cycling · Sat with Nat · strength training · stretching

Nat Shares Her Meaningful Measures of Progress

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!

Selfie of Nat smiling in her super cute pink sports top with her hair pulled back. She is super happy and grateful.

What are meaningful measures in your fitness journey? I want to hear all about it!

cycling · online exercise · Sat with Nat · strength training · stretching

Nat tries Peloton for 7 days and is surprised!

My partner is walking away from the camera in a toque, aviator style wool shearling jacket and boots. Our dog Lucy trails behind on her leash giving the camera her patent pending side eye. Her look of derision sums up how I’ve been feeling lately.

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!

Nat and Michel are looking happy in snow covered grey toques. They are bundled up for the chilly weather and it’s snowing quite a bit. Behind them is a red brick 2 story house covered in snow.
fitness · habits · holiday fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · stretching

Making Space: Day 25

I hope that you have space and ease and rest in your day no matter how busy it is.

Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it.

Happy Holidays to anyone celebrating something else.

And a restful Saturday to everyone else.

No matter what today means to you, it is just one day. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t require you to work yourself into a frazzle.

I wish you some relaxation and I wish you firm boundaries.

Our videos for today can help with both of those, I hope.

Here are some relaxing stretches for today;

Here are some relaxing stretches from the Fitness Blender YouTube channel. Still image is a person in a dark blue shirt standing with their back to the camera. Their shirt has white lettering that reads ‘workout complete’ and they have their left arm extended overhead and they are leaning to the right.

And a meditation for boundaries:

A meditation video from Ashley Krout’s YouTube channel. Still image is of a path extending into a wooded area with green grass visible on both sides of the path.

As always, I hope you can be kind to yourself about how your day unfolds, taking good care of yourself in whatever way is feasible.

And I celebrate your efforts to find space for yourself today and always; ⭐️

fitness · habits · health · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · stretching

Making Space: Day 23

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, it’s going to be tricky to find a little space during these next three days.

And for those of us who don’t, you will still be facing similar challenges as you try to maintain space for yourself amidst the commitments, activities, and obligations of a full life.

The pressures might be different in each case but the results are the same – very little room to take good care of yourself.

I hope that you can figure out a way to make a little space today. Maybe with these videos, maybe with something else.

I know that I often feel like I don’t have five minutes to spare but later in the day I will realize how often I checked my phone or scrolled through social media posts.

Hanging out on social media isn’t a bad thing, as long as it feels like a real break and you feel like you are connecting with the people whose posts you see. But, I often find that when I feel ‘too busy’ to do a short exercise video or ‘too agitated’ to meditation, I’ll hop on social media to get a break and it won’t feel good. It will add to my feeling of busy-ness, it will amplify my agitation.

In those cases, social media feels like an easy way to take a moment for myself but it’s not really taking a break, it’s just kind of checking out. It would be better for me to take just a minute and breathe deeply or to do a few neck stretches and then make a decision about how to proceed through the rest of my list, rather than numbly scrolling through Facebook and losing track of time.

Now, I am speaking from my own experience, I am not criticizing you and I am not condemning social media. Social media is a great tool in many ways. And you know yourself best, you can tell if you are taking a break or just checking out. And I hope you can do things in the way that serves you best.

If you have decided that movement or meditation would be good for you right now, here are your videos for today.

Remember, you can do just part of them if that makes sense for you. Please be kind to yourself about this and about everything else. (Your gold star is below the videos.)

I really enjoyed this back stretch routine. It’s straightforward and clear and made my back feel quite relaxed.

Here’s a lower back stretch video from physiotherapist Michelle Kenway’s YouTube channel. The still image shows the instructor in exercise clothes lying on a purple yoga mat. The camera angle shows the top of her head and her raised knees and her left arm extended out to the side. The words ‘Back Stretch Routine’ are visible on the upper right.

And here’s our meditation. This one felt really short to me today, I hope that’s a good sign for my subconscious state of mind.

A 5 minute meditation from the Goodful YouTube channel. The still image is a cartoon drawing of a person with long hair, wearing a link shirt and black shorts sitting crossed legged in a classic meditation posture. In the background are drawings of leaves, branches and shapes in shades of blue and white. The background colour is light green.

Whether you try these videos, do your own making space thing, or just take a view deep breaths while you drive, you type, or you cook, I hope you have a little room for yourself today.

Here’s your gold star for your efforts: ⭐️

fitness · health · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · stretching

Making Space: Day 20

I’m a bit under the weather today so I need to make as much space as I can for rest.

I’ve pared my to-do list down to the absolute necessities and I have selected these very short but still useful videos.

And I am keeping this post short, too.

Here is your star for your efforts today: ⭐️

May you have ease.

A morning stretch video from Megan Livingstone’s YouTube channel. Still image shows a person in a tank top and leggings stretching on a bed in a room lit with natural light.

