advice · commute · covid19 · ergonomics · fitness · habits · planning · self care

Habits to Offset Being an End-of-Day Grump After Back-to-Work Commuting

Shortly after coming home from my work commute the other day, I found that my partner (and cat) could barely stand to be around me. I was being a total grump—tired and irritable. Why?

I had spent the last two days commuting by car (an hour each way, plus more travel between sites), then sitting for hours at desks that were not my own. Being vehicle- and desk-bound used to be my work-a-day norm. But, after only a few days back at work, and despite all the travel, I felt unusually sedentary and yuck.

A woman hunched over her laptop while seated at a desk
A woman hunched over her laptop at a desk. Posture posture posture!

I have worked from home during most of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means I’ve had the luxury of walking or exercising before or after work (most days!), and taking short stretch breaks anytime I’ve needed to in a private and comfortable space of my own. More control over how, where, and how much I sit.

You may be thinking—with all this privilege, 5 hours in the car over 2 days is not, relatively speaking, a big deal. Boo hoo, Elan. (At first I thought that too.)

Yet, because I am trying to be mindful and notice things more, I realized maybe I hadn’t prepared myself sufficiently for what back to work would feel like for my body.

Reminders are for people who need reminding. Here is a brief list of reminders for how I might show up more prepared for my return-to-work days a (and be less of a grump around those I love afterwards).

  • Leave 15 minutes earlier than I need to and park at the far end of the parking lot to have time to walk and stretch before sitting in the office.
  • Bring more water and veggie snacks than I think I will need in order to stay hydrated (and avoid the snack machine).
  • Schedule in-person meetings to end 10 minutes before the hour, and use that time to get up and move around, perhaps reacquainting myself with the buildings and their outdoor spaces.
  • Assess the ergonomics of my seated position in my car and in my hoteling office work spaces—try to notice my posture and pack what I need to adjust myself.
  • Make time to stretch before getting back into my car near the end of the day.
Cats and trucks lined up on a highway
That’s me, third car on the right.

What else could help me to manage feelings sedentary and grumpy during return to work? Please share your ideas in comments below!

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 · fit at mid-life · fitness · planning

Another Week, Another Countdown for Christine

I saw a tweet a while ago about how one of the disappointing parts of adulthood is the fact that no one asks you about your favourite dinosaur.

Image description: three wooden dinosaurs standing on a stack of books.​
Image description: three wooden dinosaurs standing on a stack of books.

And that is sad (mine’s triceratops, by the way) but you know what else is sad about adulthood?

Hardly any grown ups add a fraction to their ages. 

We all just go for the whole number. That’s kind of dull, don’t you think?

I mean, what’s more fun? 

Christine is 49 

or 

Christine is 49 and A HALF!

I think the answer is clear. 

49 and A HALF has way more pizazz.

Now, as you probably know, Sam and Tracy started this blog because they wanted to talk about the Fittest by 50 challenge that they were both working on. They took a long term approach to it (2 years), had a solid plan, and tracked their progress.

(And, in a cool coincidence, Sam posted on Monday about being 2 years away from 60, so this is around 10 years from when the initial ‘Fittest by 50’ plan started.)

I’m a bit late and a bit too me-ish for that sort of long-term, methodical approach (even six months is a bit too far into the ‘not-now’ for my ADHD self, frankly) but it’s not too late for me to become fitter by 50. And that’s what I plan to do.

: A woman with short hair​, who is wearing exercise clothes, has her arms outstretched and she is holding a large blue exercise ball in her hands. Her upper body is slightly twisted away from the camera.
Image description: A woman with short hair, who is wearing exercise clothes, has her arms outstretched and she is holding a large blue exercise ball in her hands. Her upper body is slightly twisted away from the camera.

Just to be clear, I’m not really viewing my 50th birthday as a deadline. I’m not planning to get fitter and then give up once my birthday rolls around. And I am not labouring under the assumption that it is now or never. 

I’m just taking advantage of a milestone birthday to give me some focus, to help me direct a little more time and energy into my fitness plans.

