dogs · Sat with Nat · walking

Nat on outsourcing motivation

Recommended Soundtrack: I wanna be your dog by The Stooges

I’m not great on making a training plan and sticking with it. When it comes to activity I’m more a go-along with whatever folks are up for. Yoga? Sure! Cycling? Yup! Walk? Uh-huh!

So when my beloved decided he wanted to up our step count when walking our dog, Lucy, I agreed. I offered that we could add 1 block to all our walks, short coffee break and our typical 30 minute morning, lunch & evening walks.

It totally worked. In August my average step count jumped from under 7,200 to 11,500. Partly this is because as Lucy gets older she can go on longer walks. The other part is my beloved’s joy in counting and metrics. He really loves hitting goals.

One night, after dinner and a glass of wine, he asked if we could go for another walk. He hadn’t hit 10,000 steps. I pointed out that 10,000 was an arbitrary goal. He laughed and shouted “Join me in meetng this arbitrary goal! Achievement is as meaningless as the goal BUT IT IS ALL WE HAVE!”

Of course he was being overly dramatic. Many times our common goals are based on best guesses and gut feels. I’m not much for tracking metrics or goals so I’ve happily handed over all of that to my partner. He’s a greyhound who needs a rabbit to chase.

The other being I’ve outsourced my motivation to is our resident gremlin, Lucy. She, like Gollum, both loves and hates our walks. She needs the movement but would rather do high intensity frisbee intervals than walk. But she’d rather walk than lay about.

Lucy, the wonder dog, sits attentively watching the photographer who may gift her with walksies or treats.

I find I don’t have the cognitive or emotional depth for self discipline but I can say “yes” to the asks for walks. Like the dog, I’m just along for the ride these days and I am 100% ok with surrendering to the process.

What do you do to stay motivated to keep moving?

Sat with Nat · walking

Nat’s wrangling working, dog walking and not very many workouts.

Recommended Soundtrack: Handshakes by Metric

I’m in the very privileged position of being able to work from home. I do knowledge work in the financial sector and we were deemed essential during the confinement in response to COVID 19. My beloved is also able to work from home.

Our other family members studied from home in the spring but now have jobs outside the house. But. Like. Folks. 5 people at home working, studying and eating 24/7 has really ramped up the housework.

We’ve felt it in the frequency of dishes needing to be done, bathrooms that need a scrub down (those at work toilet breaks really decrease the usage of the home crapper) and general need to tidy & clean taking more and more time. Plus there’s something about just sitting around that lowers my tolerance for home chaos. So the need for housework to increase is, in part, due to a higher standard and also to everyone being home. It’s exhausting.

As a feminist household we strive for an equal distribution of chores. It falls short a lot with the emerging adults, so my partner and I are really feeling the stress. It’s a very busy time of year for his sales job and my leadership role. There just seems to be no time for much else.

Enter Lucy, our seven month old puppy. She’s a Texas Heeler. For those unfamiliar with this compact, energetic mix she’s a cross between 2 herding dogs: Australian Shepherd and Australian Cattle Dog. She’s 100% ball of energy.

Before confinement we had our kids helping a lot with her care but now they are working outside the home and we are home all the dang time.

Lucy wakes up most days at 5:30 am. Regular readers of this blog know I’m not a morning person. Lucy doesn’t seem to care. She gets a 30 minute walk before we sit down to work, a quick coffee break walk around 10 am. A lunchtime 20-30 minute walk. A pre-dinner and post dinner walk. Yup. That’s. Uh. 5. Five dog walks, mostly done with my partner. The kids help with some mornings. We appreciate it but can’t count on it.

All thirty pounds of Lucy posed in her best “we are going walking” face as she sits on the sidewalk.

Between longer working hours, more housework and dog walking there’s not a lot else happening for workouts. Sometimes I get a 20-40 minute yoga routine in. But that’s it.

I’m tired friends so I’ve decided to be gentle with myself. There’s a lot going on so when there are moments that I can get a nap or a visit in with a friend I’m taking it.

Lucy is very good at pacing herself. She rests, plays and stretches all the time. She doesn’t worry about having goals or living up to expectations. She’s enthusiastic about eating and being comfortable.

Lucy lies on her back flirting with a tiny treat before she devours it. Her pink belly with dark freckles is begging to be scratched.

Has your work/life balance shifted recently? How has that impacted your workouts?

Sat with Nat · yoga

It’s happening in increments: 12 weeks of at home yoga practice.

Recommended listening: The Nature of the Experiment by Tokyo Police Club

I’ve been keeping to an at home daily practice since mid-March. It’s likely that I’ve done more yoga in three months than I’ve done in my lifetime. I’ve put it squarely in my day where my morning commute was.

Just for Today

I hadn’t planned on a daily practice. I just started one morning to see if it would help ease some back and shoulder pain.

