fitness · motivation · rest · self care · time

Go Team: Adjust Accordingly

Here in Canada, most of us had a long weekend and we’re starting our week on Tuesday instead of Monday.

We had an unusual Monday and now we are heading into a short work week.

Image description: a GIF of a stick person who is rapidly alternating between lying on their bed and jumping ​up to sit at their computer and work while an analog clock spins rapidly on the wall above.
I hate how short weeks can end up feeling like this. Image description: a GIF of a stick person who is rapidly alternating between lying on their bed and jumping up to sit at their computer and work while an analog clock spins rapidly on the wall above.

How many of us have adjusted our schedules and expectations accordingly?

It’s a trap I fall into on the regular – my schedule or capacity* is altered in some way and yet I still try to do as much work/keep the same routine/fit AllOfTheThings in despite having less time or less energy.

​. Image description: a GIF of a black cat with white paws that walks under a cardboard box that is being held up with a stick. The cat bats the stick with its paw and the box falls down and traps the cat beneath.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, you accidentally make things worse for yourself. Image description: a GIF of a black cat with white paws that walks under a cardboard box that is being held up with a stick. The cat bats the stick with its paw and the box falls down and traps the cat beneath.

This happens to me most often when I’m not paying close attention, when I forget to take stock of how much I am trying to fit into my schedule. During short weeks like this, I’m especially prone to it.

Trying to cram the same amount of stuff into a smaller container is a direct route to extra stress and frustration, and to a persistent feeling of ‘not measuring up.’

And it doesn’t matter if the ‘stuff’ you are trying to cram in is work-related, fitness-related, or personal. The issue is that we have set expectations that are way too high for us to meet.

In this case, it’s about time and about routines, but a mismatch of expectations and capacity about any goals or plans that we have set for ourselves can lead to those same feelings.

So, Team, whether you are heading into a short week, or an ordinary one, and whether your expectations are around your work, your workouts, or about anything else, I’m inviting you to pause for a moment and think about whether they match your capacity.

If there’s a mismatch, please don’t be hard on yourself.

We all fall into that trap sometimes.

Instead, why not reevaluate your time and your expectations and adjust accordingly?

Your brain will thank you.

As always, I’d like to offer your gold star for your efforts. In fact, here’s a whole bunch of gold stars – adjusting your expectations will take a lot of little efforts over and over so it makes sense to offer you a lot of little gold stars in recognition of those efforts.

Image description: hundreds of small shiny gold stars ‘shooting’ toward the screen against a black background.​
Image description: hundreds of small shiny gold stars ‘shooting’ toward the screen against a black background.

*For example, if I’m feeling sick or if I have slept poorly.

fitness · motivation

Go Team: Small Efforts Count

Yesterday, Sam reminded us of the benefits of Failing Small – making sure that we are keeping perspective when things go wrong.

I’d like to build on that and remind us all that even the smallest positive efforts count.

So, maybe you can’t do the full workout you had planned but you *can* do a few pushups and squats.

That counts.

Perhaps your plan for a home yoga session fell through because you’re tired and all you can do is lie on your mat for a few minutes.

That counts.

Or if you are trying to get to bed early, drink more water, or build a meditation practice and you do anything that inches you forward towards those goals.

That all counts.

Your fitness and wellness don’t just come from epic workouts or hour-long meditations. They are also created rep by rep and breath by breath.

Even your smallest efforts will add up.

Consistent small efforts create momentum.

Any wellness effort you make helps you to create room in your brain start thinking of yourself as ‘someone who exercises’ or as ‘someone who meditates.’ – a very valuable mindset for creating new habits.

So, while you are taking Sam’s advice to keep your mistakes in perspective, also give yourself some room to recognize the value of even the smallest success.

PS: Here’s a gold star for your efforts, big and small.

Image description: a GIF of a gold star against a black background. The middle of the star is twinkling with white light.​
Image description: a GIF of a gold star against a black background. The middle of the star is twinkling with white light.
fitness · habits · motivation

Go Team: Find A Win And Celebrate It

So, Team, we’re almost at the end of August and I think it’s time to remind ourselves of some wins from the year so far.

