fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 27: Transfer Some Skills

Today, I’d like you to take a look at the skills, tools, and methods you use to accomplish things in the other areas of your life and see how you can transfer them to your fitness and wellness plans.

Obviously, you can’t always directly apply them – no amount of keyboard shortcuts will get your exercise done.

But if you know that keyboard shortcuts give you some success at work, you can think about how and why those shortcuts work and imagine how that kind of structure could apply to your fitness plans.

The point here is to take your success in one area of your life and map the skills involved onto another area.

To take the keyboard shortcuts example:

You could ask yourself ‘Why do I use shortcuts?’ and realize it is to speed up some parts of your work and to minimize repetitive tasks.

Then, ask yourself ‘Are there parts of my wellness routine that could be sped up or that include unnecessary repetitive tasks?’

Or ‘What is the equivalent of a keyboard shortcut in my exercise routine?’

Perhaps you’ll find that you can do a leg and an arm exercise at the same time.

Maybe you’ll realize that your ‘keyboard shortcut’ for meditation is to have your earphones, your pillow, and your eye mask in a basket in your living room.

Your details will vary, of course, but I know that we all have areas of our lives where we are thriving. Those areas are full of skills, routines, schedules, and systems that we can bring over to our exercise/wellness plans to make things easier.

Sometimes, just realizing that your exercise plan can be compared to an area where you feel competent and confidence can be enough to inspire you to stick with it.

For example, once I realized that perfecting a pattern for Taekwondo was not unlike revising an article, I felt much better about the work involved in improving my patterns. The process was clearer and my efforts made more sense to me. I no longer looked at my practice as ‘messing up over and over,’ I came to see it as refining and clarifying what I wanted to convey with my movements – just like I do when I revise something I have written.

So, Team, what skills can you transfer to your exercise/wellness plans?

Here’s your gold star for today!

Congrats on your hard work on your plans. Whether you got moving or got thinking, your efforts count.

Image description: A sparkly gold star decoration stands in front of a light green wall.
A very sparkly gold star for today, representing all of the shiny ideas we’ll have for transferring our existing skills to our exercise plans. Image description: A sparkly gold star decoration stands in front of a light green wall.
fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions · self care

Go Team! January 26: Do you need to seek a challenge?

So far, I have been mostly reminding you that it is okay to take things slowly and to go easy on yourself. I stand by that 100%.

In my experience, most people take on waaaaaaay too much when they start a new goal and it can be frustrating and discouraging.

But, there’s a flip side to that, of course.

Sometimes, we pick a goal that we have a natural inclination for and, instead of overwhelming ourselves, we underwhelm ourselves.

We pick something that isn’t challenging.

Or something that bores us.

Or something that doesn’t push us at all.

That can be just as discouraging and it can have the same symptoms of dread and avoidance as taking on something too large.

So, if you have been reading my posts and thinking, ‘Encouragement is good but this isn’t *quite* the problem.’ consider the idea that you might not feel challenged by your plans.

Maybe you need to increase the time, the intensity or the difficulty of your workouts.

Maybe you need something that challenges different muscles.

Maybe you need to join a challenge group so you have a little friendly competition.

Try to dig into the reasons for your boredom/annoyance/avoidance and see what your brain comes up with.

You might have the perfect challenge tucked away in your brain somewhere waiting to be coaxed out.

Whether you are overwhelmed or underwhelmed, whether you have set your goals too high or set the bar too low, you get a gold star for your efforts to exercise, to meditate, to make change, to consider your process, to find good rest, or to find a new challenge.

Keep up the great work!

Image description : Three star shaped patio lights hang on a railing at night. The light of each one is shining through multiple star​-shaped holes on the sides of the larger star.
These stars contain multitudes…of star-shaped cutouts. Image description : Three star shaped patio lights hang on a railing at night. The light of each one is shining through multiple star-shaped holes on the sides of the larger star.

fitness · motivation · strength training

Where you workout: In your face or a separate space?

