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.

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 · habits · motivation

Go Team: Some reminders

Hey Team!

I’ve been talking to a lot of kinda-burnt-out, feeling-kinda-meh, not-very-motivated people lately (and I’ve been one of them sometimes.)

Just in case you’ve been feeling that way too, I thought it was a good time to remind us all about a few things:

1) You don’t have anything to prove to anyone (fitness-wise or otherwise)

2) Doing the thing you like doing in the way you like doing it (fitness-wise or otherwise) is totally cool

3) You don’t have to go hard or go home, you can set your own pace in any damn direction you want (including towards home)

4) You don’t need to feel motivated to do the thing you want to do. Sure, it’s easier to get started when motivation is there but if you make a little list and take some teeny steps you’ll be able to move toward your goal no matter if motivation shows up or not.

(Starting when unengaged or unmotivated is even harder for us neurodivergents than it is for neurotypicals but I find that reminding myself that I can proceed without motivation is sometimes helpful. You might find it helpful, too, but please be kind to yourself about it either way.)

5) If you find yourself avoiding your fitness routine (or even just one exercise in your routine), you don’t have to force yourself to do it. You can find another way to work those muscles or build strength in that area.

No matter how meh you are feeling these days, I wish you ease and I hope you can be kind to yourself as you make your way along.

And, as always, here’s your star for your efforts.

Image description: a wire-framed 3-D star ornament sits on a wooden surface in the sunshine. Its shadow is falling on the grey surface in the background.
Photo credit: J.Drodge. Image description: a wire-framed 3-D star ornament sits on a wooden surface in the sunshine. Its shadow is falling on the grey surface in the background.
advice · camping · fitness · habits · nature · self care

To Get More Active, Inconvenience Yourself

I went summer camping with 5 friends recently. We went biking, swimming, kayaking, and hiking—regular outdoor physical activities one might do while in The Nature.

During this time, I noticed how often we were up and moving around to do simple tasks and chores throughout the day, even when we weren’t out out doing the recreational exercise activities.

When we wanted to go to sleep, we had to put up a tent. When we wanted to make a fire but ran out of wood, we had to scavenge or head to the conservation office to buy more. When we wanted to brush our teeth, it was a walk or a bike down the path to the loo. Whenever I misplaced bug spray or sunscreen, I was up rummaging around to find what I needed.

A campfire at night with wood on the ground
There’s exercise to be had in scavenging for firewood!

Not everything was within easy reach when you are camping: there’s often a little added effort to find, get, or make whatever you need. Without all the conveniences of home, we were moving, walking, bending, and stretching in short bouts all day long.

Like most people, I often establish habits and use tools that maximize convenience and comfort when I am at home. How much more physical activity might add up in my days if I intentionally made things slightly less easy for myself? What if I chose to knead bread without the mixer, walk to my mailbox rather than stop after my commute home, use one tissue box at a time rather than plant them in many rooms of the house?

Wall-E holds a plant next to a spaceship
Wall-E Theatrical release poster (fair use)

The animated Disney movie Wall-E tells a story of how, in the future, people have every luxury thanks in part to the machines they invent; consequently, they become totally inert and lazy. The moral of this cautionary tale is that excessive convenience and comfort will diminish our ability to think and act and move for ourselves.

Of course, my tent-trailer and Coleman stove camping experience was still relatively easy and convenient, but I realized that adding some purposeful inconveniences in my daily life could lead to a little more physical activity that I might not even notice.

What are some small inconveniences you maintain for a little more physical activity each day?

fitness

Wow, that was a fun month!

Well, here I am back for my monthly update. This month I also didn’t make it to the aquafit classes that had me so motivated to write for this blog, back in February. I have continued to have many extraordinary things on my plate. In addition to looking for permanent work, I have reengaged with academics in a way I didn’t see coming and I have found deeply satisfying. I am also an avid vegetable gardener, and spring is a season of much work.

So this month, as I realized I wasn’t chiseling out the 3 hours to get to the pool, I made some different choices. I was already active in the garden, so I started paying closer attention to my Fitbit and aimed to get my heart rate up and keep it there. Guess what? It worked! I was able to sustain a cardio heart rate while digging and raking. I also made an effort to walk my dog at a pace I would ordinarily have avoided.

photo of woman in front of a fence. She is wearing a ball cap and looking directly at the camera. Behind her is a circular decorative plaque with flowers and a watering can on it.
This is me in my happy place – the garden!