Whether your fitness/wellness plans have been going exactly as you thought they would or whether you are now following a whole different path than you anticipated, you have done a lot of things right.

I’d like you to make a list of those things, big or small, and find a way to acknowledge and celebrate them.

Perhaps you’ve accomplished a specific goal or met a certain fitness target.

Maybe you have found more ways to fit rest into your day.

Or you’ve talked yourself into going for a walk more often.

Perhaps you’ve meditated or done yoga or done some canoeing.

Or maybe you’ve tried stretching your neck while waiting for webpages to load.

The size of the win doesn’t matter. The fact that you have deliberately worked to improve your own well-being does, and it is worthy of celebration.

Please tell me about your wins in the comments and I will celebrate with you.

Here’s a gold star for your efforts!

A gold-coloured star-shaped metal decoration hangs on a light green painted wall.​
This is the gold star that hangs above my computer monitor to remind me to celebrate my efforts. Image Description: A gold-coloured star-shaped metal decoration hangs on a light green painted wall.
fitness · habits · motivation · planning

Go Team – June 15: Re-evaluate, Revise, Reframe

That’s a lot of ‘Re’ for one title, but let’s forge ahead.

Here we are in June, well into year two of ‘Everything is just a bit strange, isn’t it?’ and I’m hoping you’ll pause, take a breath, and reconsider your fitness/wellness plans and goals for the year. (There was another ‘re’ in that sentence, there is no escape from them!)

Maybe everything is going exactly as you planned, things are humming along, and you are wondering why I am even suggesting this.

If that’s the case for you, keep rocking it and here are some gold stars for your hard work: ⭐️🌟⭐️🌟⭐️🌟⭐️

But, if you are like me and this year has been all fits and starts with your fitness/wellness goals, let’s get into all of those ‘Re’ words above.

Re-evaluate

When you started the year you imagined things were going to go a certain way. You combined that imagined future with the facts you had and made plans based on that.

Now that we are part way through June, you have more information about your schedule, your preferences, and your capacity.

Use that information to reevaluate the goals and plans you made in January.

Consciously decide whether you are going to continue or if you are going to choose a different path. (Sometimes, I will hold on to an old plan for ages, even though I am doing nothing with it, because I keep thinking I will get back to it. Consciously choosing NOT to do it is always a relief.)

Revise

Your plans for fitness and wellness are for YOU, not for anyone else. And only you can decide if something is working for you.

You don’t have to follow the plan exactly as you set it out at the first part of the year. You can choose to revise it at any time to meet your current needs.

If the big ideas you had in January, whatever they were, still suit you but the details didn’t work out, change the details.

If the big ideas no longer suit you, ditch them and try something else.

Reframe

One of the tricky things about making goals and plans is that we can be very hard on ourselves if they don’t work out the way that we hoped they would.

That brings us to our third Re: reframe.

Please, please, please, do not frame your efforts over the past months in terms of failure.

For most of us, that will not be a valuable approach.

I’m not suggesting that you pretend everything is perfect nor am I suggesting a falsely positive approach.

Instead, I invite you to acknowledge that your initial plan wasn’t possible and then reframe your results in terms of effort or knowledge instead of failure to meet a plan.

So, instead of some self-defeating statement about failing to do daily yoga, say something like: “I couldn’t do yoga daily the way I planned instead I got on the mat once a week and really enjoyed it.”

Or, instead of being harsh about your running progress, try something like: “I’m not ready to run in a race and that’s ok, I have learned a lot about how to pace myself with my training and I can run with more ease than I could in January.”

Looking at your efforts in this way will keep you from feeling defeated and help you take a realistic view of where you are with your fitness plans.

Go Team

So, as we move into the second half of the year, I hope you are being kind to yourself about your efforts, your capacity, and your plans.

You can take the goals you set in January and re-evaluate, revise, and reframe them until your plan for the rest of the year serves you best.

Fitness isn’t all or nothing, it’s a process. We need to acknowledge and celebrate our efforts and be kind to ourselves in the process.

