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.
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?
My current plan for organizing my eating and activity is white-board menu based. Here’s my eating one for this week:
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.
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.
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.
I paused my workout plan for a few days this week.
I was sick on Monday and Tuesday so I couldn’t do my HIIT program or my yoga. I could manage to take the dog for very short walks and do a few neck stretches but that was it.
On Wednesday, I kept my cardio on pause but I could do some yoga.
On Thursday, I had lots of cardio at TKD and did yoga when I came home.
On Friday, I pressed ‘play’ went back to my regular routine.
As a storyteller, a writer, and a coach, I am all about the power of words.
That’s why I chose to say that I ‘paused’ my workout plan instead of saying that I ‘stopped’ it.
Stopping has a finality to it. You might start again or you might not.
Pausing feels like it includes an intention to start again.
When I’m coaching people and they choose to pause something they want to eventually continue doing, I ask them about their conditions for returning.
Will they start again after a specific time frame?
Does their return depending on finishing something else? (Another project, or letting an injury heal.)
If they aren’t sure about their conditions for returning, I ask them to pick a date or time when they will revisit their decision to pause. That frees them up from annoying themselves every day with ‘How about today? No?’ and it also helps them stay conscious of their plan to return.
If you have hit a snag in your workout plans, perhaps, instead of coming to a stop, you can make use of the power of a pause.
Obviously, if you can reshape your plans, that’s great. And it’s always a good idea to keep up the things that you *can* do, but go ahead and pause the plans that you can’t follow in the moment.
You don’t need to feel guilty about it. You haven’t failed, you haven’t messed up, and you aren’t quitting. You are being responsive to the reality of your life in this moment.
But by calling it a pause instead of a stop you are keeping the metaphorical door open for your return. You are making a conscious decision to temporarily alter your plans.
Fitness isn’t an all or nothing one-time project, it’s an ongoing, responsive plan.
And it is perfectly ok if some parts of that plan have to be paused from time to time.
(It’s also ok to stop your plan entirely if you find something that serves you better, but this post is about when you WANT to continue but you just can’t do it right now.)
Here’s your gold star for your efforts to increase your fitness by doing what you can and by responding to the reality of your life right now.
How are you doing with your exercise and wellness plans?
If all is well, then forge ahead!
But if you are struggling to fit your new plans into your day, you aren’t alone.
It can be really hard to add something challenging to your existing schedule and stick with it.
But, that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with YOU!
You aren’t failing, you aren’t messing up, and it definitely does NOT mean that you aren’t working hard enough.
All it means is that you have more information now than you did when you made your plans.
At this point, you have a much better idea of what works for you and where you might need to make some changes.
Perhaps your plan for early morning exercise isn’t working because you have too much to do at the end of the night before and you can’t get to bed early enough to get up at 6am.
Maybe the exercise program you selected is a notch or two above your current capacity and you need something closer to your current abilities.
Or you may have realized that your planned hour of exercise is too long to fit into your current schedule.
Or maybe you are dragging yourself through an abs program and you’ve realized that you hate every single exercise.
That’s all ok.
Your initial plans were not set in stone.
You are free to use this new information to switch things up to serve you better.
You can keep any part of your plans that is working and then toss or tweak anything that isn’t working for you.
Feel free to start over, start smaller, start at a different time, start a different program.
And try not to feel guilty about making those changes. I understand that ambient guilt floats around all of these things just waiting to attach itself to us but guilt can be less sticky when we are conscious of it. (I like to call it out when I feel it, literally saying aloud, ‘Oh, guilt, I recognize you! You don’t belong here.’ It’s a weird thing to do but it helps.)
Your exercise and wellness plans are YOURS. They are supposed to be about you and how you can feel better overall.
You don’t have to stick with any plans that aren’t serving you well.
So, if you need/want to, go ahead and reshape those plans.
Here’s your gold star for today’s efforts in movement, wellness, planning, tweaking, or tossing:
We’re of mixed minds about new year’s resolutions here at the blog. I’d say that none of us are fans of the “new year, new you” idea, you know, the traditional resolutions where you pledge TO CHANGE ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW–spend less, exercise more, lose weight, swear off social media, and so on and so on. But we’re also a thoughtful and reflective bunch and insofar as the new year is opportunity to rethink what’s going well in our lives and what’s not, it can serve as a useful time to take stock. Nat did that in her post about things she wants to stop doing.
With that in mind, in these strange and unprecedented pandemic times, I asked some of the regular bloggers here to do a quick START/STOP/CONTINUE for the new year.
What’s one new thing you want to start in 21? What’s something you want to stop doing in 21? And what’s something that’s working that you want to keep doing in 2021?