A few weeks ago, I read something about how when people are very inactive, the key is to get active in tiny steps. I felt quite reflected in that post. For most of my life, movement – especially brisk physical effort – was not my friend. When I could avoid it, I did. This year I can feel that shifting, and I’m finding some joy in the grind and the sweat. Hey – I’m 51! It turns out it’s not too late.

SO, I’m not sure when I’m going to get back to the pool. I *think* I am going to have time this summer, and it really is fun to do aquafit in an outdoor pool. But I know that my garden is full of vegetables needing tending. And I know that I am leaving (tomorrow!) for a solo camping adventure at Pinery Provincial Park.

This is my dog Finn. Walking him as made a real difference in my life and my relationship with activity. He made himself this bed to lie in while I garden!

I’m trying to hold to the belief that my body is mine, to use and enjoy and sweat in as I please. To remember that hey, it’s kind of fun to work hard sometimes. And to remember that small activity is activity, and for me that’s really something. I was fascinated to read that Diane also gardens and sees the fitness value of it. I was also really, really pleased to notice that this past month, as I got more active, my hips hurt less. Honestly, I’m kind of excited now about this little journey I’m on. Thanks for tuning into it.

fitness

Happy Hump Day

I don’t particularly like that expression – I like to think that Wednesdays are no better or worse than any other day. However, I have decided that this week needs every bit of celebration I can find.

Last week I had bad allergies and spent a lot of time fussing about whether it was COVID. My walking challenge is starting to wear on me. The weather suddenly went from freezing to being hot enough to kill half my poor seedlings when I put them outside to start hardening off. My lanemate and I were both in the world of “I’m too old for this sh*t” after Sunday’s swim practice. We will not even discuss the state of the world, which has me filled with crone rage on many fronts.

So Happy Hump Day: a made-up internet hope that things can only get better.

My allergies are feeling better, so I have more energy. I updated my tetanus booster, donated blood, and will get my second COVID booster on Saturday, so I feel that I am doing all I can to be healthy.

At swim practice, I learned a fun new drill, something that rarely happens after nearly 20 years of swimming with a club. And at Saturday’s practice I got the comment that I have a very respectable butterfly and natural freestyle stroke for long-distance swimming (coach was commenting on technique, as I am not fast). Every little bit of positive reinforcement feels good, even at my age.

The geese along my walk to work are hatching, the trees are coming into leaf, and I may just combine one of my walks this week with a trip to the pond for an early morning or lunchtime swim.

Adult Canada geese swimming with many babies on blue water, a dead branch in the foreground.
The pond, a popular conservation area and swimming spot near my home. Clear water surrounded by trees just staring to turn green and blue sky with whispy clouds above. The trees and sky are reflected in the still water.

I haven’t yet figured out how to channel my crone rage effectively; that is a feminist rather than a fitness issue, but I’ll keep working on it.

Diane Harper lives and swims in Ottawa.

goals · habits · martial arts

Christine H is trying to (TKD) practice what she preaches

If all goes well, I’m hoping to test for my 4th degree black belt in ITF Taekwon-Do sometime later this year but I have a lot of work to do in order to be fully prepared.

All through the fall, my practice was restricted because I was having trouble with my leg and my foot but things are improving and I have been able to resume my regular home practice.

I’m fairly confident about the patterns I have learned for previous black belt tests.* And I feel good about one of the three I need to learn for this test but I haven’t yet fully grasped the second pattern that I need to learn.

So, I am taking my own advice from my Go Team! posts and creating a plan for a small, specific practice to really get this pattern, Yoo Sin, into my brain and into my muscle memory:

I’m going to practice Yoo Sin for at least 5 minutes a day, every day, from now until the end of February, or until I can perform it without hesitation, whichever comes first.

This is what Yoo Sin looks like:

A YouTube video of Patricia Pacero performing the ITF Takekwon-Do pattern Yoo Sin in a practice space with white walls and with blue mats on the floor. She is wearing a white TKD uniform (dobok) and her black belt.

I have been through the whole pattern step-by-step a couple of times with guided instruction but at this point I can only get about 1/3 of the way through the pattern without stopping to check the next move.

I’m not sure if 5 minutes of daily practice will get me where I want to go with the pattern in a month but it will definitely move me in the right direction.

And, as I know from my own Go Team! pep talks, I can reassess and do some course correction at any point in the process.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

For the record, this isn’t the only TKD practice I will do in February, it’s just how I plan to add this pattern to my repertoire.