PS – Here’s your gold star for your hard work, no matter what form that work is taking for you right now.

GIF of a gold star agains a black background, the animation adds white lines to make it seem shinier.
So shiny! image description: a GIF of a gold star against a black background. The animation adds a white lines to the star to make it seem shinier.

fitness · habits · motivation

Go Team! March 16: Encouragement Boost – You’re doing GREAT.

It feels like far longer than 6 weeks since I finished my series of ‘Go Team!’ posts so it is definitely time for a little encouragement boost.

So, let me jump right to the good stuff:

You are doing great and I am proud of your efforts.

It doesn’t matter if you have been pushing your physical limits every day or if you are just barely squeezing in a few extra steps here and there (which, frankly, *is* pushing your limits, just in a different way!), you are doing what you can, when you can, and it all counts.

Your efforts matter. Either way.

And, yes, I understand that maybe you haven’t followed the plan that you meant to follow.

Maybe you had days when you *could* have exercised but you didn’t.

Maybe you haven’t been giving it your all, or even your ‘some.’

That’s okay and you’re okay.

If you keep coming back and doing what you can to take care of your body – whatever that phrase means to you – you are doing well.

You don’t have to have a perfect record for exercise.

You don’t have anything to prove.

You can keep going, you can start over, you can try again.

You get a lifetime of chances to find the type of movement that makes you feel most like yourself.

Just please be kind to yourself about the whole messy process.

Being hard on yourself gets you nowhere. Being kind to yourself leads to progress AND you get to feel good along the way.

Here’s your gold star for today – a super-deluxe-over-the-top gold sparkler star for your spectacular self.

Image description: a gold sparkler (hand-held firework) is emitting star shapes in all directions.​
I love these sparklers – it’s like owning a shooting star! Image description: a gold sparkler (hand-held firework) is emitting star shapes in all directions.

fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 31 : How Do Things Look From Here?

It’s the last day of January and the last day of this Go Team series so it’s the perfect time to do a some ‘big picture’ reflection.*

The short version of this post would read: It’s ok to change anything about your plans, even your goal itself. Success may look different now than it did in January 1st.

The longer version? Well, that has more details:

If you’ve been reading this series (thank-you!), you probably started this month with plans and ideas for the habits you want to add into your life this year.

Perhaps you had a specific goal in mind, or a set of conditions you want to meet at points throughout the year. (Similar to a goal but maybe not the same.)

Now that you have had a month to explore those ideas and work on those things, do you still want them?

Perhaps this month has solidified your plans and you are dedicated to the path you chose.

Or, maybe you’ve realized that you still want the end result but the path/speed you chose isn’t going to get you there.

It could be that you’ve realized that that goal isn’t something you want after all, or, at least, it isn’t for you right now.

Now that you have a month of extra experience concerning that goal you could have any of a million different ideas/feelings about how much it suits you.

You are not stuck with the plans/goals you chose on January 1.

At any point you can change your plans, change your goals, change your approach.

Only you can know what success looks like for you. And since you are always changing and your life is always changing, your interpretation of what success means will change over time.

It’s all about how you want to feel, what you want to do, what you hope to train your body to do…at any given point in time.

You are the only one who can figure out what you want and if your plans and methods will get you there.

Only you can decide if you just need more time or if you need a different method or if you need a different goal.

Changing goals, changing methods, or changing direction are all valid things to do after a month of experimenting with fitness and wellness.

You haven’t failed. You didn’t do anything wrong. You are not lost.

If you feel like you have failed or that you have gotten lost, I invite you to Rudner your plans.

Ages ago, I heard Comedian Rita Rudner make this great joke about how she handles being lost and I have used the idea metaphorically ever since – sometimes literally.

I never panic when I get lost. I just change where it is I want to go.

Rita Rudner

To extend the metaphor a bit: Making changes at this point (or any point) is like when you are listening to GPS directions and you get off course.

The GPS voice will be telling you that you missed your planned turn-off and it will give you directions to get back to it. (Which is one option.)

