while being on the land myself.

The experience

Out in the crisp spring air, on my solo hike I savoured both the hike itself and anticipation of stopping to read.

When I sat and read, I paused between chapters under the section titled “Humility,” which put into relief some of the petty challenges that had wound me up over the past week. As I looked at the water and listened to the little birds chirping and flitting around me, I thought quietly about my own humility.

When I resumed the rest of my hike, book in pocket, I set some positive intentions for the upcoming week based on what I had read and thought about. In the middle of my busy week, I plan to find some quiet time by recalling what I had read and where I was when I read it.

So, this week I discovered how outdoor reading that is “bookended” by some alone hiking time can be replenishing for both body and mind. I definitely recommend it!

Do you hike with books? What do you read, and where?

ADHD · ergonomics · flexibility · health

At a desk? On the floor? Where is Christine working?

In an effort to spend less time sitting in a chair, I have been experimenting with standing, sitting on the floor, and lying down while I work, read, or watch TV and as I was going through all of those different positions while writing the other day, I reminded myself of this improv game:

Link to a video from the UK version of an improv TV show called ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ The image shows three men in blazers on a TV set, one is sitting, one is lying down, and one is standing.

I think I was less awkward than that but I can never be sure. 😉

Once upon a time, I had a standing desk. This was before my ADHD was diagnosed and I did find it quite useful because I could fidget a fair bit while doing my work. However, once I really dug into what I was working on, I would end up standing in the same position for long periods of time and my body was not a fan of that. 

In fact, I would actually end up with most of my weight on my right leg, my right hip jutted out a bit, with my left foot only lightly touching the floor to give me balance. I’m pretty damn sure that standing habit contributed to my overall challenges with my right hip. 

a flamingo stands on one leg in a wetland, the other leg is slightly raised and it’s knee is bent. ​
Fairly accurate depiction of my standing desk days. My office wasn’t quite as damp as this, though. Image description: a flamingo stands on one leg in a wetland, the other leg is slightly raised and its knee is bent.

I kept a standing desk for years but at some point, I realized that having to stand up to work had become one more obstacle between me and my tasks. It was mostly subconscious. It wasn’t like I was thinking ‘UGH! I have to stand up? Blech.’ But, over time, it was becoming harder to get started and once I dug into that feeling a bit I realized that standing up was part of the problem. 

So, I went back to a sitting desk but whenever I thought of it I would stand up to do voice dictation or I would prop my keyboard on something so I could type while standing. This, combined with a timer app that helps me focus for short periods and then take a break to move around a little, has helped me get important things done without sitting still for too long.

Then, last year, I started incorporating more squatting into my daily routine and I do a supported squat sometimes when I read or when I watch something.

And I often bring my yoga mat down to the living room when my husband and I are watching a show so I can do stretches or just sit on the floor while we watch. 

In January, once they went on sale, I bought a reading mat and bolster cushion so I could be even more comfortable lying or sitting on our laminate floor while I read, watch TV, chat with my family or even attend webinars where I don’t have to be on camera. 

So, I was already open to the idea of spending more time at floor level when I came across a video (below) a few weeks back from someone who always works from the floor. I have occasionally done some journaling or drawing while sitting on my mat but I hadn’t tried doing any extended work from the floor. If it did cross my mind, I probably dismissed it because I didn’t want to spend any extra time hunched over during the day. 

Before you watch this, I want to be clear that I am not necessarily endorsing the claims they make about the benefits of floor sitting and that I really wish they had said ‘dawn of humanity’ instead of ‘dawn of man.’

Link to video from a company called Plant Based Partners. The video is about the benefits of sitting on the floor to work and the still image shows a person with long hair sitting on the floor with one leg curled into a cross-legged position and the other folded into the position your leg holds in a squat. The person is sitting on a mat and is surrounded by low office furniture – a table, a credenza and a printer table. A small dog is also sitting on a soft mat nearby.

Once I saw the video though, I clued into the fact that I had more options besides hunching over or lying on my stomach to write in my notebook like a movie teenager –  I could raise my work surface to create a more comfortable working position.*

So, now I have a whole variety of ways to get comfortable while I work or relax and I feel better  for it. Switching positions during the day gets me moving but even when I am staying still I don’t end up holding the same posture for an extended period of time. 

My body likes that and so does my brain. 

Do you alternate positions during your work or relaxation time? Which ones work best for you?

Since all of our bodies work differently, I know that my options may not work for you but I would be interested to know what does. 

Do you schedule a time to shift? Do you choose positions based on task? Or do you just move when you get uncomfortable? 

I can’t rely on noticing that I am uncomfortable, sometimes ADHD hyperfocus gets the best of me, so I make a plan for what tasks I am going to do where, and I use a timer.

PS – In trying to find the link for the video above, I also found this very useful video for getting used to sitting on the floor. Tips for sitting on the floor – The Floor is your Friend: Comfortable sitting positions on the floor

*Meanwhile, if I had consciously decided to work on the floor, I would have had a full brainstorm of ideas about how to make it more comfortable. I hadn’t chosen to focus on it so my brain had just dismissed it without further consideration. Brains are such pests sometimes!