ADHD · habits

Christine puts a positive spin on sore muscles

Last Wednesday, I bravely embarked on a ‘6 weeks to restart your fitness’ plan in my Fitness + app and by Saturday my legs were so sore that stairs became a major annoyance.

A screen cap of the cartoon cover art for the fitness program
A screencap of the cover art for the program. Cartoon drawings of a person doing a a squat, a person doing upward dog and, in the foreground, a person doing bicep curls with barbells. Text in the upper left reads ‘6 weeks to restart your fitness’ and in the bottom left reads ‘21 episodes’

That would usually be the point when I would take a few days off and then forget to come back to the program but something about the little check marks on each completed workout drew me back and then something made me think about my sore legs a little differently.

When I started the workouts last week, they seemed relatively easy – 10 daily minutes of strength training or HIIT or 5 minutes of core work – for two weeks and then I would move on to 20 minutes of daily work. My brain tried arguing with me that there was “no point” in starting at 10 minutes, I might as well dive in at 20.

(I don’t know why my brain tries that kind of crap, I know that’s not how habits work. Brains are very annoying creatures.)

By the end of Friday’s workout, I was well aware that 10 minutes of these kind of workouts were definitely enough of a challenge for me. By Friday night, despite my cool-down and stretches, my legs were kind of cranky.

On Saturday morning, I was pretty sure someone had replaced a few of my muscles with some sort of cement-based pain generators. I considered skipping Saturday but it was a core workout so I told myself I could stick with the program one more day before taking a break.

It was a good decision – I learned two new core moves and I liked the workout way more than I thought I would.

A screen cap from the exercise video described in the paragraph above
A screen cap of the still image used to promote the ‘Core with Molly’ workout. It shows two people on yoga mats on a hardwood floor, the are both doing ‘skydivers’ a core move that involves lying on your stomach and raising your arms, legs and upper body off the floor. Text reading ‘core with Molly’ is visible at the bottom left.

With my core solidly worked out, I was wincing my way through any leg-related movements for the rest of the day and I started to think ‘Why am I doing this to myself? This program is too hard for me, I need to find somewhere easier to start.’

And maybe that is the case, maybe I should have started with something else.

But, that being said, I did enjoy the workouts while I was doing them, I don’t have anything to prove so I chose any adaptations that I felt needed during each set of exercises, and I did feel drawn to return, so this program definitely has appeal for me.

Perhaps I was looking at this the wrong way.

Maybe the fact that my legs were so sore meant I was actually working the muscles that I need to strengthen. Maybe I was sore because my exercises are targeting the exact right spots.

So, perhaps my muscle soreness wasn’t a sign that I was doing something wrong or that I had taken on too much. It was a sign that I am on the right track.

I’d love to say that my legs stopped hurting then, some sort of miracle of mind over matter, but that’s not the case. As I’m writing this on Monday afternoon, my legs are still a bit sore but I feel better about that fact.

Screen cap from a strength training video.
Despite my sore legs, I did this video on Monday morning. The main instructor is very pregnant and I figured if she can do this while pregnant, I can do it with sore legs. I did modify it though, I’m not a fool. Image description: a screen capture of a ‘strength with Sam’ workout that shows three people on yoga mats with their arms in the air and their right legs extended behind them. The main instructor is visibly pregnant.

And my brain is much more willing to stick with the plan now that I have proof of the program’s effectiveness (long before I would have any other evidence that it is working.)

I don’t know why I haven’t made this explicit connection before but, like I said above, brains are annoying creatures. However, I can’t really blame my brain for trying to hurry the process by coaxing me to start at a higher level and I definitely can’t blame it for all the times it has advised me against sticking with a program that’s making my muscles sore. After all, pain is usually a warning system, isn’t it?

This time however, I think I have brought my brain onside. And I am going to work to keep it here.

Now I’m off to do some more stretches!

fitness · motivation

Tracy’s new fave music video because that kid! What attitude!

One of the greatest things about having a large community of active people around me is that great recommendations I get when I put out a call for tunes to refresh my running playlist with. The most recent update came to me, not with my own call but in a comment thread in response to someone else’s. Maybe I’ve had this recommended to me before, but I didn’t follow up. That was back when no one had posted the video. This time, someone did.

The tune is called “Soy yo,” which is Spanish for “I am.” It’s by Bomba Estéreo. My Spanish is kind of rusty, so beyond the title I don’t know what the words mean. But it doesn’t matter because the music video has given me such a positive impression of the song that I feel like a million bucks of invincibility every time I hear it. It’s all on account of the kid at the heart of the video. She is just bursting with life, with attitude, with gumption.

