Wrapping up March

There are still a few days left in March, but I’m only going to get one more real muscley workout in before the calendar turns over, as we’re travelling to see family for Easter. But I’m going to make sure to do my big machine workout tomorrow to make up for it.

I have figured out the weights I have been using though and that has made me feel more accomplished, actually. Thanks to the Internet, I discovered that each plate on the machine weighs 10lbs. But that the pulley system provides 0.5 resistance, so that actually means:

Actual weight = (number of plates x 10lbs) x 0.5 resistance

So happily, that means I’ve been pulling 70lbs with my lateral pulldowns (7 plates on two stacks = 14 plates) and 30lbs (6 plates on one stack) with my bow pulls, triceps extensions and bicep curls (though that one fails before I get a whole set). It doesn’t seem like much, but I’m evaluating at set 2 (of 3) whether to increase my weights next time and usually I am.

Considering how those feel, I’m pretty confident that the dumbbells I’ve been using are also in pounds (lbs). So I’m still struggling to complete my sets of hammer curls with 20lbs per hand, but frankly I’m also struggling with the machine bicep curls (which I’ve been doing with a bar connected to both stacks therefore using both arms on the same weight) at 30lbs. But I can easily complete full sets at 15lbs so that means I have to use 20lbs. So, it’s a work in progress.

We’ll be travelling on Friday, but I might be able to get in some yoga when we reach our destination. And I could always incorporate just body weight strength exercises into my post-driving recovery yoga. ;)

Next month, I will keep doing muscle building workouts, but my focus will be on doing something artistic every day. I have set up a backlog of sketches to do, and there are at least two poems fighting to be written (I am trying to work on one today before I lose it). I also have some short stories in my mind (and hopefully jotted down in my notebook for later). And, of course, the couple of books that I have started writing are vying for imagination space. Yesterday as I was walking (a prime writing time for me), an extra layer for my main book came to me (which I should also jot down in my “notes for changes to make when I’m editing later”). I’m trying not to go back and edit while I write because it just slows everything down. Also, I have paintings just waiting to be completed hanging around – one needs a Milky Way starry background; one needs tumbling ravens in a mating display; one needs more layers of blues, purples, greens and white; and another one needs… just more, it’s nowhere near done.

I’m also thinking of adapting one of the books into a graphic novel project instead. It had started as a graphic novel idea, then I just started writing it so that I could pursue the idea further, and now I’m wondering about going back. I have another graphic novel idea that’s in a very rudimentary stage of planning as well.

I don’t think it’s going to difficult to find something artistic to do every day in April…


Muscley March half way point


I just did my heavy workout, while still sore from Wednesday’s pliĆ© squats with a 45 (units?) dumbbell, followed by a lateral squat shuffle with two 15 (units?) dumbbells perched on my shoulders. I’m definitely good at isolating muscles, at least that’s what some of them are saying.

I realize that in one month, I won’t see the changes I’m aiming for but I am seeing the weights go up. So much so that I was miffed on Wednesday when a fellow gym user had the 20 (units?) dumbbells.

Today, instead of the lovely solitary experience I had last Friday, there was another person using the gym along with me. I felt self conscious but I shouldn’t have. He was being very respectful and I was able to use the weight machine for the entire time, as I had planned to do. I focused on all my standing exercises, and switched a couple so I could do them standing (standing chest fly), since he was using the bench. It was only when I wanted to do the lat pulldowns and seated rows that I actually had to interact with him and *gasp* ask if he was done with the bench because I needed to be seated for it. And he was done with the bench. So I rolled it over, clicked in the 7 plates (of 16… again, units?) on each hand and leaned back, pulling the bar to my chest.

I’m feeling those muscles now as I sit in the wing chair typing this on my phone, listening to the wind hum through the building cladding like a kazoo, and considering that I need to get up and pour my kettle into my big Friday mug for my next cup of tea.

I incorporated a few upper back strengtheners today, including my first exercise where I emulated pulling a bow. Only it was the one handed handle and it was attached to weights (first 4, then 5, then 6 plates). Strengthening for the archery I never do but enjoy both as a concept and an activity. :)

It’s mainly my upper body – arms, back, core, chest – that I’m interested in developing. As my massage therapist observed last weekend while we were trying to figure out the strange “sticking” happened in my right quadriceps – I have very muscular legs. I’m still going to work on them, but I already have good density there. She was also impressed by my doing squats with added weight while balancing on the Bosu ball. Thanks to physiotherapy for that one.

So Muscley March is going strong. I plan my week on Sunday, do my meal prep and try to make something that will provide good, protein-packed lunch leftovers. I definitely feel what folks talk about in terms of needing my sleep too. I’m trying to do yoga on my off days, to keep up the stretching I have been making gains in, but I’m being a bit less disciplined about it. I didn’t get any yoga done yesterday, for example. But I might do some tomorrow.

I’m also already starting to plan my Artistic April. I’m thinking of also doing a reading month, and a meditation month. But I will try to keep doing my muscle building through the year. :) And I’m pondering if I will try NaNoWriMo again this year. It’s naturally a month focused on writing every day…

So here’s the last song from my workout mix that was playing as I did my core twists. Enjoy!

And into March!

Wow, so that went by quickly. Of course, I had a ton of stuff going on, and it *is* the shortest month of the year.

But, a really interesting and eye opening result of 28(+) days without social media? I logged back onto it this weekend and I didn’t want to stay long. Even though I was scanning things to see what had happened in my absence, I wasn’t super compelled by what was on there. And I kind of wanted to actively avoid the stuff that bothered me. I consider that a win in this experiment. Two months down, two wins – more yoga in my life and less social media. I’m not going to reinstall FB on my phone for the time being, and see how it goes.

