fitness · rest

Rest, recovery, and impatience

Hi readers—I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling two things right now: 1) I’m about to bust to get outside, really outside, to parks and beaches and country roads, riding with friends (just one or two), and chatting (at a safe distance) in the backyard with a couple of friends and cool beverages. This is what happens when you get warm sunny days in a row in New England… But: 2) I know that, in Massachusetts and in the US in general, we are nowhere near being able to cruise around town and country safely.

Our nations have to recover from what’s probably just the first wave of infection and illness from the coronavirus. Our friends and family and neighbors need to recover from illness. Our health workers need to take a breath and start to recover from the strain, trauma and exhaustion of caring for very sick and dying people. Our manufacturing and distribution systems need to recover from runs on all sorts of goods, the costs of lost business, the stress of retooling on a dime to produce pandemic-required goods. This takes time.

But who wants to wait around, not doing the things we used to think were normal and mundane, but which we now feel are special and necessary to our lives? Not us. Not me.

But we gotta. It’s not up for discussion. In order to get better and really recover, we have to follow the rules and guidelines and recommendations and doctors’ orders and do what they say. Yes, we’re impatient. No, this isn’t fun. But if we don’t do it, we will relapse, and it will take even longer to recover the second time.

I had pneumonia in the winter of 2018, and I’ve been reminded of a blog post I wrote about resting and recovering, and how hard that was. I’m reblogging it here as a reminder that, despite how clear and unambiguous and no-nonsense I sound above, I don’t like this any more than you do. But we gotta do it. And it’s won’t last forever. It really won’t. We’ll get better. And then we can spring around and organize jaunts and garden parties and BBQs and hang out at the beach all day long. I’m game!

REBLOGGED POST- REST, RECOVERY, AND IMPATIENCE

R&R– rest and relaxation.  These words are designed to provoke an “aaahhhhh” from all of us.  We work hard all the time, juggling work, family, friends, money, home, etc.  Like so:

A woman in a suit juggling animated laptop, alarm clock, baby bottle, cell phone and home.
A woman in a suit juggling animated laptop, alarm clock, baby bottle, cell phone and home.

What do we yearn for?  R&R.  Rest and relaxation.  Just saying it can make us breathe easier.  Try it now, and to help even more, look at this picture:

Two wooden chaise lounges on a white sandy beach.
Two wooden chaise lounges on a white sandy beach.

For me lately, though, R&R has meant rest and recovery.  Maybe this sounds good too– after all, recovery is a hopeful word and optimistic process.  I posted about having gotten pneumonia at the beginning of January.  I rested a ton– there was really no choice, as I was flattened– but then started my teaching semester.  I tried to take it easy and rest for a while.  But then I was ready to resume my regular schedule of (among other things) exercise, training for cycling, occasionally vigorous yoga, and cross country skiing when the conditions cooperated.

Well, no.  That just hasn’t happened.  I’ve found myself repeating the following cycle:

  1. becoming bored and frustrated with not doing much physically and doing less socially;
  2. forcing myself to do a regular schedule one day with teaching, errands, maybe a yoga class or other physical activity, or an evening social event;
  3. feeling completely exhausted from that one so-called regular day;
  4. noticing my cough coming back and blaming myself and the world for feeling sick still/again;
  5. canceling whatever social or physical activities I had optimistically planned for the next few days;
  6. resigning myself to resting a while longer.

Last week this happened.  It was a relatively warm day last week, and I decided to ride my Brompton to an appointment that was a 20-minute ride away.  Easy-peasy.  Uh, no.  5 minutes in I started coughing.  I should’ve turned around.  But I stuck it out.  When I got to my meeting, I coughed for the next 25 minutes.  My friend said, maybe you should take an Uber/Lyft home.  I agreed.  But did I?  No.  I thought, it’s only 20 minutes– I’ll ride slowly.  Bad idea!  I felt horrible and had to cancel more events I had planned.

Today is a beautiful unseasonably warm day in February here in Boston.  I’m feeling really antsy and ready to get out there on my bike.  I had tentatively planned to cycle with my friend Pata.  However I’m going to wait just a bit longer.  I’m still coughing, so this time I’ll do a nice walk.  It’s not as fun for me as cycling, but I need a little more recovery time.