I’m not entirely sure what those plans are yet but I have some thoughts:

  • Six months is too long for me to think of all at once so I have to break it down into 6 week sections and just think about one of those at a time.
  • My first six weeks will be focused on my preparations for my belt test, so that’s a good start. 
  • My second six weeks will be during the summer, so that gives me lots of different movement options.
  • My word of the year for 2022 is spaciousness and last year’s was consistency. I think both of those concepts can be useful for my plans – I want more room for fitness, I don’t want to feel like I am adding yet another thing to my to-do list. And I know that going for the consistency is the only way that I will make progress. After all, if there was a way to make erratic exercise session pay off, I would be the fittest person on earth right now.
  • I need to keep the bar low to encourage consistency and I need to keep my intensity high to maximize my interest in the project. I don’t know how to balance those things yet.
  • And, finally, I need to figure out what ‘Fitter by 50’ actually means for me: What criteria will I use? What will I measure? What aspects of fitness feel tangible for me? What do I care enough about, fitness-wise to stick with for the next 6 months?

Anyway, stay tuned while I fine tune my plans and make my way from 49 and ½ to 50.

PS – Anyone want to keep me company?

a GIF of a tortoise moving slowly across a patio. Text beneath reads ‘Here I come…’
I’m not slagging myself with this GIF. I’m trying to inspire myself to be slow and steady on my way to be fitter. Image description: a GIF of a tortoise moving slowly across a patio. Text beneath reads ‘Here I come…’
ADHD · goals · martial arts · planning

Christine’s TKD Pattern Check-In: That Didn’t Go As Planned (But It Turned Out OK)

So, it turns out that I can’t really learn a new pattern in 5 minute sessions because my brain does NOT like it.

I can do 5 minute practices of a pattern that I already know or I can practice one specific technique for 5 minutes but my brain refuses to believe that 5 minutes of learning a new pattern will add up to me being able to do it. 

I have it a good try for the first 10 days of my plan, though.

I would practice a few moves one day and really feel like I was getting it. But, by the next afternoon, it was like I had wiped my mind clear of the previous movements entirely. It was taking me almost the whole five minutes to remind myself of what I had been doing the day before and it was so awkward and frustrating that I was getting really discouraged.

a GIF of a ​light brown dog slowly shaking its head back and forth. It has a resigned expression on its face and the caption beneath says ‘Really?’
This pup knows my frustration. Image description: a GIF of a light brown dog slowly shaking its head back and forth. Its mouth is curled into a resigned expression and the caption beneath says ‘Really?’

I know, of course, that learning takes time and that I have to be patient with myself and with the process.

BUT, on the other hand, I know what I am like and I know what my brain is like. And, I know that that specific kind of frustration can lead to me unconsciously putting something aside for later – and not a specific time later but that murky ambiguous time that I refer to as the ‘the not-now.’*

Change in Plans

In order to protect my pattern practice from falling into the not-now, I had to course-correct.

I changed my daily practices to focus on patterns I already knew, cycling through them one at a time. 

As for learning Yoo-Sin, here’s what happened:

Luckily, we went back to having classes in person so I had the chance to work with Ms. Reid and Mr. Dyer a couple of times. That really helped. It’s great to have two very different people to work with – they both help me to understand different parts of the movements and understand how to bring the pieces together.

A GIF made by animating the images from a Simplicity brand pant suit sewing pattern so that the figures on the front dance.
This is not the kind of pattern I was working on at all but this GIF makes me laugh every time I see if. Image description: A GIF made from the the sample image on a Simplicity brand sewing pattern. A woman in a black yellow, plaid bell-bottom pant suit dances from side to side in the foreground while a woman in a black bell-bottom pant suit nods her head to the same beat in the background.

And, at home, I dedicated longer periods of time to learning my new pattern so I had time to get into more of the movements in each practice.

I started by writing out the 68 movements in my own words so I could reference them more easily. I’m sure official instructions will never include phrases like  “X punch down, X knives up, then sneaky punch” but I make it work. 

Then I broke the movements into sections that made sense to me – separating sections when I had to change directions or when a set of similar movements were completed and another set was starting.  

I worked on the first section until the movements had a bit of flow to them and then moved to the next section, adding a little bit at a time. This is what I was hoping to do with my 5 minute practices but 5 minutes wasn’t long enough to make things stick.