If you keep going, it will tell you it is recalibrating and it will give you new directions to the same destination. (Another option.)

Or, you can reprogram that chatty machine and give it a whole new destination. (Also a good option.)

You are in control and you can choose how to respond to the directions from the GPS. Up to, and including, reprogramming it or turning it off.

You are the boss of you and YOU get to decide what success means.

Well, mostly.

Because, at this exact moment, *I* am deciding what success means. I hereby declare that you have been successful thus far.

You have made an effort, physically, mentally, emotionally, over and over, to move forward with your plans.

It doesn’t matter how far you have moved, I say that your efforts count and they should be rewarded.

Hence, I award you the largest gold star on my collection:

For your efforts, my friends!

Forge ahead. I believe in you.

 A large gold coloured paper star decorated with gold spirals and star-shaped cut-out sections rests against a dark blue backdrop.
In celebration of our efforts together over the last 24 days, I offer my giant paper star- the largest star I own. It’s gold coloured paper decorated with gold spirals and star-shaped cut-out sections. Each point is 30cm/11.8 inches from the centre. Photo credit: My son, J. Image description: A large gold coloured paper star decorated with gold spirals and star-shaped cut-out sections rests against a dark blue backdrop.

*I revisit this theme on a regular basis. Here’s a post I wrote on Facebook a few years ago that expands on what I wrote above.

Hey Team!

Here we are at the end of January. Go figure!

The end of any month tends to make us compare what we did with what we meant to do, and there is extra weight to January’s reflection because of all the new year brouhaha.

But, here’s the thing, that mental review only has the meaning that we give it.

And we don’t have to be hard on ourselves about it.

Not getting to the end of your to do list is not a personal failure, it is JUST information.

It might be telling us that our list was too long. (This often happens. We think our future selves will be at peak performance levels all the time.)

It might be telling us that we had less time this month than we thought we would have.

It might be telling us that our schedule doesn’t work well for us.

It might be telling us that our systems aren’t serving us well.

It’s information for our future selves to use in making the next steps, it is not an indictment of our past or present selves.

So, that being said, when you make your plans for February, see how you can use that information to be kinder to yourself. See if you can make your requests to your future self a little closer to their capacity and their reality.

(For example, please don’t make the mistake I make and think that a work day with three meetings can also include all of your routine tasks for that day. That’s not how time works, apparently.😏)

And, most importantly, as you look ahead to next month, add in time for rest and for play – especially during busy or stressful times. You need time to recover, physically and emotionally, from challenging times. That’s not weakness, that’s just how human bodies and human minds work.

Finally, as you look at your lists, remember to consider the routine things and the non-tangible things you did. Making meals, returning phone calls, providing emotional support, filing papers, those all count and they all take time.

(Or as I said to a friend of mine recently – “If I measure my success this week in words written, I’m not accomplishing much, but if I measure it in emotional support delivered, I am knocking it out of the park.”)

Be kind to yourself, my friends, things go a lot more smoothly that way.

⭐️<- for your efforts today

Image description: A sketchbook opened to a page filled with drawings of black and white patterns. The words ‘Let’s Start Here’ are drawn in heavy black letters at the bottom of the page.
The patterns in the background of this drawing of mine are from a meditative drawing practice called Zentangles or Zendoodles. If you are trying to meditate but can’t quite get there, it might be worth giving this kind of drawing a try. Image description: A sketchbook opened to a page filled with drawings of black and white patterns. The words ‘Let’s Start Here’ are drawn in heavy black letters at the bottom of the page.

fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 30: All About Your Feelings

About 5 years ago, I was all tangled up in how to design and organize my website and a friend of mine gave me some great advice:

“Think about how you want people to FEEL when they visit. Think about how YOU want to feel when you direct people there. Use those feelings to guide your decisions.”

That was a lightning bolt moment for me.

I had always been focused on how I wanted my site to work and what I wanted people to see but I had never included feelings in the equation.

(Which was weird considering how often I nope out of a site because something about it squicks me out.)

It was an excellent way for me to make the decisions* I had to make about my site. And, of course, once it helped me in one area I used it in all sorts of others, too.