It’s ok to not be present

It’s not glamorous, just 20 – 30 minutes in the morning and sometimes again at night. I’ve learned that on days I’m just going through the motions it’s ok to be bored, distracted or mechanical because my body gets the benefits of movement regardless.

My block is my dear friend

I’ve learned how to make more use of my yoga block to support my body in different postures as well as an assist standing up or getting onto the ground. I also move it from one side to the other to keep track of repetitions of my warm up and Sun Salutations.

A yoga mat, a book and a block.

Everyday has its own speed

I’ve learned I like to set my own pace. Some days I’m slow and achy while other days the flow is fast and aerobic. By respecting how I’m feeling and what time I have available my practice can be squeezed into 10 minutes or expand over hours.

My practice space needs are modest & flexible

I’ve learned I need just 2” at the top and bottom of my mat and about 18” on either side.

I no longer need a quiet or isolated space. Noise from my family, neighbours doesn’t bother me. Rather it’s nice to hear everyone going about their day. I can practice anywhere I can throw my mat down. No fuss. No muss. No coconuts.

Incremental changes in my strength and flexibility

The shape of my postures is changing. I first noticed in Child’s pose my head began to touch the ground. Similarly sitting in a kneeling posture has become more comfortable as my shins and tops of my feet stretch out. I can keep my feet together in mountain pose.

My feet, pressed together on a yoga mat. My toes all nested in against each other as I try to balance.

I’m able to hold balance postures longer and with less prop assistance. The most surprising posture was toes and arms extended plank becoming available to me again after many years on needing my knees and elbows in plank.

Using tools

I like practicing at home as I can modify or use props to assist me that aren’t available at a studio. I find it freeing to be on my own, doing my own thing to the point of listening to guided practice feels intrusive and annoying.

Finding Control

I found that my daily practice has given me an inner locus of control. I used to rely on others to get me to the gym. I relied on massage and chiropractor to manage my aches & pains. Now it’s on me, my choice to do the exercises and benefit or not. My choice what I do and how I do it.

At a time when I feel so powerless this seems doable. I didn’t set out to craft a daily yoga practice or a 90 day run. I thought I’d just try to feel better.

“It’s the nature of my experiment that it’s happening in increments.”

Sat with Nat

Gardening, Dead Lifts & Squats

Recommended soundtrack: Love Grows (Where my Rosemary Goes)

Recommended equipment: Floppy/big brimmed hat, hardy gloves, sunscreen and knee pads.

While the weather is unseasonable cold & snowy (ew!) in London, Ontario today I’m still all about my garden. Lately I’ve been missing the gym so have been looking for ways to get more intense activity into my day.

I love gardening in our city lot, growing food & beauty.

A very close head shot of half my face, my new green & yellow earrings from Ms. Antone’s Beadwork that match the daffodils in bloom.

Since my yard is mostly perennials the arrival of Spring means a lot of tidying up of edges and removal of detritus. This year, instead of going about things willie-nillie I thought I’d try being more deliberate with the postures I assume as I work.

Turns out you can dead lift branches, a full wheelbarrow or a puppy!

I’m also doing deep squats while I weed. Standing forward bends, lunges, seated forward bends and more can be ways I do work in my garden.

I choose to use hand tools instead of power tools. It’s a small garden and it’s ok if it takes a bit longer to use a buck saw or hand clippers. Plus the upper body & grip strength help counteract all the poor ergonomics of computer work.

I’m thankful I’m able to spend more time in my garden and be deliberate about it. What is something you are choosing to do more of lately?

fun · play · Sat with Nat · yoga

What I’m learning from “preparing for” poses

Recommended soundtrack for this post: Where is my mind? by the Pixies

Recommended outfit: comfy yet clingy with a high Lycra content

Something I’ve committed to while I’m participating in physical distancing in response to the current pandemic is a daily yoga practice.

I dusted off my copy of Om Yoga by Cyndi Lee, an oldie but a goodie book published in 2002. The style of yoga is Hatha and there is a daily warm up flow as well as different sequences for each day of the week. The time it takes for each day’s practice, including warm up and relaxation/meditation is as short as 20 minutes and as long as half an hour.

My partner and I have laughed a bit as, over the years, postures that used to be easily accessible to us are now a stretch, a challenge and sometimes beyond reach. We both felt that acutely the first Saturday (which is a series of inversions).

***Side note, many studios and practitioners have stopped doing inversions as they can be difficult in a group setting. There is an increased risk of head & neck injury. So. You know, do the things you need to do to determine if inversions are for you!***

We were reviewing the sequence before our practice and noting what we needed to support our attempts at various inversions. We laughed as we muddled through the first Saturday flow. The next day I really felt the strength building in my neck, shoulders and particularly my triceps with only moderate success in even doing the “preparing for” postures.

