fitness · holiday fitness · meditation · mindfulness · motivation · self care · stretching

Making Space Day 1: Let’s Start With Our Shoulders

Since my post yesterday was inviting you to make some space for yourself this month, I’ve decided to help you out with that by offering a short movement video and short meditation video each afternoon in December.

I figure that if you don’t have to search for and choose a video, it might make it easier to fit it into your day. And if you subscribe to the blog, it will even show up in your email!

You don’t *have* to do these every day, of course, (I’m bossy but I’m not actually the boss of you) but I’ll bet it will feel pretty good if you do.

Please adjust to your own schedule and abilities, of course, I don’t want anyone to get hurt!

First up, since I seem to hoard my tension in my shoulders and I assume other people do, too, here’s Doctor Jo with some shoulder stretches.

This video from the Ask Doctor Jo YouTube channel shows Doctor Jo doing shoulder stretches while wearing a blue shirt with a superhero dog on it.

And as for meditation, let’s give this one a whirl…ahem, let’s give this one a sit.

Please remember that you don’t have to automatically be able to sit quietly with your breath, that’s a skill that comes with practice. And that practice involves trying to meditate, noticing that your attention has wandered, and then returning to the focus on your breath. Returning over and over is PART of the initial process, it’s not a failure or a mistake.

A video from the My Life YouTube channel that offers a visual of gentle water with a guided meditation.

Feel free to check in to let me know that you did one of these videos, or any other movement or mindfulness practice, and I’ll respond with a gold star for your efforts.

And whether you do these videos or not, please be kind to yourself today. 🌟

ADHD · fitness · stretching · yoga

Christine is putting her best foot..upward?

I’ve been working on relieving the pain around my heel in one way or another since May.

I’ve been doing all manner of stretches for my calves and the rest of my legs and I have been rolling a ball under my foot to try to get the muscles there to loosen up.

It’s all been helping a bit and I can definitely feel the progress but it has been slow, slow, slow.

A GIF of tortoise moving slowly across a tile floor.
Has my progress been faster than this? Probably. But this matches my perception of my speed. Image description: A GIF of a tortoise moving VERY slowly across a tile floor. Greenery and the legs of a patio table can be seen in the background.

And it doesn’t help that my brain keeps telling me that the slow progress is because I am not working hard enough at my stretches. That may or may not be true (it’s hard to tell) but my brain doesn’t have to be a jerk about it.

In my first post about this, I mentioned getting on my own nerves by having to learn the same lesson over and over again and I am finding myself at that same annoying spot of relearning something I already know.

So, I have been been pretty consistent with my stretches and with rolling the ball under my foot. I was trusting in the process even as I was watching the clock. (Gold star for me – )

But in my frustration with my slow progress, I forgot that there are many different exercises that will accomplish the same thing. So, since my progress was slow, it might be time to think about the problem in a different way.*

Since the ball rolling didn’t seem to be loosening my feet very much and I couldn’t stand to press any harder, maybe I needed to stretch my feet just as much as I needed to stretch my calves.

So, I did a quick search and found this marvelous video from Yoga with Cassandra. Not only are the stretches good but the video is short – a definite bonus in my books.

A YouTube video from Yoga with Cassandra. The still image shows a slender white woman with her hair in a braid, she is doing a version of downward dog while perched on a grey yoga mat on a wooden floor.

I’ve done the stretches in this video every day for a week now and the difference in my heels is astounding.

I think that the ball rolling was even less effective (for me) than I had realized and these stretches mean that I am finally addressing the whole issue instead of just a part of it.

I am finally seeing measurable progress and I am so relieved.

PS – I’m really tempted to make a list of ‘Lessons I’ve Already Learned’ so I can give them a quick read every so often to see if any of them apply to any current circumstances.

*It’s funny that divergent thinking is one of the creative strengths of the ADHD brain…but I forgot to use that tool for this issue!

fitness · injury · stretching

Heel Pain Update: Clock Watching

Remember when I mentioned that I was having trouble with my calves that was causing pain in my heels?

Or, to put it another way, remember when I was learning the same lesson all over again?

Well, I have (mostly) learned my lesson (for now) about changing anything hat make me dread exercising and I have been working on a variety of stretches to help my calves and, hence, my heels.

But, it turns out that the best (i.e. most helpful) thing is to hold a calf stretch for two minutes on each side a couple of times a day.

GIF description: two polar bears are in a small dip in the snow. One starts to climb out and pauses to stretch its back legs.
This is not exactly the stretch I do. Mine is a sort of lunge as this is an upward bear. Also, I just have two legs and I am not quite as furry. GIF description: two polar bears are in a small dip in the snow. One starts to climb out and pauses to stretch its back legs.

I can feel the difference it makes AND it is way better than trying to remember to do multiple exercises multiple times every day.

BUT

(You knew this was coming, didn’t you?)

I hate it.

And it hurts.

A lot.

But, I don’t hate it so much that I won’t do it and it doesn’t hurt so much that I can’t do it but it is so unpleasant that I can’t even distract myself with reading or watching videos.

