The sound of no app tracking

Does untracked exercise actually exist?

In recent months, in my attempt to improve my health and well-being, I’ve been using various tracking apps on my phone. There is my calorie app, and my two running apps, and my walking app (which is a variation on a theme). I’ve been keeping up with my walks, aiming for every day but not clinging stubbornly to that idea, especially if the weather is inclement. But I do get a little satisfaction when I get my weekly tally of kilometres travelled, minutes active and calories burned.

So when my phone started to lose battery charge more quickly than it should when doing these mundane things, there was a moment of panic.

Well, perhaps not panic… but maybe an unhealthy attachment?

In this era of health optimization through data gathering and crunching, the loss of that data stream feels like an enforced blindness. But that’s not a healthy way to get healthy. That dances far too close to disordered thinking – the hunger to push those numbers higher dovetails nicely with the hunger to push calorie numbers lower; to challenge the body to do more exertion with less intake – to cut out all that is unnecessary and only ingest what is perfectly nutritious and adequately caloric.

And how will you do that math if you can’t see the 5 minutes of stair climbing calorie burn compared to that tall holiday spice flat white? (an acceptable caloric splurge, given the protein and calcium content)

Maybe it’s just me, in my dual quest – part trying to get myself back into a shape that I used to have, part trying to be healthy so that I can’t blame that for my continuing facial tingling. But the pattern emerging through continued observation of when the tingling occurs places the majority of the blame on posture, with a not insignificant percentage being associated with stress response.

You know what’s not helping my stress? Trying to maintain absolute control over my exercise and food.

The problem is that I just don’t “feel like” doing a gym workout. I use my running app so I can listen and “participate” in a story as I run. And afterwards, I’m happy and proud of my accomplishment. But the lethargy is strong in this one. At any given moment, I’d prefer to curl up with a book, my knitting, a tea, or some computing device. I really don’t want to do exercise for exercise’s sake. How boring. Which is why I have to schedule it – if it’s an “appointment” or a “meeting” then I have to do it. It’s best if I don’t actually think about it at all, and just suddenly find myself in exercise clothes and poised to do a boring, repetitious task which will make me feel pain and will make me sweat, but in the long run is “what is good for me”.

I’d compare it to having to eat your broccoli, but I actually like and occasionally crave a good pile of 2-minute-steamed broccoli, with a grind of salt over top and a tiny splash of lemon or lime juice. Mmmm, maybe I’ll add that to my dinner plans tonight…

I’m tired of blaming a lack of discipline when I feel like most other things in my life are achieved through discipline. I’ve metaphorically dragged myself by the scruff of the neck to and from work some days. I have discipline.

Maybe I am addicted to watching those numbers change. Or maybe that’s what I’ve been using for motivation. Either way, I’m looking at replacing my phone so that it can be fully functional again. But in the meantime, I’m observing what not tracking my calories and exercise is doing.

I don’t bury myself face-first in my calorie tracking app as soon as I’m done a meal, guessing volumes and masses. I’m not gaming how long a walk needs to be for me to feel good about eating the food my body is telling me it needs. I’m not multitasking setting up my activity tracking app as I’m heading out somewhere with friends or loved ones.

But I still think about it. I still look at my meal and think that I could have made a lighter calorie choice. I feel guilt for not scheduling a run on a perfectly sunny day off. I feel guilt for not doing yoga five times a week.

Or maybe I could be less hard on myself? I read somewhere that an analysis of the various tracking apps showed that they can be completely inaccurate – the “calorie in versus calorie out” being, at best, incorrect, and at worst, having no correlation to reality. Much like the “calorie burn” on a treadmill or elliptical machine – they are a rough guide and should not be relied on as truth. Maybe when I get my new phone, I’ll be more selective about the tracking I do with it.

