Exercise is one of the few areas when we can actually multitask effectively.*
If you find it hard to fit exercise into your day, if it is a challenge to lure yourself into getting started, or if you find exercising a little dull, you might find it useful to multitask.
That might mean walking to complete some errands. (Or parking further from the store and then getting a burst of activity as you walk/run/gambol to the entrance.)
Or doing a few reps with each can as you put the groceries away.
You could use voice dictation to create a rough draft of something while you do some stretches.
Maybe the promise of listening to a podcast, a radio program, or a TV show would help you ease into starting your exercise routine.
Perhaps some exercise purists would say that your exercises will be less than perfect** if done while you are distracted, but who is trying to be perfect?
We’re building habits here, we’re not creating shrines to exercise.
This process is supposed to serve our needs and if listening to a podcast helps you get moving, then why *wouldn’t* you listen to it?
Today’s gold star is not only for your movement and self-care but for considering how multitasking might help you fit your wellness plans into your days.
*Usually, multitasking is actually rapid task switching which our brains are not all that fond of, really.
**This might be the point where you say ‘But what about Yoga or meditation, Christine, I can’t multitask those.’ And I guess that’s true, in a way. Both of these things are about focusing in the moment.
However, yoga poses done while watching TV are better than not doing them at all. You won’t get all of the same benefits in front of the TV but you won’t get ANY benefits if you don’t do any yoga. And you can work up to the focused, on-the-may, type of yoga when you’re ready.
As for meditation: Again,you won’t get all of the same benefits if you sit quietly and breathe while listening to a podcast but you won’t get ANY benefits if you just avoid meditation entirely.
You could also try meditative doodling or painting if the idea of doing two things at once appeals to you but you can’t erase your mind around multitasking your meditation any other way.
For those of us who celebrate Christmas, or some Christmas-like event, or at least for those of us who end up on a different schedule between December 24 & January 1, we are currently at the time of year when the days all run together.
Routines are off kilter – meals happen at weird times, we’re eating a lot of different foods, and our sleep patterns have gone out the window.
This is when we lose all sense of time and end up in a holi-daze.
An especially dangerous thing for those of us on Team ADHD who have a tenuous grasp on the concept in the first place.
In this odd year, that out-of-phase feeling has been recurring for most of us. The things that give shape to our year have been changed and time has been expanding and contracting around tasks/plans/activities as they mostly moved online.
I think, though, that having that out-of-phase feeling recur so often this year has made me realize (Re-realize? Possibly!) how important schedules are for my mental health.
In previous years, this week would find me with all kinds of lofty ideas about just letting the days progress in any old way, seeing what might appeal to me to do at any given time.
I have encountered some fun days that way in the past but mostly, I end up feeling a bit scattered and let down by the end of the day.
Because, as much as the idea of spending a day drifting from task to task might have appeal, in reality, I know that I won’t drift pleasantly from task to task.
Instead, I’ll spend the whole day feeling vaguely dissatisfied and with a looming sense that I should be doing something else.
So, I create a plan for my week and then a shape for each day so my atemporal brain won’t leave me in the in-between with a feeling of frustrated sadness.
Making a loose plan for my week and then giving each day a shape makes me choose how I am going to spend my time. It helps me notice if I am trying to cram too many different things into the time that I have. And creating that shape lets me do important preparatory things like saving enough time to actually make the meals I plan to eat or to drive to the places I want to be.
And, yes, giving my days a shape does include a (fairly flexible) schedule and some rough time limits for my chosen activities.
I know to some this will sound like ‘Christine doesn’t know how to relax.’ but this approach is actually the key to my relaxation.
For starters, these plans and shapes do not necessarily involve work. My plan for the week includes holiday activities, some special meals, and hanging out with people on Zoom. My shape for a given day might be to read a book for an hour after breakfast, to do some drawing for 45 minutes before lunch, and then to take a long walk at 3pm.
And having that plan, that schedule, is actually restful. It means that time won’t gallop away from me.
It means that I won’t spend the whole week figuring out when to do which activity. And I won’t spend each day continuously trying to decide if now is the ‘right’ time to read, to draw, or to head out for a walk.
