Creativity is beneficial for its own sake, of course. Not only is creativity enjoyable, but the mindfulness and presence required helps us to relax and to focus. It feels good to get in a creative ‘zone.’
And since the abilities that we hone in creative practice are helpful for solving problems, our creativity is also good for the world.
And now that you know that Wednesday is World Creativity and Innovation Day, you can also think of your workout tomorrow as a warm-up for any creativity activity or problem solving you have to do. (And, as Sam reminds us, warm-ups are very important.)
Lots of people swear that going for a walk helps them to be more creative and think of new solutions to the challenges that they face.
But, if walking isn’t your thing, any sort of moderate exercise seems to help so choosing your favourite exercise can help you prepare to be part of creative problem solving tomorrow.
Adriene even has a practice that may help you:
Have you found a connection between your exercise plan and your creativity and problem solving abilities?
Tell us about it in the comments!
PS – If you ALREADY have a creative practice in place, here are a few stretching programs I found that can help keep you feeling good physically while you think creatively.
[I should probably start with a disclaimer: I have no stake in Apple at all, and I don’t even want to convince people to get an Apple Watch (which I myself hesitated over for years). I’m just saying how I’m using it and it’s helped me.]
Yesterday Cate wrote about slumps, and a few of us had something to say about them because it’s a thing these days. Towards the end she alluded to my new Apple watch. I’ll get to that in a minute.
I was in a serious slump. Usually I can pull myself out of them with a blog post in which I remind myself of all the things that usually work for me: keep it simple; start small; do less. But I wasn’t there. Looking back to a couple weeks ago, I don’t even think I was ready to be talked out of (or to talk myself out of) my slump. Everything besides sleep and the gentlest of gentle yoga seemed like SO. MUCH. EFFORT.
And then our covid case numbers started rising again. And this pandemic felt like it would never end (it still does). And we were on the eve of another stay-at-home order. A few months I had been asking around about fitness trackers and running watches and the like. My Garmin forerunner is a dinosaur and not the sort of thing you would wear any other time besides running. It’s been unreliable in booting up. People kept recommending the Apple Watch and the Garmin Vivo-something (I forget what exactly). So I bought nothing at first.
Then I decided to look into the Garmin and it turned out to be the same price range as the Apple Watch. And then they announced the lockdown. And I went into a spiral of: “I used to travel!” “I used to go out for dinner with friends.” “I used to go to a yoga studio and pay for passes.” “I used to DO THINGS.” Waaaa! Waaaa! And somehow by the end of that I had made an appointment to go the Apple Store the last day I could go (before everything went to curbside pick-up only), which happened to be the next day, to talk to a “Specialist” (lol) about a new watch.
The watch does lots of different things. But the best thing it does is the fitness “closing your rings” thing. I’m not a big fan of fitness tracking and step counting (as my experience with my workplace’s step-counting team competition has proven not once, but twice). But this ring thing! My friend Vicki invited me to be her “activity friend” on the watch, which means I can see when she’s made progress on closing her daily rings and she can see when I’ve made progress on mine. (I wouldn’t suggest becoming activity friends with anyone other than your good friends)
The outer (red) ring measures your movement (in terms of calories burned). You can set it to low, medium, high or custom, and it depends on things like height, age, weight. I chose medium and that seems about right for me. It’s manageable but not overbearing. The middle ring, sort of neon green, is the workout ring. The default is 30 minutes but I changed my daily target to 45 minutes since that seems pretty easy for me when I consider yoga, walking, running, and my superhero workouts. The inner ring (blue) is for standing, for at least one minute in 12 different hours in the day. You can change the number of hours in which you have a minute of standing to fewer than 12 but not more than 12. I kept mine at 12 and that seems reasonable but challenging on days when I am at my desk for hours in zoom meetings because it seems weird to get up and move around if I have to have my camera on. When you close all three rings you get a graphic on your watch that is sort of like the rings version of fireworks.
Okay. I know this seems somehow too simple to be motivating. But I have hit my targets all but one day since I got my watch a couple of weeks ago. Now keep in mind that though it counts steps, I do not have a step target and I don’t do 10,000 steps every day. In my pre-pandemic life steps were easy. But some days it’s all I can do to get myself out the door for a walk around the block.