Argh.  Sigh.  Hmmmphf.

Sign saying patience is a virtue. It's just not one of MY virtues. A woman is sitting in a long dress on a couch next to it.
fitness · inclusiveness · mindfulness · rest · self care · yoga

A mindful kind of fitness challenge

January: that would be the season of fitness challenges.

Here at FIFI, a good part of last month was spent thinking about them, from Yoga With Adrienne’s 30 days, to Nia Shanks’ 100 days, to the 220 in 2020 groups (check out Cate’s massively inspirational post about its power to redefine what counts as “fitness” here), to what is wrong with office “wellness” competitions (OMG EVERYTHING; click here).

I’ve been an absent voice on all of the above, because I don’t generally enjoy any kind of fitness challenge. This strikes me as very odd, since I’m actually a hugely competitive / super count-y person (aka, like Cate, #completist). I can’t explain it, except to say maybe at some point not too long ago I sort of stopped giving a ….

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“The Field In Which I Grow My Fucks Is Barren”: this meme was made for me. I am recycling it here (thanks Catherine!) because holy crap I am busy ordering wallpaper with this on it right now.

Flash back to my last post, which was about kinds of wellness planning that Even Slightly Younger Kim would have pooh-poohed. Mental health. Joint health. Less cardio, more mental/joint health. I’m sorry what?

fd1
Gillian Anderson – Sex Ed hero – says: I’m sorry, what?

Since the beginning of January, I’ve been to my new therapist every second week, and I’ve also committed to a full session (that’s about 12 weeks) at my Iyengar yoga studio of choice, Yoga Centre London. And I’ve learned two really amazing new things*. (*New to me.)

I’m still doing all my fitness usuals, including time on my bike trainer (I have literally inhaled Call The Midwife, polished off Cheer, and am so excited about the new season of Sex Education [see above meme]), plus swimming and stair climbing, hiking and dog walking. But thanks to the therapy and the yoga, I’ve also realized that some things that seriously do not look like exercise are things I actually need to count as exercise. (Again, shout-out to the 220 in 2020 folks for figuring this out long before I did.)

Two weeks ago Monday I was up at the therapist around mid-day. I was cranky because I’d somehow let her book me into a slot that is usually swim time; I was going to have to sacrifice my swim and slot in something else as a result. I spent a good portion of the morning thinking about what else I could do in its place.

Then the session happened.

I’ve been going regularly to psychotherapy for many years, but this new practice is putting puzzle pieces together in ways I don’t always expect, yet clearly need to see and explore. As a result, I sometimes find myself crying my heart out for the better part of a session; this was one of those sessions.

As I left A’s office, I felt the clear, cold air on my face and realized it would be a perfect day for a ride up to the escarpment lookout that makes me feel most at peace. I made a mental note to pick that over the other options swirling in my brain and drove home.

An apple and a dog walk later, it was clear to me I was not riding anywhere; I was ready to fall asleep on the dog in the foyer while she stood in confusion on the “pause for paws!” towel. I chose to rest instead and reasoned I could fit in a late swim at my regular pool.

Of course, that did not happen.

giphy
Moira Rose (Catherine O’Hara) tells it like it is. I’ve also watched all of Schitt’s Creek in like 5 minutes. SO GREAT.

Instead, I did 30 minutes of simple and relaxing yoga poses in my kitchen while the supper was cooking.

In my cranky head this did not feel like “enough”. But my body knew it was sufficient, because my body had obviously done a huge amount of work in that therapy session, criss-crossing space and time to piece together experiences from my childhood that have shaped the hurt and damaged human I try to ride away from every time I get on my bike.
Fitness revelation #1: crying through the feeling is physical as well as emotional labour, and needs to be honoured with rest like any other kind.

Meanwhile, back at supper-time yoga, I was trying to work on my very sporadic home practice, doing the kinds of things I rarely do at home: Warrior 2, Sirsasana (head balance). Less than 15 seconds on my head and it was clear I was in no fit form to be doing that thing; see fitness revelation #1 above.