I just end up watching the timer click along and wishing I could time travel to a not-too-distant future where my stretches were already done.

Meanwhile, though, I’m proud of myself for sticking with it. After all, it has all the hallmarks of something that my brain would shuffle out of my daily schedule – it’s dull, it’s uncomfortable, and the results are definitely not instant.

Yet, I have been pretty consistent. I haven’t missed any days and most days I have done the stretch twice. (Yes, I have also done other stretches too but I haven’t been quite as consistent with those.)

Image description: a GIF of a gold star being drawn in neon. White text reads ‘You get a gold star!’​
I’m giving myself a gold star for my efforts on this. 😉 You can share this one – your efforts count, too, of course. Image description: a GIF of the outline of a gold star being drawn in neon. White text reads ‘And you get a gold star!’

I’m not sure what has made me able to stick with this particular hated exercises but I guess the fact that I can feel a difference – even if it is not instant – keeps me returning to the stretch.

Now, if I could only get to the point where things have improved enough to reduce the pain while I stretch.

At least that way I could concentrate to read or watch a favourite show while doing the exercise.

I’m really bored with watching the timer show – I already know the ending and the plot just drags along.

advice · fitness · flexibility · injury · stretching

Christine Learns The Same Lesson…Again.

I was at my chiropractor last week about a problem I’m having with my heels.

I already had a working theory that my sore heels were a result of overly tight calves (I was half right) so I had been doing all kinds of different calf stretches to try and find some relief.

One of the most useful sets of stretches I found was in this short yoga video.

Her exercises helped my calves…and my heels, at least temporarily, but there was one problem.

I really hate that ‘front fold with your fingers tucked under your toes’ stretch.

I mean, I HATE IT.

I know, I know! Why don’t I tell you how I really feel.

Let’s see if this helps clarify things:

Image description: A GIF of Sophia Petrillo, an elderly character from the show Golden Girls, raises ​and lowers her hand as she vehemently says ‘I hate that!’
Image description: A GIF of Sophia Petrillo, an elderly character from the show Golden Girls, raises and lowers her hand as she vehemently says ‘I hate that!’

I forced myself to do it though because the rest of the video was so helpful (I was wary of the bouncing but I didn’t hate it) but I found myself dreading it and putting it off, and even the promised relief for my heels didn’t help.

So, anyway, I’m mentioning all of this to Ken, my chiropractor (and my cousin!) and he, clever soul that he is, sensibly said ‘You won’t stick with a stretch you hate, do something else instead.’

Glerg.

Of course!

How many times do I have to learn this lesson?

How often will I have to be reminded that the best exercise is the one I’ll do?

Why can’t I remember that hating an exercise can be a good reason not to do it?

Now, I get that sometimes there are exercises that must be done in order to heal specific things and how much you hate it may not be a factor in that case.

But, for me, it keeps happening for exercises that can easily be switched out for something else.

I need to start letting ‘I hate it!’ be a signal to find an equivalent exercises that I like instead of a signal to dig in my heels and (try to) force myself to keep doing something that feels awful.

(Besides, digging in my heels is definitely not going to help right now. 😉 )

Do you have exercise lessons that you have to learn again and again?

Please tell me that I’m not the only one!

fitness · flexibility · habits · self care · stretching

Backing it up: Christine treats the symptoms and the cause

My plan for February was to do a little work on my upper back mobility every day.

Alas, that plan did not take into account the fact that February messes with me every year.

A small elderly woman sitting in a living room chair is shrugging with one  arm and holding a cup and saucer in her other hand.
Picture it, February 2021… (Image description: A GIF from the TV show ‘Golden Girls’ in which Sophia Petrillo, a small elderly woman in a stripped dress who is sitting in a living room chair, makes a dismissive shrugging gesture with one hand while holding a cup and saucer in her other hand.)

(I can’t really explain how it messes with me. It’s some sort of mid-winter slump combined with an odd sense of shortened time. Anyway, I have made note in my calendar to take it into account next year!)

But I didn’t get upset with myself about being less diligent than I had intended. I just did my stretches, movements, and yoga whenever I had the capacity and wherewithal to do so.

It turns out, though, that my lack of capacity for daily work on my upper back actually helped me to identify one of the underlying causes of my tight muscles.

Since I was aware that I wasn’t doing the stretches and everything that I intended to do, I really started paying attention to when and how my upper back felt the worst.

And observing that ‘when and how’ led me to realize that not only was my chair in my home office too low and at a bad angle for my back but my monitor was at the wrong height.

An adult man dances in an oversized Adirondack  chair.
My chair wasn’t quite this off-kilter but once I started paying attention it felt like it. (Image description: A man dances while seated in a comically over-sized red Adirondack chair. It’s a sunny day, there is greenery nearby and a few buildings are in the background.)

So I elevated my monitor and I switched out my chair for one that was less fun but better for my back.

Now, I’m not saying that this fixed the problem entirely. My upper back still needs me to do the stretching and yoga. I still need to pay attention to how I’m holding myself and how long I am sitting in one position.

