ADHD · aging · birthday · fitness · motivation · planning

A low-key start for Christine’s birthday month

This post is a group of loosely connected thoughts in a blogpost-shaped trench coat but let’s just roll with it.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a lawn chair on my front lawn awaiting trick or treaters – Khalee is too much of a chaos agent for me to easily answer the door over and over so I take the treats outside and drink tea while waiting for the kids.

I’m so spooky and mysterious. Also I think my pumpkin lights are shy – none of them would face the camera. Image description: a nighttime selfie of me in front of the tree in my front yard. I’m wearing my jacket and a plaid shirt with a necklace of tiny glowing skulls. My hair is pulled back in a bandana, I have my glasses on, and I’m smirking. There is a string of pumpkin lights behind me, each pumpkin on the string is about the size of a tennis ball.

Tomorrow, or today by the time you read this, is November 1, just a little over a week away from my 50th birthday.

A few months ago, I thought I would have a good fitness routine by now. I thought I had a solid, low key plan. 

Turns out, I was still trying to do too much at once and I have basically been kind of ambling along trying to figure out my how and when, exercising more some times and less other times.

At the beginning of October, I thought I would have a straightforward month with two challenges to work on, but I was plagued with migraines and frustration and never really found my groove.

One tiny part of my brain is telling me ‘You should be more disappointed in yourself, don’t you think?’

But another part is reminding me that the word should is at least 90% evil and that, at almost 50 years old, I don’t have to put up with people being mean to me – especially if that person is me.

So, instead, I’m thinking that I must not have found the easy thing. I must have had too many steps or too many decisions, I must not have smoothed the path, I must not have included enough fun. Oh well! Too late to worry about those past plans now.

I’m not trying to revamp them, though, I’m just focused on what’s ahead of me.

I’m looking forward to my birthday month with the goal(s) of finding more ease, seeking more fun, and looking for ways to move more often on any given day.

There’s no overarching plan, there’s no big idea, there’s just me experimenting with trusting myself in the moment. Let’s just hope my brain will cooperate.

It took me a couple of Halloweens of trying different things before I figured out that I could circumvent the stress of the dog-related chaos by taking the treats out to the kids but I was making little changes in my approach the whole time.

I’m hoping the same is true for this whole figuring-out-routines thing, that I *am* making adjustments and learning as I go, even if it’s hard to see while I’m still in the middle of it.

PS – In case you have a tendency to worry: I am completely ok, by the way. I’m mostly just interested in how and why I feel so at ease with not having done what I had set out to do. And why I don’t feel the need to poke into what went “wrong.” I like the fact that instead of my brain leaning into the meanness, I veered off into the ‘try this’ of taking things moment by moment. I’m observational and reflective, perhaps a little melancholy, but I’m not sad, not upset, and there’s nothing wrong.

fall · fitness · fun · race report · running

Tracy’s first running event since 2019!

After more than three years of not doing anything “official,” I signed up for a 5K and ran it last weekend. And it was a blast. A few of my running group did it too. None of us went in with big dreams and all of us had a fun time.

Image description: Six runners, arms linked, some with race bibs, five wearing medals around their necks, smiling, start line and fall foliage in the background.

Considering that my last event was the Around the Bay 30K back in 2019 (see my overly optimistic report of that ill-fated day here — it was ill-fated because the next day I had a back injury and shortly after that I had achilles issues and basically I didn’t run much again for about nine months), the 5K felt like an odd choice. Not because there is anything wrong with 5K, but because it isn’t a distance that I needed to train for since I run more than that regularly (our Sunday minimum is usually around 7.5 and we often do more than that). I’ve never done an event that I haven’t had to train for.

I also had difficulty deciding what my goal should be. I really haven’t gotten back on track with any regular routine since the ATB in 2019, and when I go out I go out for fun, not for fast results. So I decided that my goal would be to come in under 40 minutes. That might seem like an unchallenging goal to some, but I wanted something that I could actually meet. Indeed, a friend who hasn’t run since she was in her thirties literally laughed at me when I stated that goal, as if it was ridiculously easy.

