My last two posts have been really introspective and reflective as I slowly adjust to a world without my Dad in it. I have really appreciated your supportive comments and your messages via email and Facebook.
I have lots more to say about grief and movement and mindfulness but I haven’t gotten those thoughts into shareable form yet.
So, instead, I am falling back on a Go Team post:
My dear Team, please, please please, cut yourself some slack.
Nobody feels on top of things.
Everyone I know is feeling overwhelmed.
Just about every conversation I hear is full of apologies, full of explanations of delays, and descriptions of things people intended to do but didn’t quite get to.
And while I appreciate the fact that we all feel the need to explain, I would love to see us all recognize the fact that everyone is doing their best with the time, energy, and resources that they have.
We are all dealing with a lot of expectations from ourselves and from other people and often those expectations aren’t particularly reasonable.
There is NOTHING to be gained by being hard on ourselves about the ways that we fall short.
Instead, we need to be kinder to ourselves.
And not just when we fall short of expectations. We need to be kinder to ourselves when we are making plans or creating expectations in the first place.
We need to give ourselves a break.
We’re just a bunch of humans who are, frankly, poorly trained for the world we are living in and we are doing our best to respond appropriately to a variety of pressures.
Sure, there are ways we can improve those responses and there are ways to ensure that our actions align more closely with our values but those changes can only come from a place of self-compassion.
Like all of those memes say – if self-judgement worked, we’d all be perfect by now.
So let’s pour some energy into self-compassion, hey?
Here’s your gold star for your efforts to cut yourself some slack today.
Note: I am reserving judgment on April though. Who knows what might come after March? Could be anything, really. It’s the very distant future, extremely Not Now.
Before we dive into super-real, and definitely happening right now, March, let’s roll back to the very distant and hazy past and see how the ancient month of February went. (ADHD time is a bizarre and fluid thing, no?)
My plan for the month was to extend my walks a little, to follow my meditation program, and to do at least one hip mobility exercise before bed.
I didn’t extend every walk but I extended as many as I could. We had some especially erratic weather in February – lots of snow storms, some warm(ish) temperatures and some ridiculously cold temperatures. The pathways and sidewalks and streets have varied from clear and easily-traveled to hellish landscapes of lumpy ice and deep patches of softer snow. Between temperatures that were too cold for the dog’s safety and terrain that was too uneven for my safety, it was tricky to be consistent with longer walks. But, that being said, when things were safe for me and for Khalee, we added a little extra time to our adventures.
I managed to meditate fairly regularly but I didn’t follow the program of daily meditation I had planned. BUT because my plan was short-term, it felt easier to keep course-correcting towards meditating daily and, as a result, I meditated more often than I have in the past. Also, I became more aware of when stress was making me breathe shallowly and took conscious, slow, ribcage-expanding breaths to help myself feel better. Those breaths aren’t meditation per se but it is a mindful style of breathing so I’m counting them as part of my meditation practice overall.
The hip mobility exercises are where I really shone in February. I didn’t use a tracker but since I stacked the exercises into my bedtime routine I was able to do them at least 20/28 evenings. I found a big difference in my hips and lower back as a result.
So, as I think back on the ancient history of February 2023 I am comfortable with declaring it a success. And I think I owe that success to two things: 1) only planning one month at a time 2) reflective journaling.
A Short Reflection on Reflective Fitness Journaling in February
I wrote in it for the first two Sundays but then I had two busy Sundays in a row. Logically, I should have moved my journaling plan to a different day but I didn’t.
Because the first two weeks were so helpful, I was in reflective mode even though I didn’t always write things in my journal. So, I was still getting some of the benefits even with a less structured version of the practice.
And being in reflective mode really helped me to be kinder to myself about how I approached my other practices and it guided me to spend a little extra time figuring out how to fit movement and meditation into my daily or weekly schedule.
My conclusion? Even imperfect reflection practices are extremely beneficial.
So, obviously I am going to keep up my reflective journaling plans but I am going to aim for 4 written reflections – one each Monday.
I’m keeping my evening hip mobility exercise but I am going to add in a shoulder mobility exercise every morning when I take my meds (or at least when I get my reminder to take my meds.)
I already get at least 20 minutes of movement every day but for (the rest of) March, I’m going to aim to do that movement before noon each day. Might be yoga, might be a walk with Khalee, might be strength training, but the goal is to have it happen earlier in the day.
And I’m going to keep working on that daily meditation practice – even if it is ‘just’ that mindful breathing I described above.
