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.

ADHD · fit at mid-life · fitness · planning

Another Week, Another Countdown for Christine

I saw a tweet a while ago about how one of the disappointing parts of adulthood is the fact that no one asks you about your favourite dinosaur.

Image description: three wooden dinosaurs standing on a stack of books.​
Image description: three wooden dinosaurs standing on a stack of books.

And that is sad (mine’s triceratops, by the way) but you know what else is sad about adulthood?

Hardly any grown ups add a fraction to their ages. 

We all just go for the whole number. That’s kind of dull, don’t you think?

I mean, what’s more fun? 

Christine is 49 

or 

Christine is 49 and A HALF!

I think the answer is clear. 

49 and A HALF has way more pizazz.

Now, as you probably know, Sam and Tracy started this blog because they wanted to talk about the Fittest by 50 challenge that they were both working on. They took a long term approach to it (2 years), had a solid plan, and tracked their progress.

(And, in a cool coincidence, Sam posted on Monday about being 2 years away from 60, so this is around 10 years from when the initial ‘Fittest by 50’ plan started.)

I’m a bit late and a bit too me-ish for that sort of long-term, methodical approach (even six months is a bit too far into the ‘not-now’ for my ADHD self, frankly) but it’s not too late for me to become fitter by 50. And that’s what I plan to do.

: A woman with short hair​, who is wearing exercise clothes, has her arms outstretched and she is holding a large blue exercise ball in her hands. Her upper body is slightly twisted away from the camera.
Image description: A woman with short hair, who is wearing exercise clothes, has her arms outstretched and she is holding a large blue exercise ball in her hands. Her upper body is slightly twisted away from the camera.

Just to be clear, I’m not really viewing my 50th birthday as a deadline. I’m not planning to get fitter and then give up once my birthday rolls around. And I am not labouring under the assumption that it is now or never. 

I’m just taking advantage of a milestone birthday to give me some focus, to help me direct a little more time and energy into my fitness plans.

I’m not entirely sure what those plans are yet but I have some thoughts:

  • Six months is too long for me to think of all at once so I have to break it down into 6 week sections and just think about one of those at a time.
  • My first six weeks will be focused on my preparations for my belt test, so that’s a good start. 
  • My second six weeks will be during the summer, so that gives me lots of different movement options.
  • My word of the year for 2022 is spaciousness and last year’s was consistency. I think both of those concepts can be useful for my plans – I want more room for fitness, I don’t want to feel like I am adding yet another thing to my to-do list. And I know that going for the consistency is the only way that I will make progress. After all, if there was a way to make erratic exercise session pay off, I would be the fittest person on earth right now.
  • I need to keep the bar low to encourage consistency and I need to keep my intensity high to maximize my interest in the project. I don’t know how to balance those things yet.
  • And, finally, I need to figure out what ‘Fitter by 50’ actually means for me: What criteria will I use? What will I measure? What aspects of fitness feel tangible for me? What do I care enough about, fitness-wise to stick with for the next 6 months?

Anyway, stay tuned while I fine tune my plans and make my way from 49 and ½ to 50.

PS – Anyone want to keep me company?

a GIF of a tortoise moving slowly across a patio. Text beneath reads ‘Here I come…’
I’m not slagging myself with this GIF. I’m trying to inspire myself to be slow and steady on my way to be fitter. Image description: a GIF of a tortoise moving slowly across a patio. Text beneath reads ‘Here I come…’
ADHD · fitness · martial arts · motivation · training

Christine is the very model of a middle-aged martial artist

(This post is long. Get comfy and get some tea before you dig in.)

Usually when I have my dobok on, I’m heading to a Taekwondo class but for a few mornings last month, I headed to art class instead.

A photo (from the chest up) of a woman in a white dobok in front of a blue door.
This photo is a few years old but I am wearing my dobok and I am smirking so it is still relevant. Image description: a selfie of me in my dobok with my hair pulled back in a green bandana. My blue front door is behind me and I was on my way to TKD class.

Thanks to my friend, Jennifer, I had the opportunity to be a model for three sessions of the sketching group that she helps organize and it was a delightfully positive experience for me.

I was nervous about it at first. I wanted to be a good model for them, to do something useful and interesting, but I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to hold my TKD movements for the right length of time or that I would lose focus and move at the wrong time. 

My concerns made sense – I knew I would have to do two 5 minute poses, two 10 minute poses, and a twenty minute pose and then we’d have a break before I did a long pose – 45 minutes to an hour. Even the shortest of those is a long time to hold a move that is supposed to take a few seconds and I had literally no idea what I was going to do for that long pose.

Luckily, for the first two sessions, Jennifer had me do something different for the 45-60 minute pose. Instead of being still, she wanted me to repeat a series of motions over and over so the artists could practice quickly capturing basic elements and then add in details as the movements were repeated. (Doing the same set of motions over and over for an hour was NOT a problem for someone who knows 16 different TKD patterns and is working on the 17th.)

By the time that we got to the third week, I had figured out that I could use some of our stretches for that long pose so it ended up being almost relaxing. 

Overall, being a model was an interesting experience that gave me some real insights into my TKD practice. It helped me to make some connections that I hadn’t fully thought through and it helped me have a better sense of where I am in some important aspects of my training.

Here are a few of the things I took away from my brief modeling career. 😉

Reasonable Facsimiles

Before going to each session, I spent a lot of time thinking about the poses I was going to do – factoring in how long I could hold them and what would be interesting for the artists to draw. They had requested poses at different heights but I also considered having variety in the poses in other ways – my hands turned differently or my foot at a different angle. Doing this sort of deep thought about my abilities and about how to get my movements just right was a really great way to assess my strengths and to ensure that I really understood how certain movements are supposed to look.

I did end up presenting some ‘reasonable facsimiles’ because there would be no way that I could, for example, stand on one foot for 10 minutes straight. I could, however, stand on one foot and rest my other knee on a support so it was almost like I was in the right position. That did mean that I was using my muscles differently than I would in a pattern but the session was about the artists practicing, it wasn’t about producing perfect drawings for a TKD manual. The key thing for me was that I had a very clear understanding of the difference between how I was modeling a movement and how I would execute it in practice. I really had to understand how it was supposed to be done in order to adapt it to use in the session.