On race day I felt good. It was a gorgeous autumn day and we met just over 1K from the start line and ran there as a little warm-up. Unlike events in the past, I didn’t need to concern myself with whether I could make the distance. I decided I would stick to my usual 10-1 intervals that I do every Sunday.

In the end, most of my group broke away from me within the first 500m, with one falling into place a little bit behind. I didn’t end up wanting to walk for the one-minute walking intervals, and I was pacing reasonably well all things considered. My chip-time was 35:19 and I felt strong–only mildly regretting that I hadn’t pushed just a little bit harder to come in under 35 minutes. In any case, it gave me a new goal for my sixtieth birthday, which is to try to shave a few minutes off of my 5K time and perhaps even complete it in 30:00. It was also a fun time for the group, all of whom were smiling at the end, as you can see in our photo.

If there is a moral to this story, it’s that going back to something I used to do, and keeping my expectations very low, can actually feel really good. Have you returned to something that you’d set aside? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.

ADHD · challenge · fitness · habits · martial arts · motivation

October Challenges – in a good way

I wanted to add a little extra to my daily routine in October so I’ve taken up two challenges for the month – the Action for Happiness Optimism challenge and the Darebee Daily Kicks challenge.

I like following short term challenges because 1) they set out a plan in advance so my brain doesn’t get stuck buffering about decisions 2) they aren’t making me commit to something in a future that is too far ahead for my ADHD brain to grasp.

A calendar of optimism tips for October
This is just a jpeg of the calendar, you can print or download one at the Action for Happiness site. Image description: a multi-coloured October calendar full of daily optimism tips, decorated with small cartoon images of people walking, drawing and holding event tickets.

These specific challenges should be straightforward additions to my day because any day’s actions are big enough to matter to me but small enough to fit into nooks and crannies in my still-developing schedule.

And it helps that I am naturally inclined to optimism (this may be a good feature of my ADHD – I’m usually convinced that things are about to get better) and that kicks are not only good exercise but practicing them will have added benefits for Taekwon-do.

A screen capture of the calendar for the first week of the challenge.
Print your own Daily Kicks challenge calendar/tracker and use the timer at the Darebee site. Image description: a screen capture of the header and first few days of the Darebee Daily Kicks challenge sheet which has the words Daily Kicks in large letters on the top right, multiple drawings of people kicking on the right and 5 days of kicks in listed in individual boxes at the bottom.

Will I get to both of these every day? I’m planning on it and I hope those plans work out.

But even my optimistic self knows that sometimes things go awry so I have a backup plan as well:

If I miss a day, I can do two the next day…if that feels doable. If doing two items feels like too much, or if I have missed several days, I’ll skip to the item for the current day.

The key here is to follow the practices for as many days as possible this month – aiming for more days on than off.

The only thing I *don’t* want is to follow the challenge for a few days, miss a couple, and then scrap the whole thing because I didn’t do it perfectly.

As long as the end of October still finds me working away at these, in any form or fashion, I’ll be successful.

Any movement in a positive direction counts. 🙂

fitness

GIFs that get me going

Summer is ending here in the Northern hemisphere. As the days start to get colder, I find it’s usually harder for me to get outside for regular exercise. Fall is also a busy time for folks like me who work in education, so compared to the summer months my free time for recreational activities seems to shrink to near nothing.

On a hitherto unrelated note, I recently learned that Gen Z thinks that GIFs are out of fashion, or “cringe” as the kids say. However, I’m late Gen X, which means I like to hold onto things.

So, today I am here to give both outdoor fun and GIFs another short moment in the sun.

FIFI readers, I share with you 14 GIFs that get me motivated to get outside! I hope they get you going too…or at least give you a smile.

Once I leave the earth I know I’ve done something that will continue to help others – Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Young girl flipping a tire
Woman swinging on rings with a hula hoop
Girl flipping then throwing a baseball
Young in a fairy dress skateboarding
Woman doing a chin-up outside
Woman hitting a pickle with a racket
Woman flexing and posing
Woman doing soccer ball kick tricks in high heels
Young girl dancing with other kids watching
Woman jumping on top of a mountain
Girl dribbling two basketballs at the same time
Love it!
School sports are for everyone
ADHD · fitness · trackers

An accidental (and happy) vacation from my Fitbit

I accidentally took a Fitbit vacation and it has been swell.

a photo of a gravel path through grass-covered ground leading between some trees. The sky above is light blue and a a large fluffy cloud is glowing golden pink from the sunset.
This photo from my Sunday evening walk (sans Fitbit) was taken near my house but it has a real vacation-y feel to it, don’t you think? Image description: a gravel path through grass-covered ground leading between some trees. The sky above is light blue and a a large fluffy cloud is glowing golden pink from the sunset.

