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.

fitness · fun · holiday fitness

Why not have more fun? Try a Halloween workout!

With Halloween just 7 days away, I thought it would be fun to post a few themed workouts in case you wanted to get in the ‘spirit’ of things. (ooooooh, so scary!)

A dog wearing a pumpkin hat
Khalee’s idea of a themed workout is to wear her pumpkin hat for approximately 90 seconds of her walk. Image description: Khalee, a light haired dog, is wearing a pumpkin hat and looking toward the camera with a doggie ‘smile.’ She is standing on the dark laminate flooring in my kitchen.

I haven’t watched or completed all of these, I just picked the ones that seemed fun and weren’t obviously problematic. Please take good care of yourself if you choose to do these – don’t do anything that doesn’t work for your body and turn the video right off if they seem to be buying into any diet-culture crap.

A Halloween Dance Party HIIT workout from Emkfit. I really like how she is goofing around here. Video still shows the title of the video in green and white text and there are two images of the host in dark green leggings and a sports bra exercising while making funny faces.
A 25 minute Halloween Dance Workout from Kyra Pro – the theme is pretty much just in the music but that’s still pretty cool. The still image shows the name of the video in ‘Halloween-style’ lettering and includes a photo of the host, in black workout clothes, with their hands in the air, shaped like monster claws.
A Halloween Walking Workout from Brand Fitness, I love how casual and friendly she is and she really seems like she is having a great time. . Still image shows the words ‘ 2500 Steps Halloween Walk’ in ‘Halloween-style’ text with cartoonish bats and spiderwebs in the background. The host is featured on the right hand side, wearing a witch costume with striped tights.
A 20 Minutes Halloween HIIT Workout from GrowingAnnanas – she does this whole workout in facepaint – I don’t know how it didn’t melt right off! Still images shows the video name in block letters with some white background and some red background. The red background has an added ‘blood drip’ in the bottom corner. The host is in black workout gear with face paint that looks like old fashioned mime or clown make-up – triangles pointed up from their eyebrows and down below their eyes, a black dot on their nose, and their lips are outlined in black.
A Halloween Zumba workout from Zumba Sulu. Another video done in full face make-up plus a costume and he has some spooky props in the background – very fun! Still image shows text reading ‘Halloween Special Dance Workout’ and shows the instructor in skull makeup and Halloween clothing making a ‘scary hands’ gesture toward the camera.
Yoga for ZOMBIES! by Yoga with Adriene. This one may not be as much of a Halloween theme as the previous videos but it’s close enough. And even Zombies need to be limber, right? Still image shows the video title in block letters, the word zombies is in red. Host is wearing a black shirt and red leggings and there is a background image of a black and white graveyard with leafless trees surrounded by mist.
A seated Halloween dance workout from Chair Yoga with Barbara. This video is pretty low-key but the host seems very friendly and the movements are straightforward. Still image shows the video title in Halloween-style text with a clip art ghost and spiderweb next to the text. The host is shown on the left side, wearing black shorts and an orange shirt with a Jack-o-Lantern face in black on the front.

I was only going to share 7 workouts but then I found this short chair yoga workout to ‘Monster Mash’ that is just so charming that I have add it to my list. I can’t figure out why it won’t embed like the others did but it is worth the click over to YouTube to view it.

I hope you found some fun workouts in this collection.

Do you have any other Halloween workout links you could share?

fitness · traveling

Guaranteed fun: Irish dance class in Galway

Image description: a group of women and men posing for a photo outside with water in behind them. Siobhan the dance teacher is in the middle front. The others are my photography tour group and I (the subset who did the Irish dance class).

I just got back from a long-awaited photography tour of Ireland for a couple of weeks and there were so many memorable moments with new friends and beautiful places.

But one stand-out experience that delivered an unexpected blast of sheer joy for all concerned was an Irish dance class in Galway, taught by Siobhan, who used to tour in the US with Riverdance. Her company is called Irish Dance Experience and one member of our small tour group booked it in advance. I signed up on a lark, not having met any of my tour group in person yet and not having a particular interest in Irish dance and not being an especially skilled dancer (though I enjoy dancing nonetheless).

By the time we got to Galway we had been on the photography tour for more than a week, so everyone knew and was comfortable with everyone else. That made a difference because despite Siobhan being an incredibly good teacher and despite us becoming better in just over an hour than we ever thought possible, we were all really going out on a ridiculous limb! We looked hilarious. But we rocked the dance with brooms and did a badass Riverdance finale. (you’ll have to take my word for it)

Anyway, we had an absolute blast and here is Siobhan’s Instagram post about our group:

That’s me in the blue t-shirt swinging with Joey from Texas. The entire group was smiling and laughing almost the whole time. The only other facial expression was perhaps intense concentration (Irish dancing requires counting and coordination). Siobhan said we did great.