A pencil sketch of a woman in a dobok in a wide-legged stance with her arms held in front of her, one across and one point downward.
One of Jennifer Morgan’s sketches of me. I couldn’t hold sitting stance for 10 full minutes so I did this 9-shaped block while resting on a wooden stool. If I was doing the actual stance, my feet would be more clearly pointing forward. Luckily my goal was ‘look interesting’ instead of ‘do it perfectly.’ Image description: a pencil sketch of me in my dobok doing a reasonable facsimile of sitting stance (legs apart, knees bent) while holding one fist downward at an angle while I hold the other across my chest.

All Kinds Of Information From One Pose

 One of my poses involved me reclining on the platform with my legs extended to one side like they would be in a flying side kick. Admittedly, it didn’t look very much like an actual flying side kick but it did give the artists something interesting to draw and sitting with my legs in the right position did give me a solid sense of which muscles I need to stretch and to strengthen to improve my kick. 

An unexpected side benefit was the fact that my friend Jennifer, who among her many other accomplishments, writes and illustrates historical graphic novels, found this pose very useful.  In her current project, one of the things she has to depict is women my age climbing into a lifeboat. Seeing me with one hand supporting me while my hip and butt rested on a flat surface with my leg out to the side gave her a good sense of how a middle-aged woman’s body would look as she perched on the side of the boat and swung her legs inside. 

Using My Whole Body

One of the operating principles in TKD, and probably all martial arts, is that a punch or kick is not just about using your arm or your leg, you recruit a variety of other muscles to add power and refinement to your movements. I understand this intellectually but unless I deliberately choose to focus on it during class, I’m not always sure that I am doing it consistently. 

After my sessions as a model, I feel much more confident that I must be engaging my other muscles because of how the artists commented on my poses. Receiving friendly advice to make sure to use my abs to help support my extended arm and realizing that I was already doing that was a confidence boost.  And hearing one artist comment to another that I was helping her how all my muscles had to work together to create the movement delighted me – if she could see it, I really must be executing the movement correctly. 

Consistency For The Win

As you know from some of my other posts, I struggle with consistency. And, beyond that, I struggle to know if I am being consistent or not, especially when it comes to any sort of physical practices.* I have trouble knowing if I am doing a movement correctly because my brain won’t always hold on to how it is supposed to feel or look. 

A pencil sketch of a woman in a dobok with her arms overlapped at chest height.
Another one of Jennifer’s sketches from the session where I was moving. She drew each separate movement next to each other starting with a light sketch the first time I did the movement and then returning to the sketch to add details each time I repeated it. Image description: a layered pencil sketch of me in my dobok with my arms overlapping in front of my chest. The edges of two other sketches can be seen on either side.

In TKD, one of the ways you check for accuracy and consistency in your movements is if you finish your pattern on the same spot where you started it. When I was repeating my movements for the artists, I knew I was doing mostly ok because I was returning to the same spot at the end of each series. What really made me feel good, though, was hearing one of the artists say that she had been worried that it would be hard to capture each stage of my movements but my consistency made it pretty straightforward. 

That comment was a delight but I also got something else out of repeating my pattern so many times in a row. Normally, when I practice, I don’t spend a lot of time on my first few patterns. I don’t have endless time to practice and I tend to focus on the patterns that challenge me the most. 

For the artists’ purposes though, I needed to pick something that wasn’t especially complicated and that wouldn’t wear me out when repeating for the better part of an hour so I chose our very first pattern. Doing those fundamental movements over and over let me dig deeply into each one and pay very close attention to what my muscles were doing and how I could tweak and improve in even very small ways.**  

It was almost a luxury to have nothing else to do in those moments but focus deeply on that narrow set of movements. And when I went to class that night, I could feel a slight improvement in all of my patterns so I will definitely be adding that sort of practice to my routine whenever I can.

Showing Off

Speaking of practice, one of the things that I did before each modeling session was to practice holding different poses and positions to ensure that I could do them for the right length of time. As a result of that practice, I discovered that, if I sit on an upended yoga block, I can hold a squat-like position for over 20 minutes.

When I asked the group if that was a good option for the 20 minute session, they were very excited about the idea of having the opportunity to draw that pose but concerned that I was going to hurt myself trying to do it. 

Being able to pull off that 20 minute supported squat with ease felt a little like I was showing off but it felt more like a personal victory. I could do something kind of challenging AND be an interesting subject for drawing at the same time. Go me!

Peace of Mind

Before I went to my first session, my friend Elaine told me that she found her stint as a model to be very relaxing because she could just be still and breathe. 

I didn’t think it would be the same for me because I figured that I would get distracted or that each pose would feel like it was taking forever. I even considered wearing earphones and listening to an audiobook while I posed but then I was afraid that would distract me in a different way.

However, I was surprised at how calm and relaxed I felt most of the time. A few of the poses felt long but overall, I mostly just focused on breathing slowly. Sometimes I counted my breaths in and out and other times I specifically chose something to think about – my latest pattern or something I wanted to write.

I ended up finishing each session with a feeling of satisfaction, the same kind of feeling I get from immersing myself into any project and getting into the flow of it. 

Holding poses for so long was a physical and mental challenge but it was an enjoyable one. Being an artists’ model has shifted some important things for me with regards to my TKD practice and I look forward to being able to do it again sometime.

*For example, being told to repeat something until I can no longer hold good form is lost on me because I will never catch the point when I go from good form to not-so-good-form. I don’t know if this is an ADHD proprioception thing or if it is just a Christine thing but there it is.

**I imagine some of you will be reading this and thinking ‘That’s called practice, Christine. Smarten up.’ and you’re right to a certain extent. Thanks to my ADHD, I’ve really only begun to understand how to practice effectively in the past few years. Left to its own devices, my brain forgets that working on small pieces of a project (i.e. practicing) will lead to finishing the project (i.e. knowing a pattern.) Since I can’t finish learning everything about a pattern in one fell swoop, my brain will trick me into thinking that practicing is pointless. So there’s that. BUT, also, the kind of deep practice that I did in the session is a different sort of approach that I don’t often have time for.

fitness

It can be hard to work out in the winter – find what joy you can

My friend and electronic work-out buddy Diana sent me a note this week saying how hard she find it to work out in the winter. She was complaining specifically about the poor job her town had done of cleaning the sidewalks, she was constantly bracing her back against a possible fall.

I empathize; I often feel like an arthritic penguin, and return home with muscles so tightly clenched that I need a heating pad and foam roller to loosen up again. It is even worse for people with mobility issues. I don’t like climbing over the ice berms left by street ploughs that block sidewalks, but at least I don’t need to navigate with a wheelchair, cane, walker, or simply fragile bones.