Normally, I love my Fitbit.

I love the reminders to get moving. I love the fact that it tracks my steps and my heart rate and all kinds of other stuff without me having to remember to write any of it down. I love how having a timer on my wrist can help anchor me to the flow of actual time -instead of to inside-my-brain-time, an often-entirely-too-fluid concept.

But, I also get frustrated when my perceived effort doesn’t match what my Fitbit has recorded.

Or when my steps don’t register.

Or how an hour of exercise might be recorded as 10 or 20 or 60 active minutes, or, oddly, even more depending on some mysterious calculation…

GIF of a group aerobics class led by Richard Simmons.
I can only assume that Mr. Simmons and team are all maximizing their active minutes here. Image description: a GIF of a group aerobics class led by Richard Simmons. The participants are all wearing bright clothing and seem to be having a great time. One participant in the back is even wearing a cheerleading uniform.

Ok, the calculation is not all that mysterious, it’s based on whether I am in a cardio or ‘fat burn’ heart rate range but it *feels* arbitrary and I can never tell during my exercise how it will show up on my Fitbit.

Now, to be clear/fair, the Fitbit is operating exactly as it was designed and it can only measure so much from my wrist. The fact that it doesn’t hover around me like a omniscient fitness tracking entity is not its fault.

But it’s still annoying to have been working away for a long time only to have my tracker say ‘Meh, that didn’t count.’

ANYWAY!

Last week, on my first day of vacation, I was packing my bag before heading out to visit a friend of mine* in a town a few hours away and I realized that my Fitbit was still on the charger.

I grabbed the Fitbit and the charger and chucked them both into the bag with my art supplies. They settled to the very bottom of the bag where they stayed for the two days I was hanging out with my friend and for the several days since.

It’s not that I forgot about my Fitbit, it’s that I quickly realized how much I was enjoying not wearing it.

My vacation from work had also become a vacation from my Fitbit.

I went for walks, did some decluttering (lots of heavy lifting and trips up and down the stairs), went on a bike ride, did yoga, and meditated daily, all without any information on how long I was moving (or sitting in meditation), how intense my workout was, how many ‘active minutes’ I had so far, or what my heart rate was during any of those things.

And it felt great – I felt like I was moving a lot and working hard and there was no evidence to suggest otherwise.

 a photo of someone’s hand pointing to a cork board covered in photos and maps related to a crime.
How I imagine my Fitbit would present the evidence of my activities. image description: a photo of someone’s hand pointing to a cork board covered in photos and maps related to a crime.

Now, I know that the Fitbit is not the boss of me. I know that there are all kinds of aspects of exercise and fitness that it doesn’t measure (enjoyment and perceived effort are just two of those unmeasured things.) And I know that it’s just providing me with information – it’s up to me to interpret it and to decide what to do with it.

And, overall, my Fitbit has definitely helped me to move more and to work a bit harder. It has shown me that I may not always be getting as much exercise as I think I am – very useful information for my ADHD brain that responds well to good exercise conditions but sometimes misjudged whether I am meeting those conditions.

But this vacation away from tracking has helped highlight how often I was getting annoyed with some of the ways that my Fitbit tracks things and how often my interpretations of the information it provides have been frustrating me. And that, in itself, is useful information.

As of now, I’m still on my Fitbit vacation (and my vacation from work) but when I come back, I’m planning to figure out if/when/how to use my Fitbit in a way that serves me better.

I don’t know if that will mean wearing it less often, choosing different metrics/interpretations, or if I will just use it as a handy timer/reminder tool and forget the steps and heart rate info altogether.

Meanwhile…back to my vacation!