Otherwise, I’m enjoying getting back into running, although I am trying to be careful not to drive myself back into my injured state. I do feel so much better after a yoga practice. It’s lovely to go for a walk and explore what’s happening in my environment day to day, as the seasons change. And there’s nothing wrong with reading a book in a sunbeam sometimes, while drinking a nice cup of tea. I just need to remember that.

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Weird things while I walk

Don’t you just hate it when you drop your beat… er, beet.

Beet, mmm, drop(ped)! (You’ll have to wait until minute 3:09 for the payoff though) ;)

I promise a more complete post soon, maybe an update, maybe a ramble. Probably a bit of both. :) I fully intended to post this little ditty more than a month ago, so I’m way overdue.

Happy last day of August!

Another small adjustment

I’ve been back to work for about six months now, and it has mostly been going alright. I still am experiencing the prickling, but it hasn’t reached the levels I was feeling before. My desk is ergonomically set up, and if I drift back into bad habits, like hunching forward to read on my screen or type, it definitely spikes the feeling. But now I can sit back comfortably and getting my spine aligned properly seems to make the prickling calm down.

My therapist’s suggestion to leave my desk every noon hour has been really important for managing it too. Luckily, with the nice weather, I have been able to go for walks. I’m hoping to increase that to going for a 30 minute jog on some days. I’ve also been getting off the bus one stop early and walking about 20 minutes home as often as I can. Some nights it isn’t realistic just because of timing (or weather) but I’ve been enjoying the wind down time, especially this spring. The route I take is lined with lilacs, apple trees and honeysuckle bushes. If anything can encourage you to breathe deeply, it’s those delicious scents. The walks also help my prickling calm down at the end of the day.

I am trying to follow my neurologist’s advice to focus on my mental and physical health right now. I’m counting my walking as physical activity (as I was finding my gym workouts were making me dizzy and nauseated, and feeling on the brink of fainting), and I’m focusing on eating proper, healthy food – good veggies, quality (pescatarian-approved) protein, fruits, water, good grains. I’m not specifically dropping any food group, but I am prioritizing plate space for colourful veggies rather than rice, potatoes or bread.

And I’m trying to approach my prickling feeling in a yogic way, almost as if I was meditating. Instead of focusing so much on the feeling, I’m trying to just notice it, take steps to calm it (as mentioned above), and then move on. I don’t want to drag it along with me anymore. I want to step past it, acknowledged, but giving it no power. This is, of course, a work in progress, because some days I just can’t do that. I’m not that much in control.

The final aspect, of which today is the first day, is that I’ve cut my work time down to 80%. Now I will work full days Monday through Thursday, and I will have Friday through Sunday off. My pay is impacted, of course, and my pension and all of that stuff, but with my previous two Leaves with Income Averaging, I’m used to my pay being lower by 20%. It’s just that I’m spreading the time off over the whole year instead of concentrating it into two months. My manager and I will keep up an open dialogue, because if it turns out that I’m trying to do 110% of the things in 80% of the time, that is counter-productive and I’ll go back to full time and try a different tactic.

So, what am I doing on my first non-work Friday?

I got up and did my morning yoga practice, ate my normal breakfast gruel (1 tbsp each of chia seeds, hemp seeds, ground flax seeds, and raisins, 1/3 cup of oatmeal, and a shake of pumpkin pie spice, soaked overnight in 1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, and topped with a sliced banana and 1/3 cup of wild blueberries). I lay down for a bit on the couch, scrolling through Fazeb√łk, to let my breakfast settle, and then I went on a 6km (slow) run – my first outdoor run since last September. It wasn’t pretty and my fitness app isn’t even recognizing my speed as a “run” (according to it, I did a “brisk walk”… :P). I’ve got my novel open behind this browser window, because I’ve had a couple of ideas for it, and this is kind of the entire reason I’m taking this time. I feel like most nights, after fighting the prickling and trying to actually do good work, I don’t have the energy to stand at my easel for a few hours or sit at my computer for a few (more!) hours to work on my stuff. So, if I’m not doing my personal hobbies, how can I be de-stressing?

