ADHD · advice · fitness · habits · mindfulness · motivation · self care

Go Team 2023: Today’s Best

Hey Team,

Last week was incredibly busy and stressful.

I was organizing/running an arts festival for a community arts festival and, at the same time, every project I’m part of that had been on hiatus for the summer was suddenly revived.

(Seriously,. Last Tuesday, I had four different groups write me to try and set a meeting between Oct 3 & 5…a time when I already had several things scheduled.)

And this is all my volunteer work so it doesn’t include regular work nor does it include household or family-related stuff.

I was getting overwhelmed and frustrated and I kept feeling those annoying, pointless thoughts creeping up on me.

You know the ones, I mean? They gang up on you when things get stressful – even if that stress was impossible to prevent. They start with ‘You should have…’ and they go downhill from there.

I was trying to just ignore them but that seemed to make them fight harder to be heard.

So, I decided to take a few minutes to review.

Was there any truth in those annoying thoughts?

Maybe a little bit here and there (I wrote those things down to journal about later) but mostly no.

I think my brain was looking for a reason why I was so overwhelmed and figured that I must be the cause.

So, I decided to set some boundaries with those thoughts and try to keep them at bay.

I made the little card below – well, ok, it’s two little cards next to each other- and said it aloud every time I looked at it. And, obviously, the gold star was for my hard work – both my work on the festival and my work to stand up to those thoughts.

And it really helped.*

Since I had decided that I was doing the best I could with the resources I had, the only thing to do was keep at it.

I had to do today’s best, whatever that was, with the resources I had at that moment.

I tried not to think about how things could have gone differently with different preparation or different resources, I focused on what I could do right now.

So, I don’t know about your stress level right now.

I don’t know what you have ahead of you, behind you, or around you.

I don’t know what you are trying to deal with.

I don’t know what your brain is annoying you with.

But what I do know is that you are doing the best you can with the resources you have.

I wish you ease and I wish you self-kindness.

And I offer you this gold star for your hard work – your work on all of the things, your work to focus on today’s best (or today’s okayest!), and your work to find ease and to be kind to yourself.

Go Team!

Image description: a drawing of a gold star next to black text that reads ‘You are doing the best that you can with the resources you have.’​
Image description: a drawing of a gold star next to black text that reads ‘You are doing the best that you can with the resources you have.’

*I’m sure that having some clear exercise goals that I could see on my wrist-spy without having to choose to track them also helped with my stress levels. Without my wrist spy on the case, I probably would have subconsciously put my exercise aside for the week. However, having this little phrase reminder close at hand helped on a completely different level. I guess the exercise did the heavy lifting and the little card cleaned up whatever stress was left over.


Do the thing!

Do the thing is an expression my friends and I often use when egging each other (and ourselves) to push boundaries. Like them (and many of the contributors to this blog) I overthink things to the point I chicken out.

This year, I had four cycling goals. One was to bike out to visit my parents, 25 km away. That would be a significant distance increase for me, and there are some scary 80 km/hour roads where everyone speeds – I was not convinced that Google was telling the truth about their rideability. It was mid-September. Time was running out.

On Saturday I had plans to join the Critical Mass Ride in downtown Ottawa, followed by a potluck for Bike Ottawa members in a park. The park is almost half-way to my parents’ house, and going home so I could drive there would take as long as biking directly. Getting home was an entirely different matter and I chose not to think too much about it.

I packed some extra snacks, water and my cycling shorts just in case I decided to do the thing. And my bus pass in case I decided that I couldn’t bike all the way home. When the potluck broke up, folks started planning to go on a 15 km ride that would largely follow my route home. I knew I could easily do that ride. Google told me that it was exactly the same distance as to my parents’ house. Time to stop thinking about it and just do the thing.

I did the thing!

Diane in a blue shirt and wearing her blue and white bike helmet stands beneath a sign for the street where her parents live.

I even did the thing going back home. It took an hour and 25 minutes on the return ride. That’s triple the fastest car ride, but way more fun. How often do you have complete strangers chat with you at a crosswalk when you’re in a car? How often do you notice an entire flock of turkeys on someone’s lawn (and can safely stop for a photo)?

A large brick house with five wild turkeys on the front lawn

I have written before about how riding a bike has made the world both bigger and smaller. I have new experiences, but also learn that things aren’t nearly as far away as they had seemed.