Where do you put your workout equipment?  Do you need it in the middle of the living room to gently remind you to do a little movement, or do you tuck it away to a separate space?  

I’ve been thinking about the advice I hear sometimes to keep some resistance bands, a kettle bell or a yoga mat in our living spaces so that we can “do a few reps” in between the rest of our lives.  During the pandemic, by necessity my lifting became a part of my everyday space.  I created a “workout” space in our guest bedroom, which is also the room with my clothes closet, where my little TV is, where I tuck myself away when I need some quiet time, and in other words, spend a fair amount of my time day to day.

And over the winter break, my husband and I finally got to finishing the garage, and we were able to install a folding squat rack on one side.  Suddenly, once again I have a separate space where I only go to do my lifts. 

And I love it.

I love heading out to the garage and going to “the gym,” getting to be inside my own head and focusing on the work without distractions.  I’m enjoying my lifting like I haven’t in months.  Don’t get me wrong; I had moments of joy these last eight months before I got the rack set up–figuring out how to MacGyver lifts, to keep it challenging with fewer options, and had some successes getting stronger.  But it was hard to stay motivated.  I’d get distracted, cut workouts short, be grateful that I’d checked the boxes, but not really feel that post-lifting glow. And I think at least a part of that was missing the “escape” of lifting in a separate space.

I acknowledge that there are times in our lives when we simply can’t carve out 45 minutes or more several times a week to do some exercises by ourselves. And of course, having space and equipment has a huge element of privilege to it.  But when we are able to prioritize it a bit more, and when our spaces allow for it, I wonder if advising people to do a few squats as they brush their teeth prevents them from enjoying some of the most satisfying, and therefore motivating, elements of regular exercise?

I suspect that for some folks who don’t find that they love exercising, this sort of approach–carving out a special location and quiet time to do it in–might give them new avenues of enjoyment.  They might find, like I do, that this time alone focusing on myself and my lifts, can become a kind of moving meditation, an act of mindfulness and self care not just for the “exercise,” but for the rest it brings to the mind.  It is a chance to monotask and to be truly grounded in our bodies.

Now, of course this need not be an all or nothing situation.  Maybe right now someone can only get away one day a week for an extended workout and the rest of the time, it’s wall push-ups while they’re heating up dinner.  Maybe it’s simply an experiment we run from time to time, to see if we like a particular actively more when we do it alone.  As our lives change, our needs adjust also.  

I like the idea of cultivating these moments of quiet contemplation as a form of self-care, to encourage some of the intrinsic rewards to exercise; to make it more worthwhile to us in the moment and therefore more likely to be something we regularly create space for in our lives.  I love lifting weights, but it is so much more than the effort and the progress.  I love spending time with myself without distractions, focusing on the feedback my body is giving me, and enjoying being present in the moment.  If you’re struggling to find joy and motivation for your fitness routine, it may be worthwhile to run the experiment, to find out if what you’re missing is taking time away while you take care of yourself.

Photo description: Image of the author’s garage gym, with folding squat rack, weight bench, and toolboxes and lawn mower in the background.

Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher.  She can be found joyfully and mindfully picking up heavy things and putting them down again, in Portland, Oregon.

Feature photo credit: Simon Migaj, via Unsplash.

fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions · self care

Go Team! January 25: You’re doing great!

Before you get annoyed and come back at me with all the reasons you are most certainly NOT doing great, give the idea of ‘doing great’ a few minutes to settle around you.

Think about it like this…

Ok, perhaps you haven’t followed your plan perfectly.

Maybe you haven’t worked as hard as you meant to.

And, you might not be where you hoped to be right now.

But you have been putting in an effort to make the changes you want to make.

It may not be working yet but you are exploring what *could* work. You are figuring out what mental, physical, and environmental conditions you require to add your intended habit.

So, you’re doing great.

I’m not measuring your results here, I am admiring your PROCESS.

Adding new things to a busy life is complicated and it requires a process of trial and error as you figure out what works.