A couple of wise friends (plus my husband) reminded me yesterday not to overprogram myself, and to allow whatever takes up my time to take it. And not to stress out if I don’t actually add a page or touch a paintbrush. It will happen. I will try to keep that in mind.

So that’s my little status update, course change, micromovement – call it what you may. I’m looking forward to seeing how this changes my health and well-being. :)

Here’s the song I was listening to when I started this post. :) Hopefully I’ll be posting again more regularly (but I’m not going to make that a goal!)

A little bit of light…

That’s the way I was describing it in my head on my way home from work today. It’s like a little bit of light has made it past the blockage and my spirit is soaking it up like the trees’ tiny leaves are soaking up the sun right now.

It’s not to say that I’ve been stumbling around in the dark. I’ve just been looking down for so long recently, I hadn’t realized that my field of vision had constricted to grey asphalt and keeping on going.

I had a good weekend, mostly free of the ongoing pins and needles feeling in my face. I spent time with my family, laughing and talking. And then, this morning, I put on a new dress that I’d bought a few weeks ago and it was so comfy. I was happy.

I was also letting other people’s positive words sink in a little further, reinforced by my family reminding me of other kind words.

Not everything going on right now is going the way I hoped. I’m still waiting on payroll to get to my files. I’m still waiting for a decision from an internal department on teaching yoga to my colleagues. Today is definitely one of the first days I’ve felt normal (i.e., positive and happy and energetic) in ages. But my life is still good.

Sorry for the long silence. I’ve been trudging along with my head down for a while and I didn’t really have much to say. Hopefully this feeling will continue for a bit.


Here’s a picture I took over Easter, of a bumblebee visiting my mother-in-law’s redbud tree. :) It’s good to have light again.

Back

I did my gradual return to work over a month and a half and now am back full time.

And today I am at home, sick with a virus that someone brought into the office. *sigh* I don’t even know if I have the sick time to cover this, but I can’t spread this further.

I’m still experiencing the prickling but my desk is being set up ergonomically, so hopefully that helps. I’m trying to follow the recommendations of all my health care providers and move, refocus my eyes somewhere more distant than my screen, set healthy boundaries (for myself and others), walk away from my desk every noon hour.

But I always have that internal critic, sniping at me and making me feel like I have to justify myself, and that drawing boundaries is “letting myself off easy”. But I can physically feel that the boundaries are necessary. When I turn off my computer at night to go home, it’s because I have to. I need to do something other than my work. Sometimes I barely have the energy to make a decision about what that will be before my alarm goes off, signaling the beginning of my medicated time, and the rapid approach of the end of my day.

I don’t know where I picked up this sickness – perhaps I could blame society or some aspect of a work culture. But it is a sickness. I remember feeling so righteous in my overtime. Moments that disappeared into the void of a “good job” given with a quarter of that person’s attention, because they were so busy being busy. Or perhaps not even a thank you. Which led me to believe that this was what was expected of me in that job. Sacrificing moments of my life to ensure that something was flawless.

But nothing is flawless. And to chase down every obscure flaw provides diminishing returns. At some point, you’re just driving yourself into the brick wall for your own ego’s sake. A man on a flying horse isn’t going to notice, as my grandmother said. Good enough.

I have a couple of personal projects that I want to do. They are at the top of my “things to do when not at work” list, but they take effort. And effort is something I haven’t felt like I have a whole store of. I was hoping the medical leave would have helped to refill that, but maybe I’ve been running on fumes for so long, I didn’t realize that my tank was that empty.

So right now I’m working on a work project that I was asked to do just before I had to take my medical leave. And I’m trying to keep track of my symptoms daily to try to describe the patterns.

And I’m trying to live healthily. I’m incorporating more exercise, and I’m eating well, I think. I’m enjoying some deep breathing exercises and keeping my mind mostly clear. I’m playing piano and playing some video games and reading. I am watching shows and movies with my husband. I occasionally even socialize.

