fitness · habits · rest · season transitions · self care

Working Outside: An Internal Debate

I’m writing this while sitting on my patio and wondering if I want to take my laptop outside for the rest of the afternoon.

I mean, if you were sitting here, would you want to make yourself go work inside?

A view of a backyard patio, plants, lawn and trees
The view from my seat under my patio umbrella. Image description: a photo of one side of a backyard deck with a view of a red shed with white trim, a patio chair with a red cushion, a variety of potted plants, some grass and trees, and my dog, Khalee.

Yet, as someone with ADHD who does freelance work from home, I already have to put a lot of effort into reminding myself that there is a time for work and a time to relax/be at home. I generally try to limit where I work so I have environmental reminders to keep me on track.

So, if I start working in my relaxation space, am I going to blur that line I have worked hard to draw?

On the other hand, I have done lots of work outside in the past. I don’t really remember if it made it more challenging to keep that boundary or not.

And while I have enjoyed my deck in previous years, I hadn’t put as much effort into creating a restful backyard before. My new deck and an increase in my planning capacity (thanks to an increased dose of ADHD meds last fall) has helped me plan and create a much more enjoyable space this summer.

I don’t know if I should draw stronger boundaries around this restful space or if my environment would help me work with more ease. If I could work with more ease, maybe it would be easier to draw a line under my tasks for the day and move on to my hobbies and relaxation.

In the past, while writing or doing other office work outdoors, I have managed to create a good rhythm for my day – working in short sessions and then breaking for yoga, other exercises, drawing or reading. That’s probably a healthier way to work than trying to force myself to focus for long periods. There would be less sitting and more movement, which is always good for me.

But, maybe I could make my workday shorter if I told myself to stay inside for X amount of time and then go outside to exercise and/or relax?

Am I overthinking this? Almost definitely.

Does it have to be all one or all the other? Probably not.

I still think it is worth asking myself all of these questions though.

I am trying to be more conscious of the choices I am making and of the patterns I am following. I want those choices and patterns to contribute to my overall fitness, my health, my happiness, and my peace of mind.

I’ll probably try working outside in small amounts and see how it affects my sense of relaxation the rest of the time.

In the worst case scenario, it won’t work out and I’ll have to redraw my boundaries. I can always use more practice at that.

Image description: a GIF of a person’s hand drawing a line on white paper with a black sharpie marker and then the sharpie rolls away.
Image description: a GIF of a person’s hand drawing a line on white paper with a black sharpie marker and then the sharpie rolls away.

PS – Yes, I am aware of the irony of being outside while composing a post wondering about whether I should work outside but writing for this blog is in a grey area between work-work and recreation so really it’s kind of fitting that I am writing it on my phone while outside.

cycling · fitness · season transitions

Spring? Time to clean bikes

It’s not actually spring yet. But it sure feels like spring. It’s sunny and warm. High of 15 tomorrow. Even the mayor thinks we should take the day off.

Also, in my newsfeed, there are photos of us a year ago, cleaning our road bikes.

No photo description available.

Nat asked on Saturday in her post on seasonal maintenance, Do you do specific things this time of year?. And I think for me cleaning my bike is one of those things.

Normally during the summer I give my bike a quick clean after riding, but this of year, I go for something a bit more involved.

How about you? Are you getting ready to ride?

fitness · season transitions · winter

Sam hates November but loves bright, sunny, snowy days (a photo essay as a reminder)

Like Tracy, I’ve been struggling to get outside this winter. Yes, there’s been some fat biking. There have been a few long snowy dog walks. But generally, on a weekly basis, it feels like days whoosh by when I don’t leave the house. Like this week, it was suddenly Friday and I realized I went out just once.

I blog lots about how much I hate grey November days but I do love winter sunshine. January and February are usually good months for snow and sun. It’s the in-between stage of winter I hate when it’s too cold and icy to ride my bike but not yet snowy enough to fat bike, cross country ski etc.

But this February feels different and I’m thinking it’s really about the pandemic not just about the weather. Right now we’re at the stage in Canadian winter when the temperatures feel daunting. The combination of stay at home orders in the province where I live and some -15 windy, grey, icy days means an awful lot of indoor time.