A very quick meditation today, just a short wish for you to bless yourself with.

A less-than-2-minute LovingKindness Meditation from an interview with Sylvia Boorstein from the On Being YouTube channel. Still image shows the dark green outline of a triangle against a lighter green background. Text beneath the triangle reads ‘May I feel strong.‘
fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · self care · stretching

Making Space: Day 19

I’m patting myself on the back right now for taking my own advice.

I was looking at my schedule for the week and I realized just how much time I was planning to devote to things I didn’t want to do.

Obviously *some* of those things need to be done anyway (glerg, grocery shoppping) but some of them are things that need to be done at some point (sigh, reorganizing two shelves in the basement to make it easier to find things, for example) but definitely don’t need to be done this week. I was unconsciously pushing myself to get them done as if the holidays were some kind of deadline for household order.*

Even if I were having a crowd over for the holidays, those basement shelves and the other organizing tasks on my list would still not have to be done this week.

Soooo, I dropped those ‘do at some point’ things right off my schedule.

And now I have more space for fun things and interesting things and things that actually need to be done this week.

Weird how that works, hey? Getting rid of unnecessary things on my schedule made space for more enjoyable things. Who knew?

In the space I created by not having to take time to schedule those tasks, I tried this upper body warm up video.

I enjoyed it but I just held the neck stretches instead of alternating them so quickly.

A 5 Minute Warm Up Workout: Upper Body from the Modern Fit Girl YouTube channel. The still image shows the instructor in exercise clothes standing on an exercise mat on tile floor. Her arms are extended behind her and she is leaning forward. The video includes 8 exercises that are all done for 30 seconds each,

And here’s our meditation for today. I looked for a short one that promised mental space but apparently creating mental space requires 10-15 minutes. I’m not ready for a meditation of that length yet so I chose this one instead.


A guided meditation for calming the mind from the ABC Science YouTube channel. The still image is of desert sand, which has been blown into soft ridges, extending into the distance. White text reads ‘Guided Meditation (5 Minutes)

Whether you did these videos, dropped something from your to do list, or created space in another way, I wish you ease and rest today.

Here’s your star for your efforts: ⭐️

*This whole pre-holiday cleaning/organizing business is something I need to consciously work to get out of my system. Sure, it’s swell to do a re-set of my house every so often but it sure as hell doesn’t have to be in December.

fitness · habits · holiday fitness · holidays · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · stretching

Making Space: Day 18

I’m starting with our meditation today.

Earlier, I thought I was feeling fairly relaxed. My day isn’t particularly busy and my writing is going well. I have been able to set my own schedule and things are good overall.

I went to YouTube found the meditation video for this post and pressed play.

As I breathed through it (this one has a visual to breathe with, I love that!) I found myself anxiously looking at the time bar at the bottom wondering why it was taking so long to do a 5-minute practice. I realized that my mind was hopping over to my writing. And I found that my shoulders were braced like I had to ‘push through’ the practice.

Hmmmm, interesting, hey?

I wasn’t hard on myself about it. I tried to just notice and keep coming back to my breath – I did ok with that.

I kept breathing. Time kept crawling.

And then I started to feel my shoulders and neck relax. I hadn’t even noticed that my neck was tight until it released.

And my breathing got even slower and I started to feel even more calm.

So, I guess I especially needed this video today.

If you are in this metaphorical boat with me, I hope the video helps you, too.

A 5 minute breathing exercise video from the Daring Authenticity YouTube channel. The still image is of a circular shape made of overlapping petals in a rainbow of colours. The shape expands and contracts during the video to guide the speed of the viewer’s breath. The image background is a speckled white.

Breathing is a fundamental way to make space for ourselves, especially in our own brains, but it is not the only way.

A little movement helps, too, and this ‘office break’ video was exactly what I needed today. I particularly liked the shoulder move where you are reaching forward and then pressing back.

If you aren’t feeling up to doing this whole video, you could try watching it until you see a movement that feels doable and just do that one. Consider the video a menu instead of a to-do list.

A 5 minute office break workout from the BodyFit by Amy YouTube channel. Still image shows the instructor standing next to a wall sign that says ‘5 Minute Office Break”

I hope you find whatever space you can in your day today, whether it is through these videos or by pushing the clean laundry aside on the couch so you have room to sit with a crossword puzzle and some tea.

Here’s your star for your efforts: ⭐️

And if you have been reading these posts and thinking ‘That star isn’t for me, I haven’t done anything at all!’ Here’s an extra one for you: ⭐️ Our lives are complex and parts of them are really hard, let’s be kind to ourselves and accept those gold stars. Your efforts matter.

Even if the results are not what you hoped, your hard work counts.

Wishing you ease and space today and always.

ADHD · fitness · habits · mindfulness · motivation · stretching

How do I need to move today?

About six weeks ago, I started using this new app for building habits and routines and as a result I have been moving and stretching for at least 8 minutes as soon as I get up each day.