There is more video, and watching it makes me laugh every time. But we made a pact that it would never be distributed for public consumption. I’m keeping up my end of the pact.

If you’re ever in Galway I recommend her class. So much fun.

P.s. Galway restaurant recommendation for anyone who appreciates the combination of Michelin stars and lack of pretension. Incredible food including outstanding vegan options. Ard Bia at Nimos: http://www.ardbia.com/

fitness

Can Outdoor Swimming Improve Mental Health?

About a month ago, I read an article about researchers from the University of Portsmouth in the UK who are starting a study of the benefits of swimming in nature for treating depression.

Some doctors already prescribe exercise to help address depression. Cold water immersion can reduce stress levels. So offering swimming outdoors and measuring its impact in a rigorous way seems like a good idea to me.

The three sites chosen for people to join a swimming program are an urban lido (outdoor pool), rural lake, and an ocean beach. The results of the swimmers will be compared against a control group using existing treatments for depression.

It turns out I read this article just four days after my last swim for a month. I can’t remember when I last went that long without swimming, especially in the summer.

I don’t suffer from depression, but I was definitely feeling unmotivated after more than a month of dealing with elder care, then COVID. But on Sunday there was a last minute group swim organized for early morning. It was amazing! We had the lake to ourselves for most of the time.

Me treading water in my blue cap and goggles, with an orange swim float. Three friends are swimming in the background, and you can see the trees on shore in the distance

It’s anecdote, not evidence, but you don’t need to convince me that swimming outdoors is a mood booster, especially when I go with friends.

ADHD · equipment · fitness · gadgets · play · Tools

Not leaving it to chance: Christine plans her own exercise dice

I love a good set of prompts. I have dice, cards, apps, and prompt sheets for writing, improv, storytelling, drawing, and all kinds of creative activities.

Prompts help me to avoid getting stuck in decision mode (a huge pitfall for my ADHD brain), and they offer just the sort of constraint that helps creativity to thrive.

Since I also have a bit of a decision challenge with exercise (trying to strike a balance between consistency and avoiding boredom makes for a tricky endeavour a lot of the time) I was intrigued when the all-knowing algorithm served up this set of exercise prompt dice on Monday afternoon.

Product image of a set of four exercise dice, displayed in the carrying bag and set out in a line, plus the instruction manual.
Image description: Amazon product photo for Wadeo exercise dice. In the upper left the dice are displayed in a black mesh bag, on the upper right is a white paper instruction manual, and across the bottom are four dice (yellow, green, blue, teal) with various exercises printed on them.

I usually have to decide things in advance – knowing the what and the when and the timeframe helps remove the ‘Ugh, I will be doing this for the REST OF MY LIFE, I don’t even want to start.’ feeling that my brain automatically generates. But, when I use prompts, I usually only have to decide when and how long. (I guess the prompts only offer a certain range of ‘what’ so my brain is ok with that.)

I couldn’t help but wonder whether my brain would be ok with choosing a time and the length of my exercise session but leaving the exercises themselves up to the dice.

Then I looked closer at these particular dice.

I won’t do burpees. I know they are a great exercise but they make my head spin so I already know I won’t do them.

I’m not quite ready for pistol squats or ‘jackknifes’ so I would need to adjust or substitute something else for those…

And I don’t even know what is on the other side of those dice. There could be far worse things in store for me.

So I won’t be ordering those.

BUT

I am still intrigued by the IDEA of exercise dice.

And I just so happen to have a set of wooden cubes like these…

A pile of wooden cubes
Image description: a photo of a pile of about 20 plain, unfinished wooden cubes on a white background.

So, I am going to create my own exercise dice.

And this will probably work better for me because instead of having to roll one die over and over, I could roll a whole set of exercises at a time and have a very clear end point for my set or for my session.

Now I just have to decide what exercises to write on each die.

Any suggestions?

fitness

Swimming and the Enduring Power of Friendship

One of my biggest joys each summer is getting together with my fair-weather friends. Those are the women who I know through swimming, but who I only get to see when the water is warm enough to get together at a lake or river.

Me, Candace, Vicki, Aimee and Jane in the river, wearing bright swim caps and goggles, and with our tow floats.

I have known some of them for more than 15 years. We started out at the same swim program at a city pool, and eventually signed up together for our first open water swim.

A group of women in animated discussion, all wearing bathing suits and yellow swim caps with numbers on them. There are more swimmers in swimsuits and wetsuits in the background.

That led to a years-long love of swimming in the nearby lakes and rivers.