Remember too that my watch was meant to replace my running watch. So in order to do it right, I did a little research and invested in a running app for the watch called Intervals Pro. It was costly for an app — $11.99 (CDN) — but it is so simple to set up custom interval workouts, with time or distance intervals, at set paces if you want, and it keeps a record of your training runs. And that too has added to my joy because my Garmin, ancient as it was, had exactly the kind of functionality for custom running intervals that I needed. I don’t know why I worried that something released almost ten years later wouldn’t be able to do at least as much. To be fair, without the app the Apple Watch wouldn’t have been able to do at least as much. But the app is a game changer for anyone who likes to pre-program custom run intervals.
Finally, and I am aware that this might make me sound superficial and self-indulgent, I have discovered a whole world of third party Apple Watch straps that you can order online for super cheap in all sorts of styles and colours. It is very easy to change the strap, and I do that several days a week. I also bought a protector thing that snaps on over it and affects nothing about how it looks and how it works, but will protect it from getting banged up and scratched.
Long story short: the watch has motivated me to run again, to get out for walks at lunch time or at the end of a work day, to stand up from my desk and stretch my legs more than I used to, and to include at least 45 hours of scheduled workouts in my day.
I’m now activity friends with two people (Vicky and my friend, Diane, who I actually convinced to get a watch so that we could be activity friends). And I like seeing their progress through the day. It motivates me without making me feel competitive. It’s more in an inspirational way.
As I write this the night before I’m scheduled to post, my watch just reminded me (ever so gently, not at all in a “you should be standing!” way) that I can still get a “stand” in, bringing my daily total to 11/12 with just one more to go before bed. That’s all I need to do to close my rings today. So I’m doing it.
That’s where our heroine, Khalee, comes to the rescue.
Because she needs a walk, it’s an automatic part of my day.
So, despite the fog, despite the chill, despite my lack of motivation, late this afternoon, I bundled up and took Khalee for a stroll.
As we walked along, looking around and taking deep breaths, I started to feel a lot better.
I started smiling at Khalee, sniffing her way along, wearing the dog shirt that I refer to as her ‘pyjamas.’
And I was filled with gratitude for this good pup whose simple need for exercise helped drag me out of today’s doldrums.
I was still tired but I didn’t feel meh at all anymore.
Thanks for taking your Christine out for a walk, KP, she really needed it.
*Last night, in separate dreams, I was searching for a piece of paper that doesn’t exist in real life, I was trying to remind my husband of things that aren’t happening in real life, and I was trying to teach a sewing class over Zoom (also not happening in real life- which is best for all concerned.)
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.
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.
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.
If your wellness plan for this year is physical or practice-based, you have probably already outlined the steps and systems that will take you towards your goals. Those kind of plans tend to have tangible steps that you can measure in some way – minutes of meditation, cardio, or yoga or reps of one exercise or another.
But if your goals are more intangible, you will have to choose a different approach to measuring your progress.
For example, if you have decided that you want to feel happier this year, you might find it a challenge to create a plan and it might be difficult to measure your progress.
These calendars and their supporting materials give you tangible actions to take that have been proven to increase people’s feelings of well-being and happiness. And they don’t throw them at you all at once (which can cause me A LOT of unhappiness), instead the tasks are ‘scheduled’ for specific days.
If you are a person (like me) who can get overwhelmed by a long list of future ideas, having them organized into a calendar like this can make the project of feeling happier feel a little more in reach.
So, if you are seeking happiness this year, you can follow their daily advice. Doing (or not doing) these daily tasks will help you measure your efforts and you can check in with yourself every so often to assess whether you feel generally happier overall.
Another note: Please don’t think that I am suggesting that you MUST do everything on both calendars. That’s a sure way to feel overwhelmed. Pick one or mix-and-match. Do what you can with the resources you have and then see if their advice helps you to reach your goal.
Here’s a link to a PDF of the calendar above that includes clickable links to articles about the task of the day. The Greater Good Science Center produces a new calendar each month.
Here’s a link to the Action for Happiness website where you can download a copy of the ‘Friendly February’ calendar. A new calendar is available every month.
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.
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.
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.
*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.
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.
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!
*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.
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 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.
*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.