What I love, and I need to remind myself of this, is the bright winter sun. I’m not sure why I need to remind myself about this. I’m not sure why it feels so much like work during the pandemic to remember the good things. But it does. Are there things that you know make you feel better but you still need reminding? Still need a push out the door? Walking in the sunshine, in winter, is like this for me.

It’s also Family Day here in Ontario. As pandemic winter continues, I really miss my family members who don’t live with me. I think I’m going to make an effort to visit outside more often even though it’s cold.

Dog hikes, family, sun and snow. All good.

I also love reading in my llama pjamas, late Sunday breakfasts, and coffee! These are things I know make the weekend better but I don’t need reminding about them.

What are some of your favourite weekend things? I feel the need these days to mark the weekend and make it special. Otherwise, all the days blur into one.

Hope you had a good weekend and if you’re in one of Canadian provinces that celebrate it, hope you’ve got a happy family day ahead of you.

Enjoy!

Breakfast, French toast and strawberries

season transitions · Seasonal sadness · swimming · winter

Winter swimming!

Snow swimming!

I’m fascinated by people who swim in the winter months. I’ve got friends who do it and who post their photos to Facebook. Each time, I’m intrigued.

I wrote about the trend of winter swimming last year on the blog.

People say it has  remarkable health benefits including helping with seasonal depression and with relieving the symptoms of menopause. It’s said to be all the rage: Why wild swimming in depths of winter is the new natural high.  People write about the subversive joy of cold water swimming.

There are even battles between the old school hardcore winter bathers and the new trendy winter swimmers who favour fleecy robes for warming up after.

And then this video came across my newsfeed.

Maybe I should just give it a try?

What do you think? What’s the coldest weather/water you’ve swum in before? Tempted to do it again? Love it? Hate it? Tell us your story!

fitness · season transitions

Chronicles of December, 2020 edition

December is the most pensive month, or so it seems when I look back on blog posts past. It’s also full of advance-of-New-Year fitness promises and plans, all shiny and new and wrapped up like holiday gifts to oneself. In this post, from December 2016, I rhapsodized about my newly-conceived every-day winter walking plan:

Walking in winter (so far) also feels quieter and more calm than walking in other seasons.  Here, the trees are bare and sometimes the sky is gray, or it’s a crystal blue.  The air is crisp, and sometimes the wind is blowing.  But walking, I’m ready for it… right now, early winter walking is a quiet pleasure, perfect for the period before harsher winter arrives.

Yeah, I wafted away on a cloud of fragrant prose there. My apologies.

We all get carried away sometimes.

However, the most lovingly-laid and loudest-trumpeted plans didn’t play out the way I hoped. In December 2017, I wrote about it here:

For me, this challenge was a bust.  I didn’t have the oomph to do it.  It just made me feel resentful, overburdened, under-exercised, and inferior to my obviously-better-life-manager compatriots.

Of course this is no surprise.  Challenges can be motivating, but also can trigger resentments, fears, anxiety– you name it.

Now here we are, a year later… In the midst of it, I feel– calm. A bit quieter than usual.  Slow and deliberate. The indirect light suits me.  The early dusk I find entrancing.  This is a new experience and completely unexpected.

HAVE I LEARNED NOTHING?!

Jean-Luc Picard is also frustrated by my continued lack of self-knowledge.

Sigh. I’m afraid to say I continued in the same vein, burbling on about everyday yoga (which I did actually do) and setting up my bike trainer for regular indoor workouts (which I didn’t do).

By December of 2018, I had wised up to my inner Bronte-esque winter fitness heroine, stopping her in her flowy tracks before she could trip me up again. In this post, I admitted that my previous posts were more aspirational than realistic. The two pictures below illustrate the contrast.

My plan for the month was as follows:

  • doing a bunch of yoga, mostly in very small bits
  • walking more
  • sleeping 8 hours at least, because I have to in order to function
  • being present for my family, trying to maintain boundaries of some sort
  • accepting that my house will be super-messy and my writing obligations will have to wait and that my body is actually helping me do all these things so thank you body

Forget ethereal.  I’m going for pragmatic this season.

Two years later, it’s December 2020. What does this end-of-year time look like?