I rode 65 km, something I haven’t done in over 40 years. The roads I was afraid of turned out to have nice wide shoulders most of the way. I feel pretty darned good and I am confident about doing that ride again whenever the weather is nice.

Whatever your big fitness, health or life goal may be, do the thing! You might be pleasantly surprised at how great it feels.


Christine’s wrist-spy is not a double agent

I was sick last week and started hunting around for some sort of ‘sick day’ mode on my wrist-spy (a.k.a. my Apple watch.) I was hoping to find an easy way to stop all of my fitness reminders from going off and to put my various habit and goal trackers on hold for the day.

When I couldn’t find a sick mode, I did an online search and quickly discovered that there *is* no sick mode. And that, apparently, a lot of experts feel that the Apple watch’s reminders and streak-based tracking can be harmful for people, creating an expectation that the wearers will push themselves harder and harder and that they won’t have rest days.

I totally understand their concerns. In other contexts, I have often fallen victim to the sort of pass/fail mindset that they are referring to and I can see why the streak-based tracking and the regular suggestions to increase your goals can lead to that sort of trap

Luckily, however, my wrist-spy doesn’t tip me into that sort of thinking.

(Your mileage may vary, of course, but this is between me and my wrist-spy. Please do what works for you.)

You see, my wrist-spy is spying on me FOR ME.

Its job is to keep track of things that I want to keep track of but that I struggle to write down or plan because my ADHD brain finds too boring to record.

I don’t think of it as a double-agent, pretending to work for me but really working for the fitness industry, reporting my less-than-perfect scores to some authority that will judge me against a professional athlete.

So, I use the information it gives me for encouragement and for motivation but if I can’t follow my plan on a given day then I enact the Rita Rudner rule:

credit: AZ Quotes Image description: a photo of comedienne Rita Rudner’s face on the left hand side and on the right is a black rectangle with white text in the centre that reads ‘I never panic when I get lost. I just change where it is I want to go. – Rita Rudner -” and below that is white and yellow text that reads ‘AZ Quotes’

What does this have to do with my fitness tracking?

Well, I don’t panic if I can’t reach my planned fitness destination – I change my destination!

If I have had a hell of a day and I can’t meet my stand goal? I change my stand goal.

If my suggested fitness minutes are overwhelming today? I change my fitness goal to something that feels reasonable.

If my move goal is impossible? I dial that number back until it feels doable.

Yeah, I know that some of you might see that as ‘cheating’ but here’s how I see it:

My wrist-spy’s job is to help me see trends in my activities so I can make changes that help me feel good overall.

I feel encouraged by the trends in my fitness (and by streaks of activity) but I recognize that ‘doing what I can’ is going to look different on different days.

However, my wrist-spy has no way of knowing how I am feeling or how busy I am on a given day.

Changing my goals for that day lets me adjust for the fact that the numbers for ‘what I can’ may look different from day to day without having to lose the momentum I feel when I see notifications like these:

a photo of an Apple Watch on a person's wrist. The text on the screen says 'Achievement Longest Move Streak' and 'Goal Achieved.'
image description: a photo of the screen of my wrist-spy showing two notifications, one that reads ‘Achievement Longest Move Streak’ and one that reads ‘Goal Achieved.’ My left wrist and the green strap of my watch are the background of the photo.

Making needed, temporary changes in the goals that my wrist-spy tracks helps me keep my eye on the big picture, on my true goals – lots of movement, increased mobility, an overall feeling of well-being – instead of getting tangled in the idea that I have to have the same capacity every single day.

I don’t change my goals often. I think I have maybe done it three times in the 10 months that I have had my wrist-spy. However, knowing that I *can* change them lets today-me be in charge of my goals instead of letting yesterday-me make all the decisions. And for me, that strikes the perfect balance between choice and momentum without ever making me feeling like I am being dragged into something I don’t want to do.

So, last week, even though I couldn’t engage ‘sick mode’ on my watch, I didn’t let my wrist-spy’s reports get into the wrong hands. As my spy’s handler, I made the file ‘eyes only’ and managed the data in the way I saw fit.

And by all of that, I mean that I adjusted my goals to match my situation that day and it all turned out just fine.

dogs · fitness · trackers · walking

Solo Stroll (don’t tell Khalee)

Every month my wrist-spy* suggests a fitness challenge and I usually try it just to add a little extra oomph to my routines.