Me, Nadine and Candace in the water at Meech Lake near Ottawa.

I met others more recently, as they heard about our little group and joined in. Over the years we have moved on to other swim clubs. Nadine even moved out of province.

Nadine and I after a recent swim in the Ottawa River. We look wet and bedraggled, but we were really happy to see each other for the first time since she moved away over a year ago.

While a few of us hang out right through the winter,

Four women in a tent, wearing everything from bathing suits to warm coats and scarves. All have colourful swim caps decorated with snowflakes.

and we are friends on-line, the real fun comes in July, when the water is warm enough that even the most cold-sensitive can join for a swim and gossip.

A group of women (plus our friend Filippo) and Aimee’s giant swan float, in the Ottawa River.

Vicki, me and Aimee in the Rideau River. Historic Watson’s Mill in Manotick is in the background.

This summer we haven’t done much serious swimming, but maybe that will pick up after this weekend’s 3k race. Candace is doing it for the 9th time, it is Vicki’s first, and Aimee will be a swim angel for someone who needs support in the water. On Sunday we did spend time giving Vicki advice about managing the swim, but mostly we goofed around.

Four sets of legs as swimmers with their floats do handstands in the river. In the background, you can see a line of sailboats. We think they were practicing for the race, as there will be boats every 100 metres for the entire route.

When we have time, we like to follow the tradition of British slow swimmers, as described in Open Water Swimming: “Cake is an essential part of the whole ritual of open water swimming. Not only does it allows for recovery post-swim, with a variety of healthy and healthier options, but it is the vehicle for our social engagement, it is an essential enabler of this community feeling that is quite unique. We haven’t had a post-swim cake party yet, but I am looking forward to it.

Four umbrellas on the beach, protecting towels and clothing from the rain while we swim. There is also a colourful beach ball.

Diane Harper lives and swims in Ottawa.

ADHD · fitness · time

What Are YOU Up To This Summer?

Now that the stresses and fun of the past month or so have passed, I’m looking forward to the mixed blessing of a flexible summer schedule.

I mean, I love having my evenings free and since I work for myself, at home, I can shift things around to take advantage of good weather or some pop-up fun.

A GIF of a meerkat popping up from its den and looking around.
This is fun, right? Pop-up fun? Image description: a light-coloured meerkat popping up from its den in a sandy surface.

BUT

Since my brain has a very casual relationship with time under any circumstances, the flexibility of summer can also be a challenge for me. If I don’t make my decisions in advance or if I don’t pay close attention to how I spend my time, I can suddenly find myself at the end of summer, frustrated about all of the things I missed out on for no good reason.

So, one of my projects for this weekend is to figure out how I want to spend my summer.

An outdoor shot of a patio railing, a shed, and trees with blue sky in the background.
One thing is for certain, I want to make sure this view plays a big role in my summer. Image description: the view from my patio chair on a bright sunny day. In the foreground is a chair with a red cushion and a table with flowers in a pot next to the rail of my patio . In the background is my red shed, wooden fence, and green trees against a warm blue sky.

I’m considering when to work and when to rest (and thinking about what ‘rest’ includes). I’m figuring out what to include in my day-to-day and which larger summer activities I want to organize and do. I’m thinking about the projects I want to complete in the house and in the yard and deciding when I’d like to work on them.

Basically, I want to make sure that I actively choose a shape for my summer instead of just reacting moment by moment.

(By the way, if a summer of reacting moment by moment is your ideal, please have at it! Do what works for you.)

I’m planning to include things like revising my novel, practicing my TKD patterns outside where there’s more room, hula-hooping, going swimming, reading in my hammock, taking a few hikes, taking Khalee on longer walks, going for longer bike rides, creating some zines, and spending a lot of time hanging out outdoors with my friends.

A GIF of a child using a hula hoop in a department store. Even after their hoop drops to the ground, they keep wiggling their hips.
This little one and I have a lot in common with our hoop skills but I think we both have fun all the same. Image description: a GIF of a small child with long brown hair and glasses in a department store aisle. They are trying to use an orange hula hoop and even after it clatters to the ground, they keep wiggling their hips back and forth.

What do YOU have planned for your summer? Let me know in the comments!

Or if it isn’t summer where you are, what do you have planned for the next few months?

ADHD · fitness · fun · yoga

Choosing the fun part first

The weather here in Newfoundland and Labrador is tricky at any point and doubly tricky on the May 24th weekend.*

I have spent May 24th weekends wearing shorts, I have been rained out of planned adventures, I have shoveled snow from in front of a tent. And, on several occasions, I have worn shorts, a raincoat, and then mittens all on the same day.

