fitness · motivation

“Just tell me what to do!”

Sometimes (actually most times) I am a big fan of doing what I want, not what I’m told to do. This extends to workouts, where I typically advocate choice, various degrees of challenge-options built in to the workout (like, if you want to challenge yourself, do this; if you want to take it easier, do this, etc.), and going at my own pace. Way back at the beginning of the blog I posted about doing less.

But other days I want to be told what to do and to feel as if I have to. That’s why I like coaches. This occurred to me during a workout with Alex last week (see Cate’s post about Alex), where they said we could do it or not do, depending how I felt. I actually didn’t feel like doing the thing they were telling us to do, but I also didn’t feel like being given the option of not doing it. That day, I was of the mind that if I didn’t want to do it I wouldn’t have signed up for the class.

As an advocate of doing less and setting the bar low that reaction of mine surprised me. But what it revealed to me is this: some days I want to push myself and without someone else calling the shots I would NOT push myself. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Indeed, it’s probably one of the reasons many of us do classes or hire trainers or coaches—without them we would do less when we in fact want to do more. But we need that extra little push.

I’m not here advocating doing something we really don’t want to do. I’m saying that even the things we (or perhaps I should stick to “I”) do want to do in some sense can be tough to stick with in the moment when it feels hard. Writing is like this for me sometimes (though mostly I do not have a coach for that. But in the past I have worked one-on-one and in small groups with the amazing The Publication Coach, Daphne Gray-Grant). Working out can be like that too.

Undoubtedly it’s not news that we might sometimes need others to motivate us. This can be a coach, trainer or instructor. Or it can be friends or a group or what have you. Working out alone is sometimes great. I love my solo runs for example. But working out with others often for me leads to more effort. (And it’s always more fun.) And on the days where I go in wanting to put in that effort, I prefer not to be given the option of not doing it.

That’s not to say I want to be shamed into doing it (military style) or unreasonably pressured beyond my ability (like Cate described of a yoga class she attended recently where the instructor offered no variations). It’s only to say that sometimes I like having someone else telling me what to do even if it isn’t super fun. It feels good to meet the challenge.

Alex’s classes are great for that. And they motivate even though we are given lots of choices and reassured that we can even tap out if that’s what we need. They motivate because of their extremely high energy. It’s hard not to want to push a little harder when the instructor is super jazzed about what they’ve programmed that day.

Do you prefer to do what you want to do or to be told what to do or does it depend on the day?


2019: Bring it on

Image description: head shot of Tracy, blue running cap covered with a paisley Buff, smiling, wearing earbuds, road and trees and overcast sky in background.

It’s a little bit late for a happy new year post but: Happy New Year. I am not one for resolutions, but I do absolutely love the exhilarating feeling of a fresh page. And that’s what the first week of a new year always feels like to me.

Even more than the first week after a birthday, there is a special sense of hope and optimism that I only experience once a year at the very beginning. So I’m kind of in that state of receptivity at the moment, excited to discover what the year may bring.

I ushered in the new year on a peaceful note, on my mat in a dimly lit yin yoga class that started at 11 p.m. and ended shortly after midnight when the thunderous sounds of “happy new year” fire works filtered into the silence of the studio to mark the end of class, the end of 2018, and the beginning of our new blank page. My good friend, Tara, was on the mat beside me, and we tilted our gazes towards each other and mouthed the words “happy new year.” Other friends–Jan, Jenn, and Kyle–had chosen a similarly quiet transition into 2019. It felt perfect.

By the time Tara, Jan and I ventured out into the night, the rain, which had been coming down with fury when we got to the studio just after ten, had stalled to a very light drizzle. It was an unseasonably mild evening and we walked back to Tara’s feeling light and happy, passing a few revelers on the way.

The next morning I lay in my bed deliberating whether to turn back over and go to sleep again, or to get out the door for a training run. Thinking on my fresh page, I reasoned that it would be better to start it with follow-through than with skipping. I’m a big believer in establishing good habits, and even though technically there is nothing dramatically different about January 1st, symbolically it sets a tone.

I reviewed my scheduled workout from the plan Linda sent me (I’m working with her again for my Around the Bay 30K training), checked the weather (a temperate 1 degree C), and got myself organized for an 8K run with hill repeats.

About ten steps into my run I knew for absolute certain that I’d made the right choice. I felt light, strong, and relaxed. I told myself I could shorten the distance if I wanted, but the 8K rolled out with ease. Even the hill repeats, which are never simple and which I’ve not done in ages, felt good. With just over a kilometre to go, my friend Pete, whom I’ve never run with, caught up to me at the tail end of his run. We ran alongside each other for about a kilometre and caught up about our respective new year’s eves. It felt like a nice bonus to have some unexpected, easy companionship for that last bit.