  • Because of COVID, my work/life boundaries are pretty shot. This means less time devoted to relaxing, exercise, fun stuff.
  • Because of COVID, I’m alone most of the time. A few friends come to my house sometimes for porch visits or n95-masked short visits. It’s not enough, but I’m grateful for the contact.
  • Because of COVID (plus other things), my sleep schedule is pretty shot. I’m responding my letting myself get enough sleep (schedule permitting), even if it means losing some mornings.
  • Because of COVID (plus other things), my eating is more dis-regulated than usual. This is a day-to-day changeable thing, made better by more sleep and more movement and more meditation.

So, what’s my phrase for COVID-December, 2020? Weathering the storm.

A woman, shoulder-deep in water, holding a tiny red umbrella against rain and clouds.

Here’s how I’m doing it:

  • Because of COVID, there’s loads of online yoga. I’m doing some.
  • I’m meditating every day. Really. For realz. It’s not always fun, but it’s always happening.
  • I’m leaving the house 4 days out of 7 each week, walking, doing errands, etc. I’d love to say I do it every day, but it’s not happening. Okay then.
  • I’m talking to friends and family a lot– on the telephone (yes, I use my phone for real-time person-to-person audio communication), over Facetime, Zoom, and in person when possible and safe.

AND: I’m continuing to write for all of you about my relationship with fitness, wellness, sadness, and presence. It feels a bit like talking to long-time friends.

What’s your watchphrase for December? I’d love to know.

fitness · season transitions

Winter pandemic socializing: moving to Plan B

Remember pandemic summer? It now seems a glorious idyll, compared with the stingy light emissions, dead leaves and cold reality of mid-November. It’s all headed downhill from here. And not in a good way.

This picture may seem unrelated, but a) it’s a downhill mountain bike; and b) it conveys a grim coolness, to which I aspire.

During those lazy hazy days of late summer, I wrote a blog post about prepping for winter, in which I laid out some ideas for ensuring cozy continuous COVID-free contact with friends and family. Visions of patio heaters and down-filled onesies danced in my head, and the prospect of changes in temperature seemed like no problem at all. We just throw heating appliances and polartec fleece at the problem, and it vanishes.

Several months later, I’m finding that plan A isn’t the solution I hoped it would be. Friends and I are still meeting outside some, but as winter gets closer, the cold and damp is less inviting as a backdrop for leisurely socializing. I yearn for the coziness of my living room, with its comfy sofas and soft throw blankets and smoke-free fireplace video, courtesy of Netflix (I prefer the one with no soundtrack– just the crackle sounds).

Crackling fireplace on Netflix.

So, I’ve ditched my previous plan and am now working on Plan B. This new plan consists of the following:

  • Running a HEPA air purifier in my living room/dining room area to help reduce aerosols (I picked one after reading extensive reviews on this site);
  • Having a supply of both N95 masks and high-quality disposable masks for guests to wear while inside my house;
  • Arranging my living room/dining room area for comfortable and generous social distancing;
  • limiting guests to one or two others at a time;
  • limiting or giving up meals together inside (so to maintain mask wearing inside);
  • limiting my circle of guests to a very small number of them;
  • Faithfully Zooming with a larger circle of friends to keep in touch, even when the Zooming itself seems like a chore;
  • Reminding each other that this isn’t forever– there will be spring and vaccines and ebbing of caseloads, as is the way of things.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: I’m not making any claims about the benefits or risk reduction of any of these actions I’m taking. In particular, the combo of air purifier and serious mask wearing indoors for a small number of people is just something I’ve decided to try. And, it’s based on reading and talking with knowledgable folks. But, this is an area of great uncertainty and unknown risk. I’m doing me here. You do you.

I’m taking on whatever risks that go along with this plan because I really value and need social contact of various sorts with the people I care about, and I’m making this call. It’s possible (even likely) that things will change and I’ll have to come up with Plan C. Luckily, there’s an entire alphabet at our disposal, so we can pivot and shift and improvise as we learn what does (and doesn’t) work.

Readers, what are you winter pandemic plans? Are you all-outdoors-or-bust? Are you doing some indoor socializing? I’d love to hear what ideas you’ve come up with.

fitness · season transitions

Catherine considers (the radical idea of) shifting to morning exercising

I am not a morning person. Never have been, even in childhood. My mother would glide into my room, singing, and I would pull the pillow over my head, hoping she wouldn’t see me. Yes, this happened the last time I visited her, too (she’s in her late 70s and I’m in my late 50s). Even from the comfort of my own home, if I’m called upon to get up earlier than say, 9:30am, I have to set an alarm and give myself time to emerge from feeling like the walking dead.