I could feel that I was starting to grasp my pattern** but I couldn’t always bring my knowledge with me to class. It always takes a while before my home practice shows up at class with me but at least my brain was more willing to focus on the details of the in-class practice because the movements were at least vaguely familiar. That let me retain more information about the details of the pattern because I had a mental ‘container’ to put them in.

Let’s Call It A Success

I’m going to call my February plan a success even though I had to change it part way through. (Hmm, does it count as changing it if part of the plan was that I could change it if I wanted? Ha! )

Trying to work for 5 minutes a day wasn’t a direct path to learning my pattern but it did set me on the right path. Realizing that 5 minutes a day wasn’t going to work led me to find something that would and now I am doing pretty well with my pattern overall.

I’m pretty confident with the first 50 of the 68 movements and I am feeling ok about the last 18. And I’d be feeling more confident about that last 18 if I could magically face the right direction for each movement instead of having to remind myself each time.

A determined-looking cheerleader in a huge hairbow holding pompoms.
Given her determined expression, I can only assume she is personally cheering me on. Image description: a cheerleader in a huge hair bow and a black and red jersey that says ‘Beauties’ is holding a black and white pompom slightly behind her while she holds a red and white pompom toward the camera. She has a determined look on her face and she is standing in a field with a tree and parked cars in the background.

When I started this plan for practice I wasn’t sure if I *could* learn my pattern in a month but apparently, the answer is yes – as long as I was working with my inclinations instead of against them. 

I think I just coached myself into a corner with that last bit, hey? 😉

*Long before I was diagnosed with ADHD, I would tell people that, for me, time only came in two forms ‘now’ and ‘not-now’ and if I put something into the not-now it might never resurface. It took me years to find out that dividing time like that is common among people with ADHD. I don’t know how many people use the definite article though – ‘the not-now’ has a certain gravitas to it that works for me.

** I have a very specific feeling when I know a pattern is starting to come together. It’s not exactly visual but it is the mental equivalent of watching film develop or watching something move toward you through fog – I can ‘see’ it there, recognize its shape, even if I can’t quite identify/describe it yet.

habits · motivation · planning · self care

Go Team! January 2: Go Easy

Hello Team!

Today, I’d like to invite you to go easy on yourself.

We live with a cultural narrative that tells us to Go Big or Go Home, one that stresses that we have to push, push, push, and be tough and disciplined, and work hard all the time.

I vote no.

There can be a time and a place for all of those sorts of feelings and that type of effort but the first days of building a new habit is definitely not that time or place.

This is a time to be gentle with yourself, to work with the feelings of reluctance and discomfort that often surround making any sort of change.

After all, our brains like to stick with established routines – those routines use less brainpower, less energy, and they feel more efficient – and introducing new habits will require work.

That’s why we need to go easy.

 a GIF of three light-green plush peas with smiling faces jumping excitedly in a zippe​red felt pod
I couldn’t resist how cute these peas were in their wee pod. Image description: a GIF of three light-green plush peas with smiling faces jumping excitedly in a zippered felt pod.

We need to know that we might start later than we intended or that we might miss some days in our plan.

We need to acknowledge that we will have ups and downs in the process of developing our new habits. We need to recognize that things going awry doesn’t mean we have failed, it means we are following a perfectly normal pattern of developing a new habit.

If you are in the honeymoon phase of your new habit, when everything is going smoothly, this may seem like a weird time to bring all of this up, but I think it’s useful to consider that there will be challenges ahead. Maybe you’ll want to make some encouraging notes for your future self about how you feel right now or about how you could choose a streamlined version of your habit to use on a challenging day.

If you are still struggling to get started, then going easy is definitely going to help. I know that in the past, I have set a date to start something new but when that day arrived, something was in my way – a work project, a migraine, a missing piece for the routine- and I didn’t start the way I meant to. Sometimes, I abandoned the plan right there and then because I only had one vision of my new habit – things going perfectly – and I didn’t know how to work with anything less. Other times, I started anyway but the plan felt somehow tainted because I hadn’t managed to start as I had planned.*

GIF of Kermit the Frog looking upset. Text beneath reads ‘Mistakes were made.’
I know, Kermit, this kind of thing happens to me on the regular. Image description: a GIF of Kermit the Frog from The Muppets shaking his head with his hand over his snout (do frogs have snouts?) White text beneath reads ‘Mistakes were made.’