Committing to that process is impressive.

It doesn’t matter that you haven’t figured it all out yet, you are on your way.

So, starting from the idea that you are doing great with your process so far…

What are you going to try next?

Here are your gold stars for your efforts, your exercise, your meditation, your consciously-chosen rest, your commitment to the process of figuring this out.

Image Description: A string of gold star-shaped lights extend into the distance. Some stars are in focus and some are not.​ the background is dark.
That’s a gold star for every different kind of effort you have put into your process. Go you! Image Description: A string of gold star-shaped lights extend into the distance. Some stars are in focus and some are not. the background is dark.
fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 24: Giving attention

Word power time again!

Do you have specific exercises, skills, body parts or muscles that you are ‘working on’?

Or have you been giving those things ‘some attention’ instead?

I know I keep bouncing back to the power of our word choices but it has been such a useful tool for me that I hope everyone else can benefit from it, too.

I’ve spent an awful lot of time ‘working on’ things.

Working on my leg strength.

Working on pushups.

Working on my abs.

You know the drill.

(I have also done this in non-fitness parts of my life – working on my schedule, working on organizing the basement and so on.)

Then, a few months ago, I was watching a Yoga with Adriene video and she said something about ‘giving our shoulders some attention.’

When I heard that I actually said ‘Oh!’ aloud.

Giving my body some attention feels way better than working on it.

After all, my body is not a project, it doesn’t need to be worked on.

It does, however, need my attention.

My body thrives when I am responsive to its needs.

Perhaps my body needs some movement, maybe specific movements to strengthen or bring ease to certain areas, and it is time to give some attention to that.

Maybe my body needs rest and I need to give some attention to helping it rest.

Or, I might realize that stress is showing up in my body and it’s time to give some attention to helping it relax.

I realize that this is a small reframing but it could make a huge difference to you (and to your body.)

It could be the thing that helps you do what you need to do to take good care of yourself and to keep building your wellness habits.

I think the change in phrasing will encourage a helpful change in thinking.

After all, would you rather be given some attention or would you rather be worked on?

Whether you are ‘working on’ or ‘giving some attention to’ your body today, here’s a gold star for your efforts.

Image description: a gold star decoration covered in cut-out dots and stars hangs on an orange wall. The photo is taken from slightly underneath the star.
This gold star is one of 5 that hang on the wall over my kitchen window. Turns out that, even on our small ladder, I am too short to take a directly-in-front photo of it. Image description: a gold star decoration covered in cut-out dots and stars hangs on an orange wall. The photo is taken from slightly underneath the star.
fitness · habits · motivation

Go Team! January 23: Give it your some

You are not going to be able to bring the same level of dedication, energy, and effort every time you work on your new wellness habit.

Please don’t let that discourage you.

Some days you will be excited and energy-filled, other days you’ll be a bit tired and worn-out and you’ll barely have any energy to put into the project.*

If you are leaning toward the latter, it’s ok to give it your some.

I know, I know, there’s an awful lot of talk out there about how you have to ‘give it your all’ if you want to progress.

Maybe that approach works for some people (if it works for you, have at it!) but, for a lot of new exercisers, that phrase drags us into all-or-nothing thinking. We get stuck on the idea that if we can’t go all in, we shouldn’t bother at all.

But if you approach your wellness practice with the idea that giving it your *some* is an option, you’ll probably have more success with habit-building.

So, you don’t jump around in this workout. That’s not the end of the world.

Maybe your meditation session is only 2 minutes long. That’s not a crisis either.

Perhaps you only do 5 reps today. No problem!

Even by giving it your some, you still held on to your practice. You kept room for it in your mind and in your schedule.

There’s no downside there. Something is better than nothing!**

So, whether today is a go-all-in day or a give-it-your-some day, here’s your gold star for your efforts.