Despite my best intentions, I never quite got a grip on Planuary.
At the end of December, I really thought that I would be able to take my time throughout January and slowly build a plan for my year. Alas, life got in the way and I ended up taking January pretty much day by day.
That was ok, especially since it was the only possible way for me to proceed at that point.
Basically, I spent January puttering along in all areas of my life.
On the well-being side of things, I did yoga when it felt right, meditated when it felt right, took walks, did some stretches, and, last week, I did some rowing. Those things were all pretty good and I am happy about trusting myself to do what I needed to do on any given day but it did feel a bit aimless.
I’m not judging myself there, aimless worked for me this month but, of course, being aimless didn’t give me the cumulative-work-toward-a-goal feeling that I was looking for.
I really wanted January to feel like I was solving a puzzle, like I was figuring out what I wanted to do and creating a plan for doing it. Instead, metaphorically, I gathered a bunch of jigsaw puzzle pieces, sorted a few of them and then went on to a logic puzzle before dropping that in favour of a riddle. All of those are good things, all of them are useful and enjoyable, but they didn’t come to any sort of satisfactory conclusion.
So, here I am at the end of January without a plan for the rest of my year.
And I know that I still can’t wrap my brain around ‘things I want to do in 2023.’
I also know that I don’t want to just keep wandering aimlessly.
So, I’m picking a middle ground and looking at February as a self-contained unit in which I can work on things that will add up throughout that month but that may not extend into March and may not even be part of a bigger project.
Sidenote: In my current approach, March doesn’t even exist yet so I can’t possibly plan fitness things to do in a possibly fictional month.
A month is really tangible for my ADHD brain, I can see how things might play out in that period of time and, barring a catastrophe, I usually have a good sense of what is coming up for me in the next month. A year, on the other hand, feels like forever and like no time, all at once and my brain gets lost in the simultaneous limits and possibilities.
So, while I usually have a good sense of things I want to have in my life in ‘the future’, I struggle to scale things and plan them out over a year. I end up either creating a plan that is too rigid or too flexible and I end up spending waaaaaaay too much time recalibrating.
(In retrospect, I guess I have always thought that this issue was one of imprecise planning (hence the Planuary plan) but now I’m wondering how much time-perception factors in.)
So, instead of thinking of something I want from this year and then breaking that down into monthly pieces, I am approaching this year from the opposite direction.
I’m going to choose some appealing activities to work on during February and I’ll keep track of how much I do and how I feel about them.
Once March feels a little less fictional (I mean, assuming it ever does 😉 ), I’ll see if I want to keep going with those activities or if I want to move on to something else.
Right now, my thinking is going a bit like this, “I want to meditate regularly so, for February, I’m going to follow the program in the journal I got for Christmas.” “I want to go on longer walks so, for February, I am going to take a slightly longer route.” “I want more hip flexibility so, for February, I am going to do a hip exercise before bed.”
I’m not trying to work up to a certain level. I’m not trying to accumulate a certain number of steps, a certain number of meditation minutes or days, I’m not trying to be able to measure up to a certain level of hip-flexibility. I am not considering this the groundwork for doing the next stage of anything.
I am taking February as a self-contained, measurable, tangible period of time in which to try some specific things. I don’t have to wonder about the next steps. I don’t have to think about how those things fit into the greater context of my year. I just have to focus on February and trust that what I need in March will become apparent as time goes on.
Again, assuming that March actually becomes real at some point. 😉
Early January is crammed with all sorts of advice about how to make those January 1st changes stick. I have often dissed the idea of resolutions as a sort of set-up for failure. But this year I’m actually in a change-is-good mindset, and I have high hopes for the blank page that a new year seems to offer. Having said that, like so many other people, I have been here before. And those high hopes for change often feel dashed by the end of the month. So how to make things stick?
One way that’s getting some attention (or at least Sam brought it to my attention) is “the two-minute rule.” According to the article, “How the two-minute rule can help you beat procrastination and start new habits,” consistently spending two minutes on something can lead to transformative change. The rule says: starting a new habit should never take more than two minutes. It is a take on author and productivity consultant David Allen’s rule that “if it takes less than two minutes, then do it now.”
I am a big advocate of starting small and “doing less.” That’s why Sam tagged me when she posted about the two-minute rule. But even for me, two minutes seems so negligible as to be almost pointless. It’s not, though. I recognize that line of thinking — the “what’s the point of two minutes” line — as a mind-game to talk myself out of something. We have been conditioned to think that if something isn’t really hard or challenging, then it’s pointless. But really, if the alternative is NOTHING at all, then what’s the harm of doing just a little something towards your goal.