And, having that plan, that shape, lets me make stress-free decisions when someone asks me if I want to do something else. If my plan is to go for a walk at 3, and someone asks me to watch a movie at 2, knowing the shape of my day means that I can more easily decide whether to change the time of my walk or to say no to the movie.*
If I know that I have enough time for the things that I really want to do, that I won’t run out of time, that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing at any given time, my brain will stop looping around ‘Now? How about now?’ and give me some ease.
And if that’s not a recipe for a holiday, I don’t know what is.
*Perhaps, to the Neurotypical, this may look like overthinking, or as if I am making a big deal out of something simple, but for my ADHD brain, a holiday schedule is a relief. And, I thought that anyone who finds themselves in a holi-daze might borrow some of these ideas for themselves.
Cate’s crowdsourcing for her post on self-care in tough times (hello US election amid a global pandemic!) inspired me to think about my own recent experience with self-care. Admittedly, I’m in a special place regarding self-care at the moment, where it’s difficult to disentangle my self from that of another, 11 week-old human being.
In the FIFI blogger Facebook group, we were discussing how self-care is becoming not just commercialised, but also Another Thing Women Are Expected To Do. The discussion prompted me to write out a little rant. Here it is, slightly adapted for the purposes of this post. Because boy, are there expectations and (contradictory) opinions around self-care for new mothers, on top of all the expectations and (contradictory) opinions about motherhood and parenting in general.
On top of “be there for your baby 24/7; put him on his tummy 30 minutes a day (never mind if he screams his head off); play with him and read/sing to him every day; feed him every 2-3 hours (that one’s not so much advice but a necessity of life), spend time doing skin-to-skin with baby, etc.”, it’s “drink this tea twice a day and this other one also twice a day (never mind that they taste horrible); also, drink 2-3 litres of water a day; sleep when the baby sleeps (LOL, considering he will pretty much only sleep on top of me during the day); don’t worry about the housework (but make sure everything is hygienic for the new human without an immune system); don’t worry about the paperwork and admin stuff (never mind that it has deadlines); do your pelvic floor exercises; and oh yeah don’t forget to take time for yourself.”
I’m not sure anyone’s day has the 48 hours it would take to do all of these things, but mine sure as hell does not. I really had to learn not to stress about it. Apparently all the pressure new mothers get about breastfeeding, parenting in general, getting back in shape, and so on isn’t enough. We need to stress them out about self-care as well. I know the advice is well-intentioned, but it can be really stressful at a time where your mind isn’t in a good place to be able set your own priorities and all you want is to make good choices for the tiny human you’re suddenly responsible for. It definitely took me several weeks to figure out that “sleep when the baby sleeps” is not for me except at night, and that I’ll do fine if I just drink one or two cups of breastfeeding tea a day (or on some days, none).
And I say this as a woman of many privileges: my partner was home with me for the first two months, so he could take care of the household and many other things, including his share of baby care duties. I have a generous leave policy that allows me to stay home with baby for several months. Our healthcare system is – compared to many others – excellent at postpartum care, free midwife visits, postpartum gymnastics and other perks included. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for a person with fewer privileges to be confronted with all the expectations and pressure around self-care on top of everything else that being a new mother entails.
We could be kinder to ourselves, to each other, to our communities and to the environment.
However, while the readers of this blog might enjoy some ideas for specific ways to be kind to others, I suspect that many of us need the reminder to be kind to ourselves.
In my coaching practice, I spend a lot of time talking to people about how to be kinder to themselves. When they object (and they often do), thinking that to be kinder to themselves is being selfish or letting themselves ‘off the hook’, I like to borrow this quote to make my point.
“It is moral to treat people with decency, respect, compassion and kindness, Well, “people” includes you! You have as many rights, and your opinions and needs and dreams have as much standing, as those of anyone else in the world.”
from Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time. Rick Hanson, PhD.
I’m not a philosopher so I’m not equipped to take on a debate about whether Hanson is right about the morality. I am, however, an advocate for kindness in all forms and that quote resonates with me.
It is good, and it is good for you, to be kind, especially when you are being kind to yourself.
This isn’t about ‘letting yourself off the hook,’ it’s about being compassionate about your circumstances, your capacity, and your needs.