If you haven’t heard that term, preparing postures are any posture you take in a flow that gets you from one recognized/named posture/asana to the next one. It can also be used to describe modified postures that help support your body and strengthen you as you work towards being ready for a posture you don’t currently find accessible.

Part of what struck me was how much fun we were having try to do headstands, shoulder stands, elbow stands and other stuff with your “feet in the air and your head on the ground.” (See soundtrack recommendation)

I remembered when I was a kid the thrill of that first summersault taken at a run. That first successful cartwheel where I learned to trust my body and the joy of handstand competitions at recess. We were playing then and now, enjoying the thrill of what our bodies can do.

But. I have to say it. My attempts at inversions is not graceful or photogenic but I think that is why they are fun. You can’t take life seriously when you are trying to cajole yourself into being upside down.

My elbows on the ground, rear in the air and my head is not touching the floor. Being near the wall gives me comfort as I prepare for forearm stand. Spoiler, I never get my feet off the ground but work on shifting my weight onto my forearms and walking my feet & back closer to the wall.
Preparing for headstand. Most of my weight is on my elbows. I really feel it in my triceps. About 10% of my weight is on my head. I slowly walk my feet towards my head.
Preparing for handstand. My shoulders are pressed against the wall as I shift my weight onto my hands. One leg kind of up in the air. Where is my mind?

So, as you can see, my preparing for poses are not the same thing as the actual pose. I may not ever be able to do a headstand. That’s not the point. The preparing for pose is the workout. It is what my body can do. It’s fun! It’s silly! It is also a great upper body and core strengthening set of exercises.

What I’m learning from these preparing for poses is that the process matters. What I can do now matters. It’s not a steady state, an end state, or a means to an end.

This resonates so much with my life right now. The physical distancing measures we are all taking in response to the pandemic are like “preparing for” postures. It’s not what life will always be like, it’s what life is like while we get ready for a new normal. We can’t do everything we are used to doing but what we can access right now is good too.

Kneeling at home on my mat after a humbling but fun attempt at inversions. I’m winded and smiling.
Sat with Nat · weight lifting

The Power of Positive Peer Pressure

I’m very lucky to have a workplace gym. I haven’t always made good use of it. Last fall when my regular workout buddy was no longer able to join me I made a new weight lifting routine. It sat on my workstation until a week into January.

That first week of January a laughing group of my colleagues passed by me on the way to the gym late in the afternoon. I smiled and chatted then was delighted when they invited me to join them.

It took a couple tries until I had all my gear at work and my calendar cleared. Six weeks later it’s a habit. Not everyone can make it every day but we block the time in our calendars and check in. It’s very positive.

Our goals are as diverse as our ages. I think we span 4 decades with the youngest in her thirties and at least one of us is 60. We are all women in leadership roles. Our workout styles & preferences are varied. Some of us prefer virtual classes. Others, like me, a weight lifting routine.

I really appreciate being part of the group, the camaraderie, sharing tips & tricks and seeing the skills and competences we have in the gym.

I find going to the gym very challenging. I don’t like the mirrors everywhere. I struggle to be a beginner…AGAIN. What I love is how this opt-in-supportive and positive peer pressure has helped me get to the gym 4-5 times a week. It’s feeling really good.

A picture of a red and white puppy with half dropping ears and her tongue sticking out

This photo is in no way related to the post but my new dogpanion Lucy is just too dang cute not to share.

Black Futures · Black Hustory · Black Present · Sat with Nat

Black History, Black Present and Black Futures

We’ve written about the triumphs and challenges of two prominent Black women athletes, Serena Williams and Caster Semenya, and how they challenge stereotypes, sexism and racism by their achievements.

As a white women who strives to be an ally it feels weird to write a post about Black History Month but I decided it would be worse to trudge on with my monthly post not doing anything at all.

It’s Black History Month, a time for celebration of the contributions Black folks have made, the present Black people create and the Black futures we’ve yet to see. I’ve gathered a few links I hope you will find interesting.

Black History

I’m thankful of K. Tempest Bradford’s fantastic Black History Month Challenge

“For February, I challenge you to read something by a Black person that isn’t *only* about pre-Civil War American slavery, the Civil War, or the Civil Rights Era. Bonus points if you can go the whole month without touching those subjects and still reading a bunch of stuff by Black folk.”

There is A LOT of Black History to cover outside of those periods. Black Women in sport have accomplished and contributed so many things.

30 New Books About Inspiring Women for Black HistoryMonth

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/black-female-athletes-women-in-sports

Black Women in Sport JSTOR

https://olympic.ca/2019/02/14/black-athletes-who-made-olympic-sport-history-in-canada/

Black Present:

Building on the strong foundation of Black Women Athletes before them you can find out about the present during February as well.

