Recommended Soundtrack: Bet on Me by Walk off the Earth
The weather has turned warmer and I’m loving spending whole days on the weekend in the garden digging, weeding and planting.
The time has to come from something so I’ve stopped doing indoor workouts. The idea of spending any time inside when I don’t have to hurts my brain.
I love taking my coffee in the morning outside. Walking the dog is so much more pleasant when the neighbourhood is in bloom.
I’m so thankful my body is able to shift gears to doing something I love. Digging in the dirt, the smell of the plants, it’s so revitalizing.
I know by the time it gets truly hot and we are well into summer I’ll shift away from the gardening to other things. I’m inconsistent in the short term. Every spring I put energy in to my garden though so taking a longer view there is consistency.
Indoor training feels good in the winter and early spring. I’ll be back to it sometime later. It works for me.
I looked back at all the different activities I engaged with over the years. I’m consistently active, but what that is varies a lot.
I used to feel bad that I can’t stick with one thing longer than three or four months. Now I appreciate that there is always something different to come.
My health and well-being are supported by all this activity and that is pretty dang cool.
Are you someone who is consistent with working out? I’d love to hear about your rhythm of activities.
I’ve been writing the past few months about my newfound love of stationary cycling. The first month was all about adapting to the bike and classes, the second month was about gaining some confidence and experience. The third month I decided to try a structured program.
I chose “Discover Your Power Zones”. It uses a 20 minute maximum effort spin to determine your average power. You then work through a 5 week training program that culminates in a second test to see how your body has responded to training.
I had turned on the power zone option on my dashboard. It estimated my output to be 190 watts based on my age and weight. I did my test and hit 119 watts. Way lower. Dang!
The five week program has progressive workouts each week. The zones started feeling easier to maintain the end of week three. I was pumped to see the difference after a relatively short time.
The classes were challenging yet achieve able. I was nervous the day of my week five Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test. I had to jump off the bike to pee after my warm up. My throat was tight. I didn’t expect that to happen.
Having been in the military I have a complicated history with fitness tests. But it surprised me that this test had me anxious. No one was watching or evaluating. I could delete the workout or reject the results. There was only me to impress.
I worked through the anxiety and put forth my best effort. My latest FTP is 147 watts. A significant increase from five weeks ago. It’s kind of magical in the first few months of training the impressive gains we can make.
My body does respond to conditioning. I’m feeling good on the bike. Did I lose a bunch of weight or drastically alter my appearance? No.
Do I feel stronger, more confident and utterly badass? You bet I do!
Maybe it’s fear of failure. Maybe it’s about being the fat chick at the back of the pack. Maybe my brain is full of metrics for my paid work. I never cared much for tracking fitness metrics. Steps. Sure. My phone does that.
But the Apple Watch ring thing? My partner LOVES IT. It’s his hit of happy to chase and win fitness challenges. Me, not so much.
But it turns out I do like little achievements. Peloton measures so many aspects and has so many little milestones it’s hard to go a week without getting a few.
Since I’m not chasing them it feels a bit random when a whole class high gives me. Huh. Wonder why? Oh that was my 75th ride. Hilarious!
The workout minutes is fun to see how little choices add up. In March, on the 31st I finished a Power Zone ride and checked if I hit Gold for cycling distance. Nope! Just under 4km short. Sooooo I DEFINITELY did a 10 minute cooldown ride instead of 5 minutes to hit the distance. Why? It felt achievable and it was the first month that felt that way. Cool!
More than the little badges, I’ve been able to cycle hard enough to get sweaty. Finally!
I’m riding longer, easily hitting an hour in the saddle. I’m able to do rides on back to back days. No more glute or tail bone pain. Amazing!
I also have a personal rule, are we doing the class at the same time? You get a high-five. You hit a milestone? High-five! You pass me on the leaderboard? You hecking bet you are getting a high-five. And when I get a high-five it feels just a bit like being out on a group ride. And that feels AMAZING.
