I heard a great interview on CBC recently with Fatuma Adar, a playwright and creator in Toronto who has made mediocrity her mission. She’s written a musical play, She’s Not Special, about the pressure to be excellent as a Black Muslim woman. Adar was featured on an episode of the CBC show, Now or Never, talking about the joys of mediocrity.
The theme of the show resonated a lot with me and with some of the questions we take up on the blog. Not every active thing we do needs to be a quest for excellence. It’s okay to enjoy a sport or a physical activity and not excel at it. It’s just fine to be a bad dancer. Many of us who love running are slow runners.
“Well, it’s like… The secret of the Muppets is they’re not very good at what they do. Like Kermit’s not a great host, Fozzie is not a good comedian, Miss Piggy is not a great… None of them are actually good at it, but they fucking love it…
And they’re like a family and they like putting on a show and they have joy and because of the joy, it doesn’t matter that they’re not good at it.
And that’s like what we should all be. Muppets.”
In that post I wrote about my joy in playing soccer even though I am not a great soccer player. Being willing to be at a thing is thing I’ve written before in the context of motivation.
Anyway, I loved the interview with Adar and think her dad, who appears on the show too, is terrific.
Adar has also written and directed an ode to the nap, inspired by the Nap Ministry. It’s the Nap Anthem and I love it!
Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador, November 21, 2022.
The weather is chilly (1 degree Celsius, 33.8 degrees Fahrenheit), there’s a wind warning in effect (80kmh with gusts to 95, 49.71mph with gusts to 59mph)
My house is noisy from the wind but it’s warm and cozy.
I’m a bit off track because several of my usual Monday things got changed and because I spent a good part of the day in waiting mode.
Why waiting mode? Tomorrow is my youngest son’s birthday and his present was due to arrive sometime today. Our address is often mixed up with a similar address nearby so I was on alert in case it was delivered to the wrong place.
Waiting mode is one of those situations where a neurotypical person (at least one who wasn’t anxious) would probably be able to put thoughts of the possible mix-up aside and carry on with their plans for the day. And if I had a strict schedule today, my neurodivergent brain *might* be able to do the same.
Alas, my schedule today was flexible. So between that flexibility, the loss of my usual Monday anchors, waiting mode, and the windy weather, I spent my day puttering from task to task.
And then, once the package arrived (yay!), I wanted to settle into my work.
That’s when this process started:
Khalee would need to go for a walk later so my brain was telling me that I probably wouldn’t want to dive too deeply into whatever I was doing right now.
So, maybe we should walk now. After all, the weather isn’t going to improve until tomorrow – and at least it is still light out.
But if I walk now, I might not be able to switch into work mode when I return.
So maybe I should skip the walk, right? After all, the wind warning clearly states that outdoor objects should be tied down. It could be *dangerous* out there, couldn’t it? Stuff could be flying around.
Hell, Khalee and I could blow away, couldn’t we?
Yeah, it’s often like this inside my head – it’s not all that fun.
But then, luckily, I saw a post on Instagram from someone local who was out for a walk, wearing their mask because it was the only way to keep warm – and probably the only way to catch their breath.
That’s when I remembered that I have fleece lined pants to wear over my jeans. And I have a warm coat and my hatphones. And a scarf my sister made. And I could wear my favourite mask.
So, I bundled up, got Khalee into her harness (today was apparently NOT a day for a dog to wear a sweater – I have to give the pup some autonomy, don’t I?) and headed out.
And, like most things – it was far worse to think about than it was to do.
It was stupid windy out. It was quite cold.
But it was manageable. And it wasn’t totally awful.
And Khalee and I were both so very good for dragging ourselves outside even though 50% of us were not keen on it.
I mean Khalee is automatically good, obviously, what with being a dog and all, but she bravely forged ahead into the wind until I called out to her so I could take a photo.
So yeah, she’s super-good but I’m pretty damn good too – overcoming so much resistance even though it would have been much easier (and quite understandable) if I had decided to stay home.
(And, I’m sorry to report, that I did indeed feel better after being outside and zipping through my walk. It was worth getting out for Khalee’s sake but, damn it, it was apparently also worth it for my own sake, too.)
Anyway, long story short (too late!), Khalee and I both get gold stars for our windy walk.
How about you?
How have you triumphed over resistance lately?
Was it worth it?
Would you like a gold star? Khalee and I will share!