*By happy coincidence, it is my friend’s birthday today. Happy Birthday, J! 🧡💚

birthday · blog · blogging · fitness · Throwback Thursday

10 Years and 4 Themes of FIFI

Though a long-time reader of FIFI, I joined as a regularly contributing author not long ago. It has been a joy for me to re-visit the FIFI blog on this date in its first year of publication and think about how events of the past 9 years confirm the need for FIFI long into the future.

A decade ago

The FIFI blog was launched at the end of August 2012. Almost a year later, the August 25, 2013 post invited readers to submit to a special issue of the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics: See How She Runs: Feminists Rethink Fitness (Spring 2016).

Co-blog/issue editors Samantha Brennan and Tracy Issacs describe how the special issue—like the still-new blog from which it emerged—looks critically at the impact of fitness on women and “the very assumptions about what constitutes ‘fitness’ in the first place” (p. 3).

In forms of writing both scholarly and personal, the articles surface four key and connected themes related to fitness and feminism:

  • Equality – the gender disparity that starts in childhood and widens in adulthood,
  • Inclusivity – the exclusion of women and minorities from domains of sport and the lack of diversity in the fitness media,
  • Empowerment – competitive sports, body performance, and the linking of sports to personal confidence and public life, and
  • Aesthetics and feminine embodiment – the complex relationship between women, their fitness goals, and their bodies.

These themes have since featured prominently as the cardinal compass points guiding thousands of FIFI blog posts by more than 165 authors over the last 9 years.

Nearly a decade later

FIFI continues to examine and re-define fitness from an anti-homophobic, anti-racist, anti-ableist feminist lens. Over the last decade, this blog has helped readers to reflect on the many history-making moments in sports and fitness. Here are just a few:

Equality: Since 2013, wage and other gaps between men and women in sports (like basketball, surfing, and hockey) have been spotlighted. For instance, in 2017 the women’s hockey team announced a boycott of the world championship if U.S.A. Hockey did not increase the women’s wages. Despite greater attention to inequality, gender gap in sports participation, funding, and media attention still continues.

Inclusivity: Athletes have become more vocal about gender, race, and mental health in sports. For example, in the media gymnast Simone Biles confronted the myth of the strong black woman affecting women athletes of colour. Tennis player Naomi Osaka also articulated the need to address depression, burnout, and toxic spaces that athletes face. Yet, CAMH notes that stigma continues to be attached to mental illness as a sign of unfitness in sports.

As well, inclusivity and diversity in sports are subject to ever-changing rule books. Since 2013, some rules have shifted to promote greater inclusion, while others have not—such as the recent exclusion of transwomen athletes from sports such as rugby, swimming, and track and field.

Empowerment: Over the last few years, research has found that gentle exercise benefits women, especially at older ages. A greater focus on happiness and health, as well as recovery time, has also appeared in emerging fitness research. Social media movements addressing fat bias, such as #StrongNotSkinny, have helped to shift how women relate to athletic performance and body acceptance as a form of self-empowerment.

Aesthetics and feminine embodiment: And yet, also since 2013 more fitness influencers have greater…well, influence…than ever before on idealized body norms and commodified aesthetics. Gear such as fitness trackers have been lauded for helping women to be more fit. But their use may be concerning for reasons of data privacy and whether this tech actually matches women’s wellness and fitness goals in the first place.

A decade (or more) more

What has changed since the first year of FIFI is a more collaborative approach to publication. Under the continued leadership of Samantha, a larger collection of blog authors help to manage the blog while being a supportive global writing community for each other.

Our reading community is larger since 2013 too—tens of thousands of subscribers, readers, likers, commenters, and sharers from around the world. (We appreciate you all!!)

And yet, like the special issue the blog is a mosaic of diverse reflections that encourages making the world of fitness—and the many lived experiences of that world—more equal, inclusive, empowering, and embodied for everyone.

A decade goes by quickly, but this brief retrospective on key themes and tiny number of big fitness events show us the value of the FIFI blog then, now, and well into the future.

ADHD

Experimenting with ADHD-specific exercise

When it comes to exercise and writing and, well, everything else, I am trying not to let thinking get in the way of doing but it is a real struggle.

I know that everyone struggles with this from time to time but for those of us with ADHD it is very much a default mode in our brains.