Let us know what your answers are in the comments.
Start a monthly focus for my yoga practice. January is exploring King Pigeon.
Stop looking for external validation/praise for my fitness activities & goals. A bit contradictory for a blogger but is more about understanding my motivations for choosing activities.
START: commitment to get outside every day for either a walk or a run, which is a bit more of a challenge with so much working from home.
STOP: mindless eating (COVID has created a new round of struggle on this — I am not talking about dieting or weight loss; I am talking about stopping eating on auto-pilot, without paying attention and without any relationship to either hunger or pleasure).
CONTINUE: my combo of running for cardio, Superhero workouts for strength and conditioning, and yoga for strength, balance, and flexibility. I’m loving all of my workouts these days. I also want to continue connecting with my various workout communities (Superhero Training Team, 221 in 2021 group, Fit Is a Feminist Issue regular bloggers group) for inspiration, a sense of camaraderie, and encouragement.
So, I’m more or less constantly setting goals for myself, reevaluating them, and ditching what doesn’t seem to be a good fit. These are some of the things that have come up recently, but certainly aren’t specific to it being January.
START: Focusing on balancing my meals, especially making sure I’m including plenty of fruits and veggies and a serving of protein at each
STOP: Expecting myself to get an “A+” on everything I do, a “B-” effort is still going to keep me moving in the direction of my goals. I need to be nicer to myself and focus less on how I could have done something/everything better.
CONTINUE: Lifting 3-4 days a week, daily walks, jogging on the weekends, weekend food prep for the week ahead, weekly trauma counseling, sleeping over 8 hours a night, regularly hanging out with my kitties and sweetie on the sofa
Start: Be more committed to stretching and yoga. It’s my weak spot (unless it’s something like 108 Sun Salutations and then I’m all in). Thanks to a post made by Tracy, I have signed up for Yoga by Adriene’s 30 day start to the year and that should help me with consistency in that area.
Stop: Going for a long run or spin class or long walk, and not stretching after. Drinking 4 or 5 coffees a day. Trying to limit it to 2 and then have matcha for the rest (I do drink a lot of water already).
Continue: I already run every week, but shorter distances. I plan to sign up for the Run Around the Bay’s Virtual Race (more on that in another post) as I’d like to use it as a guide to longer runs. Weekly park conditioning and strength workouts. One other strength and conditioning workout (virtual)Two 45 min-60 min spin sessions on my bike.Long walks with my husband (20,000 steps today for example, although most days it’s more like 5,000 steps).My husband and I have been eating a lot less sugar and I like how I feel. So I plan to continue with that.
Nicole has been blogging at Fit is a Feminist Issue since 2019 and her first post here was Sweaty, Sore and Slow.
START: keeping a food + drink journal. I’ve been far less mindful thanks to COVID and it’s beginning to irritate me (OK: IS irritating me). I think just reflecting on the fact that I’ll be reflecting on my food and drink choices later will spark some mindfulness about them. I’ve already started (I have a nifty bound journal I bought at a Christmas market – remember those? – in Konstanz three years ago that needs some filling).
STOP: worrying so much about my changing middle-aged lady body. Things are shifting, and so be it because that is the way aging works. If I continue to do what I’ve always done in terms of nutrition and exercise I’ll remain healthy and that’s most key. I can always buy new pants.
CONTINUE: my EMDR therapy with my wonderful person Annette. It’s been so valuable so far and I know will continue to strengthen me as we keep going.
START--1) commit and adhere to a regular schedule for physical activity. For me this means reserving times to get outside during daylight for walking or riding or skiing, and then actually leaving the house. Leaving it to fate or my whims or the end of the day wasn’t resulting in consistency for me in 2020, so a purposeful change is in order. 2) more regular cooking with more veggies (fruit, too) that feels better for my body (I have acid reflux and some other GI issues, and want to be nicer to myself around this).
STOP— 1) self-shaming about, well, everything (body, food, work, movement, to-do list, etc). Yeah, that would be good.
CONTINUE— my daily meditation and almost-daily yoga practices, regular safe social contact with friends and family, compassion for myself, my friends, family, students, colleagues, and all the sentient beings. We can all use it. Oh, and wearing my damn mask, as long as it takes!
For those of us who celebrate Christmas, or some Christmas-like event, or at least for those of us who end up on a different schedule between December 24 & January 1, we are currently at the time of year when the days all run together.
Routines are off kilter – meals happen at weird times, we’re eating a lot of different foods, and our sleep patterns have gone out the window.
This is when we lose all sense of time and end up in a holi-daze.