Instead of planning to be our most perfect selves on our most perfect day, it would be better for us to go easy. Learning to take small steps and to do things like creating a version of our new habit that we can do even on the hardest of days will serve us better in the long run.

I know that we all approach new habits in different ways. Some of us like to start with a huge workout or a long meditation and some of us like to work our way up. And, obviously, I want you to do what works best for you. However, it’s a good idea for us to all have a ‘go easy’ plan to use on days when we struggle.

On any given day, go easy might mean doing a low-key version of our plan or it might mean taking a break, but going easy will never be a sign of failure. It’s a sign of self-compassion. It’s us recognizing that we are human and that our days will vary. Being prepared to for all kinds of days and all kinds of energy levels will help us stick with our new habits until they become routine.

And now, since I like to have an example as an anchor, here’s how my yoga plan for this month will go.

I’m signed up for Yoga with Adriene’s 30 Day ‘Move’ program for January but I am going to do it on my own terms. Ideally, I will do the video for a given day at 10pm. However, there will no doubt be days when I will have a family obligation or an online meeting with someone in a different time zone at 10pm. On those days, I will plan to do the video at 2pm. BUT, if that doesn’t work, I will do a very short practice on my own and I have decided that even one asana will count as a practice. So, even on my most difficult day, I can lie on the floor in Savasana (corpse pose) for couple of minutes and consider my yoga done for the day.

When you are building a habit, having what I call a placeholder practice – like me doing Savasana – is an important way to go easy while still keeping your momentum.

You aren’t slacking off, you aren’t letting yourself off the hook, you are being responsive to your own needs in the moment.

Your efforts count, whether you are meditating for an hour or a minute. Everything you do to build your habit matters, whether you do one squat or a hundred. Trust yourself to know whether you need to go easy or push hard.

And here’s your gold star for today’s efforts – even if the only thing you can manage today is reading this post – or even part of it, there are a lot of words up there!

A gold star ornament hanging against a dark green wall.
Image description: a gold star ornament against a dark green wall. The star is made from overlaid gold-coloured wires so it appears to be woven or made from wicker.

*This might be a being-too-literal-sometimes ADHD thing or it might just be a being-too-literal-sometimes Christine thing but I have always hated the sayings ‘Start as you mean to go on.’ and ‘Start as you mean to finish.’ I understand that the spirit those sayings are trying to foster but, to me, they always seemed impossible. How am I supposed to know at the beginning how things are going to go later on? What about if I start strong and can’t sustain it? What about if I don’t have enough information at the beginning to know how things need to be later? This is more evidence of my expert-level overthinking.

fitness · habits · holidays · planning

Go Team: Give Yourself Some Space

So, tomorrow is the 1st of December.

Whether you are just finishing up the end of the year or you are getting ready for the holidays you celebrate, you probably have some extra items on your to do list this month.

When you combine that with the ambient time pressure that December generates, you end up not only having more to do but you feel like you have way less time than you need to do it.

When that kind of pressure happens and something’s got to give, we usually sacrifice something personal like our fitness activities, our meditation, or any breaks we might take to look after ourselves.

I wonder if you can avoid that trap this year (or at least not get caught so firmly) by making some space for yourself in your own head…and hopefully in your own schedule.

Maybe you won’t have time for your usual fitness routine but perhaps you could make space for some stretches.

Perhaps there will be too many people around for you to meditate, perhaps you could take a short walk, or do some doodling, or anything else that will put you firmly in the moment, for a moment.

Or maybe you can even go the other way and instead of shortening your time for yourself, you can find a way to create space to add extra personal time to your schedule. Committing to some yoga first thing in the morning or some meditative colouring right before bed might help you feel more at ease during the rest of the day.

I know some of you are reading this and despairing that there is no way for you to keep up any sort of a routine and you definitely can’t add anything to your day.