It isn’t about being selfish. It is not selfish to recognize that you need and deserve care just as much as anyone else.
So, what does this have to do with Feminist fitness?
Being kind to yourself includes taking good care of your mind and your body, in whatever way makes the most sense to you.
For some people, that means taking a long run.
For others, it’s spending time on the yoga mat.
For you, today, being kind to yourself might mean meditation or journaling, it might mean rest or creative relaxation, or it might mean pushing yourself to work out (or work harder) even though you don’t particularly feel like it.
Being kind to yourself (and to others, in fact) is not about finding an easy way out. It’s about being compassionate and it’s about serving a need.
So, on World Kindness Day, I invite you to consider what you really need from yourself today and do what you can to meet that need.
I understand that your time may not be your own. You may not have the ideal resources at your disposal. But, I hope that you can find at least one small way to meet your own needs today.
PS – Self-kindness is especially important if you are currently coping with Covid-related restrictions or isolations. Be very compassionate with yourself, do what you can to help yourself through this with as much ease as possible.
I’ve got lots of back-up on the benefits of self-kindness, by the way:
It’s here. Finally. Election Day 2020 in the USA. Maybe it should be a relief, after all the wildly expensive and exhausting weeks and months of the campaign. But really, I think most people are feeling like this:
But there’s a limit to how much screaming we can do, and for how long. And of course, there are the neighbors to think about.
So what’s a sentient being to do today, given that it’s going to be awhile before we can know what’s next (awhile meaning hours/days/weeks until the election result is in the books)? There are loads and loads of articles out there, offering media distractions, social media blockade plans, self-care options, volunteering opportunities, etc., to keep us all from running around in circles, keening loudly (remember the neighbors…)
Here’s a list of activities that a) pass the time; b) might be engrossing, if not actually fun; and c) don’t involve being online. For what it’s worth, I’m trying out some of them this week. Will report back with my impressions and reviews.
One: Create your own parkour course in your house, and play around with all kinds of movement– lifting legs to get over things, squatting to get under things (broom limbo, anyone?), twisting to reach spots on the floor or touch ones on the wall, walking or crawling sideways– you get the idea. Honestly, I’m going to do this. I went to one parkour course and found it challenging, engrossing, informative (about what my body likes and doesn’t like to do) and fun. For now, I think the DIY approach will do me.
Here’s a picture from one of those online courses that we need never sign up for, as we can just do what I suggested instead, for free.
Two: self-directed walking meditation. Wait a minute– didn’t I say I would come up with activities you hadn’t already read about? Aren’t there loads of articles suggesting walking meditation?
Well, yes, there are. But: I’m suggesting walking without touching the phone (or leaving it behind if that works for you), and setting yourself a task. It could be: noting or counting every blue house (color choice up to you), noting or counting every dog you see, every child you see. Or, walking in a different direction than usual, alternating right and left turns. Or going in a straight line as much as possible. You can set a timer on your phone if you like to tell you when to turn around. Or you can turn around when you like. This is not so much walking meditation as meandering. It can be for 5 minutes each way– the amount of time doesn’t matter.
Three: do a DIY at-home exercise space or equipment project. Just ’cause. Here’s one I saw that looked appealing (for someone else to do): make a cover for your exercise ball. Here’s what a covered exercise ball looks like:
If you need instructions, you’re allowed to consult the internet. Here’s one site that discussed it in detail.
This project is well beyond my skill and patience level, but looks awesome:
Four: spend 30 minutes, an hour, an evening, the rest of the week, doing a course to learn another language (or brush up on one you studied). This would come in handy for last-minute immigration plans, but is in general stimulating and edifying, even if you’re planning on staying in your home country. I’ve wasted, uh, whiled away some otherwise-idle time with Duolingo, a free app and website. It’s my sort-of-intention to freshen up my college French this winter. Depending on how long the vote counts take, maybe I’ll start earlier than expected.
Five: fix something. Maybe it’s a hem of that pair of pants you’ve been avoiding because, well, it needs hemming. Maybe it’s a leaky faucet (fixing this for me means calling the plumber, but that counts, too). Some of my plants desperately need repotting, so there’s that. My fancy coffee machine needs special cleaning from time to time, too. We can all easily generate a list of a dozen such things to do. Maybe do one of them. And keep going until you lose interest, finish, or have to do something else.