Other activities can be tough too. Snowstorms, icy roads and bitter cold can all make it hard to get motivated to get off the couch and go to the gym or studio. Then there is all the bundling up, and needing to go out while still sweaty, or damp from the pool or a shower. If you use a bike as your main means of transport, your ride can be downright treacherous, as well as cold.

Some people embrace the winter by skiing, skating or snowshoeing, which is great. Sadly, the weather has been so unpredictable this year that I haven’t gotten out to do any of those things. Too cold, too icy, too snowy, not enough snow… sigh.

Working from home most of the time, I didn’t even get to do my annual stunt of skiing or snowshoeing to the office during a storm. but today I did get an unexpected little walk thanks to the remaining impact of the occupation of Ottawa. My usual route to drive to the office was blocked by concrete barriers, so I parked the car and walked.

Snow-covered concrete barrier and traffic cones blocking the road to a bridge in the background.

It wasn’t far, but I got a few minutes to enjoy the snow, and appreciate a couple of busy squirrels in a tree.

Two squirrels in the branches of a tree, with a grey sky behind and snow falling in the foreground.

The late winter mood blahs will end soon. I know this because today was the first day of flood prevention on the Rideau River. Before I know it, I’ll be tempted to complain about the bugs or the heat, but I promise to take a moment find the beauty in my surroundings.

View of a frozen river, with big chunks of snow-covered ice sitting in rows. There are grey trees in the background, and snow is falling.

Diane Harper lives in Ottawa.

fitness · goals · health · motivation

Small Victory for Christine H

Remember a few weeks ago when I was aiming to be better than average?

I was expecting it to take two months to see any improvement but I am delighted to say that despite a hectic January, with weird, rainy weather that included at least a week where I had to reduce my exercise instead of intensifying it, I have officially nudged myself a little closer to Good.

A screen capture of a report from a fitness monitor. The background is blue and there is a multicoloured bar at the bottom indicating Cardio Fitness. The score is 28-32, average to good.
A screen capture of a report from my Fitbit. The background is blue and there is a multicoloured bar at the bottom indicating Cardio Fitness with numbers ranging from 24.6-39.5. My score is 28-32, which is designated as average to good for my age and fitness level.

I started as Fair to Average and now, I am Average to Good. It’s a small nudge but a nudge all the same.

VICTORY!

I shall award myself a gold star.

A gif of a cartoon drawing of a gold star with white trim that jumps into the air.

I know that this number isn’t a definitive description of my fitness level overall but it is measuring one aspect in a tangible way.

And, I improved the number in a short period of time by slightly increasing the intensity of my exercise.

This is encouraging and it bodes well for making bigger changes over time.

When I look at my heart rate numbers and see that a greater percentage of my workout is in my target range, it feels good.

Having my efforts recorded and made visible brings me back to try again the next day.

And, interestingly, I’m bringing the lessons from Adriene’s ‘Move’ series into this part of my fitness practice as well. I have been paying closer attention to how I feel when I am working a bit harder and to what movements make the biggest difference in my heart rate. Both of these things add a certain element of playfulness and experimentation to my exercise sessions, which I really appreciate.

Oh, and my additional efforts are also adding a little mystery to my practice. For no apparent reason, my Fitbit has started registering some of my walks as sessions on an elliptical machine (I don’t have an elliptical machine) and it has been registering my TKD practice as swimming. Go figure!

Anyway, I’ll post again next month to let you know whether I have moved another point to the good.

Speaking of good, here’s Khalee after one of our ‘elliptical’ walks.

A light haired dog sleeping on a green, grey, and black bedspread.
Image description: Khalee, my light-haired dog is sleeping on my bed with her paw up near her face. She looks very relaxed. My bed is covered in a black, grey, and green bedspread and you can also see a blue blanket by Khalee’s head. In the foreground on the left, you can see a mug with a gnome on it on my bedside table.

fitness · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team! January 31: Leap, Forge, or Trudge Ahead

Here we are at Day 31!

We’ve made it all the way through January and we’ve kept returning to our plan to expand our lives by building a new habit.

Maybe you have been diligently doing your practice exactly as planned.

Maybe you are still figuring out how to start or even what to start.

Maybe you are somewhere in the middle with some successes and some challenges and a few starts and stops.

All of those variations on habit-building are perfectly ok.

Yes, the person who could follow their plan diligently might be ‘ahead’ of the person who is still figuring things out but that’s only a technicality. Those two people aren’t in a race, their efforts can’t really be compared – they are two different people with two different backgrounds living two different lives.

They each have to find their own way forward and both of their efforts matter.

Sure, it is frustrating when all of your efforts are about getting to the mat and (as far as you can tell, at least) someone’s else’s efforts don’t really start until they step on to the mat. But your efforts to get to the mat count, even if they are invisible so far. Those efforts WILL pay off over time because you will be building a practice that works for you, whatever form that may take.

I’d rather see you figure out how to celebrate your efforts, to accept your gold stars, and to keep building your own practice, to recognize where you are in your own story, instead of letting frustration deter you. I know that working around the frustration requires effort in itself, it’s not easy, but it can be done and I believe that you can do it.

It seems a bit silly but one of the most powerful tools I employ when I am frustrated is the word yet. In fact, I wrote a whole post about it last year: Say Yet (that’s not a typo)

Ok, to be completely accurate, first I fume and stomp and complain a bit and when that initial annoyance has settled, then I get into my yets.

‘I can’t land the kick in that pattern…yet.’

‘I can’t keep my balance on my right foot in tree pose…yet.’

I haven’t been able to stretch after lunch…yet.’

Like I said in last year’s post linked above, the word yet adds an element of possibility, the idea that my capacity for that skill can grow, that I may be able to do it in the future.

Using ‘yet’ helps me remember that I might be in the beginning or the middle of my story instead of the end.

So, what’s next?

This is my last Go Team! post in this series and I have enjoyed showing up each day to remind you to be kind to yourself as you do your practices and build your habit. It’s been fun to explore my ideas around how to encourage you and I hope that you have been collecting your gold stars for your efforts throughout the month.

I won’t be posting daily from now on but I will create a Go Team post once a month to remind you that your efforts matter.

I have no way to know where you are in your practice and how you plan to continue from here but I want to remind you that leaping, forging, or trudging ahead are all valid ways to proceed.