If that’s how you are feeling, then I’d like you to create space by letting yourself off the hook. Try to avoid telling yourself what you *should* be doing or feeling this month and embrace the feeling of running around. Sometimes it’s the disconnect between what you think you should be doing and what you actually are doing that causes the most distress.

If you can say ‘December is utter madness and I am just rolling with it.’ things may go more smoothly.

Really, I just want you to be kind to yourself, whatever form that might take this month, or at any time.

Here’s your star for your efforts!

Image description: a large foldable paper star is hanging on a white door.​
This is my largest gold star, a large paper one that was a gift from my friend Catherine. Image description: a large gold foldable paper star decorated with spirals is hanging from a string on a white door.

fitness · motivation · planning · schedule · self care

Christine Is Trying To Take Her Retreat Home With Her

Ever since I wrote about doing yoga on my writing retreat last week, I’ve been considering my retreat state of mind.

A light haired dog is asleep, curled up on a grey and green bedspread.
Here’s Khalee doing a remarkable imitation of my relaxed retreat-brain. Image description: My light haired dog, Khalee, is sleeping peacefully, curled up on my grey and green bedspread.

It’s easier to write when I am on retreat, of course, that was pretty much a given. What always surprises me, however, is how much easier it is to do yoga, practice my TKD patterns, and to get out for a walk when I am on retreat.

I mean, obviously, it’s easier to do anything that I want to do when my schedule is fully under my control and I am the only person I need to take into account when deciding when or how to do something.

(In theory, it should be similar when I am home. Given that I work for myself, I have a fair amount of control over my schedule. My kids are practically adults so they don’t exactly need my supervision anymore. But I am part of a family, a household, so our choices do affect each other, at least to some degree. And given my personality/my ADHD, I will overthink (at least subconsciously) all the possibilities of how I might be disturbing someone else.)

And, aside from the schedule thing, when I’m on retreat, I only have so many activity options available to me. I can write, I can read, I can chat with my friends, or I can exercise. Having fewer choices makes it easier to rotate through them throughout the day.

When I’m home, I have so many things that I *could* be doing at any given time that I often have trouble figuring out what to do when. (Another personality tendency that is exacerbated by ADHD.)

If the above picture of Khalee is my retreat brain, my at-home brain could often be depicted like this:

A small dog walks on its hind legs through a convenience store. It looks like it is shopping. Text above the photo reads ‘decisions, decisions.’
Image description: a small light-haired dog is waking on its hind legs through a convenience store, looking from side to side as it hurries along. Text above the photo reads ‘decisions decisions…’

It would be pretty hard to make my home like our retreat space. I’m always going to have to factor in other people’s schedules and I’m always going to have different priorities competing for my time.

BUT…

I wonder how I could move my at-home mindset closer to my retreat mindset and help make it easier to get into exercise mode?

I guess I could deliberate reduce the number of choices available to me at any given time of the day.

And I could probably set firmer schedule boundaries for myself so I don’t spend so much time factoring in the possible effects I might have on other people’s schedules.

And I could definitely put fewer things on my to do list each day, to help me have more of that retreat-style focus.

I’m going to give it a whirl and see if these things help make it easier to break out of decision mode and into exercise mode.

How would YOU go about bringing a retreat mindset home with you?

covid19 · fitness · mindfulness · planning

What’s in a number? a lot and a little

These days, I’m living by the numbers. As of today’s writing, I am:

  • 80 consecutive days of meditation
  • 66 consecutive weeks of mediation
  • 189 workout days in 2021
  • 32 workout days away from my 221 number in 2021
  • 12 classes away from winter break
  • 184 days to go until my 2022 sabbatical
  • 150 days until my birthday…
  • at which time I turn 60– another big number

We live by the numbers, which are constantly changing.

Maybe one of those old-fashioned number displays, that makes a clacking sound as it changes. By Mick Hillier on Unsplash.
Maybe one of those old-fashioned number displays, the kind that make clacking sounds as the numbers change. By Mick Hillier on Unsplash.