I have only been following it closely for a few months but since it has led to me moving a lot more each day (and feeling great about it!) I figure it’s worth the effort to pay attention to the challenges and to my responses.

This month, the challenge is to walk 5.4km per day for 14 days during September.

And since I am much better at doing something every day than every second day, I decided that I would aim for 14 days in a row and if I liked walking that much per day, I would continue for the rest of the month.

So far, I have met the challenge every day but some days have been quite tricky.

I get a lot of movement in my days but it’s a mix of walking and yoga and stretching and taekwondo and strength training and so on.

This challenge is just about walking. So walking around my house or running errands will count toward the 5.4km but other forms of exercise won’t.

(That other movement is good for me overall, of course, but it doesn’t meet the requirements of the challenge.)

I’ve tried getting Khalee to walk a bit further each day so I can get closer to the target distance but sometimes she just won’t. In fact, on Friday evening we walked for less than 1km because she decided she was done with being outdoors and it was time to get home out of it.

A light haired dog lies on a patio, facing toward the camera.
This photo has nothing to do with yesterday’s walk but her expression looks a bit skeptical, kind of like the way she was looking at me when ai returned. Image description: a photo of Khalee, my light-haired, medium-sized dog, resting on my patio near some pots of flowers. She is facing toward the camera and her expression looks similar to the way a human would narrow their eyes at you in suspicion. There’s green grass and a backyard firepit in the background of the photo

I’ve thought about trying to take her out for a walk twice a day but any time I’ve tried, she’s not so keen on it. (I swear, she looks like she is thinking, ‘Didn’t we do this already?’)

So, I’ve ended up walking a fair distance INSIDE my house just to meet the challenge. Indoor walking is boring AND I walk slower than I do outside – apparently I really need the forward movement to gain any momentum.

Ok, so I know what you’re thinking – Why don’t you walk WITHOUT the dog, Christine?

Good question.

And the answer is – I never thought of it.

Most of the time, I walk for three reasons – to walk the dog, to hang out with friends, or to get somewhere.

And all of those walks are good for me but I had kind of filed away the fact that I could walk for the sake of walking/exercise.

I mean, I guess I *do* still do that but I generally combine it with Khalee’s daily walk so I had stopped thinking of it as something I could do separately.

Until I was running an errand on Monday morning and I saw someone strolling along the sidewalk without the benefit of a dog to show them where all the good smells are and it struck me, “OHHHH! I could do my extra walking OUTSIDE instead.”

Yes, I feel a bit foolish about missing the obvious there but you know how it is when you get into a thinking habit, right? You need something to prompt you to reframe your thoughts.

ANYWAY, right after lunch on Monday, I took a quick stroll – it was a lot easier to get out the door without having to get Khalee into her harness and all. It was good to get a little extra walking in, at my own speed, without worrying if Herself was going to get enough exercise or if I was going too fast or too slow for her in the moment.

I love walking with Khalee but walking a dog is a whole different project than walking alone. It’s a different kind of good.

I mean, I had to rely on my own nose to figure out where the good smells were but that was a small price to pay for a quick walk.

Meanwhile, I think Khalee was suspicious and I am pretty sure she gave me a dirty look when I returned.

For the record, I did take her for her own walk a bit later in the day.

And it was quite easy to get my walking distance done.

*You may know it as an Apple watch but thanks to a clever friend it will always be a wrist-spy to me.

ADHD · goals · habits · motivation · self care

Christine is still keeping a fitness journal

Back in February, I started keeping a fitness journal. It started out as a handwritten thing but after a month or so, I started using voice dictation to keep my journal on my phone.

Every single Monday since then, I have opened my Google doc journal and chatted a bit about how things are going with my fitness plans.

This isn’t the kind of tracker I have tried to keep before – a record of the specifics of individual exercise sessions – it’s a reflection of how I feel about my exercise lately. I make notes about the kinds of exercises I have done, whether I am feeling better or worse for having done them. I pay attention to which exercises feel good and which ones are getting on my nerves – and whether the annoyance is worth it.

I do a screen cap of the weekly report from my Fitness app and write about whether my perception of my efforts matches the report.

I talk about whether exercise has felt difficult or easy or anything in between in the past week.