An especially dangerous thing for those of us on Team ADHD who have a tenuous grasp on the concept in the first place.
In this odd year, that out-of-phase feeling has been recurring for most of us. The things that give shape to our year have been changed and time has been expanding and contracting around tasks/plans/activities as they mostly moved online.
I think, though, that having that out-of-phase feeling recur so often this year has made me realize (Re-realize? Possibly!) how important schedules are for my mental health.
In previous years, this week would find me with all kinds of lofty ideas about just letting the days progress in any old way, seeing what might appeal to me to do at any given time.
I have encountered some fun days that way in the past but mostly, I end up feeling a bit scattered and let down by the end of the day.
Because, as much as the idea of spending a day drifting from task to task might have appeal, in reality, I know that I won’t drift pleasantly from task to task.
Instead, I’ll spend the whole day feeling vaguely dissatisfied and with a looming sense that I should be doing something else.
So, I create a plan for my week and then a shape for each day so my atemporal brain won’t leave me in the in-between with a feeling of frustrated sadness.
Making a loose plan for my week and then giving each day a shape makes me choose how I am going to spend my time. It helps me notice if I am trying to cram too many different things into the time that I have. And creating that shape lets me do important preparatory things like saving enough time to actually make the meals I plan to eat or to drive to the places I want to be.
And, yes, giving my days a shape does include a (fairly flexible) schedule and some rough time limits for my chosen activities.
I know to some this will sound like ‘Christine doesn’t know how to relax.’ but this approach is actually the key to my relaxation.
For starters, these plans and shapes do not necessarily involve work. My plan for the week includes holiday activities, some special meals, and hanging out with people on Zoom. My shape for a given day might be to read a book for an hour after breakfast, to do some drawing for 45 minutes before lunch, and then to take a long walk at 3pm.
And having that plan, that schedule, is actually restful. It means that time won’t gallop away from me.
It means that I won’t spend the whole week figuring out when to do which activity. And I won’t spend each day continuously trying to decide if now is the ‘right’ time to read, to draw, or to head out for a walk.
And, having that plan, that shape, lets me make stress-free decisions when someone asks me if I want to do something else. If my plan is to go for a walk at 3, and someone asks me to watch a movie at 2, knowing the shape of my day means that I can more easily decide whether to change the time of my walk or to say no to the movie.*
If I know that I have enough time for the things that I really want to do, that I won’t run out of time, that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing at any given time, my brain will stop looping around ‘Now? How about now?’ and give me some ease.
And if that’s not a recipe for a holiday, I don’t know what is.
*Perhaps, to the Neurotypical, this may look like overthinking, or as if I am making a big deal out of something simple, but for my ADHD brain, a holiday schedule is a relief. And, I thought that anyone who finds themselves in a holi-daze might borrow some of these ideas for themselves.
Between holiday commitments, year-end chaos, and, in this bizarre year, stress about the pandemic, about work (or the lack thereof) and about the world in general, December can be a bit of a circus.
No matter how well-organized you are, no matter what you may or may not be celebrating, it’s really hard to avoid succumbing to the ambient stress of this time of year.
In the past few years, I have helped reduce that ‘revolving door‘ feeling for myself by employing an easy and short mindfulness practice. It doesn’t eliminate the stress of course, but it gives me a little more space to deal with it and it helps me keep some perspective.
I’m hoping that will hold true for this strange and anxious year, too.
Here’s what I do:
On the first of the December, I choose an instrumental Christmas album and commit to listening to at least one song from the album each day for the month. I might do yoga, draw, colour, or just breathe while I listen but I can’t do anything that even looks like work while the song of the day is on.*
It’s only a tiny thing but it really does help.
This year, to amp up my self-care, I’m also adding a little extra movement to each day.
I *could* frame this as one of my beloved 30 day challenges but that would put it into the category of things I MUST do.
Instead, I’m trying to think of the extra movement as a gift to myself – giving myself a little more time and space to be more fully in my body instead of being mostly in my head.
A gift feels way better than being challenged at this point in the year.
If you like the idea of gifting yourself a little extra movement, I’ve rounded up a few suggestions for you:
*You might be asking: Why doesn’t she do this during the rest of the year with non-seasonal music? It’s because it literally never occurred to her until she was writing this post. Brains are weird, weird things.
**Speaking of things that haven’t occurred to me before: Why do Advent calendars start on December 1 instead of on the first day of Advent?
I know that recording your habits, your exercise, and your goals is supposed to be one of the best ways to challenge yourself and to stay inspired.
I love the information I get from my Fitbit (even though it’s limited) and I find the charts it generates to be very inspiring.