I’ve recently signed up for some writing coaching again with Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach. In the application form for her program, she asks how much time you’re planning to commit to your project each day. The first option is 5 minutes. The options go up from there: 15 minutes, 20-30 minutes, and if you want to choose 60 minutes or more there is a note that says you will need Daphne’s permission. Why? Because as a rule, people aim too high and then they lose steam and give up. Instead, making progress in small increments gives you a manageable habit that you can realistically maintain.
Knowing all of this, I still felt a voice in my head telling me I’m an under-achiever when I ticked the 5 minutes/day box. But I ticked that box because I can realistically expect not to feel overwhelmed by spending five minutes a day, five days a week on my book. It seems like ridiculously little time, but if the other option is spending no time at all on it, then I’m sure I will get further with five minutes a day than with zero minutes a day.
Having set that low expectation in the past and worked with it, I can also be confident that at least some days I will work beyond the five-minute timer. And I think where workouts are concerned, this is even more likely. I remember my yoga instructor once saying that if you want to start a home yoga practice, start by just putting down the mat. Next time you might put down the mat and do child’s pose. After that, you might put down the mat, do child’s pose, and follow it with downward dog. It actually works. Similarly, if you pack your gym bag, go to the gym, and commit to spending two or five minutes doing something there, that’s a start. It’s a small start, but doing it three days a week is the start of a habit. And in the end, that’s the goal: to establish a habit.
This year, besides my writing habit, my other “start small” thing is to spend time in the workout room in my building. We’ve got brand new treadmills and spin bikes, and enough free weights and weight machines to get a decent workout in. My goal is to get myself down there for at least five minutes, four days a week. Even as I type that, I can feel that voice saying “five lousy minutes — gimme a break.” But is five minutes better than nothing? Yes. And it gets me over the initial hump of not even putting on my workout gear or getting to the room, which is arguably the bigger challenge than making best use of it once I’m there.
I encourage everyone who is excited about the fresh pages of 2023 to experiment with starting small, especially anyone with a history of jumping in with both feet and then hitting a wall before the month is out. The goal is to establish a new habit, not to transform overnight into a completely different person. We are a week in and it’s not too late to moderate expectations, even for those of us who went out of the gate a little more ambitiously than is sustainable. Small habits grow. And even if kept small, they yield fruit. The voice in the head that says “this isn’t enough” needs to be challenged, perhaps with a stronger voice that says, “Oh really? Just watch!”
Is there anything you’ve been wanting to start that you can give two minutes a day to, a few times a week? Go for it!
I’m trying to figure out what to include in a fitness journal.
I love the idea of recording my plans and ideas and then writing my reflections on my practices but I know better than to try to put all of that onto a blank page.
If I have an open-ended journal, I will feel like I have to write AllOfTheThings AllOfTheTime and I will start avoiding journaling.
I looked for a fitness journal I could buy – thinking that a structured set of questions would be like ‘containers’ for my thoughts – but mostly I found fitness trackers.
Keeping track of the details may be part of my journaling but what I am really interested in is recording and reflecting on my physical and emotional experiences.
So, I am taking a DIY approach – choosing a set of 3-5 fitness-related questions to put on an index card that I will use as a bookmark in a regular journal.
I figure that if I have a set of questions ready it will not only help to structure my thoughts but I can also just number the answers in my journal and not create any obstacles for myself by having to rewrite the questions each time I journal.
I’ve found lots of suggested questions online (see links below) and I am mulling those over – not looking for perfect questions, just seeing what feels interesting to me.
But, speaking of interesting, I’d be interested to know what *you* think would make a good reflective question for a fitness journal.
What do find useful to consider about your fitness practices?
What do you wish you had made note of when you started something new?
What kinds of feelings or experiences do you think I should reflect on?
If you’re interested, here are some of the articles I found online. (I think Sam suggested the first one in a previous Facebook post.)
Before I begin today, I’d like to remind you that you do NOT have to make changes, start resolutions, or make new year plans. If you feel drawn towards those kinds of things, that’s cool. If you hate those kinds of things, that’s cool, too.
And, if you are a resolutions type of person with your plans for the year all set up and you’re working away at them – go you! We all need to find a way that works for us and keeps us feeling good about ourselves as we move forward. In your case, today’s post might be good to have in your metaphorical back pocket in case you need it one day.