Some days I’m okay. Some days I feel like a shadow of who I was. I don’t know if people notice. I don’t like the side effects of the medications that are supposed to be helping me. I’ve been on most of them for over a year now and I’m still experiencing the same symptoms. 

But the world shows its beauty and I am grateful to witness it. I try to keep my head up and ears open. Slowly, I am determined that I will be back.

Okay, owning it

Hey y’all. It’s been a while.

I’m sitting on our new couch, in our new place, listening to disc 1 of 4 of *one* of my Ella Fitzgerald collections, thinking about the calls and paperwork I have to do today but I’ve been promising myself all week that I was going to make a blog post. It’s Friday, I’d best get on that.

So. Sometimes I like to think that I’m fairly intelligent and body-aware and all that jazz (see what I did there – ha). Then sometimes my body has to scream at me, especially when my stubborn, head-down, plough-through attitude is over-talking the gentle “Dear, stop.”

After two one week vacations this summer where I finished them off with a night where I kept myself from sleeping due to the anxiety of returning to work and all that would hold. Given my current medical mystery, the things I was anticipating were great – such as the feeling that I’m wearing a mask of pins (to clarify, pointy side down towards my skin), that feeling creeping into my arms and legs on a really bad day. Not to mention the dizziness, feeling like I have blisters on the underside of my eyelids (I don’t as far as I can tell), and a brain that constantly was feeling like I was trying to run an electrical current through porridge (usually how I feel post migraine).

It took me hitting the verge of tears at my desk, and a friend who also was telling me about her struggles and shrugging off crying at her desk as a part of a normal workday until someone convinced her that wasn’t right, to have me make the call.

I can’t do everyday work right now and try to fix whatever is wrong with me.

And I’m sure a lot of people around me sighed in relief, glad I finally came to the conclusion they’d known for months. Those people include my husband, who bears the brunt of it and only gets frustrated at my stubbornness occasionally… All the way to my RMT, who has felt like we were in an episode of Groundhog Day since I began seeing her in January, I am sure.

So I went to see my GP, and she wrote me a note of medical leave until “at least December 1st”. Thanks to a supportive manager and a workplace advisor, I’ve been navigating the system since.

I had another neurologist appointment a couple of weeks ago, and she has ordered an MRI. We’re playing with my meds again. I’m in another experiment right now – I’ve added the new medication two weeks ago, and tonight I’m supposed to increase the original medication again on top of that. But my neurologist had mad respect for the treatment my RMT has been doing (and that I’ve been undergoing it – TMJ massage is not for the faint of heart, or the easy gag reflex). And the good news was that the difference of one week on the new med (which I don’t think can be a forever medication) is a drastic reduction in the tension (therefore pain) in my jaw and face from two weekends ago to last weekend. So much so that we bumped my next (weekly) RMT appointment back another week to see how I’m doing.

It didn’t help that we moved house over Thanksgiving weekend, shortly after I officially went on leave. It didn’t help that I didn’t have any more sick leave because I’ve had to be away so much (and my previous job had me so stressed that I basically was sick every month with a new cold or flu – stress does depress your immune system). I’m on leave without pay right now, trying to get a bit of coverage. That’s the paperwork that has to happen today.

So when I didn’t perceive any prickling yesterday, it was awesome. I have some today – right now pins are prickling my cheekbones, the outer corners of my eyes and a bit on my top lip. It’s been pretty light this week, though I’ve still been having headaches.

One of the pieces of advice I got from my therapist, who has been trying to help me work through all of this, was to go for walks so that I actually leave my house. I’m not super great at just making them walks and not multi-tasking. But I have been able to take some photos of the beautiful, colourful autumn we have been having.


I’ve also been able to get together with a friend who is off on maternity leave, and have lunches or tea and we both are less isolated.

I still think about work. I wonder how people are, how my stuff is going. But I’m trying to do things that will make me healthy again and I’m trying to be mindful so that I can accurately report to my doctor what I’ve been experiencing.