Again, contrary to my completist tendencies, I gave in easily, knowing it would be unsafe for me to continue pressing when I was not rested or prepared enough to manage safely head-standing. Instead, I began to think about the thing I don’t often think about when I’m doing yoga: the focus on gratitude that shapes the ethos behind the best yogic practices.

Of course everyone wants to be able to do side crow, headstand, handstand, and forearm balances effortlessly; in this way, our collective social attitudes to yoga are hardly different from our attitudes to any other group fitness practice (#competition).

But yoga’s not about that. It’s actually about giving thanks: for our bodies, their changing dimensions, and the labour they do to keep us upright, healthy, strong, and flexible regardless of that process of change. I’m reminded of these things every time we say the Invocation to Patanjali at the start of a class at my Iyengar studio.

Except that I’m also not reminded of those things when we say the invocation, because every time we say the invocation I am LITERALLY OBSESSED with the parts I know and the parts I still don’t know. I sit there, cross-legged on my block, singing out some lines very proudly while waiting anxiously for the lines where I’m more or less humming “um um um thingy thingy thingy” and hoping nobody hears me.

Which means the invocation is the most self-obsessed part of my yoga practice.

I realized this lying on my kitchen floor, my legs up the pantry doors in Viparita Karani (legs up the wall, aka the best yoga pose in the history of the world). I decided then and there to learn the damn invocation already.

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A woman lying prone in a white yoga space on a purple mat, with legs, belted at the thigh, up the wall, sacrum supported by a bolster, arms back and palms weighted. She looks happy. Because this is the BEST. YOGA. POSE. EVER.

That weekend, I downloaded a bunch of YouTube videos of yogis teaching the invocation, and I got into the bath. I sat in the warm, epsom-salty water until I had learned all the bits I had been fudging.

OK, so, again, here’s a thing that most people would definitely not call fitness: sitting in a warm tub memorizing lines. I think that’s technically called homework. But for me, it was so, so releasing. I can now say the invocation easily and instead of fussing and fretting I can think about its purpose, hear the sounds and feel their vibrations. I can move past the embarrassment and performance anxiety and find the stillness in the song.
Fitness revelation #2: sitting in a bathtub learning a valuable thing also absolutely counts as exercise, because it is a kindness to our mind-bodies.

I am hopeful that saying the invocation loudly and with depth of feeling will now help me strengthen my headstand, but I’m also super OK if it just makes legs up the wall feel even dandier.

I’ll keep you posted.

220 in 2020 · fitness · rest · yoga

Sam gives “nap yoga” a try

To start, it’s not actually called “nap yoga.” Its name is “restorative yoga.”

But still, there were pillows and blankets and there might have been some snoring. It was dark and warm and 8:30 at night.

“Restorative yoga is a practice that is all about slowing down and opening your body through passive stretching. … During the long holds of restorative yoga, however, your muscles are allowed to relax deeply. It’s a unique feeling because props, rather than your muscles, are used to support your body.” From An Introduction to Restorative Yoga.

You might think it looks like this:

But really it looks more like this:

After some hemming and hawing I posted restorative yoga in the 220 workouts in 2020 group. All the while I was wondering, does this count? Is it really a workout? Whenever I find myself asking that, I have two responses. One, I count 120 km bike rides as single workouts so it all balances out. Two, if the point of counting things is to motivate to me to do things I wouldn’t usually do then this counts. With my injured knee I’m trying to stretch and relax more. I’m going to massage therapy. And now I’m going to restorative yoga it seems. The minute I posted it, Tracy commented, “How did you like it?” She knows me well and knew it wasn’t my usual thing. There was nothing heavy to lift, no speed, and no throwing people around. Heck, except in winter when I love the warm, even regular yoga isn’t really my thing.

At the end of a rough day at work, and after several days of hard workouts, it felt right.

What did I like? I enjoyed the length of time in the postures. The room was warm but not hot. I enjoyed some of the guided meditation. I didn’t fall asleep.

I mention not falling asleep because in earlier attempts to lay still and meditate and relax (childbirth classes) I’d fall hard and fast asleep, pretty much almost instantly. That was little use in preparing for childbirth since the pain meant sleep wasn’t an option. This was really my first successful attempt at completely relaxing while awake.