Meanwhile, I’m over here with no actual plans yet, just a vague sense of wanting to improve my overall well-being through movement and rest this year.
I know that will take some planning and some up-front work and experimentation but I need to do some thinking and writing and research to figure out the details.
And I’m ok with that. In fact, as I noted in a recent post, I am in Planuary not January right now.
If you are also in Planuary, or just if you are still deciding what you want to do, or if you know what you want to do but are still getting in gear to do it, I’d like to invite you to decide something small.
By that, I mean to pick a little something that is at least somewhat related to a direction you may want to move in. (That might be the vaguest sentence I have ever written. Bahahaha!)
This isn’t about deciding on Step 1. It isn’t about keeping yourself busy. This is a way of anchoring the space you created yesterday.
So, for example, I know that I want to strengthen my core this year. And I know that any exercises for my core will help. I also know that I will need to get specific at some point or I won’t actually follow though.
But I don’t have a plan or strategy *yet.* Right now, I just have a sense that this is a direction I want to move towards.
So, yesterday, I decided that since on most days I can exercise in the evening, I would create mental space in my evening routine for exercise.
And since I don’t have a plan in place, anything would do for now.
So, I picked 5 core exercises I like and did 5 reps of each one.
It was a manageable amount. It had defined parameters (i.e. it was clear when I was done.) And it felt like I did something useful for my eventual plan.
I didn’t have to overdo it. I didn’t have to create a huge framework for future fitness. I could just decide on something small that would move me in the right direction.
And it is something I can keep doing while I decide what ELSE I want to do.
And I’d like to invite you to give this a try.
Whatever you are mulling over right now, decide on a small version to try. See how it feels, physically and mentally.
If it felt good – stick with it while you figure out what’s next. If it was too tiring or if it felt bad – adjust things for next time.
Note: Judging from my personal past experience, there’s a decent chance that your ‘something small’ will only seem small in comparison to your envisioned future result. When you try it, you may find that your ‘something small’ was actually fairly big. If that’s the case, don’t despair – just go smaller.
And, of course, please be kind to yourself in the process. Making plans, making changes, and trying new things can all be challenging, tricky, stressful processes. If you find these things hard, try to give yourself time to adjust and to recover – you need what you need and trying to ‘tough it out’ may just make things harder. Sure, we all need to persevere and push through sometimes but we can’t stay in that mode all the time.
Here’s your gold star for your efforts today whether you are working your plan, working on a plan, or working towards considering working on a plan.
Apparently all of my posts this month have been on the theme of self-care.
I had realized that was (deliberately) the case for my daily posts for the ‘Making Space 2022’ series but it was only when I started this post that I realized that my regular Tuesday posts had been all about self-care, too.
In retrospect, it’s ridiculously obvious but until I started writing this post, I thought that my regular Tuesday posts were all over the place this month. In fact, I started by calling this post ‘Bits and Pieces’ and I was going to write about how I felt like I was too focused on small issues lately and not getting into any big picture stuff. Brains are so weird, aren’t they?
Then today, I woke up with a lot of pain and tension in my hands and I thought I would write about that…after I did some stretches. (This video helped a lot, by the way.)
So, I was thinking of all of those things as separate – resting, core work, back pain, and wrist/hand stretches – but they are all connected. For starters, they are all happening to me – so that’s one connection. They all have to do with me trying to manage the details of my life in a way that supports me instead of making me work harder. And they are all about underlying, foundational things that would be helpful for me to take a closer look at.
I take plenty of downtime on a regular basis but I could probably put some structures in place to make it easier for me to get more complete rest – mentally and physically. If I established a higher level of basic core fitness, it would support my efforts in other areas. If I strengthened my back and paid closer attention to *how* I move, I could avoid some types of back pain. And if I did more hand and wrist stretches on a regular basis, I would probably have more flexibility and less stiffness overall.
Sidenote re: my wrists and hands – I didn’t injure myself or anything. I am pretty sure my wrist/hand/forearm stiffness today was related to spending the last few days rolling cookies, wrapping gifts, and carrying packages – basically using my hands in unusual ways and employing different muscles.
I think I am pretty good at mental self-care and decent at physical self-care but there is definitely room for improvement in both areas. I would like to move myself toward more proactive and preventative care, especially physically.
Most of the time, I can organize things to take good care of my emotional health and my mental well-being but I have such a hard time assessing my physical capacity that it is hard for me to judge what to do now to make things easier on myself in the future.