PS: Happy Birthday to my youngest son, J, who is my baby but is not, apparently, actually a baby at all any more. In fact, he’s a newly-minted adult.
My birthday is on Thursday and I thought it would be fun to celebrate here on the blog today by offering some bonus gold stars.
Celebrating effort rather than results is always my MO but I’ve decided that, from now on, I’m going to lean into that idea even harder.
Especially where my own efforts are concerned. After all, just like most people, I’m really good at seeing how hard others are working but I’m not quite as observant when it comes to myself.
So, I going to consciously, deliberately, choose to notice even my smallest amount of work whether in fitness, well-being, or any of my projects.
That’s my gift to *me* for my birthday – I’m going to notice my efforts and I’m going to do what I can to ‘smooth the path’ for those efforts to be most effective. (More on that later.)
Now, as much as I would like to invite you all to a party where we could share a giant cake, the logistics on that are just impossible so, I’m going to invite you to do these two things instead.
1) Please consider joining me in noticing your own effort. This could range from making a mental note to a full toddler-parent-style reaction “Look at you doing squats! Aren’t you terrific? I’m so proud of you!”
2) Please comment below and tell me what you are claiming a bonus star (or stars) for today. This could range from ‘I remembered to look away from my computer and blink a few times so my eyes didn’t go wonky’ to ‘I stretched my neck while I was on the phone’ to ‘I meditated’ to ‘I wrote in my journal’ to ‘I biked to work.’ Or, to go in a different direction ‘I chose to rest because I’m not feeling well.’ Or ‘I walked instead of running because that’s what my body needs today.’
It’s all good work, Team, and your efforts deserve to be celebrated.
Here are 5 different stars for you to enjoy. Step right up and claim them!
And, as always, please be kind to yourself today and always.
I wish you ease.
And cake. I also wish you cake (or an equivalent delightful treat of your choice.)
Sometimes (actually most times) I am a big fan of doing what I want, not what I’m told to do. This extends to workouts, where I typically advocate choice, various degrees of challenge-options built in to the workout (like, if you want to challenge yourself, do this; if you want to take it easier, do this, etc.), and going at my own pace. Way back at the beginning of the blog I posted about doing less.
But other days I want to be told what to do and to feel as if I have to. That’s why I like coaches. This occurred to me during a workout with Alex last week (see Cate’s post about Alex), where they said we could do it or not do, depending how I felt. I actually didn’t feel like doing the thing they were telling us to do, but I also didn’t feel like being given the option of not doing it. That day, I was of the mind that if I didn’t want to do it I wouldn’t have signed up for the class.
As an advocate of doing less and setting the bar low that reaction of mine surprised me. But what it revealed to me is this: some days I want to push myself and without someone else calling the shots I would NOT push myself. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Indeed, it’s probably one of the reasons many of us do classes or hire trainers or coaches—without them we would do less when we in fact want to do more. But we need that extra little push.
I’m not here advocating doing something we really don’t want to do. I’m saying that even the things we (or perhaps I should stick to “I”) do want to do in some sense can be tough to stick with in the moment when it feels hard. Writing is like this for me sometimes (though mostly I do not have a coach for that. But in the past I have worked one-on-one and in small groups with the amazing The Publication Coach, Daphne Gray-Grant). Working out can be like that too.
Undoubtedly it’s not news that we might sometimes need others to motivate us. This can be a coach, trainer or instructor. Or it can be friends or a group or what have you. Working out alone is sometimes great. I love my solo runs for example. But working out with others often for me leads to more effort. (And it’s always more fun.) And on the days where I go in wanting to put in that effort, I prefer not to be given the option of not doing it.
That’s not to say I want to be shamed into doing it (military style) or unreasonably pressured beyond my ability (like Cate described of a yoga class she attended recently where the instructor offered no variations). It’s only to say that sometimes I like having someone else telling me what to do even if it isn’t super fun. It feels good to meet the challenge.
Alex’s classes are great for that. And they motivate even though we are given lots of choices and reassured that we can even tap out if that’s what we need. They motivate because of their extremely high energy. It’s hard not to want to push a little harder when the instructor is super jazzed about what they’ve programmed that day.
Do you prefer to do what you want to do or to be told what to do or does it depend on the day?
This post is a group of loosely connected thoughts in a blogpost-shaped trench coat but let’s just roll with it.