I’ll definitely do it again.

fitness · rest · sleep

No sleep for the homeless and fancy sleep for the rich? A quick update on luxury sleep

Recently (okay, yesterday) I blogged about the weirdness of high end, Manhattan napping classes. Luxurious guided naps for $22/hour in a fitness class context.

When I shared the story to Facebook, a friend reminded me of the drastic measures taken to stop homeless people from napping in public via hostile architrecture.

Here’s an example.

Metro stop bench is tilted so attempting to lay down ends up with you sliding off. From https://interestingengineering.com/15-examples-anti-homeless-hostile-architecture-that-you-probably-never-noticed-before?fbclid=IwAR2RZYPaQrG_de82–GKl8gViv03YjplUn-PPaemCZnq1mmGikDgi0MoqLc

I remember one time my partner Jeff tried unsuccessfully to spend the night in a park in Florida but was woken when sprinklers came on. They weren’t needed for watering. Their purpose just was keeping people from making the park their overnight home.

So for the rich there’s the privatization and commodification of sleep and for the poor, there’s the policing and forbidding of sleeping.

More than ever we need the Nap Ministry.

fitness · Guest Post · meditation · rest

Float Therapy: supposedly good for your well-being (Guest post)

For my latest birthday a friend gave me a coupon to try “float therapy.” I hadn’t heard of that before (even though as I just learned, Cate blogged about it over THREE years ago). It reminded me of the “tranquility tanks” from the eighties (I think it was the eighties). You may remember those sensory deprivation tanks where you would float for an hour in dark silence. Now it’s called “R.E.S.T. (Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy),” because, you know, everything in these days of wellness is “therapy” of one kind or another.

It didn’t appeal to me then. And I wasn’t so sure it appealed to me now (claustrophobia!). But when I checked the website I saw that you could book either a room or a pod. They seemed aware of the possibility that people might have claustrophobia, so they suggested that first timers try the slightly more spacious room over the pod.

Image description: float room, shallow tub that spans the full length and width of the room, pictured here with low blue lights and a side handle for getting out of tub.
Image description: float pod with lid open, dim blue light inside, set in a room with a chair with towels on it and a small table.

It’s supposed to be totally relaxing because you’re floating in a shallow pool where the water has over 1000 pounds of epsom salts in it (more salt density than the Dead Sea) and that means you effortlessly float. Once in your floating position you’re in a zero gravity state, and that’s supposed to relieve your muscles, central nervous system, and spine of their usual load, thus alleviating the effects of gravity on these systems. If you turn off the lights and sound and move as little as possible, you purportedly go into a state of deep relaxation. The website makes the bold claim that research has shown one hour of floating is like four hours of sleep. I guess that’s if you do it right for the whole hour instead of taking 40 minutes to settle into it.

I think the first time is almost a throw-away experience. I was a mixture of skeptical and worried. Even though the room was recommended for first timers, when the attendant showed me the room I felt claustrophobic at the mere sight of it. You enter into your own space where there is a shower and a place for undressing and leaving your clothes. The float room is adjacent to that. It resembles a very large shallow bathtub, perhaps 8 or 9 feet long and about 4 or 5 feet wide, with ample head room of at least 6 or 7 feet.

I had a brief orientation where she showed me the room and told me to keep the salt water out of my eyes, mouth, and ears (they provide ear plugs). I would have seven minutes to shower before and some time to shower after as well. I would know my session was beginning because a woman’s voice (who sounds like “Mother” from the movie Alien) would come through the speakers to tell me it was starting. The attendant also repeatedly reminded me that the floor was very slippery, both in the anteroom with shower and the floor of the tub. This proved true and made me wonder how anyone with the least bit of balance or mobility issues could do this (I don’t think they could safely get in and out of the float room alone—I had to be very careful myself).

I found it alarming that there is no panic button inside the floating room. But the attendant made it seem as if I was the very first person ever to ask about that. She said if I was really panicking I could bang on the door (which turned out to be a useless piece of advice, as I will explain in a moment).

I undressed, showered with their super luxurious bath products, put in the recommended ear plugs and the head float thing (a flat buoyant circle of floaty stuff that fits around your head for extra support), and climbed in.