Well here we are, somehow 6 weeks after I hopped on my partner’s Peloton. Where did the time go?
Somewhere along the journey I hit 1,000 minutes of working out. Cool!
I’m rediscovering my comfort and confidence on the bike. While I still often cry at the end of a ride it’s not a bad thing. It’s often tears of relief that I completed a ride. So thankful!
I have been alternating cycling and weight training with 1 rest day a week. My butt needs the time out of the saddle and my legs need time to recuperate.
What has changed in 6 weeks?
**remember your mileage may vary. If you start a new training regime you may have different gains or meaningful measures of success**
First, I’m able to ride longer. I started out with 5 minute warm up, 20 minute beginner rides, 5 minute cool down. After a month I felt good trying an advanced beginner ride of 30 minutes. I now regularly do a 5 or 10 minute warmup, a 30 minute ride, 10 minute cool down and a 5 minute stretch. Yay!
Second, I’m not as sore after my workouts. Thank goodness because the first two weeks I was limping through my neighborhood on my daily walks.
Third, I have better form on the bike and can sit up without holding the handle bars, find a relaxed upper body during max effort and even standing up out of the saddle during rides. It’s very different from on my road bike but I’m learning. Yay!
Fourth, I’m feeling good in the strength classes. Lots of moves I’m still learning. My upper body workouts have felt particularly awesome. Best part, I’m lifting more weight with better form and control. Wahoo!
Fifth, my heart rate and blood pressure have dropped by a whopping 20 points. Talk about a satisfying and meaningful measure. My motivation for adding higher intensity cardio and weight training to my life was to address a disturbing upward trend in these metrics. My moving about my day heart rate is 64 bpm and my blood pressure is back to 124/75. That’s right where I want them to be.
Sixth, my stress management and resilience are feeling good. I’m having less anxiety and sleeping well. So good!
Seventh, I now have different things in common with my partner and our other friends who use Peloton. We share favourite classes and instructors as well as equipment tips and tricks. That means less shop talk about our paid work. AMAZING!
What are meaningful measures in your fitness journey? I want to hear all about it!
It’s February! I usually joke February is Latin for “shit” as I don’t usually love winter and, wowsers, is it ever winter now eh? This year though winter isn’t bumming me out. It’s everything else. I had a mild case of COVID 19 over Christmas but the symptoms lasted roughly 4 weeks. It really drained me at a time when the holidays super charge me.
I love food, friends and having a good time. This year though even my most modest plans were canceled. Nothing tasted good. I was tired. BORING. Totally thankful everyone in my household recovered and life is back to normal. But I’ve noticed lately my usual self care and mental health strategies were not enough.
I get to lead people in my paid work. One piece about leadership that has stayed with me since my military days is “don’t tell people what to do, show them”. So I talk about what I do to be well both for staying effective at work AND to enjoy all that other life stuff that work funds.
I do a lot of things to fill my emotional and creative tanks. But lately even my self-care decathlon isn’t enough. I decided I needed to kick things up a notch. A big notch.
So I’ve jumped on my partner’s Peloton. He was awarded it last November for his performance at work. He loves it. We have very different rhythms when it comes to working out but after seeing his joy for 3 months I was starting to think about joining him.
It wasn’t until our friends, who are our neighbours too, shared what they were enjoying about their Peloton that I moved from thinking about it to trying it. Thank you Nina & Al!
The first ride, Ouaf, so humbling. It’s been more than 2 years since I’ve done any cycling of note. I’ve been focusing on walking as the logistics of anything else was really doing my head in. So I picked a 20 minute beginner ride with Ally Love. It was a great class to understand the features of the bike and how the classes are structured.
I cried a lot though while spinning. I didn’t have the fit dialed in quite right and I was so uncomfortable. It was hard to truly be a beginner again. I did find Ally’s instruction helpful and distracting. The class flew by.