I note any specific highlights, struggles, challenges, or high points, what contributed to those feelings and whether the feelings lasted.

My fitness journal has become exactly what I hoped it would – a place to celebrate, a place to whine, a place to notice the changes, the differences, and the benefits that come from my efforts to move my body in beneficial ways.

 A photo of two white daisies ​amidst some grass
This has nothing to do with fitness journaling, I just like daisies. Image description: A photo of two white daisies amidst some grass

It’s a container for all of my ideas and thoughts around exercise and fitness. It lets me see how I have changed my mind, changed my approach, changed my plans over time. It shows me what works and what doesn’t work.

It has let me see what aspects of fitness and exercise matter to me and which ones don’t.

It has shown me what a little extra effort and a little more conscious relaxation does for my well-being.

Having notes from my previous self makes it a lot easier to do the things that matter to me.

And since my journaling only takes 5 mins or so every Monday, it is definitely worth it.

I’m giving myself a gold star for sticking with my fitness journaling practice. ⭐️

Do you keep a reflective fitness journal? What is your practice like? Do you find it helpful?


Falling Out of Love With Swimming?

I love summer because it is when I connect most often with friends for outdoor swims. This year I haven’t been doing much of that. My best swimming buddy moved out of province a couple of years ago, and others in the core group have also moved a bit further out of town so it’s harder to get together. The weather hasn’t cooperated either.

On top of that, I have been dealing with neck and shoulder pain that I just can’t seem to fix.

The result has been that since club practices ended in June, I have barely been in the water.

Falling out of love with swimming couldn’t have come at a worse time for someone who has committed to swimming 15 km in August to raise funds for cancer research. I have met my modes goal, but if you would like to donate, please follow this link.

I am trying to get myself excited by visiting new venues and swimming with new friends. I went to the new River House in Ottawa, which has 25M lanes in addition to a large “pool” area that is very popular with teens and young adults.

A swimming area on a river. In the foreground you can saw two swim lanes. There are floating ”islands” in the centre, and people sitting on the dock beyond that. In the background, you can see the river with boats near the dock and trees on the far shore,r

I went back to my old standby, the Pond, which is once again relatively quiet as the teens and young adults have migrated to the River House. There were only swimmers and families with young kids on my last visit.

Three people are standing in greenish water while one person swims in the distance. The pond is surrounded by trees.

I joined several people from my swim club at the home of one of our members.

Four swimmers with colourful floats swim across a small lake surrounded by trees.

I even did a (for me) epic bike-swim-bike across town. This has been on my bucket list of longer bike rides to achieve this summer. I managed a little over 36 km of cycling plus a 1500M swim.

A wet Diane, wearing a white swim cap and goggles, stands in the Ottawa river. You can see trees on the Quebec shoreline in the distance. Ignore the time showing in the photo! Strava’s GPS works well for tracking distance but is terrible for times. It actually took me almost an hour.

I’m still struggling. My physiotherapist has instructed me to have shorter but more frequent swims to build up strength without irritating the sore spots, she has also given me new exercises to strengthen and relax my back muscles. I hate strength exercises! The ones for mobility are ok, but boring.

Still, I’m going to make an effort to do them, because it’s clear that I am not going to get back my love of swimming if I don’t fix what is making it not fun. I have 6 km to complete on that cancer fundraiser challenge, and registration for my fall Master’s Swimming program is now open. Wish me luck!

Diane Harper lives and swims in Ottawa.

advice · goals · habits · motivation · self care

Go Team 2023: You can choose the bare minimum

Hey Team,

As we roll toward the end of August, we’re into/getting into one of the pressure points in the year.

You know what I mean, that feeling that you *should* (shudder. Yes, I still hate that word!) jump back into a regular schedule or that you *should* (shudder, again) be gearing up for fall, that it’s time to put the ‘laziness’ of summer behind you.

NOTE: In addition to my hatred for the word ‘should’, I am also not a fan of the word ‘lazy.’ Sure, sometimes we’re using it in a positive, indulgent, way, celebrating our lack of activity, but mostly it seems to be used as a way of chastising someone for resting or for not being actively busy at this exact moment. AND it’s used as a weapon against people with ADHD which makes me dislike it even more.

And, as always, I vote no on all of that.