And so is resting while you recover or while you figure things out. And it’s also valid to change direction based on new information, new plans, or because you want something different than you thought you did.

However you are proceeding, please default to self-kindness in the process.

You are doing the best you can with the resources you have and that is something to be celebrated.

Speaking of which, here is your gold star for today and with this star, I celebrate you – your efforts, your ideas, your plans, your detours, the things you have figured out and the things that you are still uncovering.

You matter. What you want matters. Your efforts matter.

Your hard work counts.

GO TEAM!

 A small painting of a gold star with black trim that has the words Go Team! written in black in the middle. The star is surrounded by multicoloured dots and speckles
Is this perfect? No. Did it turn out like I envisioned? Also no. Does it still do what I need it to? Hell, yes. That all seems fitting, doesn’t it? Image description: A small painting of a gold star with black trim that has the words Go Team! written in black in the middle. The star is surrounded by dots and speckles in red, orange, yellow, blue, pink, green, and black on a white background. Some of the dots and speckles are smeared. The painting is resting on a black computer keyboard.

Need a reminder to be kind to yourself while you keep building your habits?

You can see all of my Go Team! posts from this January, last January and throughout 2021 by clicking this link: Go Team! and I have linked all of this year’s posts (except this one!) below:

January 1: New Year, Same You

January 2: Go Easy

January 3: Pick a Time

January 4: Consistency Beats Perfection

January 5: Or Something Better

January 6: Beyond Compare

January 7: Focus on what you CAN do today

January 8: Powerful Attention

January 9: Feelings: Part 1

January 10: Feelings: Part 2 of 3

January 11: Feelings: Part 3 of 3

January 12: Go Ahead and Grumble

January 13: Give yourself the things you need to feel good

January 14: What can you notice?

January 15: Go easy on yourself

January 16: You’re not the problem

January 17: Keeping Perspective

January 18: Give yourself some credit

January 19: Create a ritual

January 20: You’re worth it

January 21: Support Systems

January 22: Encourage Yourself

January 23: When your some is your all

January 24: What if you always dread your practice?

January: 25: Who (else) is on your team?

January 26: Remember the basics

January 27: Stories (Part 1 of 3: the story of these posts)

January 28: Your Internal Story (Part 2 of 3)

January 29: Your Story Arc (Part 3 of 3)

January 30: Match your expectations to your capacity

About the Go Team! posts:

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 30: Match your expectations to your capacity

A lot of goal-setting advice includes a reminder to be realistic about your goals, to ensure that you are choosing something that you will actually be able to do.

That’s useful advice but it’s something I have always struggled with* because it was hard for me to figure out what is a realistic result for the practice I am trying to build.

Yet, I know that there is value in being to be able to measure your progress and to feel like your hard work is leading somewhere.

So that’s why I started advising people to match their expectations to their efforts and, later, I refined that advice to ‘Match your expectations to your capacity.’ It’s still not exactly what I want to say but it is closer.

It’s all too easy to get discouraged in the process of building a new habit. It’s even easier to get discouraged if your expectations are completely out of whack with your capacity for working on that habit.

And I think this is compounded by the fact that advice for beginners and advice for experienced exercisers often gets jumbled when you try to do some research. Add in the fact that people have different skills, abilities, schedules and capacity for adding new habits to their lives and it becomes even more of a challenge.

So, what I’m saying if you have trouble setting realistic goals or if you expectations for progress are out of proportion to your current capacity, it is completely understandable. It is not your fault.

But let’s try to bring your expectations closer to your reality so you can stay encouraged and see your progress.

Side note: You’ll see lots of advice out there about how you need to practice a certain number of minutes a day or work at a certain level in order to be healthy or fit. Leaving aside the issue of how ‘healthy’ or ‘fit’ might be defined in those cases, that advice might not be useful for you, yet. If you are starting out with fitness/meditation or if you are starting something that’s new for you, those numbers may not be relevant. Obviously, it’s ok to try it out and see if it works for you but if you find that it takes too much time/energy or that it leaves you discouraged, start waaaaaaay smaller. It makes much more sense to consistently do 2 minutes of practice twice a week and build that up over time than it does to try something intense for a week and then have to abandon it.

Connecting Capacity and Expectations

I hope that after a month of posts, I have started to convince that it is ok to start where you are and gradually expand your practice, working past obstacles and challenges, living your own story, until you have made the changes you want to make in your life.

In fact, it is more than ok, it’s literally the only possible way to do it.

That being said, if you are doing small practices and building up, then you aren’t going to get the same results as someone who can put hours into their practice.

On the one hand, that’s obvious. But on the other, it’s a comparison trap that is easy to fall into. Particularly since people may not often share the small practice stage of their progress. We’re more likely to see someone who has already built up a certain level of fitness, or someone whose schedule allows long practices start to share about their ‘fitness journey’ without realizing the difference between their capacity and ours.

The way around that comparison is not about trying to practice above your current capacity, it’s about adjusting your expectations. (And probably your timeline)

If you can exercise for 10 minutes of exercise a day right now, it wouldn’t be reasonable to sign up for an hour-long road race at the end of the month (unless you are just planning to do part of it!) It wouldn’t be fair to put that pressure on yourself and you’d probably end up frustrated and disappointed. It would be better to connect your capacity with your expectations and plan to time your speed on a shorter walk (maybe with a friend) as a measure of your progress. You can save the road race for your future self when you have a larger capacity for training.

If you are currently building your capacity for sitting up unassisted a few minutes at time, it wouldn’t be reasonable to sign yourself up for a tabletop board game tournament this weekend. Unless they have appropriate accommodations in place, you’d probably have to sit up for longer than you are ready for right now so that wouldn’t be a good measure of your progress. Instead, it might make sense to plan to play a game for a short period of time in a place where you can accommodate your need to alter your position regularly.

If you are building your habit with small practices and short sessions, it will be far more encouraging if you choose a benchmark that relates to where you are right now than if you choose a standard marker that is unrelated to your capacity.

Any practice you CAN do right now is valuable and it will lead you where you want to go.

If your capacity is limited right now, you may move slowly but you will still get there, on your own schedule.

Just be kind to yourself and align your expectations accordingly.

Today’s Invitation

Today, I invite you to consider whether you have been asking too much of yourself.

Is the progress you were hoping to see aligned with the practices you have the capacity to do?