The next day I tried a warm up spin with Ben and a beginner whole body strength class with Chase. The whole body strength class reminded me of CXworks so felt familiar and accessible. Chase provided clear instructions and just the right amount of direction.
Day 3 I joined a 20 minute beginner spin class with Tunde. It was challenging without being overwhelming. I really enjoyed her instruction, which balanced technique and encouragement perfectly. I had the bike fit dialed in and I started to feel more at home in the saddle.
Day 4 was a Sunday so I took the time to stack 4 workouts. Stacking allows you to build a workout in advance combining different classes to get to the length you want.
I chose a beginner whole body strength training with Adrian. He has a 10 minute warm up, a 20 minute class, and a 10 minute stretching class. All were challenging and the moves were achieve-able for me. I ended with a 10 minute guided meditation with Aditi focusing on breath.
I was pleasantly surprised that planks were not only available to me but pretty easy. That’s a big change for me and I credit my daily dog walks for my newfound core strength.
Day 5 I stacked Christine’s 5 minute spinning warm up with a 20 minute beginner class followed by a 5 minute cool down. I really like her straightforward delivery.
Day 6 was a repeat of strength training with Adrian. Day 7 a revisit of Tunde’s beginner spin. I’m balancing trying different instructors with keeping some familiarity.
I was SO SKEPTICAL of the entertainment aspect of online classes. I tend to grim, grunt and bare it exercises. The music and the strengths based approach really works for me. No one is more surprised than me!
I’m so thankful my folks gifted us dumbbell sets for Christmas. That I had clipless shoes, cycling shorts, water bottles, yoga mats and belts. It really removed all the barriers for me to get over my embarrassment of not restarting my workouts sooner.
A Peloton bike is a very expensive bit of kit. It’s not something I would have sprung for of my own accord. I’m so surprised how much I enjoy it. I hope you are finding joy in your workouts too!
Recommended Soundtrack: Celebrate by Kool & The Gang
It’s one week into the new year and I’m reflecting on the small victories I experienced in 2021 and these first few days of 2022. I’m always amazed at how tiny changes can add up to small and sometimes huge victories.
My average daily step count in 2021 was 12,511 steps. That’s up significantly from 2020’s 9,200 and 2019’s 8,100. Wahoo!
That translates to just over 7 km a day or a whopping 2,500 km last year. Folks, I could have walked from London, Ontario to McAdam, New Brunswick and half way back. HOLY HECK.
Looking at what has contributed to maintaining a higher daily step count, there are a few tiny changes that tipped the balance.
Add just a bit more
When we got our puppy we had to go for many, very short walks of half a block to train her. As Lucy grew we added a bit more to each walk. We made 10, 20, 30 and 45 minute loops in our neighborhood.
My body adapts
Over 18 months those little loop changes added up. Plus I got faster at walking so I now cover in 30 minutes the distance that used to take 50 minutes.
How about right now?
Those loops became our coffee break, lunchtime, morning and evening walks. Over the day we walk a combined 90 minutes to two hours. If a regular scheduled walk can’t happen I grab the dog between calls for 10 minutes. My beloved and I check in if we have busy days. Sometimes we simply ask “how about right now?”
Take a tiny bit of time
Since the walks were woven into our day it was easy. Do I have less time at lunch? A 10 minute loop is enough to refresh myself and get Lucy the movement she needs. Dinner is baking and I know if I sit down I’m not going anywhere. I can take a tiny bit of time. Feeling TOTALLY BAGGED? I can at least do 10 minutes, for Lucy.
A bit of momentum
Often once I’m out the door my feet keep me going. So if my schedule allows that 10 minute walk could stretch into 30. Especially on weekends we tend to just head out and meander since we’ve few timings to meet.
I got to walk to all kinds of places last year. Downtown to my favourite bookstore or restaurants. In and around McAdam over the summer. Through new trails in London. With my partner, my sister, friends, my kids and alone. Switching up walking partners also keeps it fresh.