So that’s where I’m at. I feel like I’m not really interesting right now but I’m doing what I can to try to heal myself. I thought for a moment about doing NaNoWriMo but that gentle voice said “No, dear. Not this year.” And I listened.

I’m going to go and make those calls and do paperwork now, and maybe play some piano for a bit. Then, I’ll go for a walk to drop off some dry cleaning and try to take another few photos of something interesting.

Happy Friday, everyone. :)

Another round of gratitude 

I’ve been quiet lately, I know. Partially, summertime doing stuff quiet. Partially, doing the experiment on myself and nothing to report. Really. I’m up to the highest dose of the overnight muscle relaxants. This coming week will be the real data point. But I had prickling this week, and my jaw was still tight. (And I woke up with muscle spasms/charleyhorses two nights in the second week of the second highest dose.)

I took this week off, as one does. In hopes that just relaxing and doing fun “me” things would help. See above. But I did have more good days than prickly this week.

I also spent some time going through my keepsakes and old photos. I was scanning them in, as we’re going through another bit of a cull, to try to reduce the stuff in the office/studio. 

In my pile o’ stuff, I found many old cards that I’d saved. I habitually saved cards from my childhood, not for any particular reason except it seemed wrong to throw away sentiments like those. I was able to scan these sentiments in as well, and was able to be reminded of my grandmother’s love from her cards and letters to me.

I also found more recent cards – birthday cards given to me by my husband during our first year together (super mushy, so cute), the many cards of sympathy I received from friends and colleagues when my father passed away, and birthday cards from friends and colleagues.

In particular, my friend K’s birthday card to me really struck me yesterday and I read and re-read it, marvelling at the sentiment and then my mind turned the wrong way.

Instead of internalizing the beautiful sentiment and feeling the warm glow of “hearing” how someone holds me in high regard, I wondered whether I had ever told her in what high regard I hold her? How I think she is one of the most wonderful human beings I have ever had the pleasure of knowing? How I think she’s beautiful and sweet and intelligent and thoughtful? And funny?

And then I wondered about all the other cards lying in my stack – had I ever adequately let those people know how they are wonderful and important and that they are one of those important puzzle pieces in this big jigsaw puzzle of my life? That they mean something?

Have I ever told you that you matter to me? Does that mean anything to you?

After that unfortunately not-as-brief-as-it-should-have-been foray into self-flagellation, I emerged and realized that I should take those really amazing words and see that *that* *is* how K sees me. And I am so grateful to see myself through the eyes someone so wonderful in my own estimation.

And I should also thank my husband for his insight as well – that I shouldn’t worry that I’m not as good of a person as I think I should be because that’s kind of an indication that I’m not a jerk – because I worry about hurting people’s feelings, and disappointing them, and not being there for them. And basically, you know, what I had been worrying about before – that I had been taking all these wonderful people for granted and not letting them know that they are wonderful.

So, thank you. I’m so grateful for you. For K, who I haven’t seen in a while as she was off raising a very lucky baby to have her as a mom. For N, who checks on me when we cross paths in the building. For L, who I’ve known for many years and we’ve been there for each other. And for my sister, who sent me so many awesome packages and letters and I hope I sent her enough back but I fear I didn’t.

There are so many of you who have shared stories, wisdom, laughter, recipes, concern, pints, stones, emails, brief messages, hugs, support, tears, walks, advice, swear words… Who have picked up whatever baton I couldn’t keep carrying and who helped me cross that finish line, whether that was phone calls or emails of bad news I didn’t have the strength to do, or files I was too overwhelmed to be able to give time to, or just the reality check I needed to sit down and stop because I was hurting myself.

So, thank you. I am so grateful for all of you. I’m writing this with tears of gratitude streaming down my face because I heard it, I felt it and I remember.

You are all so wonderful. Thank you. I hope you all know that it means a lot to me.