A chimpanzee, wrapped in a multicolored sheet, simulating unhappiness upon waking in a tree. That’s my best guess.

The onset of menopause has made me more of a night person, not less. In addition to late night hormonally-induced internal temperature fluctuations, I started having trouble getting to sleep before say, 2 or 3am. That’s pretty darn inconvenient, even for a lucky person like me, who has a flexible work schedule.

The cherry on top of this insomnia sundae has been the pandemic. Since March, my so-called “regular” sleep schedule has shifted to 2am–10am, with occasional nights when I am up until 4am. Aargh.

Whenever I tell people about my unhappiness with my night owlishness and insomnia, they invariably pepper me with questions (which feel a tiny bit accusatory), and suggestions (none of which are remotely unfamiliar to or untried by me). Here’s a list of reasons why people have trouble sleeping, compiled by this slightly irritating article. Note that every item except for one starts with “YOU…” , as in “YOU did this– what were you thinking?” The last one blames the room temperature, but who do they think set the thermostat? YOU.

List of things that YOU did that may have caused YOU to have trouble sleeping.
List of things that YOU did that may have caused YOU to have trouble sleeping. And whose fault is that?

Just so you know: I’ve tried changing every single one of these things (and sometimes all of them), and still haven’t had long-term success in shifting my sleep hours.

This very-delayed sleep onset schedule has wreaked havoc on my outdoor exercise plans. I just don’t love walking or cycling alone outside after dark, especially in late fall/early winter. And when I start my workday at say, 10:30am, it’s hard to take a significant break to head outside before dusk hits. Yes, taking a brisk stroll after lunch seems like a good idea, and it is a good idea. However, given my work habits, it has maintained its idea status, failing to transition into activity.

So here’s an idea: schedule and do my outdoor walk or cycling in the morning. Well, first thing in MY morning. It would be a big change, as I am not very alert when I wake up, and it takes me a while to get myself together. Actually leaving the house within say, 30 minutes of waking is a radical idea. But, it would do a few things:

  • I’d get outside in the light;
  • I’d get some exercise earlier in the day, which would be an interesting experiment for my sleep schedule;
  • I’d be less stressed about when I was going to get outside, as it would already be done first thing;
  • It might help me be more energetic when I settled down to do work.
  • It might improve my mood– both exposure to light and exercise upon waking are touted as winter mood enhancers.

I must confess that, on the very rare occasions that I’ve done early morning exercise (generally because someone’s talked me into it– yes, I mean you Samantha and you Janet), I marveled at how lovely it is to be outside in nature in the morning. So there is precedent for this action.

Making this shift won’t be easy. Here’s a list of things I’d have to do in order to make this work:

  • Actually try it.
  • At least once.
  • Maybe a few times even.
  • Don’t think about it.
  • Just go.
  • Outside.
  • How about tomorrow?

I mean, how hard can it be? These people seem okay, and they’re outside in the morning.

So there it is, readers. I’ve come out with a one-step plan: go outside first thing in my day. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Have any of you tried to and successfully (or non-successfully) shifted your exercise schedules? I’d love to hear about it.

#deanslife · covid19 · habits · health · nature · season transitions · self care

It’s just another pandemic Monday!

For some reason, Mondays are harder in pandemic times. I usually like Mondays. I’ve always liked the ‘back to the office’ energy, getting down to making lists and schedules for the week ahead, ‘how was your weekend? convos with colleagues, a bike ride the office, and lots and lots of coffee. These days there isn’t much of that. Instead, I look at my calendar, think ‘wow, we’re still doing this’ and start my first videoconference at 8 am.

My last public speaking event was March 5, 228 days ago. March 10 my calendar just says, ominously, “cancel all flights and hotels.” My first COVID-19 contingency planning meeting/conference call was March 13, 220 days ago.

Ever since I’ve been here in Guelph, working from home. This is a helpful reminder of the real date.

In July I wrote, “There are no boundaries any more. Life is one big blur of working at home, exercising at home, and relaxing at home. I occasionally look at my shoe collection in puzzlement. Will I ever wear real shoes again? I still have underwire bras hanging off a doorknob, neglected, and I’m wondering why I ever thought they were a good idea. These days only my comfiest of sports bras are in regular rotation.”