(The app is called Fabulous and I love how it helps me structure my day but I’ll do a proper post about the app another time.)

Folded towels, lit candles, and a tulip, placed on a wooded floor to create a peaceful scene.
Some truly alarming things came up when I searched for ‘habit’ so I am using this one from my search for ‘meditation’ instead. Image description: a softly lit, peaceful photo of a rolled towel on top of a folded towel with four tealight candles lit in front of it. A dark pink tulip is lying on the wooden floor in front of the candles.

When I started, I thought I would pick a video or routine to follow and just keep going with that. Usually, I do better with making those sorts of decision in advance because sometimes my ADHD brain sees even the smallest decision as an enormous obstacle.

However, that’s not how things worked out. Sometimes I have done a video, sometimes I have done yoga, and sometimes I have taken Khalee for an extra walk. Mostly through, I have started each session by asking myself a question:

How do I need to move today?

And then I move the way my body tells me to.

I have filled the eight minutes with shoulder and neck exercises. I’ve done squats and lunges. I’ve stretched my back. I’ve moved my feet in all kinds of circles and up and down motions. I’ve done cardio, I’ve danced. I’ve done everything except make a plan.

A notebook and office supplies are shown on a wooden surface.
Apparently this is what planning looks like in the WordPress photo library. It’s not too far off but that page needs to have half a list on it with at least two items crossed off and rewritten. Image description: a notebook lies open on a wooden surface. There’s a pen on the notebook and sticky-notes, tabs, and highlighters are nearby.

Each day is different and I’m throughly enjoying this responsive process – I have never been able to pull anything like this off before.

I’ve tried just going with the flow in the moment lots of times but I would either get tangled in the decisions or I would find the idea of the decisions so (subconsciously) off-putting that I would find myself avoiding the whole thing.

As I said above, in order to have any hope of sticking with something I usually have to decide in advance. This time, though, I am feeling a new freedom in setting my timer and then just responding.

I don’t know *why* I am now able to relax and just move mindfully for those few minutes but I love it – it’s great for my body and for my mind – and I hope it continues.

A person frolics in a huge field of pink flowers
And this is what freedom looks like, apparently. I’ll take it! image description: a red-haired person in a huge field of pink flowers flings their arms wide open while leaning their head far back to look at the blue sky.

Would you have to plan your movements in advance? Or do you already have my newly-found skill of listening to your body?

fitness · habits · holiday fitness · self care · stretching

Making space: Day 7

I’m writing this on Monday evening and it has been a jumble of a day.

So I am giving myself a little extra space and taking a few extra deep breaths and I am keep this post short.

Here is your star for your efforts so far: ⭐️

And here are your videos to help you make some space for yourself today:

If you are like me and hold a life of tension in your neck, this video from Dr Jo can help:

A neck pain relief stretch video from Dr Jo’s YouTube channel. The still image shows Dr. Jo wearing a blue T-shirt with a flying dog printed on it, she is sitting on a black chair and doing a neck stretch. The rest of her set is white.

This was the kind of meditation that I needed today, maybe it’s the same for you?

The still image for this video from the Great Meditation YouTube channel is a black background with white lettering reading Focus Clarity. Between the white lettering is yellow lettering in a handwriting font that reads ‘5 minute meditation’

Wishing you ease and self-kindness today and always.

fitness · holiday fitness · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · self care · stretching

Making Space Day 1: Let’s Start With Our Shoulders

Since my post yesterday was inviting you to make some space for yourself this month, I’ve decided to help you out with that by offering a short movement video and short meditation video each afternoon in December.

I figure that if you don’t have to search for and choose a video, it might make it easier to fit it into your day. And if you subscribe to the blog, it will even show up in your email!

You don’t *have* to do these every day, of course, (I’m bossy but I’m not actually the boss of you) but I’ll bet it will feel pretty good if you do.

Please adjust to your own schedule and abilities, of course, I don’t want anyone to get hurt!

First up, since I seem to hoard my tension in my shoulders and I assume other people do, too, here’s Doctor Jo with some shoulder stretches.

This video from the Ask Doctor Jo YouTube channel shows Doctor Jo doing shoulder stretches while wearing a blue shirt with a superhero dog on it.

And as for meditation, let’s give this one a whirl…ahem, let’s give this one a sit.

Please remember that you don’t have to automatically be able to sit quietly with your breath, that’s a skill that comes with practice. And that practice involves trying to meditate, noticing that your attention has wandered, and then returning to the focus on your breath. Returning over and over is PART of the initial process, it’s not a failure or a mistake.

A video from the My Life YouTube channel that offers a visual of gentle water with a guided meditation.

Feel free to check in to let me know that you did one of these videos, or any other movement or mindfulness practice, and I’ll respond with a gold star for your efforts.

And whether you do these videos or not, please be kind to yourself today. 🌟