Our busy minds can cough up all kinds of reasons why now is not the right time to do the thing we have planned and those reasons are VERY convincing.

If I am trying to get something done, I have to work hard to recognize/remember that there won’t actually be a time when I will be more motivated/find it easier/magically have more skills or time. And there probably won’t be an ideally logical time to do it. And I probably don’t need more information before getting started. And if my challenges right now are internal, they will probably be there later, too.

So, it’s not just about me deciding to when to do something and then jumping up to do it when that time comes – it’s also about fending off all kinds of reasonable-sounding objections, over and over.

On Friday past, at the end of a very frustrating week of trying to make my brain go (some weeks are far worse than others), I started reading Your Brain Is Not Broken by Tamara Rosier and I immediately thought ‘Oh, once I am finished this, I’ll be able to make a good plan to get things done.’

That thought was followed by, ‘You have thought this before.’

In fact, that train of thought is of the most stereotypical ADHD things I could have done at that moment. But instead of being hard on myself about a recurring thought pattern, I decided that recognizing the pattern was an important step. And the fact that I could 1) create a space between the first thought and the second and 2) decide not to judge myself for it means that my meds are working well AND the efforts I have put in to help myself deal with my ADHD are paying off.

So, after that victory, I decided that I would keep reading the book (it is SO HELPFUL) and I would take immediate action on something.

I was feeling a bit bleh after a week of ADHD battles* so I chose to get my body moving instead of trying to push my brain around.

First, I just put on some music and flailed around a bit – some dancing, some bodyweight exercises, bits and pieces of TKD patterns. My brain protested that it was probably a waste of time to do so much movement without a plan because it wouldn’t add up to anything and I would have moved around for nothing (See what I have to put up with? I know it is nonsense but my brain persists.) but I kept doing it anything.

Then, I felt the need for something a bit slower and more focused so I searched YouTube for ADHD yoga and found this video from Yoga with Zelinda.

An embedded video of Yoga for People with ADHD from the Yoga with Zelinda YouTube channel. Still image is in the middle, the left side has ADHD written in black and the right side is a pink toned image of the instructor wearing black leggings and a black tshirt standing with her legs apart twisting the her left arm toward the ceiling while her right hand reaches for her left shin.

The video moved more slowly than the usual Yoga videos I practice with but I really liked her instructions and her choice of movements. If you had asked me beforehand, I would have said that a slower practice would be annoying for my brain but that wasn’t the case at all.

I enjoyed the practice and I felt really good afterwards.

And now, I am on a mission to experiment with ADHD-specific exercises.

I know that martial arts are good for ADHD – TKD can keep my brain and my body busy at once – but I am intrigued to figure out if it is easier for me to convince myself to exercise with videos designed for brains like mine.

If you have ADHD, do you do ADHD-specific exercise videos? Which ones?

If you don’t have ADHD, do you do videos specifically designed for how your brain or body works? Which ones? How did you find them?

*I usually describe it as feeling like my brain is a drawer that is off its runner. It still works ok but even simple actions are waaaaaaay harder than they have to be.

fitness · swimming

You win some, you lose some: the swimming lessons edition

(written by Bettina, posted by Catherine)

A while ago, I blogged about how the pandemic had affected not just my swimming habits, but also the great plans I had for my child’s early contact with water. More than two years of COVID-related disruptions mean that there are now huge waiting lists for swimming lessons at any age, and many baby swimming classes that took place at small school or hospital pools are still not taking place.

In July, I managed to snag a spot for the small human in a toddler swimming class on Sunday mornings. The class would start in mid-September. I was elated. I managed to get him in because I was actually awake during our holidays when the email came in early in the morning; five minutes later all spots had been filled. My son loves the water. It’s been a very hot summer and he’s been in the paddling pool a lot. He loves baths (most days). He loves going to the pool with mama. But I want him to learn proper water skills and I feel like it’s better for both of us if he’s taught by… not me. I was so, so excited for that spot and couldn’t wait to start. Big win!

A blue-laned pool, by Thomas Park for Unsplash.

Photo by Thomas Park on Unsplash

Today, I heard the rumour that due to the energy crisis following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the pools are going to be closed in the autumn and winter. AGAIN. I’m completely deflated. Not only will my lifesaving team not be able to train if they decide to also close the small school pool we use for practice, but again, countless kids including my own will be left without the chance to learn how to swim or learn valuable water skills. This is awful.