As I write this, I’m sitting in a lawn chair on my front lawn awaiting trick or treaters – Khalee is too much of a chaos agent for me to easily answer the door over and over so I take the treats outside and drink tea while waiting for the kids.
Tomorrow, or today by the time you read this, is November 1, just a little over a week away from my 50th birthday.
A few months ago, I thought I would have a good fitness routine by now. I thought I had a solid, low key plan.
Turns out, I was still trying to do too much at once and I have basically been kind of ambling along trying to figure out my how and when, exercising more some times and less other times.
At the beginning of October, I thought I would have a straightforward month with two challenges to work on, but I was plagued with migraines and frustration and never really found my groove.
One tiny part of my brain is telling me ‘You should be more disappointed in yourself, don’t you think?’
But another part is reminding me that the word should is at least 90% evil and that, at almost 50 years old, I don’t have to put up with people being mean to me – especially if that person is me.
So, instead, I’m thinking that I must not have found the easy thing. I must have had too many steps or too many decisions, I must not have smoothed the path, I must not have included enough fun. Oh well! Too late to worry about those past plans now.
I’m not trying to revamp them, though, I’m just focused on what’s ahead of me.
I’m looking forward to my birthday month with the goal(s) of finding more ease, seeking more fun, and looking for ways to move more often on any given day.
There’s no overarching plan, there’s no big idea, there’s just me experimenting with trusting myself in the moment. Let’s just hope my brain will cooperate.
It took me a couple of Halloweens of trying different things before I figured out that I could circumvent the stress of the dog-related chaos by taking the treats out to the kids but I was making little changes in my approach the whole time.
I’m hoping the same is true for this whole figuring-out-routines thing, that I *am* making adjustments and learning as I go, even if it’s hard to see while I’m still in the middle of it.
PS – In case you have a tendency to worry: I am completely ok, by the way. I’m mostly just interested in how and why I feel so at ease with not having done what I had set out to do. And why I don’t feel the need to poke into what went “wrong.” I like the fact that instead of my brain leaning into the meanness, I veered off into the ‘try this’ of taking things moment by moment. I’m observational and reflective, perhaps a little melancholy, but I’m not sad, not upset, and there’s nothing wrong.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Early in the recovery from knee replacement surgery process I blogged about what makes physio so hard. And it’s true. It’s hard, it can be painful, and it goes against our instincts–when in pain–to curl up on the sofa/bed, under a bunch of blankets, and not move.
But there are also some respects in which physio is easy for me. People note that I’m ‘good at physio’ by which they mean that I actually do it. Various physiotherapists through the years have noted it too. I’m a compliant patient. If they say to do exercise x, y times a day, then that’s what I do. They’re the experts, offering expert advice, and I follow it.
Well, everyone assumes I’m highly motivated to get back on the bike and start riding again. And that is true. But I don’t think it’s motivation that does the work on a daily basis. I am motivated. It’s true. But I don’t think that on it’s own it would be enough.
An important part of it is habit, plain and simple. I have the time available. If you normally exercise an hour or more a day, and you can’t because of injury or recovery, then physio just takes the place of the thing you would be doing if not injured. It’s why athletes are very good at physio. I’m not struggling to find time to do physio. I have the time and I’m just doing physio instead of other physically active things. In my case I was doing physio pre-surgery to get ready for surgery. And before that to help manage my condition.
What I didn’t do while recovering? Well, I’d hoped to read a lot. I thought I might even do some writing (ha!). But I did neither of those things. Twice daily physio (with ice and elevation after, plus, in the early weeks, naps) took up most of my day. I did watch a fair amount of TV while icing and elevating!
The other bit that helps is my identity as a person who can do hard things. Cate has blogged about grit and it’s a quality we share. Like Cate, it’s part of my self conception that I’m a person who can take on physical challenges. I ride in uncomfortable conditions, too hot, too cold, too hilly and so on. Knee physio isn’t as much fun as riding my bike in tough conditions but I do feel proud of being able to do it in the same way.
Today is my first day back at work and my challenge will be keeping it up with a job that can be very busy into the evenings and weekends. I need to remind myself that medical leave for knee replacement is 6-12 weeks and I’m just taking 6. I’m going to try to count the next six weeks as part of my recovery, keeping up with physio and getting help with the parts of the job that spill over into evenings and weekends. I’ve cancelled two conferences this month and while I will feel sad missing them it was the right decision.