If you find that you were using a measurement that doesn’t match your capacity, please adjust the measurement instead of judging your capacity. Your capacity will expand over time, one way or another, but there is no need to let misaligned expectations to make you feel bad about your current abilities.

And here, as always, is your gold star for your efforts today. No matter what they were.

Your efforts count. Your hard work matters.

YOU MATTER.

Please be kind to yourself.

a drawing of a gold star surrounded by a variety of patterns drawn in black ink and coloured with coloured pencils.
Image description: a drawing of a gold star surrounded by a variety of meditative drawing patterns. Each pattern is drawn in black ink and then coloured with colouring pencils. (I call colouring pencils leads but apparently that’s a regional thing and many people wouldn’t know what I was referring to. Language is weird, isn’t it?)

*I don’t know if this is an ADHD thing or just a being-a-person thing (I’ve always had ADHD so all my being-a-person things have an ADHD layer to them) but I rarely know what is a realistic result for one of my fitness plans. And that’s part of the reason that I tend to hang out in the create systems/choose a time-based practice area of habit-building and I try to trust that my practice will bring me closer to the changes I want.

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 29: Your Story Arc (Part 3 of 3)

So far in this series, I’ve written about the story of me recognizing that my initial plans were a big project, not just a single post and I’ve written about how your internal stories can affect you, your practice, and your habit-building process. Today, our project is to consider the arc of your habit-building story.

I’m not going to drag us into a debate about the application/validity of hero/heroine myths and I am not going to get into all the possible variations on stories because we would be here all week. For the sake of my time, your time, and the utility of this comparison, I’m going to choose some parameters for our discussion.

The Story Parameters

When we are asked what a story is about, the knee-jerk reaction is to think of story in terms of plot – the series of events that happen. I prefer the definition that says a story is really about how the characters change in response to the events in the plot.*

Of course, those changes will only make sense if the plot follows an arc of some kind. And while there are many variations about what goes in what part, the most pervasive arc is the one we are probably most familiar with – a beginning, a middle, and an end.

In the beginning, characters and settings are introduced and the current ‘normal’ is established and then disrupted in some way. In the middle, tension rises as the characters are reacting/responding/trying to adjust to the disruption. At the end, the characters have come to terms with the disruption, they have made changes or have been changed in response to it, and they establish (or start to establish) their next normal. **

The Analogy

If you think of the habit you are building in terms of a story, you are choosing the disruption in your ‘normal’ but it can still play out in a similar way.

Beginning: Recognizing your normal and deciding that it needs to expand to include a new habit. Figuring out what your character (i.e. YOU) is like – What you will enjoy doing or be able to do to build your new habit. Identifying your setting – Where and when will your practice take place? Do you need to change anything in your ‘normal’ setting to facilitate this?

Middle: Figuring out ways to make this disruption (your practice) work for you by exploring/working through the various challenges/obstacles/setbacks/victories/self-discoveries that arise as you respond to your practice.

End: You have responded/adjusted to the disruption and now your practice is part of your next normal. Challenges may still arise with the practice (you may take on a new disruption/practice) but, even if you revisit what you learned in this habit story, those challenges/new practices will be part of a new story.

Alternatively, the story of your habit building might end when you decide that this is not the right story for you. Sometimes, the things you explore in the middle of the story help you to realize that you don’t want the ‘next normal’ that this story is leading you to. In that case, you can take the story in a different direction towards a new end or you can take the lessons of your current tale and start a new one.

The Questions

One of the first useful things about using a story as an analogy is that you can recognize that there are different stages in your process and that there will be specific situations and feelings that will arise in each one.

When you read, listen, or watch a story, you don’t expect to have the same information or the same feelings at each stage in the tale. The same is true when you are building your habits.

The way that you feel as you are discovering things at the beginning is different than how you feel as you are meeting challenges or finding victories in the middle. It’s okay to feel differently about different points in the story of your practice.

What part of your story are you in?

And I think that one of the reasons that habit-building can be so frustrating is that we often don’t realize what part of the story we are in.

For example, if you haven’t been thinking of your habit-building in terms of a story, you might be trying to rush your progress. Once you have made a plan and done some practice, you might think you have everything sorted out and things will be easy from here. If you are in that mindset and an obstacle pops up, you will be extremely frustrated and you will probably give the obstacle more meaning than it deserves. You might see it as a sign that you haven’t been working hard enough or that you chose the wrong practice.

However, if you have thought of your habit-building process as story, you’d recognize that the plan and the first part of your practice is only the beginning of the story. You’d be expecting the challenges and the required adjustments that come next. I think it would be a lot easier on your brain if instead of thinking ‘Oh, this challenge means I messed up.’ you could think ‘Oh, I’ve reached the challenge stage! How can I adapt to meet this first one?’

I don’t mean to imply that thinking of the process as a story will make every adjustment easy but knowing that challenges are an expected part of the process will make it easier to be kind to yourself as you adjust. You have no reason to blame yourself for obstacles since they crop up for everyone who is trying to create a habit-building story.

What are you feeling right now?

And, it is good to know that the feelings that you have at every part of the story are perfectly normal. While your feelings may run the gamut at any stage, and those feelings are all OK, there are specific things that are typical of different parts of your story. You’ll feel a mix of hope, confusion, anticipation, and overwhelm at the beginning, the middle will be a mix of victories, frustrations, and maybe even anger/the desire to quit, and the end will include pride, excitement, positivity, and maybe some regret.

If you are feeling very frustrated, it might be a comfort to know that that means you are probably in the middle of your story and that you are learning to adapts to the challenges. You don’t have to stay in this story, of course, but the frustration is not automatically a sign that you have chosen the wrong practice.

If you reach the end of your habit-building story and you are feeling some regret, that’s perfectly normal too. Sometimes our stories include regret that we didn’t try this earlier, regret that we took a longer path, or a feeling like regret, a kind of sadness, about finishing something that we have worked on for so long. Those feelings all make sense and we don’t have to be hard on ourselves about them. Since we know that those feelings can crop up at the end of a story, we can recognize and accept them instead of pouring energy into trying to fight them.

Are you trying to rush the story along?

It’s natural to want to rush your habit-building story along. I’m sure that’s why the training sequences in movies are almost always include a montage – we just want to zip through the challenging bits and get to the skills and the muscles.

But sadly, we can only see our own montage when we look back.

The story of how we built our habits has to happen in real time, there’s no other way to do it.

