I don’t know if the recent tension in my upper back is from inadequate stretching after my TKD classes, from lifting heavy things as I declutter my basement, or from not paying enough attention to my posture but I do know that I am not enjoying it.
I have done some extra stretching. I have spent a fair bit of time lying on a lacrosse ball. I have draped myself over my foam roller.
Nothing has really helped so far.
Then, this morning, I received a newsletter from Yoga with Joelle announcing her latest video – Yoga for Rhomboid and Upper Back and I realized two things:
1) I’ve stretched but I haven’t done any yoga specifically for my upper back.
2) I had forgotten that those muscles were called the rhomboids.
(Rhomboid is a very fun word, go on and say it a few times in a row.)
My storytelling self knows that knowing something’s true name gives you power over it.
I’m going to do this video a few days in a row and see if name magic holds true for muscles. 😉
So I am the sort of person who is good at following the advice of physiotherapists. I’ve successfully rehabbed some serious injuries and I trust the professional advice of physiotherapists. I do what I’m told.
It’s also worth noting that I have exceptionally good benefits and they cover almost all of my physio costs. And yet, even for me, physio after knee replacement is tough and I thought I’d explore why.
First, advice about recovering from knee surgery can sound contradictory. The take home sheets from the hospital say to use your new knee as much as possible each day. It will help you heal faster from surgery and improve your chances of long-term success. But also it says to avoid pushing yourself too far too soon. So as much as possible but not too much. Yep.
And practically it feels like that too.
The knee feels good and so I go for a short walk. After that it swells up and is painful so it’s time for ice and elevation. I’m constantly moving between making the knee work and then helping it recover.
After I posted about going for a very short walk this morning, friends commented, great, now rest!
What’s as much as possible but not too much? There’s not really good intuitive measure at this stage since everything hurts a lot of the time.
Second, unlike other physio I’ve done this is really painful. It’s the kind of painful where you ice before and after and take pain medication around your pt sessions. Since you’ve just undergone surgery and things still hurt from that, you feel a bit like hiding on the sofa, covering yourself in blankets, and waiting until the pain goes away.
Third, it’s pretty time consuming.
Here’s a rough schedule of my days this week. Next week I’m hoping to be able to get on the bike trainer to help with my range of motion.
6 am breakfast, drugs, ice and elevation in bed
630 physio round one, basic stretching and mobility
700 more elevation and icing and getting ready for the day
800 Breakfast round two, more pain meds, more elevation and icing
900 Physio round 2 mobility and stretching plus regaining strength
930 ice and elevation
10-12 free time for reading possibly napping
100 ice and elevation, more pain meds
130 Physio round 3, mobility and stretching and regaining strength
200 ice and elevation
230-4 free time for reading and napping etc
4-6 dinner etc
7 last round, 4, of basic mobility physio
Tiny walk #2
Bed with all the ice and more pain meds
That’s me on the deck post tiny walk, resting and icing, as friends and physio advised.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
Would you have to plan your movements in advance? Or do you already have my newly-found skill of listening to your body?