I found that it works especially well when it comes to fitness and wellness. And I include emotions and physical feelings in fitness/wellness decisions.

And, often, they become my ‘in the moment’ goals, letting me focus on my process, instead of on my ‘results’ goals which might be a long way away.

How do I want to feel during my practice?

Perhaps I want to feel at ease, or I want to feel challenged, or I want to feel energized. It changes from time to time.

How do I want to feel afterwards?

Perhaps I want to feel happier or I want to feel like I have worked every muscle or I want to grounded. I pick the activity that will (likely) give me the mood I want.

How will this make me feel in my day-to-day movements?

One of my major motivations is that when I exercise regularly the change in my leg muscles makes me feel more grounded and more powerful. Seeking that feeling instead of hoping my legs will *look* a certain way has been helpful for me. (Note: There’s nothing wrong with wanting your legs to look a certain way, I just can’t use it as a metric because I don’t have enough control over the results.)

I have even been considering tracking how my exercise/wellness practices make me feel every time so I can revisit them when my motivation dips and I need a reminder of why I practice.

Do you use you physical or emotional feelings to guide your exercise plans?

If not, do you think it might be useful to consider them?

And maybe even track them?

I strongly FEEL that you deserve a gold star for your efforts today, this week, and this month. Whether you have been moving, meditating, being mindful, drinking more water, or just trying to do all of those things, your efforts matter.

Keep at it!

Image description: A heavily decorated gold starfish shape with a shiny fake gem in the centre stands on one of its points on a base covered in shiny gold and silver fake coral and shells.
Tomorrow your gold star will be the biggest star I have, today it’s the most over-the-top star that I own. I bought it at Ripley’s Aquarium gift shop in Toronto in 2016 because holding it made me fell like I had won the encouragement Oscars or something. Yes, I know it’s a bit much, but it’s super fun and I love how it makes me feel (see what I did there?) Image description: A heavily decorated gold starfish shape with a shiny fake gem in the centre stands on one of its points on a base covered in shiny gold and silver fake coral and shells.

*Perhaps this is a natural part of your decision-making process? Previous to that point, I hadn’t really brought my feelings into a lot of those sorts of decisions.

fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 29: Claim An Easy Win

Whether you have been able to work on your habit every day so far or you have been trying to figure out how to make your habit work, I’d like you to claim an easy win today.

What’s the teeniest, most straightforward, simplest example of the habit you have been trying to develop?

Maybe it is one mindful breath.

Perhaps a single yoga pose.

One rep.

One stretch.

One sip of water.

Think of a tiny thing that represents what you are trying to include in your life.

And do it right now.

Can’t do it right now? Pick a specific time to do it later – use an alarm, a reminder or a cue (i.e. I’ll do a squat while I cook supper.) to ensure that it gets done.

Then, celebrate that easy win – put a star on your calendar, pat yourself on the back, pump your fist in the air, shout ‘Go me!’ Whatever feels good to you.

You can do more than the teeny thing if you want to, of course, but the win lies in doing the small thing. Everyone who does the small thing can claim a victory no matter how much or how little else you do.

You might think of a small win as unimportant but pushing back against the challenges you face and creating that foothold for yourself can be the key to establishing the practice you want.

When it comes to building habits your repeated effort is the most important thing. Once your tiny wins are routine, you can build on them and you’ll be glad that you started small.*

So, go on and lift your arms over your head in a stretch or put your hands out in front of you and roll your fingers into a fist. Stand up slowly and sit back down even slower. Gently stretch your neck to one side and then the other. Squeeze your shoulders up to your ears while you inhale and then let them drop while you quickly exhale.

Do the small thing you can do as soon as you can possibly do and then be proud of yourself for carving out that time today.

I’m proud of your efforts and I offer you this gold star in celebration.

 Image description: a drawing of a gold star with lines of other small shapes radiating outward from each point.
Another of my star drawings. Yes, I draw stars often. Image description: a drawing of a gold star with lines of other small shapes radiating outward from each point.