We have to figure out our beginning, address the challenges in the middle, and then enjoy our next normal at the end. It’s not possible to do things in a different order when it comes to establishing our wellness practices.

So, if you haven’t been able to figure out your practice yet, you are probably just at the beginning of your story. If you seem to be facing a bunch of challenges, you are likely in the middle. Even though it would be great to jump ahead, it’s probably easier on your brain and on your body if you don’t.

After all, you can’t face the challenges in the middle of your story until you have the information from the beginning. You can’t have the expansion you seek at the end if you haven’t gone through the changes and growth in the middle.

Your story won’t be complete if you haven’t changed in response to your experiences.

Try to remind yourself that the work you are putting in at this stage is an important part of your story and, even if you can’t see the progress yet, you are, indeed, moving toward your satisfying conclusion.

The growth you seek comes from the process of experiencing the whole story.

The Invitation

Today, I invite you to consider yourself as the main character in your own story.

You may be at the beginning of that story, somewhere in the middle, or you may have the end in sight, but all of those stages are valid and valuable and it is ok to feel however you feel about them.

Please be kind to yourself as you consider where you are now, how far you have come, and the parts of the story that lie ahead.

No matter which stage you are at, your effort counts and your hard work matters.

You matter.

Here is your gold star for your efforts today, no matter what they might be

A small painting of a gold star hanging in the window of a house with orange siding.
Hmm, I had no idea my computer keyboard was so dusty! I could edit this photo or I could start over with a new one but I’ve decided to choose progress over perfection and just go with this. Image description: a small painting of a gold star hanging in the window of a house with orange siding. The painting is sitting on my (apparently quite dusty) computer keyboard.

*I think I first encountered this approach in a Lisa Cron book but I’ve seen so many variations of it now that I can’t be sure. I do love her work though.

**I heard the phrase ‘next normal’ in a John Green podcast (possible Anthropocene Reviewed) a while ago and I just love it. Forget ‘new’ normal, NEXT normal includes a great sense that we aren’t getting back to anything, we aren’t creating a new constant state, we are part of something that will continue to change.

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 28: Your Internal Story (Part 2 of 3)

Note: Get a cup of tea or a glass of water before reading, this is an especially long one.

What kind of stories do you tell yourself on a regular basis?

I’m not talking about the fairy tales or TV episodes or mystery novels you might read or watch on a regular basis, although those stories are useful, too. I’m referring to the ways you create a story about who you are and what you are like. How you make things make sense for yourself when things happen to you. How you explain to yourself why you did certain things or why you did them in a certain way.

You may not think of those types of thoughts as stories but framing them that way can help you see them more clearly AND it can help you learn to reshape the ones that don’t serve you well.*

A lot of the time, these stories are automatic and almost subconscious. And they are usually a mix of things people told us, things we picked up for ourselves, and little bits of information we stitched together to explain something. We throw all of that stuff together, often uncritically, and then use it as a guideline to proceed – choosing our actions and activities based on that information.

My (old) Internal Story

I am not a naturally sporty person and my family is not particularly sporty so while I did lots of climbing and running and other little kid things when I was small, I didn’t get a lot of practice playing sports or doing things that would train my body and mind to work well together. I wasn’t always the last one to be picked in gym class but I was definitely in the last few. I struggled with understanding the rules of games in gym and I often took them too literally so it frequently seemed to me that the rules were unevenly applied. My efforts to try and figure out what was going on tended to lead to me being told that I wasn’t a good sport, that I was uptight, and that I really needed to learn to ‘roll with the punches.’**

I was often told not to worry about my physical skills, or lack thereof, because I was smart so I didn’t need to be good at sports. (Let’s all just roll our eyes right here at yet another pointless binary in our world) I began to think of my body as just a carrying case for my brain.

My internal story was that I wasn’t good at sports or ‘things like that,’ I wasn’t coordinated, and I was a bad sport. So, I definitely didn’t try to get involved in any sort of group sports where I would be letting the team down with my lack of skill and causing a disruption by being a bad sport. And even when I wanted to try a new fitness practice on my own, I struggled because when I hit one of the setbacks that are inevitable with learning a new thing I didn’t have the experience to know that it was part of the process. Instead, I would fall back on my internal story that I just wasn’t good at these things.

I didn’t realize that I was dealing with an internal story. I thought I was dealing in facts.

I did keep trying fitness things that appealed to me but when things went awry I added more details to the story of ‘Christine isn’t good at this.’

My internal story started to change when I read Carol Dweck’s book ‘Mindset‘ and realized that part of the issue was how I was approaching learning new things.

Then, I started Taekwon-do with my son. I felt like I was terrible at it but my instructors didn’t seem to think so and I trusted them. (Now I can see that I wasn’t terrible, I was just doing my techniques with an appropriate level of skill for a white belt.)

And, eventually, I was diagnosed with ADHD and realized how it had been affecting me my whole life. Including things like struggling to understand rules and how to put them into practice. And finding it challenging to start and continue new practices.

And because I was learning about storytelling at the same time as all of this, I realized that my internal information was a story I was telling myself.

And as every writer and storyteller knows, stories can be revised.

I’m not going to pretend that that realization wiped away all of the challenges and everything has been easy ever since. However, recognizing that I was working with a story helped me to proceed differently.

I was open to learning that my ADHD made it challenging for me to pick up on the skills for various sports by just playing. And because my lack of skill kept me from playing often, I didn’t get enough experience to get any better. And learning that that led me to the fact that coordination can be learned.

So, all along, I was telling myself a story based on bits of information, some facts, and some opinions (from myself and others) and I was shaping my approach to physical activities based on a faulty story. I was using inaccurate information to make decisions and subconsciously creating limits for myself.

Letting go of the idea that the story was a fact meant that I could expand my idea of what I was capable of.

It didn’t make me more coordinated but it changed my thoughts from ‘I’m just not coordinated’ to ‘How can I become more coordinated?’ And it changed my perspective from ‘I’m just not good at physical things’ to ‘What physical things are important to me? What do I need to learn to get better?’

Recognizing the story you are telling yourself won’t give you immediate access to skills or abilities. We all have different bodies, capacities, and physical capabilities and those factors will affect how we move through the world. However, identifying your internal story (or stories) will help you ask questions about your own skills and practices and help you start to discern when your beliefs about yourself are based on incorrect information.

Now, Back To You

I wish I could wave a wand and show you the stories that you have been telling yourself. I would love to be able to wipe away all of the old tangles and give you a fresh new brain approach to your habit-building.