But addressing that underlying cause of at least part of the problem has made an incredible difference.

It’s not just that my upper back feels more mobile and less tight, I feel better overall. I have had fewer of the specific type of headache that generates from a tight upper back and I feel more relaxed.

So even though I didn’t follow my exact plan I still got where I needed to go.

And I’m calling that a victory.

A person in a yellow,tubular costume waves their arms as they walk through booths at an event.
It’s a very wiggly victory, apparently! Image description: a person in a yellow tubular costume with a happy expression on it waves the long skinny arms of their costume while they walk between booths at an event.
fitness

Christine H and Her Upper Back Make Friends (She Hopes!)

Like (almost) everyone and their (downward) dog, I was following Yoga with Adriene through her Breath practice in January.

Over and over again, I noticed that my upper back, my neck and my shoulders were annoyed with me. I’m pretty sure that the problem is starting behind my shoulder blades and extending from there.

I know why they are annoyed and I don’t blame them.

I keep hunching my shoulders up by my ears.

GIF description: Actor Kristen Bell, a white woman with blonde hair, who is wearing a blue plaid shirt, shrugs and grimaces.
Okay, so Kristen Bell (as Eleanor Shellstrop) is just shrugging and grimacing here. I always forget to do the ‘let your shoulders drop back down’ part. GIF description: Actor Kristen Bell, a white woman with blonde hair, who is wearing a blue plaid shirt, shrugs and grimaces.

If I am really fighting to concentrate, I’ve discovered that I actually push against my desk with one hand or with my elbows while I work.

I spend a lot of time looking down at my phone, of course.

If I get anxious, I tense all of those muscles. And if those muscles are especially tense, I can feel my anxiety levels rising.

I do try to notice when things get especially bad and I do take the time to stretch my upper body fairly regularly but Adriene’s inclusion of Humble Warrior (Baddha Virabhadrasana) in this series of practices has made me realize that I haven’t been returning my upper back muscles to a relaxed state. I’ve been returning them to ‘somewhat less tense.’

So, I have decided to, in Adriene’s words, give my upper back muscles some attention this month.

I started on Monday with just some basic movements and stretches borrowed from my Taekwondo warm-ups and then I did some upper back yoga before bed. As the month goes along, I’ll add in some more specific physio type work and see what feels best.

I’m hoping that by the end of February, my upper back will stop being so frustrated with me.

Perhaps, we may even become friends.

GIF description: Two dogs, one with dark fur and one with light fur, are sitting in a field. The dark-furred dog suddenly wraps its front paws around the other dog in a hug. ​
I don’t know if my back and I will ever get along this well but, fingers crossed! GIF description: Two dogs, one with dark fur and one with light fur, are sitting in a field. The dark-furred dog suddenly wraps its front paws around the other dog in a hug.

Are any of your muscles annoyed with you on the regular?

How do you appease them?

Guest Post

Still learning! – On breathing and focusing (Guest post)

cdI have blogged before on what I have learned from my personal trainers. Once the term was over I was left to myself and felt somewhat like an abandoned puppy. True enough, my trainers have left me with a program and a wealth of information but it is not the same training on my own. Continuing to workout the way I did with them is a challenge: stretch enough, focus, push myself. If no one is there to remind me, it is tempting to go straight to workout without the stretching and as tempting to just hop in the shower once done (I talked about what I have learned about stretching here).

One thing I have learned from my trainers has been to focus: pay attention to my body when I set it in motion and work it out. The first time I went to the gym for a workout on my own, I had my iPod with me. There was no reason not to listen to music since I was by myself. Before training with my personal trainers, I had always used my iPod. But something interesting happened as I was returning to this old habit: a few minutes into my weight lifting, I noticed that I was doing it all wrong: mindlessly moving the weights around and not focusing on the strength and movement and what my body was feeling. I was also losing count and being distracted by the music. I simply unplugged! I have not used my iPod since then for my workout sessions, be they cardio or weight lifting. I find that I can concentrate more on what I am doing and feel I am getting better results this way.

Another very important thing I have learned in the last weeks of my training program was proper breathing while running. One of my trainers noticed that I was not breathing properly while we were running around the track. The running was always done with intervals: two thirds of the track jogging, 1 third sprinting. The sprints would put me out of breath completely and it was very hard to do multiple laps. I thought my stress-induced asthma was the sole culprit. Thanks to my trainer’s observation I found out that I was in the habit of breathing as fast as my running pace. This worked kind of ok while jogging but the sprints were a killer: try hyperventilating while running! He advised me to take longer, deeper breaths. I had to learn to dissociate the breathing pace with the running pace. Every running sessions after that I would just focus on my breathing, making sure to get the air way down into my belly and then completely out. I am also learning to breathe in through my nose and exhale through the mouth. I am getting better at it, every time I go out and run. It is making my jogging/running much easier, even if I still need my puffer to get me going (this asthma won’t cure itself).

I continue to apply what I have learned with my trainers, especially to be focused and to breathe properly. It feels great and I feel more powerful!