36 Black Women Athletes You Need to Know

https://balletblack.co.uk/

https://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/bs-sp-morgan-state-black-female-athlete-study-20180625-story.html

Black Futures:

Be sure to also include amazing Afrofuturist readings this February, imaging the future and reimagining our history. There are a great number of Black Authors and Artists sharing a vision of what could be.

If you are a Black Woman, thank you for reading my post. If you are a women looking to be a better ally take direct action by:

  • Buying from Black business owners
  • Seeking out & buying Black authored cookbooks to support your nutrition
  • Follow and financially support Black yogis
  • Seek out information on Black women athletes

How are you participating in Black History Month?

planning · Sat with Nat

On the cusp of a decade Nat thinks about longterm goals.

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.

A small stain glass peice of art shows a cyclist speeding down a steep hillside.

“Descent” by Paul Brown

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?

clothing · Dancing · Sat with Nat

Nat calls for high performance formal wear

I’m seriously hoping my post motivates athletic wear companies to start making formal wear.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, why can’t we dance the night away at weddings & other formal gatherings without drowning in our sweat? Whether you prefer a snappy suit or a darling dress no one feels great in their getup after even a short stint of enthusiastic dancing.

This year, for the first time in a long time, I had 3 formal occasions in the span of a month and I needed something to wear.

I shopped in dress stores in Canada and the USA to no avail. I wear plus size clothes. I’ve worn pants or skirts or dresses before. My default look is quirky femme who dresses for comfort. Nothing that fit inspired me despite my willingness to put down serious cash on a gown.

I shared my trials and tribulations on social media for comedic effect but also for advice.

There are these formal, uh, onesies? Jumpers? They look cute but to use the toilet you either need to drop the whole thing on the floor or buy one with access snaps.

I couldn’t imagine being in a toilet fumbling with my neither regions so that was not an option for me.

As the first event drew nearer I started to panic. I was certain I wouldn’t be able to find anything that fit, was comfortable, and that I liked.

I happened into Ricki’s, a shop I’d never tried on my sister’s advice to consider a combination of separates instead of a dress.

First winning moment, everything in the store went up to plus sizes. I could actually try on every style in the store. Amazing!

Second there was a sale. Yippee!

Third, there was stuff I liked that was comfortable! Wahoooooooooo!

I ended up buying a super fun glitter stretch knit dress with a cowl back.

Nat stands back to the camera showing of a well fitted dress with a plunging back

I wore that dress to my work formal. No shape wear, just a regular bra and undies. The stretchy fabric meant I was super comfy sitting, eating and dancing. The only downside was it didn’t breathe very well so after a few songs I’d be soaked from dancing. Granted I’m an enthusiastic dancer. I also sweat quite a bit. Honestly though if Under Armor or some other athletic wear company would make high performance formal wear I know a large group of suit and dress wearing humans who would by them!!!

We have money!!

I also scored a really shimmery sequined top and then a mirror calf length cardigan.

I wore pleather leggings with a lace top and the mirrored cardigan to my friends’ wedding. Again, comfy, classy and appropriately attention seeking. Let’s be honest, after the trials and tribulations of finding fun, functional formal wear it’s good to get noticed!

Coming up next is my partner’s work formal. I have at least 3 options that look great, feel good and I can dance in. I’ll get super sweaty but that’s ok.

Have you found formal wear that breathes when you dance? Please tell me about it!

I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE!

Sat with Nat · sleep

Nat’s still waiting to fall in love with her CPAP

About a year ago I went for a sleep study and got my results. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine.

You can read my original post here.

Seven months later I’ve gotten used to using the machine every night. I’m still waiting to fall in love with my CPAP.

Things that really helped me get through the first couple months was tapping into my social support network. I learned there were different types of masks and tried them. In the end the rabbit nose worked for me.

I learned I could use it without water or heat settings. Totally revolutionized my experience. I turned off the auto-on/off and ramp up features. Finally I told my device provider that it felt like trying to sleep with my face out of a car window. They contacted the prescribing doctor and they dropped my pressure 2 points. It made a big difference.

I’m not seeing big gains in feeling rested or a boost in my mood or metabolism. So much for that! I definitely no longer snore so my partner and my throat are much happier. My blood pressure dropped 5 points. So some gains.

I had a follow up sleep test that was less invasive due to some changes in equipment. Less wires and not being tethered to the wall made a big difference. Natalie’s unimpressed face stares at the camera with wires and tape attached.

Ya. My expression is accurate. I’m tolerating and complying but I wouldn’t even say I’m feeling neutral about it.

I’m accepting but, when I really take a moment, I resent the CPAP and strongly dislike it. I miss slipping into bed and cuddling to my sweetie, my forehead pressed into the nap of his neck.

I miss spontaneous sex and even just going to sleep without the whole mask donning production.

My many friends who use these types of breathing devices assure me with time I will love it. I hope so.