But since I can’t do that, I’m inviting you to gently poke at your own assumptions to help you find the stories you are telling yourself. If those stories are serving you, please hold them tight. If they are obstructing you, please question them, talk back to them, or get stubborn with them until you can shape them into something else.

And please, please, please, don’t be hard on yourself because these stories were in there in there in the first place. Our brains love stories. They want everything to make sense. And they will be so sneaky about weaving everything into a narrative and we won’t even realize it is happening. You can’t blame yourself for an automatic brain function like that one but you can work to reframe and reshape that function so it tells you a more useful story.

Here are some questions to help you recognize some of your stories:

What do you tell yourself when stuff goes right?

When things go the way you have planned, do you see that as just lucky? Or do you recognize that your planning ability, your choice to scale things to the time you had available, your combination of skill and experience also played a role?

If you think of it just as lucky, consider what that thought is based in. Is there a reason why you don’t acknowledge the effort you put in toward that result?

No matter what the answers are, see if you can start to coax yourself to recognize the skills you employed in making things go well. At the beginning, that might mean having the ‘it was luck’ thought and then adding to it by saying something like ‘Yes, it was lucky AND I was well prepared to make the most of that luck.’ Gradually, you can begin to include other aspects of your skill and preparation as you celebrate things going right.

What do you tell yourself when stuff goes wrong?

When things don’t go as planned, are you quick to blame yourself and/or some inherent aspect of your personality? (seeing yourself as ‘just unlucky’ counts here) Or do you recognize that while you may not have been as prepared as you thought, sometimes things just go awry?

Obviously, we aren’t equally skilled in everything we attempt. Sometimes, we don’t have the skill we need to do what we are trying to do. Sometimes, we think we have the resources but we don’t. Sometimes we underestimate the effort required, sometimes we overestimate the time we have. These things happen to everyone on occasion.

If they are happening to you on a regular basis, that’s not a sign that you are flawed or unlucky or bad or undeserving. It’s a just an indication that there was a mismatch in your plan and your process. It means that you need to have another look at your approach and your techniques, it doesn’t mean that YOU are a problem or that YOU are broken.

If your brain is telling you a story about things going wrong that is based on the idea that there is something wrong with you, I hope you can question that story. If your brain is telling you that you can’t build this habit because you never get anything right or because you always fail or whatever, definitely question that story. See if you can figure out where it came from and why it has stuck with you. It’s definitely untrue but you’ll want to make sure you pull out its roots not just cut off the top. Note: While we’re on this topic, I love this post from Karen Walrond that offers a great way push back against internal stories about never and always.

You are a unique combination of skills and experiences and you are doing your best to apply them to the task at hand. If they can’t help you complete the task, you can ask for help, you can change your approach/thought process, or you can change the task.

When that self-blaming story pops up, try to counter it with evidence as Karen Walrond suggests in the post I linked above, or try to say something like ‘Oh, I have struggled with this is in the past and I am going to give it another try.’ or ‘Yes, this has gone wrong before but there were extenuating circumstances, this time I have a new plan.’ Acknowledging the current story and taking it in a new direction can be a great way of creating a whole new tale.

How do you see yourself in the story?

(This could be a detailed and complicated post in itself but I’ll just touch on a few things here so this post doesn’t become a novel.)

When you have those automatic response to things going wrong or things going right, what role do you see yourself playing in the story that pops up for you?

Do you have agency? Are you in charge of anything? Or do you see yourself as the hapless person who needs rescuing because they are buffeted by fate?

In reality, we play all kinds of different roles in different situations at different times in our lives. Those roles may serve us well sometimes and they may impede us at other times. But, overall, it’s good to know which role we feel like we are playing at any given time.

I know that I have sometimes gotten overwhelmed and felt like I was a victim of circumstance. And sometimes it was true and just trudging along to the other side was the best approach. Other times, even though I felt like that, it was the overwhelm talking, and once I recognized that, I could take action and start to feel more in charge.

Other times, I have thought I was in charge of things but I had misunderstood the scope of the situation or the contributing factors. When things went wrong, I blamed myself and I felt terrible. When someone was able to gently inform me that I was taking responsibility for a situation that was far beyond my control, I felt better and I was able to reset my brain to focus on the things I was able to act on.

What does this have to do with your habit-building?

Well, if you are seeing yourself as the victim of circumstance, unable to take charge of anything, it is going to be hard for you to establish a new habit and make the changes you want to make. If you notice yourself telling that story, try to reframe it as something like ‘Yes, all of this crap is going on AND I am going to take 5 minutes to meditate in the car before I go into the office.’ Or, if things are too challenging for that, reframe it as a choice, ‘There is so much crap going on right now that adding something new would be too stressful so I am going to let that go for right now and come back to it another time.’ Making statements like that can help you to reshape the story and give you a better sense of your own power.

And if you are seeing yourself as the person in charge, responsible for everything, who is to blame if things go wrong, you will be too hard on yourself when you make mistakes, have to start over, or if you can’t follow through on your plans. You can reshape the story of you as invulnerable superhero into a story of you as an ordinary person by reminding yourself that you are not in charge of everything and that some things are beyond your control. Even something like: “Yes, I can get a lot of things done in a day but I don’t have to do everything. It is ok for me to do something for myself or for me to choose to sleep instead of doing my practice.” can be helpful in letting go of the sense that you are responsible for everything.

What story are you telling yourself about your practice?

Another way that your internal stories could be affecting your habit-building involves the story you tell yourself about your practice.

Do you see your practice as enhancing your life? As part of your self-care?

Do you see it as worth the effort? Do you consider it energizing?

Do you feel that your practice is making you stronger? Or giving you ease? Or adding calm to your life?

Do you see it as something you should (shudder!) do? Do you see it as another obligation?

Do you see your practice as too hard for you? As impossible? As energy-draining?

Do you see it as pointless? A waste of time?

If the story of adding your practice into your life is a positive one, it will be a lot easier to incorporate it into your schedule. If the story of your practice is negative, you will find it hard to include it in your day to day.

I’m not suggesting that you ‘just’ need to be positive about your practice and everything will be easy. I’m suggesting that recognizing the story you have around your practice will be a factor in how you incorporate it into your life.