*If you aren’t familiar with how things work in the martial arts, getting your black belt is not your end point, it’s the point at which you know enough of the basics to start deepening and strengthening your practice. I earned my first degree black belt in 2014. I learned 3 new patterns for my second degree belt in 2016, another 3 new patterns for my third degree belt in 2019, and I have to learn 3 new patterns for my 4th degree test. This is on top of the 9 patterns that I learned for the various belts leading to my first degree black belt.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 22: Encourage Yourself

I’ve written all kinds of things about not getting discouraged and about celebrating your wins and about noticing your progress and being kind to yourself as you build your habits but I don’t think I have said this loud and clear yet:

PLEASE CHEER YOURSELF ON!

You probably aren’t used to cheering yourself on.

We all have a lot more training in keeping a detailed mental record of the ways we fall short of our plans, the times that we don’t meet our goals, and the things that don’t turn out the way we thought they would.

This isn’t the same as celebrating your wins. That’s a tricky practice in itself but, for many people, it’s a little more straightforward than cheering themselves on – you track something and celebrate when you see a change.

Cheering yourself on is motivating yourself to make an effort, it’s about noticing that effort, and reminding yourself that your effort matters.

Hmmmm, where have I heard that before? (imagine my friendly, slightly smirking expression here)

I’m thrilled to be able to offer you a gold star every day and to remind you that your efforts matter but I would also like for you to be able to practice that regularly on your own.

(Yes, I am asking you to put a practice on top of the practice you are already working on. I am ruthless like that. )

When I’m doing a Yoga with Adriene video and she asks us to say, aloud, ‘I am strong.’ I feel silly but I do it anyway and then that silliness is (mostly) replaced by the thought ‘Huh, I AM strong.” Which is way better for cheering myself on than the other thought (How long to I have to hold this?) that would probably be running through my head otherwise.

If I turn on an exercise video and say ‘Ok, Christine, let’s go!’ I feel much more energized that if I start with ‘Ugh, I guess I should do this.’ (You saw that vile word should in that sentence, right? *shudder*)

If I remind myself that I overcome challenges all the time, if I roll my shoulders back and take a deep breath before I begin my practice, or if I give myself a solemn nod or a high five in the mirror as I start my day, I feel better about my practice and my momentum.

All of those actions make me notice and acknowledge the efforts that I am making on my own behalf.

Now, I am not suggesting that you need to become sort of ridiculously-positive, high-energy whirlwind. After all, I DID say it was ok to grumble. You only need to do the things that work well for you. And frankly, if angry self-care or pushing through is all you need then forge ahead!

But I always like to have a variety of tools at my disposal and cheering myself on through my day, through a practice, or through a few extra seconds of plank has proven to be an extremely useful tool.

Cheering myself on never fails to remind me that even though things might be challenging, my efforts count.

Today’s Invitation

So, today, I invite you to find a way to cheer yourself on as you build your habits.

Can you choose an encouraging phrase to repeat or an action to take that signals that you have shown up on your own behalf?

Can you set a reminder on your phone or your email that tells you that your efforts matter? You don’t have to make it an embarrassing string of words – you could choose a gold star (obviously!) or a turtle (slow and steady wins the race) or a crown or a medal or a cookie or anything else that helps you take a moment to notice your efforts and (hopefully) to agree that you are doing pretty damn good with this whole practice thing thankyouverymuch.

You can also do a screencap of the gold stars I have shared here and send them to yourself one at a time with scheduled emails.

(The details are up to you, of course. Just please find the thing that will serve you best – don’t do this just because it works for me!)

No matter what kind of self-encouragement you choose, I’m offering this gold star as encouragement from me.

As always, you matter. Your efforts matter. It is ok to take time to take good care of yourself and it is ok for you to choose the form that will take for today.

Go Team!

A small drawing of a gold star with a variety of black and white patterns in the background.
I went all in with meditative drawing for my ritual this morning. After drawing the gold star, I filled in the background with a variety of doodle patterns. Image description: a small drawing of a gold star with a variety of black and white patterns in the background. Some patterns are overlapping lines, others are spirals or circles. The card is sitting on a wooden tabletop.

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 15: Go Easy On Yourself

Hey Team,

I had my booster shot yesterday and I’m feeling under the weather so today’s post will just be a short invitation to go easy on yourself.