In light of the No Boundaries and the Great Big Blur, I’ve been thinking about restructuring my work week a little. Lots of things are busy during the weekend, out in the world, and I’m often working on the weekend. I’m wondering about taking some weekday time to ride trails, take Cheddar for hikes, and appreciate the outdoors. That’s the weekday/weekend trade but there’s also the daytime/nighttime swap. Yes, lots of work hours are fixed but if I am working into the evenings anyway, why can’t I squeeze some outside time in the sun into my day?

It’s hard to start work when it’s dark and finish after it’s dark again. Why not get out for a ride or a walk in the middle of the day?

Are you still working from home? How are you coping? 220 or so days in, are you making any changes to your schedule?

fitness · season transitions

Fall fitness: back in/on the saddle again

It’s really properly fall now– pumpkins (and pumpkin spice infused items of all sorts) are everywhere, the light is changing in quality and quantity, and temperatures are falling.

I love fall. Usually.

But this year, we in the Northern Hemisphere are living with the uncertainty of what colder temperatures will do to our carefully distanced outdoor socializing and physical-activity making. My local yoga studio is likely not opening up for indoor classes, and the days of outdoor yoga are numbered. There’s Zoom, for which I’m grateful, but I really miss collective yoga classes.

However, one activity I’m feeling bullish on, even into the colder temps, is cycling. The past six months have not been an easy or active time for me– I was one of those people on Team Less during the pandemic. Sam posted a few months ago about this issue, declaring herself on Team More. Not that pandemic life has been easy for anyone– we’ve all had to find different ways to cope, escape, step up, or scale back.

Even though I usually ride a lot in the summer (often with my friend Pata), it just didn’t come together this year. However, now that fall is here (and the pandemic is still with us for some time to come), I feel like the fog is lifting, the feelings of overwhelmedness are receding, and some energy is coming back. I’m feeling ready to ride more.

I know, I know– it’s a little late. But hey– there are no bad days to ride (totally not true, but bear with me), just bad clothing choices. And bad tire choices.

So, moving through fall into winter, here are my cycling plans:

  • Resume weekly coffee rides (even if we’re drinking hot coffee from a thermos)
  • Take the bike with me when I go on local trips (I’m on Cape Cod now, with bike)
  • Take the bike with me when I drive to see family (1500km/1000 miles away) at Christmas
  • Do some exploring of routes/rail trails/parks within a few hours of home
  • Set up trainer for actual regular use in Dec/Jan/Feb
  • Come up with plan for zoom spin class or some such (I haven’t taken the plunge to go the Zwift or Peloton or other bike way… yet)
  • Implement aforementioned plan
  • Celebrate the fact that I already own gloves, hats, tights, jerseys, and jackets for cycling in cold weather
  • Report back to you good people, sharing successes, setbacks, and soliciting suggestions

I’ve got a road bike and a gravel bike (among others), in very nice condition and raring to go. Time to throw a leg over and get back in/on the saddle again.

Readers, what are you thoughts or plans for fall-into-winter activity? Do you have new plans, new gear, the same plans/same gear? Worries? I’d love to hear from you.

fall · fitness · season transitions · Seasonal sadness

Getting some light in my life

Usually at this point in the year I start complaining about seasonal dark, associated mood disorders, and the practical challenge of bike commuting and needing headlights, reflective gear etc.

See Struggling with September Sadness and The night is (soon to be) dark and full of terrors.

Occasionally over the years I’ve managed some good feelings about the dark and about September which brings more of it into my life. See I like it in the dark: Winter and the joys of night time riding and running and Sam is Telling New Stories. But mostly they’re bad news blog posts.

This year I’m working from home. The challenges are different. I can see that it might be dangerous to work all day and only think about leaving the house in the dark.

I’m going to try to make sure I leave the house during the day to get outside in the daylight even if I don’t have anywhere particular to go. Cheddar doesn’t care about goals. He’s just happy to walk. Or run!

Cheddar running across the grass

As a back up plan, I’m also bringing my anti-SAD lamp home from work. It’s not needed there now I am only in my office on Wednesdays. I’m also reading about how people who cope with much more dark than we do get by and even seem to enjoy it.

Northern Light Technologies Luxor Desk Lamp | UPC: 870681000084

As we enter the double whammy of fall dark and the second wave of COVID-19 and associated shut-downs, what are you doing to keep some light in your life?