Right now my life feels like a lot of sitting around, staring up at those number displays, waiting for them to flip and clack and change to reflect the next thing on my life itinerary, the next train I need to catch to whatever I’m supposed to be doing. If that’s true, then all I have to do is stand there patiently, and the new plan for me will soon roll over, clacking authoritatively.

Normally I’m too busy to stop, look around and assess where I am; I just hurry on to the next class, meeting, load of laundry, friend to see, or paper to grade. But this weekend is different. I’m at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health with my friend Norah. I’ve been here several times for yoga, cooking classes, extremely yummy vegetarian food and a woodsy break from regular life.

This time is different. The feel is different: there are fewer people (pandemic restrictions), fewer activities, and a more subdued atmosphere. In my yoga classes, I look around. People seem tired. Some of them are doing their own thing. Some are opting out and lying down, wrapped in blankets they brought with them. One woman near me was scrolling through her phone during a thread-the-needle exercise. I frowned in her direction, but in hindsight I feel sympathy. Electronics have been much of what we’ve known over the past 18 months; they’ve been our companions. I guess she felt the need to check in, even during a purported retreat weekend. I get it.

It’s hard to be in the now, live in the now, rather than impatiently checking whatever, looking to see when the next thing is. My numbers reflect my own impatience. I regularly google “how many days until May 10, 2022?” Google tells me. Thanks, Google.

I just tried googling “how many days until the pandemic ends?” Here’s what I saw:

Screenshot of results of "how many days until the pandemic ends? google query. It seems the McKinsey agency knows.
Screenshot of results of “how many days until the pandemic ends? google query. It seems the McKinsey agency knows.

McKinsey doesn’t know. I don’t know. No one knows. All we can do is either stand in that large open space, waiting for the clacky departure board to clack, or go about our business–life– until such time as clacking occurs.

This yoga weekend, away from regular life, is making it clearer to me that those X number of days before all those things are worth something in themselves. Doing something other than waiting.

Readers, how do you spent time when you have a big event or big change coming up? Are you waiting, planning, wondering, expecting? Do you pretend it’s not happening, distracting yourself? Do you go about your business? I’d love to hear what your strategies are.

fitness · habits · motivation · planning

Go Team – June 15: Re-evaluate, Revise, Reframe

That’s a lot of ‘Re’ for one title, but let’s forge ahead.

Here we are in June, well into year two of ‘Everything is just a bit strange, isn’t it?’ and I’m hoping you’ll pause, take a breath, and reconsider your fitness/wellness plans and goals for the year. (There was another ‘re’ in that sentence, there is no escape from them!)

Maybe everything is going exactly as you planned, things are humming along, and you are wondering why I am even suggesting this.

If that’s the case for you, keep rocking it and here are some gold stars for your hard work: ⭐️🌟⭐️🌟⭐️🌟⭐️

But, if you are like me and this year has been all fits and starts with your fitness/wellness goals, let’s get into all of those ‘Re’ words above.

Re-evaluate

When you started the year you imagined things were going to go a certain way. You combined that imagined future with the facts you had and made plans based on that.

Now that we are part way through June, you have more information about your schedule, your preferences, and your capacity.

Use that information to reevaluate the goals and plans you made in January.

Consciously decide whether you are going to continue or if you are going to choose a different path. (Sometimes, I will hold on to an old plan for ages, even though I am doing nothing with it, because I keep thinking I will get back to it. Consciously choosing NOT to do it is always a relief.)

Revise

Your plans for fitness and wellness are for YOU, not for anyone else. And only you can decide if something is working for you.

You don’t have to follow the plan exactly as you set it out at the first part of the year. You can choose to revise it at any time to meet your current needs.

If the big ideas you had in January, whatever they were, still suit you but the details didn’t work out, change the details.

If the big ideas no longer suit you, ditch them and try something else.

Reframe

One of the tricky things about making goals and plans is that we can be very hard on ourselves if they don’t work out the way that we hoped they would.

That brings us to our third Re: reframe.

Please, please, please, do not frame your efforts over the past months in terms of failure.

For most of us, that will not be a valuable approach.

I’m not suggesting that you pretend everything is perfect nor am I suggesting a falsely positive approach.