Not every day needs to be epic.

Not every workout or every practice has to push you to your limits.

Resting, recovering, and taking good care of yourself is just as important as focused work on your new habits.

And a gentle, kind, encouraging inner monologue will serve you better than a harsh, judgemental one.

Here are some gold stars for for your efforts today, whether you are in work mode, in rest mode, or in figuring-it-all out mode.

Please be kind to yourself.

A string of lights shaped like gold stars.
Image description: A string of lit gold star-shaped lights sitting on my white shelf.

And if you need a booster shot of encouragement, perhaps you might like to check out this Go Team! post from last year: Give It Your Some

For the second year in a row, I’ll be posting a Go Team! message every day in January to encourage us as we build new habits or maintain existing ones. It’s cumbersome to try to include every possibility in every sentence so please assume that I am offering you kindness, understanding, and encouragement for your efforts right now. You matter, your needs matter, and your efforts count, no matter where you are applying them. You are doing the best you can, with the resources you have, in all kinds of difficult situations and I wish you ease. ⭐💚 PS – Some of the posts for this year may be similar to posts from last year but I think we can roll with it.

covid19 · Happy New Year! · motivation · new year's resolutions

4 “Old Year” Resolutions for the New Year

New year’s resolution web articles normally help readers to set and achieve their big goals. This year, some authors—including Christine, Catherine, and Natalie at FIFI—have shifted to encouraging smaller “micro-resolutions” or to changing our approach altogether. The author of this article from The Atlantic claims that resolutions aren’t “vibe” for 2022, and instead encourages folks to reflect on “small good things” that reveal why our goals matter in the first place.

Working from home last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve started a few random habits that motivate me to help me care for my health. After reviewing this article on the “small good things,” I realized that these are behaviours I’d like to carry over from the previous year because they connect with things I value.

So, here are four of my “old year resolutions” for 2022:

#1 Sun Salutations – D&D Style

D20 on a yoga mat
A die with 20 sides on a yoga mat.

Because I work at my desk all day, I need to stop and stretch. But I find stretching boring. So, for my stretch breaks I’ve started doing sun salutation sequences while regulating my breath. But how many cycles do I do?

I also like to play games. So, when I get up for a stretch, I’ll roll a D20. Whatever my roll, that’s how many repetitions of the asanas I do. I get a needed break from sitting and the die roll connects with how I value games and keeping exercise fun.

#2 Empty and Refill Station

Over the years I’ve tried so many ways to drink more water–setting a timer, drinking a glass of water at every 3rd hour, toting water bottles around with me everywhere, using flavour crystals, etc. Nothing seemed convenient for me (my value) to work.

This past year, I discovered that I will have multiple glasses of water in a day if I drink them…right after my pee break. So, I keep a water glass in every bathroom now, because while I’ve already got the faucet on and am washing my hands, I might as well fill’er up. I also wash the cup now and then with the soap!

#3 The “Hungry Enough” Apple

Because I enjoy snacking, I normally don’t wait until I am hungry to eat. Snacking has been made easier during WFH. But I have a sensitive tummy, I will snack mindlessly until I start to feel sick.

Then, I remembered the “hungry enough” apple (or any fruit equivalent) to avoid over-snacking, a tactic I learned from a past colleague. Now I keep a piece of fruit on my home desk, and if I am “hungry enough” to snack I tell myself to eat it first.

I am NOT suggesting that others should police their food consumption in any kind of way–everyone’s relationship with food is their own and I fully respect that. However, I’ve found that I feel better when I eat fruit before other snacks, even though fruit is not my first snack choice.

#4 Permission to Feel Comfortable

I have about 6 pairs of dress pants in my closet that I used to wear regularly for work, but they have not seen the light of day since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

At first, I reproduced my time-consuming rituals and put on uncomfortable clothing items in order to “dress for work.” But after many months of WFH, I have started giving myself permission to be more comfortable. I still make myself presentable for a professional work environment, but at my desk I use a heating pad, aromatherapy, and stim toys that help me to manage my fidgeting.

I am fortunate enough to have the space and the freedom to adjust my clothing and working environment, but comfort while working was a value I never knew I had until recently.

Making Evolutions, Not Resolutions

These are small behaviours I stumbled on over time that have become helpful habits for my health. They are evolutions, not resolutions, that I hope to keep this year and as long as I can because they reflect what I value.

What “Old Year” resolutions do you hope to keep or maintain in the new year?