And I love the sense of accomplishment that comes from looking at a paper list of things completed, progress made and skills slowly gained.
I HATE the process of tracking.
I get tangled in trying to track the ‘right’ thing.
Then I forget to track, or, worse, I get so obsessed with tracking that I feel vaguely anxious about it all day.*
I find it tedious to create or customize a tracker (paper or digital) and then I find it annoying to fill it in.
I tried using a few different apps but there are so many finicky details and I find that my goals often change as I go along so it hardly feels worth the effort.
These issues are especially annoying when I am dealing with fitness-related tracking because there are so many different things that you could track and so many details that you could include.
But as annoying as it is for me to track things, I can’t write off the idea entirely.
Having ADHD makes me kind of atemporal – I forget that about the progress I have made, I forget that I used to feel differently about the challenges at hand, I forget (sometimes) that I have previously solved an issue that is looming again.
Tracking helps me counter that.
When I do track my efforts, I can see that I am making progress, that I can do things that I couldn’t do before, and it shows me that I have successfully dealt with similar challenges in the past – inspiring me to figure out how to handle them this time.
Tracking shows me patterns and invites me to reflect on why certain challenges come up.
But yet, I hate it.
On any given day, the annoyance of having to do the mechanics of tracking overshadows any possible future pay-off. (Atemporality striking again!)
But my eternal hopefulness makes me wonder if I just haven’t tried the right approach yet.
So, I thought it might be interesting to ask the Fit is a Feminist Issue readers about it.
What kinds of exercise or wellness habits do you track?
What criteria do you use to measure your progress?
What sort of tracker do you use? Digital or analog?
When and how do you use your tracker?
Have you tried using anything other than a row of checkboxes? What did you try? Anything involving colouring or drawing?
Do tell! (Pretty please.)
*Yes, I do overthink everything, it’s part of my charm. 😉
It’s January. It’s cold. It snowed this weekend. Here’s what it looks like outside my house:
Of course, other places got more snow this weekend:
Yeah, it’s January.
Despite all this January-ness, I’m finding little signs of spring. Yesterday I noticed that a few of my orchids are putting out new shoots with buds.
These orchids, by the way, are the champions of consistent, independent plant performance. I bought them at IKEA years ago for $11.99 apiece, and they have kept blooming and re-blooming, with very little help from me. What can I say, I think they like it here.
Budding plants are my favorite sign of optimism for the future. We don’t know that blooms will happen, and in the case of these orchids, it’s going to take some time for them to come into full flower. But as long as I pay a modicum of attention to them, they’ll do what they do, and I’ll be rewarded with blooms like these (this one’s from last March):
This week, I was feeling some budding of my own optimism. I signed up for the Bikes Not Bombs bike-a-thon for this June 14. I’m doing the 30-mile ride and fundraising for this organization that gives bikes to kids, teaches them how to ride and maintain bikes, and how to be good world citizens through bike riding.
And yes, there’s a little fundraising.
Signing up for a June charity ride has got me feeling excited about spring and summer riding already. Of course, I’ve got to pay attention to preparation (yes, this means riding the trainer) in order for my riding to be in full flower by June. My orchids and me– we’ve got some work to do. And this is the time for it.
Color me smiling.
Hey readers, what are you thinking about this January? Any budding thoughts or plans for spring and summer activities? How are you feeling about them? I’d love to hear from you.
In October I turned 45, which makes this the year I’m exactly half my grandmother’s age.
I was asking her about what life was like for her at 45. She had been a grandmother for 3 years and I was her second grandkid. She has 9 now and at least 9 great-grandchildren and a step great-great granddaughter!
She told me it was in her 40s that she had a lot of aches and pains so her doctor prescribed some morning stretches and to walk every day. She still does her stretches and walks. It is clearly working for her.
I’m probably a couple years away from being a grandmother but who knows? My kids are 18 & 20. These things are not in my control.
In my chats with Gran we often talk about how life is filled with unexpected things. Looking over the past 10 years we’ve both had struggles and great joys. When I think about the next 10 years I am humbled.
I think it is important to make long term plans even if mine rarely survive a year. My plans for 10 years from now include things like saving for retirement, learning how to even better manage my mental health and enjoy moving my body.
My kids will likely be moved out. I want to still be walking lots, doing yoga and cycling. Who knows what else?
I’m mindful to cultivate inexpensive hobbies. I’ve decided that triathlon needs too much expensive equipment and a much more robust commitment to training than I’m willing to make.
I’ve tried rock climbing. My partner and oldest son love it. Me? Not so much.