So when Saturday rolled around and the weather was beautiful, I knew that my usual Saturday stuff inside could wait.

I had to get outside ASAP just in case things took a turn.

a selfie of Christine wearing sunglasses with her hair pulled back by a black bandana. She is outside, the sky is blue and the sun is directly behind her.
I couldn’t actually see my screen when I took this but since it made me laugh, I’m sharing it. This is a rare, non-smirking photo. Image description: I put my phone on my yoga mat and took a selfie looking upward. The majority of the image is blue sky but my head is looming at the bottom of the image and only the top 4/5 of my face is visible. I’m wearing sunglasses and my hair is pulled back unevenly in a black bandana. The bare branches of a tree can be seen to my left in the photo and the sun is behind me so parts of my hair are glowing. I look resigned but I am actually happy to be about to do yoga outside.

Normally, this would be cause for a scrambly brain of indecision – Should I do yard work? Bring inside work outside? Make plans for my garden? Take Khalee for an extra walk? What is the BEST use of this time?

This time, though, I bypassed all of those questions and just asked myself “What would be the most fun to do right now?”

And that’s how I found myself in the sunshine, doing yoga on my patio, laughing at the way my shadow makes me look like a fur ball or some sort of tendrilly sea creature.

a person's left hand (with a wedding and engagement ring and a watch on a woven band) rests on a blue patterned yoga mat outdoors.
Before doing my actual yoga practice, I did a few twists and I liked how my hand looked in contrast with my mat so I snapped a photo. Image description: A shot of my left hand, complete with wedding band, engagement ring, and Fitbit with a woven elastic strap, resting on a blue and teal yoga mat. My shadow, including the shadows of bits of my hair sticking out in a bizarre pattern, is covering most of the mat but there are some sunny bits at the top and the light wood of my patio is visible at the top of the image.

PS – For the record, Khalee and I took a long walk later in the day… and neither of us had to put on our mittens.

*Apparently, the May long weekend in Canada is not called ‘May 24th’ everywhere but that’s what we’ve always called it – no matter which date it falls on. If your brain hates that, imagine that I have said ‘Victoria Day’ instead.

fitness

The Year of Tiny Pleasures

A friend has a daily goal of 15 minutes of movement, so I thought she might enjoy tracking her efforts as part of the Facebook group 222 workouts in 2022. She wrote back that she didn’t think it would be a good fit because people who do 10k hikes and own Peloton bikes would not be interested in her 15 minutes of stretching or struggles with a 20 minute dance routine of warmups and isolation exercises.

My response to her original post this was to share this cartoon, and the comments below it.

Sam also shared this cartoon, but it is too good not to use again.

“If you read all the posts, there are plenty who are doing 30 minutes of yoga (I am doing that series and it is a lot of just sitting and breathing). But many of them won’t finish the 30 day series. I know I didn’t finish until about May last year. Late last year there were a lot of “I took my elderly dog for a slow shuffle” posts, and through most of the year many of us posted #slmsmph (stupid little walk for my stupid mental and physical health). The thing is, it doesn’t matter what you do, except to you. The rest of us are just there to be cheerleaders. There are weight training, indoor cycling and gymnastics workout posts that are irrelevant to my interests and abilities. But I like to look at the pictures, especially when people go outside to do a walk or bike ride. Having it pop up in my feed every day helps me remember I want to move, even if it is just to walk to the park and back (takes me about 20 minutes).”

She wasn’t convinced, but that’s okay. The year of tiny pleasures is also about doing what works for you.

My tiny pleasures right now are all things that don’t require me to leave the house because it is too cold. I am focusing on my on-line ballet classes, with some yoga offered by a work colleague, and the occasional gentle movement class with a local studio. I have abandoned that 30 day yoga challenge already.

As soon as it gets a little warmer, I look forward to getting outside with friends. A short walk with some duck watching, as I did with my buddy April recently, was a joyous hour of connecting with someone I haven’t seen in too long. That shared time was more precious than the thing we did (though 5km on a frosty day was nothing to sneeze at).

Diane in a brown furry coat and red hat, with April in a black coat, green hat and black balaclava

I am holding these two images close to my heart for 2022. The first reminds me that not every fitness activity needs to be exciting or a big challenge. The second reminds me that the best part about being active that I get to spend time with friends.

2022 isn’t shaping up to be a great year on the global scale, but I intend to make it as pleasurable as possible at my tiny scale. I will make opportunities to connect in person for walks or outdoor swims. I will continue to draw inspiration from my virtual friends at 222 workouts. And I will garden (good workout, good for the planet, good way to spend time with friends and neighbours). Mostly I will grow food, but I will also plant some flowers.