I bought all slip on footwear. My coats are filled with dog bags, treats. No prep required. I use my phone’s built in step counter. No additional tracking required. I work from home so I can dress comfortably and with the weather in mind so the time to transition from my desk to outside can be seconds, at most 5 minutes.
It’s ok to take a break
If it’s truly a downpour I’m ok walking just enough to get Lucy to do all the things she can do. That might be just 20 minutes that day. It’s ok. I’m dispassionate about not hitting a daily target. When I’m sick I walk if it feels ok but I don’t over do it.
Ask for help
My children happily take their turns in my stead walking Lucy when I am not available. The family has agreed they do the dishes after dinner so I can head out. We negotiate who can do what and when. Without this I don’t have the time to walk.
Looking back at those tiny changes over a long period of time they morph into small victories. Yay! And that added up to quite a big uptick in my step count. YAY!
So you may think that upping my steps has lead to an amazing physical transformation. Uh. Nope. I look the same. Weigh the same. Wear the same sized clothes.
SURELY my blood pressure improved. Gah. Nope. It’s actually increasing and I’m working with my doctor to address it.
But how about strength? Flexibility? Resting heart rate? Nope. Not changed.
What HAS changed?
As a result of all that walking …I’m much better at walking. I can walk longer at a faster pace.
My mood has been good. I’m feeling more resilient in the face of stress do when the tough times come I’m recovering well. And. Wow. That is a mighty impactful thing worth celebrating.
How about you?
Looking back is there a tiny change you’ve made that had impacts over time?
Recommended soundtrack: Voice of Baceprot’s cover of Testify. Really though, give it a listen and notice how it being performed by 3 Muslim women makes an old song completely new.
I’m well into my work from home pandemic routine life. There’s comfort in the weekday cycle of coffee, dog walk, eat, work, eat, walk, work, eat, walk then the subset of things that happen between 7-10:30 pm …. then sleep.
The weekends swap out “work” for “sacred duties” and that’s pretty much it.
I don’t naturally gravitate towards routine and plans. My beloved has always marveled at my capacity for chaos and spontaneous stuff, including gloriously restful days of naps, podcasts and crafts contrasted against days of gardening or hiking or singing or writing.
I think back to the first time I went to a yoga class. It was 1998 in a high school gymnasium through the Winnipeg community recreation program. 12 weeks of yoga where we painstakingly learned how to spread our toes, pull up our knee caps, slide our shoulder blades and other biomechanics in support of learning a short Sun Salutation. The instructor told us to do the same routine every day.
I rejected the idea outright. The SAME THING? EVERY day? BORING! I mean, wasn’t the point of exercise to have variety, gain new skills, advance and repeat?
My exercise routine prior to that was triathlon training in college. 5 days a week 5:30-7, 4-5:30 alternating swimming and weights in the mornings with running and cycling in the afternoons. We did long slow distance runs on Saturdays. Sundays were rest days.
But even within that variety there were 12 week cycles of baseline testing to get your minimums and maximums, focus on form, strength, power, cardio and tapering for racing season. Always different, always measuring, always with the goal of progress.
Nearly 3 decades later I now understand the wisdom of a daily yoga practice though I’m not doing that right now. It is about checking in and it is different because I am different each day. My body reacts in novel ways each time. The postures demand my focus and the world falls away.
Walking, on the other hand, feels automatic. The weather, clothes and quality of the light changes but the routes and effort don’t. It’s easy. It’s sometimes mind numbingly boring. I focus more on training our dog Lucy or talking with Michel. It’s our alone time as our 3 cohabiting adults are home due to the pandemic nearly 24/7.
The house we rent at times feels vast. That’s usually at cleaning time. Other times the walls close in. That’s usually when everyone is up and at’em in all the rooms. I retreat to my bedroom to knit/draw/nap.