Yes, most of us are back to (or getting back to) regular schedules and if that inspires you to go a bit harder with your exercise or with your work, that’s totally cool. Forge ahead.

But if you are like me and all of this messaging leaves you feeling tense and overwhelmed before you even get started then let me offer a counter-message:

It’s OK to do the bare minimum.

You don’t have to ‘go big’ with every single part of your life all the time.

And this is especially true if it feels like everything is gearing up all at once.

Sure, you may not have control over the pacing of some parts of your life right now – particularly if you follow an academic schedule – but you can give yourself a break on the parts that you do control.

You can ditch things that aren’t urgent.

You can scale back in some areas.

You can do the bare minimum in others.

And these things are just as true in your exercise/self-care/wellness plans as they are in every other part of your life.

Maybe you don’t need to jump back into your fall routine/plans just yet. You can reevaluate your plans and choose a graduated schedule for adding things back to your day-to-day.

You can choose a scaled-down version of whatever your past self planned for right now. If your original idea feels overwhelming, then doing something once or twice a week and building up to your plans for three to four times a week is probably more sustainable anyway.

And, of course, you can always choose a bare minimum version of your plans. Even a bare minimum gives you a placeholder, a sense of accomplishment, a stepping-stone for the path ahead. Lots of people need to make space in their life for their habit before they start building the habit itself.

If you are starting out or just getting back into things, the bare minimum might be a 1 minute walk in the living room or a one line journal or a meditation practice of 10 focused breaths.

If you have well-established fitness practices that you usually jump into but you can’t find the energy for at this pressure point right now, your bare minimum may look different than a beginner’s does. It’s up to you what constitutes the bare minimum but choose the smallest or shortest routine that you feel ‘counts’ as your practice.

Whether you are excited and enthused about jumping back in or whether you are feeling tense and overwhelmed by everything gearing back up again, I wish you ease and I hope that you can be kind to yourself about the process.

And, as always, I offer you a gold star (I think it will show up above!) for your efforts to find the way that works best for you with as little stress as possible.

Go Team Us!


An update on my year of buying (almost) nothing

Catherine and Martha have both written recently about their no-buy years, which sparked me to think about how I am doing.

It’s turning into a year of shedding things. I did buy two new pairs of shoes and splurged on a dress for my son’s wedding (on Saturday!). There have been a few new books and winter bike gear (no regrets at all about that because it got heavily used).

I don’t buy much but I’m also not good at getting rid of things. I was raised by a woman who grew up in rural Alberta during the Depression and war years. Her motto was to hold onto everything for seven years, then another seven just in case.

Compound that with dad’s career which meant we moved every 1-2 years until I was in high school (and a couple of times after that). We were constantly losing things we valued so we held on to the rest extra hard.

I’m back at the office now, but looking to retire within a year. I’ll never use some work outfits again because there won’t be time before my retirement. I will never wear other things again because work styles got a lot more casual thanks to Work From Home. I am coming to terms with the fact that I will never fit into some things again, no matter how much I love them, so it is time to let someone else love them.

Every few days I open a closet and randomly pull out an item or two. Sometimes I am able to put them directly into the bin I keep handy for charitable donations. Sometimes they sit at the end of the bed for days because I’m not quite ready to try them on or let them go. Very occasionally, they get a second chance and are worn at least once. If I still like them at the end of the day, they get put back in the closet after washing. Otherwise they go into the bin when the laundry is done.

This newfound decluttering hasn’t entirely reached the rest of the house yet but I am making progress. That dress and jacket for the wedding was made from fabric I had on hand. I am indulging in my love of canning and making jams by deliberately cooking up goodies to give away so I will never have to see those canning jars again. I spent a couple of days reorganizing and eliminating camping gear and was able to downsize the storage area considerably.

My personal style leans much more towards Victorian clutter than modern minimalism, and I have way too many hobbies (and books to support them) so I know this is going to be a long-term process. Maybe my goal for the next year should be to continue downsizing so I can accommodate the renovations I want to do. After all, it will be much easier to build a new bedroom closet or refinish hardwood floors if I don’t have much to move.

A large, sunny craft room with a red dressmaker’s dummy, neatly stacked bins and fabrics organized by colour in a glass-doomed cupboard. Oddly for a sewing room, there is no sewing machine and no place to cut out fabrics. Photo is from

Diane Harper is a public servant living in Ottawa.