It was, all in all, the perfect start to my new year. I’m doing the 219 workouts in 2019 thing this year, focusing on running, yoga, and weight training. So far, I ran on the 1st, went to yoga on the 2nd, and have a weight training session later today. I’m feeling good about Around the Bay.

Life is not all workouts, of course. But if the workouts are any indication of how 2019 is going to feel, then “bring it on,” I say, because so far I’ve felt strong, relaxed, energized, and self-nurturing.

May 2019 be a year of amazing discovery and adventure for all of us!

How are you feeling about the fresh page that has presented itself this week?

fitness · motivation

New strategy: Using activity and workouts as a reward

Image description: colour cartoon style drawing of a gold star with a red, blue, and green striped trail behind it and three white four-pointed stars in the background.
Image description: colour cartoon style drawing of a gold star with a red, blue, and green striped trail behind it and three white four-pointed stars in the background.

I’ve long found it interesting that working out, something that makes me feel so good and that for so many of us falls squarely into the category of “leisure,” is so difficult to motivate ourselves to do sometimes. We complain about having no time. We gripe about the weather. We are (often legitimately) too tired. And yet on the other side of it, many of the activities we do are enjoyable additions to our lives.  Luxuries even.

I’m a big believer in strategizing ways of developing new attitudes or tricks to get me to do things that I in some larger sense want to do but for some bewildering reason also avoid or resist doing. Working out falls into that camp for me from time to time, and I’ve incorporated a number of “life hacks” to get me moving. I’ve blogged about quite a few of them: working out with friends, working out with a trainer, working with a coach.

But my latest is a really simple head game. Now, I know it’s hard to play games with yourself because you kind of know what you’re up to. But it’s working. The game: use workouts as rewards for doing other things that I’m avoiding. Imagine: the workout as a carrot not a stick.

As I mentioned the other day in my post about friends and mutual motivation, we all have things we don’t want to do. For most academics who teach, grading is that thing. And ’tis the season! I have found that I can push through a stack of papers if I know that, at the end of it, I get to go for a run or a training session or a yoga class.

We all have those things that we avoid or procrastinate over. And when we compare working out to one of those things, suddenly a 45 minute run or 60 minutes in the weight room or sweating it out in the hot yoga studio seem like the pleasures they are.

If you struggle with motivation to get your activities into your life, try treating them as rewards for completing the tasks that you tend to avoid.

Do you treat activity as a reward or a punishment? If you’re new to treating it as a reward, give it a try and let me know how it goes! So treat yourself to a workout! You deserve it.


Geeky workouts

My love of sci-fi rarely makes it on to this blog. (Okay, except maybe for the image here in this post, Fear of fat more dangerous than actual fat.)

But as geeky fandom makes it way into the mainstream there are some funny sci fi/fitness interactions.

Here’s some examples:

  1. There’s the Firefly fan group at Spark people discussing how the Serenity crew stayed so fit when they spent so much time of the space ship, here.
  2. Geek Fitness describes his Working Out Like An Avenger fitness program.
  3. Then there’s the Dr. Who Workout, to do while watching marathon episodes of the show. See The “Doctor Who” Workout Is Harder Than It Sounds.
  4. Geek Into Shape has The Walking Dead WOD. Enjoy!
  5. The Ultimate Geek Workout has this suggested cool down:

    “For a cardio cool-down, awkwardly dance anytime a Daft Punk song comes on.

    To tighten your abs, repeatedly sit up in bed at night because some great Doctor Who fan fiction came to you in a dream. Also, aggressively laugh at every reference on The Big Bang Theory.

    Live long and perspire.”

  6. Some people have a specific character as their fitness inspiration. See The Slave Leia Body Challenge: Even geeks need to get into shape. We blogged about it here, Do you want to look like Slave Leia?.
  7. There’s also the Light Saber workout. “The workouts are a mix of martial arts, fencing and play acting — complete with costumes and lightsabers.” Run by the New York Jedi, of course. It’s not just in New York though. The video below is from a California Star Wars workout class for Jedis in training.

Have I missed any?

Me, I like to keep my sci fi watching and exercise separate. I like physical activity best in the great outdoors (rowing, bike riding, cross country skiing).

But when I’m watching Red Dwarf/Stargate/Firefly/Dr Who/Torchwood/Eureka etc, I do like to foam roll tired muscles.

smartest man meme