I miss the variety of being in the office, my old routines. Talking with Titi who cleans and makes sure we have toilet paper in the bathrooms. Trading laughs with Jimmy, Mark and Rachel when I grab a coffee or food at the cafeteria. Sitting in my pod of 4 people having side chats as we work away.
Today is Saturday. The morning walk will be later, longer and unhurried with no meeting to rush back for. The meals will take longer to make and enjoy, the errands and chores can wait. I likely will only get 1 creative endeavor in, crochet or knit or draw or sing. There’s never enough time for all of them.
Recommended Soundtrack “I’m still standing” by Elton John
I write a lot about walking. Yup. Still happening every day and averaging 13,000 steps a day this year. That’s up from 9,800 last year. Yay!
I was talking to friends this week about that moment in your life where you don’t take pain free walking for granted. This revelation came to me in waves. First, when pregnant, more recently I had a serious bout of plantar fasciitis a couple years ago. It hurt so much!
So I’m especially thankful that I’m more aware of my feet and what I need to do to care for them.
A variety of footwear in good repair
I continue to buy good quality footwear. I’ve added variety from Keen slip on sandals with structured support to Manitobah moccasins that have a supple sole to ensure my feet get a full range of motion. I have a more supportive Keen hiking sandal as well as insulated slip on Merrel clogs. ALL THE FOOTWEAR.
I regularly inspect my footwear for wear and tear and throw them out when repairs are no longer keeping them functional. No more worn out shoes for me!
Stretching and massaging
I stretch my soles, toes, calves and ankles throughout the day. I continue to use spiked balls, softer wool ones that Catherine recommended and yoga straps to help.
Even on the couch I point and flex my feet. I try to scrunch up my toes and also spread them apart. There are lots of popping and crunching sounds but no pain. Yay!
Shoe free time
Some folks wear shoes indoors to support their feet. I find having bare foot time helpful in experiencing a full range of motion in my feet and checking in with how my feet are doing. If they get cranky I slip on some Merrels I keep inside for daytime use.
Sitting and Standing
Both got my paid work and my housework, I alternate between sitting and standing to work my feet and rest them.
I am taking a Zoom choir where I stand for 90 minutes. I don’t like singing seated, there’s too much boob, belly and thigh competing for space to get my breathing right. It has caused me to realize an hour of standing is really my limit so I do sit…or even lay down to sing.
Checking in with my feet
All of this to say I now pay attention if there is tenderness or aches in my feet. I get investigative and reflect on what has changed and what steps I can take to keep my feet functioning.
Is there some ache that you have been able to turn around? What did you do? How are you sustaining the changes/supports?
Recommended soundtrack: Good News by (Canadian National Treasure and my internet crush) Coco Love Alcorn
The video ad jumps into place, a birds eye view camera shot of a slim, muscular white woman who is younger than me. She is running on a treadmill with deliberate intensity. She looks up at the camera and smiles.
“Cardio burns fat, right?” she nods her head then flips to a scowl, slams the emergency stop and yells “WRONG!”
It’s jolting and designed to jostle us out of our world view. I find it really annoying. Ads like it are increasingly popping across my browsers, YouTube videos and social media feeds.
I was talking with my beloved about how annoying I find it because for a split second I’m engaged and the emotional pump works even though I don’t want to buy whatever fitness “solution” she is selling. He deftly replied “Oh that’s an example of The Challenger sales model. You always hate those because on some level you know it’s a trick.”
Well he is so right. The love of my life dipped his toe into sales for a few years, and filled our house with sales strategy books for a while. I then thought about when I first learned about unconscious bias and once I knew about my biases I couldn’t ignore them. I think sales strategies are like that: they lose their magic when you know they prime you emotionally to let go of your money.
It’s my birthday tomorrow and who doesn’t like gifts? Even better, this gift I give you has no ulterior motive than to offer you some tools to engage in vendor self defense. If you already have this tool you can re-gift this wisdom to your beloveds. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!