*PS – Even if you did something huge yesterday or the day before but today this tiny win is a challenge, it is still a win. You are still showing up for yourself. Yesterday, I did a single yoga pose (frog) but I still counted yoga as done.

fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 28 : Find a Role Model

It’s always easier to take on something new if you have a template to follow.

A trainer or coach can come in handy for developing a template for your actual workouts or wellness practices

But perhaps you also need a template for how to fit those workouts into your life?

That’s where a role model could come in handy.

Do you know (or know of!) someone whose life is similar to yours and who has a firmly established fitness/wellness practice?

(Yes, I know you won’t find an exact match but you can probably find someone close enough to use for a template. And it doesn’t have to be a fitness ‘influencer’ either – unless that’s what you are aiming for, too.)

Could you find out more about the kinds of exercises they do and how and when they do them? Perhaps you can even learn more about how they deal with unexpected time and life challenges.

I’m not suggesting this so you can copy them exactly, of course.

You’ll have to tweak and adapt their routines to fit into the specifics of your life.

But, choosing a role model and using the their approach as a template means that you aren’t starting from scratch. Some of the work is already done for you.

(Reminder: It is totally ok to nope out of anything they do that doesn’t sit well with you.)

If you’ve been trying to figure out your new habits and get into your new routine and it’s just not happening – a role model and a template might be the way forward.

Here’s today’s gold star for your efforts to build your new habits – whether you are moving merrily along or still getting into gear.

Go you!

GIF Description: A woman in a polka dot shirt holds a sign with 5 gold stars and the word ‘amazing’ on it. The image moves slightly but doesn’t change.​
A series of gold stars for your perseverance. You *will* figure it all out. GIF Description: A woman in a polka dot shirt holds a sign with 5 gold stars and the word ‘amazing’ on it. The image moves slightly but doesn’t change.
fitness · habits · motivation · new year's resolutions

Go Team! January 27: Transfer Some Skills

Today, I’d like you to take a look at the skills, tools, and methods you use to accomplish things in the other areas of your life and see how you can transfer them to your fitness and wellness plans.

Obviously, you can’t always directly apply them – no amount of keyboard shortcuts will get your exercise done.

But if you know that keyboard shortcuts give you some success at work, you can think about how and why those shortcuts work and imagine how that kind of structure could apply to your fitness plans.

The point here is to take your success in one area of your life and map the skills involved onto another area.

To take the keyboard shortcuts example:

You could ask yourself ‘Why do I use shortcuts?’ and realize it is to speed up some parts of your work and to minimize repetitive tasks.

Then, ask yourself ‘Are there parts of my wellness routine that could be sped up or that include unnecessary repetitive tasks?’

Or ‘What is the equivalent of a keyboard shortcut in my exercise routine?’

Perhaps you’ll find that you can do a leg and an arm exercise at the same time.

Maybe you’ll realize that your ‘keyboard shortcut’ for meditation is to have your earphones, your pillow, and your eye mask in a basket in your living room.

Your details will vary, of course, but I know that we all have areas of our lives where we are thriving. Those areas are full of skills, routines, schedules, and systems that we can bring over to our exercise/wellness plans to make things easier.

Sometimes, just realizing that your exercise plan can be compared to an area where you feel competent and confidence can be enough to inspire you to stick with it.

For example, once I realized that perfecting a pattern for Taekwondo was not unlike revising an article, I felt much better about the work involved in improving my patterns. The process was clearer and my efforts made more sense to me. I no longer looked at my practice as ‘messing up over and over,’ I came to see it as refining and clarifying what I wanted to convey with my movements – just like I do when I revise something I have written.

So, Team, what skills can you transfer to your exercise/wellness plans?

Here’s your gold star for today!

Congrats on your hard work on your plans. Whether you got moving or got thinking, your efforts count.

Image description: A sparkly gold star decoration stands in front of a light green wall.
A very sparkly gold star for today, representing all of the shiny ideas we’ll have for transferring our existing skills to our exercise plans. Image description: A sparkly gold star decoration stands in front of a light green wall.