In fact, just like I was doing with my December posts – I keep seeing my days and my activities and my actions as separate things when they are all very much connected and they all depend on me taking good care of myself moment to moment and overall.
Sooooo, what am I going to do about all of these realizations?
Well, I don’t want to let my brain away with sorting everything into separate boxes any more because that is not helping very much.
I guess, I need to ask myself questions like these and figure out my next steps:
What kinds of things help me feel better/help me to take good care of myself?
How do I integrate those physical/emotional/mental self-care practices so I can be proactive about my current and future health?
What habits and systems do I need to develop to make those practices a straightforward part of my daily rhythm?
What help/advice/support do I need to make that happen?
And, most importantly for this ADHD brain – how do I work on this without trying to do it all at once and getting overwhelmed?
I don’t have answers for these questions right now but I will be returning to these themes throughout my regular posts and in my ‘Go Team’ posts in January.
How do you do with your self-care?
Do you tend to see things in ‘bits and pieces’ like I do or do you remember that it is the same you doing all of the things?
PS – As an update on the core work – I followed the video every day until my back started acting up. After that, I still did some core work but I found that that specific video irritated my back so I did other back-friendly exercises daily and tried to ‘engage’ my core when doing other routine tasks as well.
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.
But we are all thinking about vacation as time that is not non-vacation time. If you’re normally very active, on vacation you can relax. If you are normally too busy for activities, then on vacation you have that time. Vacation is choice: a time to do more (or less) than what you do when you are not vacationing (unless you are retired, but that’s another scenario from which I am still woefully far away).
This past summer vacation, I wrote out a list of physical and social activities I wanted to do on my own or with friends and family: hiking, biking, kayaking, camping, etc. Then, on the next page I drew wobbly boxes and slotted each list item into my hand-drawn calendar—spreading out the activities but also ensuring I got them all into my vacation time.
Each vacation day I had at least one goal activity to look forward to. I had a blast: two weeks of a high-energy days that were filled with lots of fun and plenty of exercise, neatly all within in my local area.
Now, I am back to my regular work week. Back to the office. And I am kinda down about it.
Even though I still have most nights and weekends for summer exercise, I feel not nearly as motivated and encouraged to be active as I did when I was on my two weeks of holidays. Activity-wise, I peaked during my summer vacation time, then valleyed right after on my non-vacation time. And I am finding that it is not helpful to be this unmotivated, considering that now I exercise more than ever after being back sitting in my office all day!
What’s the learning here, and what’s next for me? It’s a long time away my next two-week vacation!
My vacation activities seemed galvanized by my ability to choose them. Now that I am back to work, I feel I have less free time and less freedom in how I spend my time. Would making another list and wobbly, hand-drawn calendar give me back that “vacation feeling” that would nudge me back to being more active?
Or, perhaps I should try mentally de-coupling my physical activities from my vacation time altogether. Perhaps exercise is the vacation from work, regardless of whether I am off on holidays or not.
Do you notice a difference in your levels of activity transitioning between vacation to work time? How do you manage that transition? What works for you?
“All riders are expected to complete two back-to-back minimum 100km rides over two consecutive days (e.g. Saturday and Sunday) by this date.” By what date? By July 17.
The Friends for Life Bike Rally has its rules. I am sure they are good rules and they have them for a reason.
But here’s my reaction:
And truth be told I haven’t yet ridden 100 km in one go this year.
Yes, I’ve ridden 97 km and I was tempted to go all Cate-completist about it. and make it an even 100 but I didn’t. I wasn’t even exhausted but I was, as usual, done with Toronto traffic and all the red lights.
I have been doing back to back rides. This past long weekend I did 46 km on one day (Canada Day at Niagara Falls with Sarah) and 77 (with David) on another and then another 49 km (in Southampton with Sarah and her very speedy ZSUN teammate Nats).
But the astute mathematicians among you will note that that’s not 200 km over two days.
You can see my Strava profile here if you want to check up on me. Lol.
So what’s my plan?
I’m riding this Friday with Jeff, had planned on 70 km or so. I might ride with some GCAT folks on Saturday but that’s more like 60 km. Sunday there’s a wedding. So I don’t think it will be this weekend.
Next weekend looks good though. Sunday, July 17 is the Tour de Norfolk. We’ve committed to the 100 km.
I think I have a plan. We could ride 100 km in Guelph on Saturday and then the Tour de Norfolk on Sunday. Let’s hope for good weather and all going well we should be able to sneak in our back to back 100 km rides just under the wire.