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.

Guest Post · health

Emma Donoghue guest posts about ‘the miracle’ that’s her treadmill desk

Photo of Emma Donoghue

by Emma Donoghue

This post isn’t addressed to the already-fit.  It’s a message of hope for total couch potatoes who have perhaps despaired of ever talking themselves into an exercise routine.

Towards the end of 2012, when I turned 43, I read a couple of articles about the dangers of sitting for long periods of the day, especially for women.  Totting up how many hours a day I’ve been sitting, ever since… well, all my life, really, as schoolgirl, student, and writer…  I came up with the horrifying figure of fifteen hours sitting, eight hours lying down, at best an hour on my feet (if you include cooking).  I realized that despite being seven years younger than my partner, I might well die first.  I always tell my kids that I’ll do my best to live to be a hundred, but that was a big lie: I wasn’t doing anything of the sort.

Around the same time, a writer friend mentioned other writers she knew who had taken to walking on a treadmill while writing. I hooted with laughter.

Then a couple of weeks later, I purchased a Lifespan DT7 treadmill desk, sight unseen.  I could have tried it out in a local showroom but decided not to, in case I wouldn’t like it at first; I was hoping the enormous price would compel me to commit myself to treadmilling.

Two days of slight dizziness; a week or two of aching thighs.  One friend predicted that I would fall off, because I’m famously clumsy, but it hasn’t happened yet.  I could tell from the start that this was going to work for me as nothing else has, because – engrossed in writing – I just don’t notice the hours going by. At long last, I’ve managed to trick myself into movement.

I started at two miles per hour (American machine, so imperial units) and now I’m up to 2.7.  I don’t have a rule for how many hours a day I stay on, but I’d say it’s rarely below two, often about four, and one glorious day hit six.  It really helps that I attach my laptop to a big monitor, so I’m typing at hip level but reading at face level.

The one mistake I made was not to realize that I would need to stretch sometimes.  I thought of walking as such a basic human activity that it couldn’t hurt me… and then strained my back, four months in, after an afternoon of collating a manuscript.  (The physio said it was a classic injury of someone who takes up exercise for the first time.)  But once I was healed I got back on the treadmill and now, a year in, I can’t imagine working without it. Tiny static shocks when I touch my laptop are all I can complain of.

I’ve read that treadmilling diminishes concentration slightly, and I’d agree; sometimes if I’m about to draft a brand-new scene, I decide to save it for when I’m sitting down with my coffee.  But on the other hand, the walking wards off afternoon sleepiness.  I can write, do online research and email, talk on the phone if it’s with someone who doesn’t mind my sounding slightly breathless… When I’m doing something hands-free like watching video, I lift some light weights while walking.  Handwriting or video editing would be difficult, but luckily I rarely need to do either.  Reading books (rather than onscreen) I save for sitting-down time.

I weigh the same as a year ago (perhaps because all that exercise makes me want lunch at eleven), but I feel much livelier.  I don’t think my writing’s got better but it’s no worse either.  Basically, it’s a miracle.

Emma Donoghue is a writer of drama, literary history and fiction (Slammerkin, The Sealed Letter, the international bestseller Room and – coming in April – Frog Music) who lives in London Ontario.