Image description - a gold star shaped decoration that is dotted with holes and has a gold string attached rests on a scratched green leather surface.
It turns out that it is hard to photograph a shiny star like this without getting a reflection of your phone in the surface. I almost managed to do it but not quite. Image description – a gold star shaped decoration that is dotted with holes and has a gold string attached rests on a scratched green leather surface.

*Rest is also an important option, of course. I trust that you will know which option to take on a given day.

**I count rest, especially consciously-chosen rest as doing something, by the way. Rest is an important part of the cycle, even if it feels weird to think of it that way.

fitness · habits · motivation

Go Team! January 22: Skip the icky bits

If there is a part in your workout that makes you dread/avoid the whole thing, consider this your permission to ditch that part.

Now, I understand the need to challenge ourselves and I get that sometimes the hardest parts of our workouts are composed of the things our bodies need the most.

BUT!

There are plenty of ways to exercise any muscle group and plenty of ways to challenge ourselves/meet our needs without forcing ourselves through things we hate.

After all, most of us aren’t training for anything in particular – especially when we’re just starting out- so we probably don’t have a reason to stick to specific movements.

And, since many of us are just trying to establish a habit of moving our bodies on a regular basis, it makes sense to ditch any exercises that get in the way of that.

We’ll have plenty of time to add those exercises in once our habits are firmly established. We just can’t let those dreaded moves become an obstacle right now.

(If you *are* more firmly established in your habits and you still have trouble with some icky bits, I bet you could find different exercises to work the same muscles without getting on your nerves.)

So, go ahead, skip the icky bits and forge ahead with the rest of it.

Here are your stars for today’s efforts:

 GIF description: 4 gold stars of varying sizes, two are just outlines and two are filled in.  The outline stars are moving backwards and forwards, the filled-in​ stars are rotating.
It’s hard to shake the idea that exercise has to be hard so we’re getting 4 gold stars for our work today. GIF description: 4 gold stars of varying sizes, two are just outlines and two are filled in. The outline stars are moving backwards and forwards, the filled-in stars are rotating.
fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 21: Don’t Catch Up

If I fall behind on a program I am doing – exercise or otherwise – I have a bad habit of trying to ‘catch up.’

This either leads to me trying to jam multiple sessions into one day, or to me avoiding the activity entirely because there is too much to do to rejoin the group (even if it is a self-paced program.)

Lately, though, I have realized that I don’t always *have* to catch up and neither do you!

Sure, some graduated programs require us to do every step, but most of the time we can just jump right into the plan for a given day. We might be a little in over our heads for the first bit, but we’ll adjust.

(And, of course, if you feel stressed about jumping in, you can always skim the missing material without doing it all.)

And if we DO need to do every step in order for the program to make sense?

Then we harness our word power again.

If saying that we are trying to catch up gives us that stressed feeling of being ‘behind’ perhaps we can call it restarting or recalibrating.

For me, both of those words have a sense of bringing experience and new information to our plans. That experience/information can help us to proceed in a way that better serves us.

And they let us pick up where we left off without the feeling that we should be at another point in the process.

So, if you haven’t been able to follow the program that you set for yourself, don’t feel that you need to catch up.

Instead, you can choose to jump forward or recalibrate.

The key is that you keep going in a way that feels freeing.

Please don’t let what you haven’t done drag you down and keep you from continuing.

Here’s your gold star for today’s plans for jumping, recalibration or for staying the course.

You can do this!

Image description: a hand-drawn gold star with eyes and a smiling mouth stands on a thick black line that has some gold lines overlaid on it. The star’s upper right and left points are slightly raised.
Yes, I do draw stars all the time. This one is raising two of their little star points to celebrate your efforts. Image description: a hand-drawn gold star with eyes and a smiling mouth stands on a thick black line that has some gold lines overlaid on it. The star’s upper right and left points are slightly raised.
fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 20: Say Yet (that’s not a typo)

I don’t know about you but I love the hopeful and promising word “yet.”

There is so much possibility packed into that single word. Something hasn’t happened “yet” but with the right tools/skills/information/time frame it could still happen.