Identifying the ‘mood’ of the story of your practice gives you information that you can use to make it easier to build your habit. Maybe you need to change some aspect of your practice, maybe you have started too big, maybe you have started too small, maybe you need a different practice, or, maybe you need more time to get used to it. And, in some cases, you may need to find ways to adjust your attitude towards it but that does not need to be your default assumption, not everything is an attitude problem.

Today’s Invitation

This whole post is a long invitation to think about your internal stories and consider how they are contributing to your habit-building process. Ideally, you want to find ways to practice self-kindness and to reshape your stories to support the changes you want to make. You are not responsible for the initial formation of your stories but you can take action to reshape them to serve you better.

And, as always, here is your gold star for your efforts, whatever they may be.

The emotional labour described in this post is hard work. It counts toward your practice.

And anything you do can count toward your practice if you say it does.

You know what you need today and I celebrate your efforts as you seek to meet those needs.

a drawing of a gold star atop a tall green stem with leaves on it.
Gold stars you grow for yourself might not be perfect but they are still delightful. Image description: A drawing of a gold star atop a long green stem with leaves on it with blue dots in the background. The stem starts at the bottom of the page and extends almost all the way to the top of the page before reaching the star.

*Again, I want to stress here that my advice in this post is about the sorts of day-to-day struggles that crop up again and again, ones that are frustrating and challenging but are fairly limited in scope and intensity. Guiding you through the process of identifying and navigating internal stories that result from trauma or other life-altering events is far beyond my expertise. I’m not trying to abandon you to your fate here, I am trying to make sure that I don’t cause any further harm.

** For the record, I love that as a martial artist I have learned to evade punches and I have learned to block them but I am never told to roll with them. Do I know that ‘roll with the punches’ is metaphorical? Yes. Do I find it irritating all the same? Also yes.

About the Go Team! posts:

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 27: Stories (Part 1 of 3: the story of these posts)

I’ve been planning to write a post about our internal stories all month but, despite trying several times, I couldn’t quite make it work.

This morning I decided to try again and realized that the problem was that I was trying to accomplish two things at once. I was attempting to write a post that incorporated two separate sets of information and I was moving back and forth between the two and getting annoyed because I wasn’t getting the post written.

Sound familiar?

Maybe you’re not a writer but I’ll bet you’ve done something similar in the past while trying to build a habit.

I know that have. I’ve set a goal that was too big and had too many parts and I’ve tried working on all them at once without realizing that’s what I was doing. And then I found myself annoyed because I wasn’t making any progress, because I couldn’t figure out what to be doing at any given time, and because I felt like I was making a mess of things.

Now, that’s not to say that your practice can’t have multiple parts. And I am not suggesting that your practice can’t serve multiple purposes. BUT I am saying that you need to be aware of what you are doing and create a structure that will support your plans. And, finally, to avoid frustration, you need to be able to set expectations that match your efforts.

Just as I had to realize that if I wanted to write about our internal stories, I would have to choose a method to deliver the information effectively or I would end up with a frustrating jumble of words that I might not be helpful. In fact, if the jumble was too big, I might not even be able to share it at all.

So, I’ve been through the part where I sort of knew what I wanted and I just worked in any old way for a while, coming back over and over to the topic but making no tangible progress. Then I reached the point (today) where all of my repeated actions helped me to see the obstacle in my way.* Once I could see the obstacle, I could figure out a solution.

And the solution is to write 3 posts. This first one tells the story of writing these posts and how my approach might apply to your habit-building process. The second one will be about figuring out your existing internal story about you and your habit and how you might begin to revise it. And the third will be about figuring out which part of your habit-building story that you are currently living and how accepting that might help you keep the plot moving forward.

See why I couldn’t get that all in one post? That would be like you trying to make a single practice session be a Taekwon-Do practice, a yoga practice, and and do strength training cardio all at once.

Sure, it could be done but there would be a lot of extra work involved as you tried to fit everything in and get just the right balance. You would probably be very tired and sore afterwards and you probably wouldn’t be looking forward to your next workout.

I could have put hours and hours of extra work into crafting an enormous draft post about internal stories and then spent even more time revising it into something readable. That would have been exhausting and frustrating and I definitely wouldn’t have been looking forward to writing my next post. And, to top it off, writing that post would require more time than I have to dedicate to writing for the Fit is a Feminist Issue blog so I probably wouldn’t have finished it. So, I wouldn’t have accomplished what I set out to accomplish because I didn’t match my expectations to my capacity.

Or, I could have chosen to shorten my post dramatically and just mention a few key things. That would have been a smaller step toward my goal but would still be useful. If I was going to be writing a blog post daily for the rest of the year, I might have chosen that route because I could return to add to the ideas later.

But, given that I am only doing daily posts for another few days and since these story-related ideas are specially important to me, it makes more sense for me to break down my ideas into three posts and focus on each one separately.

And, to go back to the example above, if doing all the bits of your huge practice would be exhausting, it would make sense for you to either separate your different types of practices or to design a practice that incorporates all three but for less time and/or at a lower intensity.

Once you’ve figured out what the obstacle in your current practice might be, you can make a choice that serves you best.

Today’s Invitation

Today, I’m inviting you to consider how my challenges with writing this series of posts might apply to your own habit-building practice.

Are you feeling like you are practicing over and over but not making any progress?

Are you trying to do too much at once or maybe hoping that a multi-purpose practice will pay off in all areas at once?

Is it possible that your work so far is not just about making progress in your habit but also about helping you to learn to see how to identify obstacles or adjust your methods/techniques? (like how all my attempts to write ended up showing me that I was trying to incorporate too much at once)

Can you see any ways to encourage yourself to break your practice into sections, approach it in a different way, or scale it to fit your schedule?

No matter how you answer the above questions, and now matter how you are doing with your practice, I would like to offer you these gold stars to celebrate your efforts.

Your hard work counts. Your efforts matter. And, most importantly, you matter.

a drawing of 7 gold stars against a background of overlapping lines
Image description: A small drawing of 7 gold stars against a background of overlapping lines. The drawing laid on black computer keyboard on a white surface.

*So, from this perspective, all of my fumbling around with earlier versions didn’t mean I wasn’t make progress. I didn’t FINISH what I was doing but I was, unknowingly, working my way toward today when all of my wordy fumbles brought me to the point where I could see the obstacle. And while it would have been great to have known that I was on this path and it would have been terrific to have reached this point earlier, I guess this is another damn lesson in trusting myself and trusting my process. It’s a shame we can’t just learn that lesson once, isn’t it?

About the Go Team! posts:

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.