App’ing My Way to Better Health and fitness

Recently fellow blogger Mina asked a question about meditation and sleep apps, and it got me thinking about all the ways I use apps to track various aspects of my health and fitness.

The most important is the health app on my phone, since it’s where I track my blood pressure and heart rate whenever I remember. Since I take blood pressure medication the doctor likes me to track it between visits.

I use the same app for a rough estimate of distance walked, though am often amused to see the inconsistencies between it, my watch, and what I have tracked on Strava. There is nothing quite like being in the middle of cycling somewhere and getting a command from your watch to “move”, or ending a long ride and being told by your phone that you haven’t been as active as usual. That’s because I use my watch primarily for telling time. It’s waterproof so I can wear it in the water, but I rarely remember to adjust the settings for walk vs bike vs run (it doesn’t do swim tracking).

Strava, on the other hand, I use quite a bit. It works well for cycling to influence city data collection on active transportation. I like it for tracking outdoor swim distances, even though it does a terrible job of recording speed accurately in the water. Sometimes I remember to turn it on when I am going for a longer walk, as it is more accurate for distance than the phone app tracking steps and guesstimating distance.

Somewhere I heard about the ParticipACTION app and started tracking everyday activities there. I like that I have a way to acknowledge time spent gardening or in dance class or doing yoga. It has lots of little videos and articles too, though I have never found anything as frisky as Sam did.

My new favourite is Let’s Bike, which allows me to track my cycling distances and convert them to dollars saved and greenhouse gases averted. I started using it in June as part of a Bike Month challenge. So far, I have biked over 490 km, saved more than $300 and averted 330 kg of greenhouse gases by cycling.

And finally, Nature Dose. It’s supposed to help me track whether I am getting enough time outside, to improve my mental health. The goal for someone living in an area like mine is 90 minutes per week. The first week I hit over 800 minutes. Week 2 was over 900 and so far this week I’m at almost 300. I don’t think I am their target audience.

Is it too many apps? Probably. But like Sesame Street’s Count von Count, I love to amuse myself by counting things, just for fun.

Sesame Street’s Count, a Muppet vampire in a black cape, holds an orange number 8.

Diane Harper is a public servant living in Ottawa.

advice · fitness · goals · motivation · self care

Go Team! June 2023: Do Your Own Thing

Hey Team,

If, like me, you are getting worn out by all the ‘Go, go, go!’ fitness and wellness messages that are all over social media right now*, I want to remind you that it is ok to do your own thing.

If you are keen on ramping up your exercise level right now, have at it!

If you are trying to slow things down, that’s good too!

If you are trying something new, that’s great!

If you are sticking with the tried and true, that’s marvellous!

No one else has your body, your brain, your schedule, your experiences, your emotions, your idea.

You can choose what works for you right now.

If you don’t know what might work, you can get some advice, try something different, or get some help but you only have to keep the parts that work for you.

Yes, you may hear a bit of nonsense from people who think they know best but feel free to let that noise fade into the background.

You can do your own thing, move your own way, find your own path, and be content.

As long as you are responding to the needs of your body, your brain, and your heart (literally and metaphorically) then you are doing the right thing.

And if you keep your efforts and your expectations aligned**, you’ll probably feel quite good while you do it.

It takes a bit of work to do your own thing, whatever that might be, so you know that you get a gold star for those efforts.

Here’s a very friendly gold star for you.

Have fun out there!

a drawing of a gold star with a happy expression surrounded by small blue dots and teeny black dots.
Image description: a drawing of a gold star with a happy expression surrounded by small blue dots and teeny black dots.

*Yes, I know they are always there but sometimes there seems to be even more of them than usual and right now is one of them.

** What do I mean by this? Well, I’m advising you to ensure that your expectations reflect the effort that feels right to you right now. So if this is a season for slow walks and meditation, please don’t demand that your body be ready for extreme sports by September. After a season of slow walks and meditation, you’ll probably feel more relaxed and introspective so perhaps your expectations could be that it will be easier to sit in meditation or that your slow walks will be longer or that your legs enjoy the feeling of walking or that you will be more mindful of the changes in nature. Not that you have to aim for ‘more’ of anything, I’m trying to convey a sense of noticeable change rather than trying to make you go bigger.