When you pull the large door shut, you’re in an insulated enclosure. The floating area (the tub) extends entirely to the sides, so there is no “edge” to speak of. Just four walls. Beside the door are two buttons to control lights and music. The water is not hot or cold — 93.5 degrees F, or the “skin-receptor neutral” temperature. The air within the enclosure is about the same. The air outside, in the shower and change area, is cooler, making it a bad idea to leave the door open.

Why might you want to open the door, you ask? Well, for my part, I found it difficult to breathe. The air is thick. And the enclosed nature of the thing, with no obvious ventilation system to circulate air into it besides the door, made me afraid to let go completely for fear that I would run out of air and suffocate. I kept thinking of things like refrigerators and container trucks where trapped people die from lack of air.

Once Mother told me my session was under way, I lost track of time, so what follows are estimates. I spent the first 15-20 minutes fiddling with the lights and music. At first, I had them both on. Then I remembered it was recommended as a sensory deprivation experience, so I turned off the music and tried to dim the lights. They were a lot like those hot tub lights that change colour every few seconds. If I could’ve steadied them on red and kept my eyes closed, I think that would have been fine. But I could see the changing brightness through my eye lids and I found it distracting. I messed around with it only to discover that there were just two settings. Completely off or cycling through the colours. I tried it with the lights off.

In this windowless enclosure, when the lights go off, it is capital “D” Dark. Like, can’t see your hand in front of your face Dark. I tried to settle into it, lying back in my floating position suspended in the salty water. But the level of Darkness just freaked me out even though I had my eyes closed. So I wanted to turn the light back on. But by then I had floated into a different position relative to the door and the light switches and I could find neither. And that’s when the panic began to rise and I thought for a few moments that I would lose my mind. And I absolutely couldn’t breathe and felt sure I would die right there. Which is why the instruction to bang on the door if I panicked did me no good at all because if I could find the door I wouldn’t be panicking.

I fumbled around and then remembered that basically it was just a room with four walls and if I traced a path along the wall with my hand I would find the door handle (it was like the bar you would find in the accessible shower stall). Beyond the door I found the light switch and turned the lights back on and then opened the door for about 30 seconds for some air.

At that point I started wondering how long I’d been there and how much longer and was I doing it right and I’m a seasoned meditator so why is this so hard? I didn’t do enough research into what you’re supposed to do, so I just tried to relax as much as possible and calm my mind. And breathe, which remained difficult. I settled into it enough after about half an hour to keep the lights off, but I opened the door for air at least four or five times. Finally, with I’d say 20 minutes to go, I settled in, confident that there was enough air in the room to last me to the end and that any sense that I couldn’t breathe was actually not accurate. I could breathe just fine, salt is supposed to be good for you, and in any case it’s almost done. I only had brief thoughts of abandoning the whole thing and had already decided this would be a one-off because…why am I here?

And that’s when I floated into a state of total, zero-gravity, sensory deprived R.E.S.T. I stopped thinking “when will this end?” and drifted off into floaty, relaxing, thought-free bliss. I’m guessing about 15 minutes passed before Mother’s gentle voice coaxed me out of my nothingness. If one hour of floating is equal to four hours of sleeping, my 15 minutes of mind-free floating must have been equal to an hour of sleep. And I did feel revived and recharged, disappointed that it was over.

Getting out was a careful process of trying to climb over the edge without slipping on the floor of the tub and then the floor of the shower and changing area (which is, to me, unnecessarily more slippery than it needs to be). I got a bit of the salty water in my mouth, and it tastes like something sour and disgusting and almost rotten. I showered with the luxurious bath products again, dressed, and went out to the vanity area to fix myself as best as I could for the outside world.

I asked to see a pod before I left. One look at the pod and I knew I would not be signing up for that. But I do think I will try the room again. Now that I know what to expect I think I can settle into a good experience a lot more quickly. I liked the final feeling of weightless zero-gravity and temperature neutrality. It’s comforting and stress-free (if you can get there). I’m not sure if it’s any more or less “therapeutic” than any other thing that forces you to quiet yourself for an hour, suspending the demands of the world. But the added bonus of zero gravity and sensory deprivation invite relaxation a lot more easily than, say, an hour of Vipassana meditation.