Think about the difference between these two statements.

  1. I don’t exercise regularly.

2. I don’t exercise regularly yet.

To me, the first one feels like something being shut down. It’s final and complete.

That second one though? Well, ANYTHING could happen with that one.

The word ‘yet’ is one of my favourite ways to counter discouragement.

It’s not that I am never going to be able to do the thing I am trying to do, I just haven’t found the right method…yet. I can still make changes and adjustments, I can figure out what I need or where to get further support.

Yes, I know this is a very small detail overall but, words have power and we might as well have that power working for us instead of against us. That little word might be the difference between feeling defeated and giving our plans another try.

So, Team, how might you use the word ‘yet’?

How can ‘yet’ keep a door open for you?

Is there something that you haven’t done ‘yet’ that might still be possible with the right support?

Do you have your gold star(s) for today yet?

Here you go!

Image description: 8 hand-drawn gold stars of various sizes with a background of black lines drawn on white paper.​
Part of another drawing of mine. As you can tell, I like drawing stars and not-even-remotely-straight lines. Image description: 8 hand-drawn gold stars of various sizes with a background of black lines drawn on white paper.
advice · fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 18: Respect Your Resistance

How do you respond when your brain resists the idea of moving or meditating or doing any of the other things that are challenging in the short term but beneficial in the long term?

Do you try to stubborn your way through the resistance?

(I have had moderate success with this some of the time.)

Do you give into the resistance and just avoid your wellness plans?

(I’ve done this regularly in the past. It did not make me feel any better and I did not become any fitter nor did it lower my stress levels.)

Or, do you respect your resistance and try to figure out why it is coming up right now?

(This has been my most useful approach for dealing with resistance.)

Once you get curious about the nature of your resistance, you can often address some of the challenges that tend to bring it to the forefront.

Sure, sometimes resistance is just inertia – a kind of energy-based reluctance to change from your current state to new one and that’s when stubbornly pushing ahead will probably help.

Otherwise, though, resistance could have useful information for you.

Asking yourself questions about the specific nature of your resistance will bring any frustrations about your wellness plans to your conscious mind. Once you are consciously aware of the issues, you can decide how to address them.

(Even though we are trying to find out the ‘why’ of our resistance, I haven’t actually found it all that useful to ask myself why I am resisting my own plan.

Instead, I ask myself ‘What would I need to get started?’

Either question works, of course, and so would many others. Choose one that suits *you* best.)

Perhaps you are resisting your exercise session because you find it too cold when you are getting started.

Maybe you don’t want to exercise because you hate the music in the video you follow.

Your program might be too challenging for you right now, or you may find it lonely to exercise alone, you may be trying to exercise or meditate at the ‘wrong’ time of day, or doing certain exercises may stir up a bad feeling for you.

Perhaps you’ll realize that the goal you initially set isn’t actually all that important to you. Or maybe you’ll discover that you have accidentally been following a program someone else said that you ‘should’ do.

(Personally, I always resist a should but I don’t always realize that I’m doing it until I get curious about my resistance.)

No matter what comes up for you during this process, you will probably have the information you need to go into problem-solving mode.

Once you are in problem-solving mode, you can give yourself and your resistance the respect you both deserve and find ways to make it easier to get moving.

A photo of the author’s left hand.    She  has two gold rings on her ring finger and there is a  gold star sticker on the back of her  middle finger between the second knuckle on her finger and the knuckle on the back of her hand.
Here’s a picture of my left hand with a gold star sticker on the back of my middle finger. Here’s the story that goes with it: I was looking around the main floor of my house to determine which gold star to photograph today when my dog interrupted me to ask for a treat. I reached into the cupboard to get her one and when I withdrew my hand, I noticed this sticker. I have no idea where it came from but obviously I had to include it in this post!

PS: If you’d like some help brainstorming any obstacles you uncover in this process, let me know in the comments and I’ll put my brain in your storm for a while.