I did round one of physio in bed this morning with icing and elevating after. Instead of TV I caught up on some much neglected email. Tonight at 7 pm I’ve got a meeting with the physiotherapist to assess progress and learn some new moves. After that, it will be an early night. Zzzzzzz!
All of my focus on progress after knee replacement surgery has been getting back on my bike on the trainer. That’s not as speedy as I hoped it would be. So I thought I’d remind myself and share with you some of the other ways this have gotten better in recent weeks.
Here’s some recent progress points six weeks out from knee replacement surgery.
♥️ I get up and down off the floor pretty easily now. I was avoiding it for awhile. This means there are a variety of exercises I can do that I couldn’t do before. Welcome back glute bridges!
♥️ I can stand for longer making standing exercises a larger part of my rehab program. Welcome back monster walks and standing clams. I’m also cooking more complicated meals.
♥️ At the gym I’m lifting weights again, mostly seated upper body weights but it feels good. Welcome back lat pull down and bench press!
♥️ While I still I can’t pedal forwards on my own bike on the trainer at home, so no Zwifting yet, my range of motion does allow me to pedal a recumbent spin bike at the gym. Yay. I’ve been gradually increasing the amount of time I ride the recumbent.
♥️ Now that my incision has fully healed I can immerse myself in water again. That means I can go in the bath and the hot tub but it also means I can do Aquafit classes at the gym. Time for those disco classics–It’s Raining Men!–and underwater skiing.
♥️ Also in preparation for returning to work next week, I’ve given up daytime naps. No napping means I’m pretty tired by the end of the day but that’s okay.
♥️ And maybe most importantly I’ve been thinking about things beyond my knee and recovery. I’m reading again but also I’m getting bored at home. I think that’s a good thing and a sign I’m ready to get back out there.
I wanted to add a little extra to my daily routine in October so I’ve taken up two challenges for the month – the Action for Happiness Optimism challenge and the Darebee Daily Kicks challenge.
I like following short term challenges because 1) they set out a plan in advance so my brain doesn’t get stuck buffering about decisions 2) they aren’t making me commit to something in a future that is too far ahead for my ADHD brain to grasp.
These specific challenges should be straightforward additions to my day because any day’s actions are big enough to matter to me but small enough to fit into nooks and crannies in my still-developing schedule.
And it helps that I am naturally inclined to optimism (this may be a good feature of my ADHD – I’m usually convinced that things are about to get better) and that kicks are not only good exercise but practicing them will have added benefits for Taekwon-do.
Will I get to both of these every day? I’m planning on it and I hope those plans work out.
But even my optimistic self knows that sometimes things go awry so I have a backup plan as well:
If I miss a day, I can do two the next day…if that feels doable. If doing two items feels like too much, or if I have missed several days, I’ll skip to the item for the current day.
The key here is to follow the practices for as many days as possible this month – aiming for more days on than off.
The only thing I *don’t* want is to follow the challenge for a few days, miss a couple, and then scrap the whole thing because I didn’t do it perfectly.
As long as the end of October still finds me working away at these, in any form or fashion, I’ll be successful.
I’ve been talking to a lot of kinda-burnt-out, feeling-kinda-meh, not-very-motivated people lately (and I’ve been one of them sometimes.)
Just in case you’ve been feeling that way too, I thought it was a good time to remind us all about a few things:
1) You don’t have anything to prove to anyone (fitness-wise or otherwise)
2) Doing the thing you like doing in the way you like doing it (fitness-wise or otherwise) is totally cool
3) You don’t have to go hard or go home, you can set your own pace in any damn direction you want (including towards home)
4) You don’t need to feel motivated to do the thing you want to do. Sure, it’s easier to get started when motivation is there but if you make a little list and take some teeny steps you’ll be able to move toward your goal no matter if motivation shows up or not.
(Starting when unengaged or unmotivated is even harder for us neurodivergents than it is for neurotypicals but I find that reminding myself that I can proceed without motivation is sometimes helpful. You might find it helpful, too, but please be kind to yourself about it either way.)
5) If you find yourself avoiding your fitness routine (or even just one exercise in your routine), you don’t have to force yourself to do it. You can find another way to work those muscles or build strength in that area.
No matter how meh you are feeling these days, I wish you ease and I hope you can be kind to yourself as you make your way along.
And, as always, here’s your star for your efforts.