It’s not cheap. When Cate went, she paid $39. I had a $55 gift card (because it was my 55th birthday present) and I paid a $29 top-up for my hour of floating. I’m keen to give it one more go, which is more than what I would’ve said 30 minutes into it. But the price makes it an indulgence.

Have you had a floating experience? And if so, what was it like for you?

rest · sleep · traveling · yoga

Sam has a bad flight and is fighting jet lag

I often claim that sleep is my superpower! 

I am one of those people who can sleep almost anywhere, anytime. I sleep on planes and I rarely experience jet lag. My trick is simple: arrive well-rested, spend time outside, make it through the day, and then bang, I’m good to go after a night’s sleep in my new location. It’s a good trick and I benefit lots from it. I’ve flown to New Zealand for four days and returned to work not much the worse for wear.

But right now I’m in Munich, speaking at a conference on Neglected Relationships.

” Personal Relationships have been a topic of philosophical research for quite some time. And rightfully so: they can contribute more to our well-being, give meaning to our lives, and generate salient moral duties and responsibilities. However, the debate has been focused on just a few types of relationships: friendships, the nuclear family, romantic partnership and co-citizenship. In this conference, we aim to explore the focus and explore what we call neglected relationships. These are kinds of relationships that play important part in our personal and moral lives, but that have gone largely underexplored by moral philosophers so far. ” My talk was on chosen family.

My flight turned out to be the Lufthansa equivalent of Air Canada Rouge. (It’s Rouge on the way home, I think.) I’m flying Basic Economy. I flew here on the “overnight” flight–scare quotes because it was just a 5 hour flight. The seats were super small, hard, and uncomfortable. I couldn’t sleep but I also couldn’t work because the person in front of me reclined into my lap. So I arrived sore and scrunched up and very, very tired. Thanks to my compression socks I didn’t have swollen ankles. But my knee hurt a lot from sitting squished into a small space with my knee brace on.

I walked to my hotel and that helped a bit. I napped too before settling down to work on my talk. But I was still really sore. Luckily Yoga with Adrienne came to my rescue! I discovered YWA through the 219 in 2019 fitness challenge group. I knew if I was going to make it to 300 workouts in 2019, I’d need an at home/travel plan. This series of moves really helped with the unscrunching. Indeed, after a day of sitting in talks I might just do it again!

My talk went well. I got some really good comments and I’m looking forward to working on it some more.

Here’s another good thing. Yummy vegetarian/vegan conference food. Also, no single use plastics. These are salads and dressing in glass bowls.

Glass bowls of salad and dressing. Yum!
fitness · rest

Pause: Christine kicks back and rests for a day

This is technically Day 4 of my kicking challenge but I have to insert a rest day.

After I wrote and scheduled my post yesterday my dizziness alternated between better and worse for a couple of hours and then it took a huge turn for the worse.

Then my left arm got tingly and I got scared so I had my son call an ambulance for me. If this was something serious, I wanted immediate help.

I spent Tuesday afternoon in the ER but apparently my symptoms were inconclusive. They have pretty much ruled out anything too serious but I am supposed to pay close attention to how I feel in case I get any other weird symptoms and I am supposed to ‘take it easy.’

I hate directions like ‘take it easy.’

What does ‘take it easy’ even mean? I don’t know what they consider taking it easy. Is that bed rest? Being up but staying at home? Cutting back on my schedule? Mental rest or physical rest? For how long?

A dog with light brown and white fur is sleeping on a bed.
Khalee is not a doctor but, in her opinion, I should definitely lie in bed all day where she can monitor me. She is only resting her eyes, she’s still on guard.

I was too groggy yesterday to ask all of these questions but I have decided to spend most of today lying down. I may do some reading or some writing. (I’m lying down as I write this)

I’m not going to try any kicks today, I’m ‘kicking back’ and relaxing instead.

I’ll check in tomorrow and let you know if I feel up to some exercise.

PS – I really struggle with rest like this. Not because I feel like I shouldn’t rest or that I should be working. My problem is that my ADHD makes it so easy for me to ‘lose’ time that I worry that I will cross the line from necessary rest into avoiding things I need and want to do and not notice that I have crossed it until things have piled up to annoying levels.