Six: Rest. Nap, doze, drop off, head to bed early, stay in bed late, burrow in, and enjoy some slumber. Lots of us have been staying up late, waking up in the middle of the night, picking up our phones and scrolling through, looking for resolution, respite, or revolution. Maybe some or all of those will come. But we’re going to need our rest to deal with whatever comes. Including hauling those pipes to make that seesaw.
I’ll leave you with another look at the wordcloud of what one of my classes is doing today. What are you doing today? Do any of these activities seem appealing? Are you thinking about making the seesaw? Please let us know.
I know that recording your habits, your exercise, and your goals is supposed to be one of the best ways to challenge yourself and to stay inspired.
I love the information I get from my Fitbit (even though it’s limited) and I find the charts it generates to be very inspiring.
And I love the sense of accomplishment that comes from looking at a paper list of things completed, progress made and skills slowly gained.
I HATE the process of tracking.
I get tangled in trying to track the ‘right’ thing.
Then I forget to track, or, worse, I get so obsessed with tracking that I feel vaguely anxious about it all day.*
I find it tedious to create or customize a tracker (paper or digital) and then I find it annoying to fill it in.
I tried using a few different apps but there are so many finicky details and I find that my goals often change as I go along so it hardly feels worth the effort.
These issues are especially annoying when I am dealing with fitness-related tracking because there are so many different things that you could track and so many details that you could include.
But as annoying as it is for me to track things, I can’t write off the idea entirely.
Having ADHD makes me kind of atemporal – I forget that about the progress I have made, I forget that I used to feel differently about the challenges at hand, I forget (sometimes) that I have previously solved an issue that is looming again.
Tracking helps me counter that.
When I do track my efforts, I can see that I am making progress, that I can do things that I couldn’t do before, and it shows me that I have successfully dealt with similar challenges in the past – inspiring me to figure out how to handle them this time.
Tracking shows me patterns and invites me to reflect on why certain challenges come up.
But yet, I hate it.
On any given day, the annoyance of having to do the mechanics of tracking overshadows any possible future pay-off. (Atemporality striking again!)
But my eternal hopefulness makes me wonder if I just haven’t tried the right approach yet.
So, I thought it might be interesting to ask the Fit is a Feminist Issue readers about it.
What kinds of exercise or wellness habits do you track?
What criteria do you use to measure your progress?
What sort of tracker do you use? Digital or analog?
When and how do you use your tracker?
Have you tried using anything other than a row of checkboxes? What did you try? Anything involving colouring or drawing?
Do tell! (Pretty please.)
*Yes, I do overthink everything, it’s part of my charm. 😉
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.
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?
Nat’s post about walking in the rain prompted me to take action. Now, I’m no Nat. I meet my very modest step goal most days but I try not to care. My Garmin watch gives me fireworks when I’ve met my step goal and I smile at this little mini celebration but when it asks me to increase my goal, I decline.
About eight months ago I wrote a post about the wonders of walking that asked what if you can’t walk. I can walk but not very far with my damaged, waiting to be totally replaced, knee. There are still reasons to walk, even it hurts, and lots of studies show that walking won’t make the situation worse.
So I do walk a fair bit still thanks to Cheddar the dog but increasing my step count isn’t among my fitness goals.
But Nat’s post inspired me in another direction, the direction of dry feet and dressing for the weather. Like Nat, I’m well kitted out for winter. I have all the gear I need to stay warm on my fat bike, on snow shoes, or while walking Cheddar in January. But rainy weather? Not so much.
I don’t mind winter when it’s here. In January the days are getting longer, there’s snow to play in, and often there’s sun. But November? Ugh. Dark, cold and often rainy, November is my toughest month. I’m on record as hating November.
Given the pandemic, I don’t need any extra anger or resentment in my life. I need to make friends with November. First step, getting better rain gear. I’ve got an excellent rain coat that I bought while on sabbatical in New Zealand. But I don’t have good rain boots. My calves are too wide for traditional knee high rain boots.
The boots needed to be bright and cheerful, because November. And short, because calves.