I’m lucky that I have many friends 10 to 20 years older than me who share their joys and challenges around self-care, fitness and family.
From what I can tell the next 10 years will see a shift in my caregiving responsibilities so I’d best stay in shape to support my resilience.
It may seem a bit odd to take motivation from a possible future 10 years from now but it totally works for me.
This art reminds my partner and I each day about the thrills of cycling and the joy it brings.
Where do you draw your motivation and inspiration for fitness from?
The lessons learned while being active are ones we can use in every part of our lives. My own journey of running and doing yoga taught me plenty and served me well for when I decided to leap into a whole different kind of running, as the NDP candidate for London West in the Federal Election.
For years I was a regular runner but like many, I didn’t come to running until later in life and it took me a while to see myself as a “real” runner, whatever that is supposed to mean. I made my way from 5ks to 10ks to half marathons, always believing marathons were out of reach for me – meant for the actual real runners. People who were of course more athletic and capable than I was.
As you can imagine, the decision to run in the election wasn’t a simple one either. I’d asked and supported many women to run and founded a local organization, Women & Politics to support them when they did. But for many reasons, when previously asked to run, I’d always said no.
This time was different. I still went through the cycle of questions: Am I really the right person to do this? Do I have the grit to make it through the inevitable criticism, long days and hours of campaigning? How will I make this work with all the other responsibilities in my life? What will the impact be on my family? And most of all, do I really want this? Questions that were similar to the ones I’ve asked myself in other situations.
Before doing marathons, I wasn’t sure I was capable of running 42.2 kms or perhaps more pointedly, doing the training to run 42.2 kms. Before doing yoga regularly, I didn’t think I was capable of a daily yoga practice. I eventually learned that like everyone, I am always capable of more than I think I am and that big challenges usually excite us and terrify us in equal measure. So, after lots of conversations, soul searching and contemplation, I took the leap and said yes to being a candidate.
Running and yoga proved to be great teachers for an election. During the actual campaign period, the days were long and extremely intense. Twelve hour days or longer, with at least half of that spent out door knocking were the norm. I consistently woke up tired. But just like training for running, I put on my shoes and headed out the door. There was no “if” about it, I just did what needed to be done.
But none of us do anything truly on our own. When I was training for marathons I did so alongside a supportive running community and encouraging friends and family. In my daily yoga challenge, I had a consistent online group of like-minded yogis. For my election run, I had an amazing campaign team working with me and an incredible partner and two teenage daughters who all who took on the bulk of our family responsibilities. They made it easy for me to focus on what I needed to do.
I treated the pre-campaign period before the election was officially called, as my “base training”. We were door knocking and listening to people all summer long. The time spent walking and listening for those months laid the foundation for the six-week election period (the marathon). Not only the intense physical requirement of campaigning but also the intellectual and emotional considerations of being “on” and in tune with people’s needs.
My many years of doing yoga, brought a calm and clarity to the emotional experience of campaigning. People shared really hard stories at the door and they trusted us to do something about the issues they were facing. At times it was overwhelming – the pain and struggle people live with is real. When overwhelmed by the immensity of it all, I would go back to focusing on being present, listening and offering up a platform that I absolutely believed in.
There were also the inevitable negative reactions at the door. Misogynistic comments about my appearance, my obvious feminism and my stance on gender issues. Men who would argue with me just for the sake of arguing, who would slam doors in my face and call me names. People who would make racist or homophobic comments to volunteers. But honestly these interactions were minimal compared to the positives experienced at the door.
There will always be people who think we aren’t capable of accomplishing our goals – exercise, work or personal wise. They will put real and imagined obstacles in our way. The key is to see them for what they are and to stay focused on what we set out to do. The hate only drove me to push harder and as a runner, I know how to push hard.
I did ultimately end up losing the election, but we ran a campaign I can say I am really proud of and I have absolutely no regrets about running. I’ve trained for races I couldn’t complete before. I know what it feels like to put your heart and soul into something and have it turn out differently than you hoped. But it doesn’t make the journey any less worthwhile and if anything, it prepares us even better for the next time we show up at the starting line.
The lessons learned through being active have relevance to all areas of our lives. It is one of the many reasons we lace up our shoes, get on our mats, bring out our bikes, show up for that game, make time for that walk – we know the value is in more than just the moment. That our commitment to moving more, and reaching our goals helps us to do more, cope better and feel healthy in all areas of our lives.
Shawna is an instructor and community-based learning coordinator in Social Justice and Peace Studies at King’s University College, founder of Women & Politics, and the past Federal NDP Candidate for London West. She does all kinds of active things that feed her soul but her favourite is getting lost in the woods with the people she loves.