From the minute she steps out of the salon where she just had her hair done, clearly pleased with herself and the result, she is ready to take on the world. And so she does. In three short scenes, she puts herself out there with unabashed self-confidence. And I’m cheering for her all the way.

See for yourself!

What’s your current fave video (preferably it’s attached to a great tune for my revised winter running playlist)?

athletes · competition · fitness · fitness classes · Guest Post · health · motivation

Giving Up Giving Up: On Becoming an “Athletic Learner” (Guest Post)

  • I can’t.
  • I’m going to be no good.
  • I don’t know how.
  • I give up.

Never in my life have I thought of myself as an Athlete. In high school gym class, and later in social activities and sports as an adult, I have always had just enough coordination to pick up the basics, but never enough inherent athletic talent to excel or become an expert.

But the biggest impediment to my non-starter athletic career has been my deep, long-standing fear of failure. Fear of living up to my potential. Fear of letting the team down. Fear of getting hurt and being in pain. Fear of giving 100% that still results in a poor performance.

These fears have been cultivated not within a culture of sports but within academics. High achieving students and faculty have strong intrinsic motivation to achieve excellence, but they work in a demanding culture that can be extremely competitive and heartbreakingly critical. Even if one’s work never makes it to the general public, academic writing and teaching are very much public performances that serve up for scrutiny one’s intellectual talents to colleagues, peers, and students.

The most ambitious and confident folks do well in such a culture—particularly in the face of academic journals with low acceptance rates, single job postings with hundreds of applicants, and students who apparently evaluate teaching effectiveness based on their instructor’s appearance. Self-assurance, along with determination and perseverance—are traits of successful scholars and athletes alike.

And, unfortunately for me, as a recent PhD graduate all that negative self-talk (I can’t, I’m no good, I don’t know how, I give up) had been causing psychological “injuries” from which I was failing to recover. The fear that held me back from pursuing an academic career was not dissimilar from the fear that kept me from joining rec leagues. There were other reasons that I eventually took a university staff position, some perfectly reasonable. Looking back, though, I can admit that, I can’t had started to become I shouldn’t—and my self-talk about improving for the next academic success had become talk about giving up.

However, three years later—as a result of my fantastic “alt-ac” job whose one down side is that I sit sedentary at a computer most days—I’ve decided to become not an Athlete but an Athletic Learner. In the past four months I’ve started cardio-kick boxing, running, and soccer. Recently I’ve been to a yoga class, a step class, and (next week) a Zumba class. I even look like a lunatic walking up and down the stairs of my building when I take breaks.

For every new sport or activity, I try do my research. I focus not on my lack of inherent talent but rather on learning the rules, the strategy, the steps, and the mechanics. I also attempt to understand the implications of these activities for my short and long term health.

Have I failed in Athletic Learning? Well, in the very first game of soccer in my adult life I managed to score not one but two goals in a row on my own team, the ball ricocheting directly off my elbows into our net. (Not surprisingly, after the game I was the one asked to set up a team practice).

Meanwhile, in kick-boxing I still can’t roundhouse kick as hard or as long as others. In the intermediate step class, I could barely keep from getting my feet tangled up. In yoga, corpse pose was pretty much the only position I was 100% sure I had mastered.

But although I’m very, very far from expert status, through these activities I’ve met some new people and re-connected with old friends. I’ve been drilled in soccer by a bunch of sweet, precocious 10-year olds girls (whose mothers are on my soccer team), and I’ve learned a ton about how my body works. These day my lower back is often upset with me, but I’ve also learned that even pain acquired by Athletic Learning is more pleasurable than feeling nothing as a result of doing nothing (which was pretty much all that I was doing previously).

So, this year my self-talk around my lack of mastery of athletics sounds more like:

  • I can’t refuse a new and fun activity.
  • I’m going to be no good at being so hard on myself.
  • I don’t know how I’m going to do this [insert sport], but gosh-darn it I’m doing it anyway.
  • I give up giving up.

I am not, and probably never will be, an expert Athlete. Instead, my plan is to continue striving to be an Athletic Learner. And fortunately, this mental and attitudnal shift has made it impossible for me to fail…because success means that, no matter how poor my performance, I’ve at least learned something new.

cat yoga

Photo by Lisa Campeau, 2011. Reproduced with permission (CC BY 2.0).