I get that this is very much a first-world problem. But I know how good swimming is for my mental health, and I love watching my child having fun in the water. I get the need to save energy, I really do. But does it really have to be the pools again, after two seasons of pandemic-related closures? I just can’t anymore.

fitness

COVID Grumpiness

It happened. After almost 2 1/2 years, four vaccines, masking, avoiding indoor spaces and constant vigilance

Mad-Eye Moody from Harry Potter reminds us about the importance of constant vigilance.

I caught COVID. It could have been much worse. Mostly it has felt like a cold. I haven’t even been taking decongestants for the last couple of days.

I haven’t even missed my on-line ballet classes, but I haven’t been going out, so there has been no walking or swimming. As a result, I am feeling logy and flabby, and I really miss being able to tick off an update in the 222 workouts in 2022 Facebook group, or put my workout times into the Participaction app.

I hadn’t realized until this week just how important activity has become in my life. I usually think of myself as a recent convert to fitness, something I started back when my son was nine so I could be a role model. In fact, my son will turn 29 on his next birthday, and I have been some sort of heart-pumping movement regularly for almost 20 years. For the last few years, it has been 5-6 times a week.

I’m still feeling grumpy about my COVID, but I am celebrating I was a good role model to two very active kids, and looking forward to getting moving again, very soon.

Me in better times, wearing a yellow cap and red goggles, in the water at a sunny beach.

family · fitness · habits · motivation

I had a plan – where did it go?

Well this is not the post I expected to write this month! A few months back I wrote Sam that I had been exploring and really enjoying exercise and would like to regularly blog about aquafit. At that time, I’d been going to the pool two to three times per week for a few months. It was a habit and it felt good. I also had started really enjoying the feeling of getting a good cardio workout. That itself felt like a minor miracle.  

I wrote my introductory post and looked forward to seeing what was coming on my journey of digging into exercise. It turns out what was awaiting me the last month was a lot of frustration and not getting to exercise! This is not new – many people struggle to get to their gym or their exercise. Women especially are conditioned to put our needs after others. In my case, historically it’s been really easy to distract me from exercise because honestly, I didn’t like it and I didn’t want to do it.

This is different though. I want to get there. Apparently though, wanting isn’t always enough. I’ve only been to the pool a couple of times since mid-April. And it shows. It shows in my mindset, which is more easily frustrated. It shows in my aching hips that don’t want to sit for hours while I teach and grade. It shows in my own disappointment too.

Now I have good reasons for not getting to the gym. I’m on a job search that is going s.l.o.w.l.y. (I teach college on contract and I want a permanent, student-facing job!). My husband is on sabbatical in Italy for the month of May. He’s working hard too and I’m happy to support him, but oh boy, I didn’t anticipate how many things would go sideways at home with our kids while he was away, or how much of our lives relate to getting our kids to places. I am struggling between my kids’ needs and my own, and my own have been losing out.

Selfie of a woman with greying hair and brown sunglasses in front of a blooming pink magnolia tree. She has bright sunlight on her face and is wearing a navy coloured tshirt reading "halfway between"
On my dog walk, I had to stop in front of this beautifully blooming magnolia tree

In truth, all reasons for not exercising are “good” reasons. Our reasons can be legitimate even when they are frustrating or disappointing. Canadian society seems to have a fixation with connecting fitness with guilt and judgement (as anyone who knows this blog knows). The last thing I want to do in writing today is to contribute a sense of judgment of people’s choices. What I do want to acknowledge (mainly mainly to myself) is that for the first time I really miss exercising. That makes this post another in my posts celebrating my journey toward enjoying and, I would say, reclaiming my body as my own for my own use. THAT feels pretty good to say.

So since I’m missing activity, and my growing strength and confidence as (dare I say it?) an athlete, it seems that my next challenge is to actually get back in the pool, and doing some late spring hiking. I can see I need to re-establish my routines and make space for myself in my life. I’m working on that now. So far the best I can do is get out each day to walk my dog. It’s a start – I’ll let you know in a month how it went!