Here was my short list of choices:
In the end I chose the Pride boots. I thought seriously about the pink fishing boots but they aren’t available in my size.
But I need to tell you a thing I love about the Pride boots. They’re available in two different kinds of sizes, wide and narrower. Not men’s and women’s.
I’ve written before about gendered sizing, about lady backpacks and women’s bikes, and why they drive me up the wall. Why not just wide shoulders, or long torso? Why tie things to gender even they’re not about gender at all? If some men fit women’s boots and some women need men’s boots, then it isn’t really about gender, is it?
Thks. Hunter boots for getting it right.
Now, assuming they fit, these boots likely aren’t enough to make me love November when it gets here. But I just have tolerate November and likely I will tolerate it better with dry feet.
Thanks for the prompt Nat.
Enjoy your walks with Michel and Lucy. Cheddar and I will be thinking of you!
This is me, happy napping, at the end of a long work day.
I don’t know about you but COVID-19 and #wfhlife hasn’t been great for my sleep. I can always fall asleep…see the comic below, it’s me….but I’ve been having nightmares and sometimes waking up way too early. I fall asleep quickly but if I wake I struggle to get back to sleep.
Another sleep complication is that my Zwift races tend to be late, 830 and 900 pm often and they’re all an hour or an hour and a half long. After it’s hard to relax and go to sleep right away. I’m still all zoom zoom, go go, for at least another hour.
Enter the post work nap!
Work. Nap. Supper. Zwift. Sometimes I go back to work after. Shhh! But more often I watch an episode of something and go to sleep. I’m getting more than 8 hours sleep, averaging 8.5 according to my Garmin watch, even if it’s not all in one go.
This would be more challenging if we had children at home but these days we’re empty nesters. Napping in the nest, that’s me.
Has the pandemic changed your sleep patterns at all? Are you struggling a bit with disrupted sleep?
CW: talk about personal fears during the pandemic.
I love those lists of X things to do/buy/eat/read/make/etc. that will completely refashion our lives to make them perfectly balanced and full and grounded and happy. Yes, they’re either obvious or impossible or obviously impossible, but I read them all just the same.
These days I’m feeling extra in need of those to-do lists. I’m very lucky and grateful to still have a job that’s paying me my full salary. And I’m grateful for general health, home stability, community and family.
So what’s there to bellyache about? How about I just make a list:
I’m struggling with exercise of any sort after having been so sedentary for months;
I’m struggling with severe self-judgment about the above;
I’m floundering amidst the lack of external structure that usually helps me regulate my sleep, eating, activity, and social contacts;
I’m worrying about the future, both immediate and longer term;
I’m afraid of backsliding so far that I can’t catch up to resume a life that resembles what I had before March of this year;
insert whatever I can’t bring myself to say or even countenance, but which brushes up against me and causes strife.
Okay, you might be thinking: whoa, that’s pretty heavy (while backing slowly away from this post…)
Now that I’ve made my list, let’s start with the first item: struggling with exercise. What sorts of lists can I find to help with this?
be nice to yourself if you can’t stop keeping up with the news;
feel free to wear what you want;
be kind to yourself if your place seems messy to you;
be accepting of whatever sleep schedule you have;
give yourself plenty of time and space to do nothing.
I was looking for self-help lists for dealing with fear about the future, and accidentally came across this article, translated from French, in which several experts comment on my worst Armageddon-type coronavirus fears in great detail. Don’t read that article if you want to sleep tonight.
There’s certainly a theme to these lists. All of them remind us that we are not alone, that for many of us, movement helps us feel better, and that being stern with ourselves is not a good idea (right now, or maybe ever).
None of these is the perfect list. But I’ve found it! I was inspired by listening to the podcast In the Dark’s series on Coronavirus in the Delta, episode 2– inside Parchman Prison in Mississippi. You can read about it and get the link to listen here.
Here’s the perfect self-help list:
breathe slowly in;
breathe slowly out;
breathe slowly in;
breathe slowly out;
breathe slowly in;
breathe slowly out;
I think that’s it for right now. I can do this. You can do this. Let’s keep doing this.
What are you doing to deal with what’s causing you struggle these days? I’d love your tips, lists, or any comments you’d like to share.