Ok. So back to the ad. The first emotional hook is getting the viewer to agree. The line and the nodding are intended to get us to relate to the speaker. A kind of micro-relationship forms. If it’s done well we now want the speaker to succeed.
Let’s forget you probably already know that cardio exercise is short for cardiovascular conditioning. The goals are strengthening our hearts, lungs and endurance. Note I’m not talking about weight loss or fat burning.
Measures of fitness related to cardio can be resting heart rate, blood pressure, VO2 max…that kind of stuff.
So already our speaker is kind of loosing her sale but I STILL FIND MYSELF NODDING IN AGREEMENT. Holy crap, this emotional pump stuff is powerful. She then slams us with the “WRONG” to set her hook. Now she just needs to reel us in.
At this point you are wondering where my big insight is, and honestly I often opt out of the ad as she dives into offering whatever solution she is selling. The spell breaks because the seller isn’t doing a good job. But the pattern is important. So let’s see what the components of The Challenger model are so you can keep your money for things you actually need and enjoy.
The model has three “T”s: teach, tailor and take control. The goal is to challenge a key assumption, disrupt your confidence in your world view, and create a need that the seller can fill with a product.
The seller needs you to believe that one of your beliefs about the world is wrong. The goal is to subordinate you, to position themselves as a wise teacher and you as the student. They want to blow your mind, peel back the veil of ignorance and show you a big, shiny truth that is supposed to be BIG NEWS to you.
To defend yourself from this part of the tactic you can question the wisdom. What are the sources the seller is using? Who is this self-appointed teacher? Do I need the services they offer? (It could be you are in the market for a new guitar amplifier and this person sells amps.)
If the seller has you in the right demographic bucket it might feel like they totally know what you need, your concerns and your spending threshold.
Be careful friends, you are in the sales funnel now and the seller is working hard to convert you from a prospect to a sale.
Vendor self defense move: Question if this is a need you have and if this is a solution you want and can afford.
Spoiler, you, your body and your fitness aren’t a problem and these “solutions” are often more harmful than helpful.
Take Control of the Conversation
Here is where you might see creating a sense of urgency (act now and get a big discount!) and other pressure tactics to close the deal (it’s the LAST Guitar amp IN THE WORLD UNTIL 2025!!) .
They will try to address objections. Your objection might be the price point so they offer financing or smaller monthly payments.
Your vendor self defense at this point is take so time to reflect on the sale. Literally walk away or turn off the device. It could be they are selling THE EXACT AMP YOU NEED but. Honestly. It will be there tomorrow or another one will come along.
I hope you enjoyed my birthday gift. Please do re-gift it. Save your money for the things you really need or truly want. Bonus points for those who share examples of The Challenger sales model in the wild!
It’s only a few weeks of being back in Ontario and I can already feel the sense of calm contentment slipping that had settled over me in New Brunswick.
It’s partly that I know more about what to do here, where to go, who to see and there is just more of those things and so little time to do them!
Thanks to my partner, we had taken a bit of a tourist’s view of New Brunswick and we are looking to bring that with us in London. If you only had a weekend here, what would you do? Where would you go?
So we are making plans to see more sections of the Thames Valley Trail. Walking has remained our foundational activity, rain or shine.
It’s low cost, low equipment and easy to just get up and go!
Last Saturday we accidentally walked 10 km of the North Branch so I could see the beautiful new path and bridges. It’s along the river and through the southern portions of property owned by The Sisters of St Joseph, Scouts Canada and the Ivy Leadership Centre. It’s beautiful.
I’m grateful we have both cultivated enough mobility to spontaneously go on a decent walk. Good shoes help as well as all the little walks we do each day.
My legs are strong and flexible, my feet feel good, it’s nice to be a pedestrian tourist and see new sides of the city I’ve lived in for 16 years.
So I’m working on staying in the moment, carefully leaving unspoken for time in my life and scheduling time with friends.