Instead, I invite you to acknowledge that your initial plan wasn’t possible and then reframe your results in terms of effort or knowledge instead of failure to meet a plan.

So, instead of some self-defeating statement about failing to do daily yoga, say something like: “I couldn’t do yoga daily the way I planned instead I got on the mat once a week and really enjoyed it.”

Or, instead of being harsh about your running progress, try something like: “I’m not ready to run in a race and that’s ok, I have learned a lot about how to pace myself with my training and I can run with more ease than I could in January.”

Looking at your efforts in this way will keep you from feeling defeated and help you take a realistic view of where you are with your fitness plans.

Go Team

So, as we move into the second half of the year, I hope you are being kind to yourself about your efforts, your capacity, and your plans.

You can take the goals you set in January and re-evaluate, revise, and reframe them until your plan for the rest of the year serves you best.

Fitness isn’t all or nothing, it’s a process. We need to acknowledge and celebrate our efforts and be kind to ourselves in the process.

PS – Here’s your gold star for your hard work, no matter what form that work is taking for you right now.

GIF of a gold star agains a black background, the animation adds white lines to make it seem shinier.
So shiny! image description: a GIF of a gold star against a black background. The animation adds a white lines to the star to make it seem shinier.

fitness · planning

White board menus for workout and eating plans

To-do lists don’t really work for me. First, I put way too many items on them, so they end up seem more accusatory than helpful. Second, I write them on a scrap piece of paper (often the back of an used business envelope– hey, it’s environmentally friendly!) and then can’t find it after an hour or so. Yes, I’ve tried phone apps, too. But I much prefer (or at least think I prefer) something physical, something I can see easily.

There’s also a third, tougher problem: the hefty to-do list provokes fear and defiance, sending me running away from it in the direction of fun, relaxation, or anything that isn’t on the list. That is seriously unfortunate. I mean, a gal’s gotta do laundry, go to the library, buy groceries, etc. Keeping track of tasks big and small, work and home, physical and mental, does require (for me) a bit of documentation.

Enter the white board.

A white board– this one is also magnetic. Cool.

But, you might ask, isn’t this just another medium for the to-do list, which you’ve already gone on record saying you hate?

Why yes, that’s true. In the course of some recent coaching sessions with my friend Lisa, we also came up with an alternative to the to-do list: the menu!

I love menus. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy opening up that brightly patterned card stock, handed to you by waitstaff (remember waitstaff?), perusing the contents, and finding exactly what you didn’t know you wanted?

A menu from Life Alive, a restaurant I love; this page is teas and juices and lattes and smoothies. Mmmm…

My current plan for organizing my eating and activity is white-board menu based. Here’s my eating one for this week:

A white board on my fridge, with a literal meals menu based on what's inside.
A white board on my fridge, with a literal meals menu based on what’s inside.

It’s got literal menu items for me to cook, along with other info. I’m trying this out for the first time, so will report back on how it goes.

I’ve also made a white board menu for physical activity.

My workout menu whiteboard, which usually lives in my bedroom, propped up on my chest of drawers.
My workout menu whiteboard, which usually lives in my bedroom, propped up on my chest of drawers.

This whiteboard menu divides up workouts into cardio, strength and mindfulness. Under each heading are some common workout options for me. Each day I look at this and figure out what I want to do and/or have time to do. So far I’ve only done a few of these, but I love having the variety right there in front of me. I just realized I need to add “walking/hiking outing with friends”, as I’m doing one of those this afternoon.

What I love about the menu format is that I get to choose from options, which are laid out for me. I can see how I’m feeling, and pick from a lot of options. And all of these I can afford– they aren’t workouts I can’t do or find too much for me right now. Yay me! Yay Lisa (for coaching and helping me see this)! Yay white board!

I just bought another, bigger white board for work organization. I didn’t have one at home, and figure that this will be very nice to have (in addition to my other online work organizational tools.

My new 2 x 3 white board, fresh out of the box.

For me, arranging to-do items as menu options on a dry-erase white board is helping me approach eating and activity with more agency, without feeling the tyranny of the to-do list. YMMV.

Readers, what tools do you use for organizing weekly workouts? Meal planning? I’d love to hear what works for you.