And Muscley March is starting slowly. It required a bit more planning than the previous two because I have to build my program myself. I haven’t gotten into the gym yet but I’m making decisions that will contribute to my fitness. So March 1st was all about taking the stairs, since I was still at my meeting away from home. (I’ll blog about that later.) I also was trying to eat better – I would like March to involve healthy eating as well.

In order to track some progress, I will take some measurements before I start in at the gym this week. I don’t have access to a scale but I did go and see my family doctor the second last week of February so I have that weight to go from. :P

I’m really hesitant to get back into my fitness app to track my food this month. I might just do meal planning to make sure what I make aligns with my plans for this month and then just see how it goes, without tracking every last morsel. I think that would be the less stressful/triggering way to go about it.

Let’s see what kind of gains I can make this month. :)

Halfway point

Hey, wow, it’s February 16th. Huh, that was both quick and slow.

Surprisingly, the “not being on social media” feels like more of a challenge than actually being disciplined and getting on my yoga mat every day. I’ve been pretty successful at keeping that up too. I’ve only missed two days this month so far.

It’s funny, though. I think I’ve been on Fazebuuk since 2007, maybe? I’d have to go on my profile to check and that is verboten this month. But it definitely feels like one of my tools. I realized I didn’t have someone’s up to date email address in my actual email but that I could probably get it from their FB profile, which I couldn’t go check. So, oh well. It wasn’t crucial. Then there are the birthdays I’m missing. No big deal, I guess. My sister referenced something my brother in law was doing this month that I had no idea about, so that was interesting. Then there were the moments when I wanted to check Twitter, or I thought I could look something up on Instagram… Like wow, nope.

What’s more concerning/revealing is what happens when I have a beat of downtime. A spare moment while cooking? Not able to be on FB! So what happens? I awkwardly handle my phone and then put it down, a little bit shocked at the mindless urge. The same upon getting home, or brushing my teeth before bed. And then I think, “Why do I need to do that??” I don’t. It’s why I chose this as this month’s theme. I might have to continue for 2 or 3 months to really break the habit. Breaking a habit is much harder than starting one.

So I’m definitely seeing the benefit of not being on my phone so much. I have time to sketch, read, chat with my husband. Real life things, go figure. I was sketching tonight during the downbeats in my cooking, so I was walking back and forth (not hard, they’re in the same room) between the stove and my desk.

I’m still trying to decide what March will be. There are a lot of experiments and habits that would fun or beneficial – how about Reading March, where I have to read X number of pages in a book every day? I was also talking about Muscley March, which would be a more realistic “hulk up” experiment, geared more towards building my lean muscle mass. I’m already toying with the idea of Artistic April, where I’ll need to do some artistic work every day, whether sketching, painting, sculpting or writing. I’m still deciding if practicing the piano would count in that one.

So this thematic year seems to be rolling along nicely. I’m also discussing doing a “Clean Eating” month. Not that we eat terribly, but to really go full on in stopping eating sugars etc. Maybe even cutting out alcohol. I was suggesting doing that during a really good local produce month, ie the summer. :/ Maybe August?

Anywho, that’s my mid-month update. I’ll be travelling soon so I’ll hopefully have a chance to blog about it – domestic travel but to a lovely city I enjoy so it should be nice.

Success! On to February…

Yay! Celebrating my successful completion of the 30 days of yoga with a feel good dinner of salad with a side of salmon salad (with dill pickles in it) and a kombucha.

I was able to maintain my discipline pretty well throughout the month. There really wasn’t any day that I wanted to skip it, though there were some days when it got going that I wanted to stop. But I didn’t and now I have 30 days of daily yoga (and a couple of days of doing yoga twice) in my new year. It feels good. I’m going to try to keep it up.

So, next month’s theme is Social Media Blackout February. According to Wikipedia:

Social media are computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. The variety of stand-alone and built-in social media services currently available introduces challenges of definition; however, there are some common features:

1 Social media are interactive Web 2.0 Internet-based applications.

2 User-generated content, such as text posts or comments, digital photos or videos, and data generated through all online interactions, is the lifeblood of social media.

3 Users create service-specific profiles for the website or app that are designed and maintained by the social media organization.

4 Social media facilitate the development of online social networks by connecting a user’s profile with those of other individuals or groups.”

“Some of the most popular social media websites are Baidu Tieba, Facebook (and its associated Facebook Messenger), Gab, Google+, MySpace, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Viber, VK, WeChat, Weibo, WhatsApp, Wikia, Snapchat and YouTube.”

So, that means no Facebook, which is one of my major time sinks. Also no Twitter, which I’m not on that often any more (mainly because I got exhausted from all the snarky political posts). YouTube will be interesting, because if I want to keep doing daily Yoga with Adriene, I’ll have to use YouTube. Also, my husband and I watch educational things on YouTube like PBS Space Time and the Crash Course series.

One could argue that it depends on the intention behind it. I often find that I turn to my social media feeds automatically as some sort of mild entertainment when I’m eating or sitting on the couch with my husband while he watches videos related to his interests on YouTube. I’m also using it to see what my friends and family are up to, to give birthday wishes (because who doesn’t like seeing their notification numbers blow up on their birthday?), and to follow my science and deep thoughts feeds (and the memes feeds). It’s become… habitual, which is what made it a prime target for my theme-of-the-month goal. I estimate that I could reclaim a good 2 hours of prime brain time per day. What will I do with all that extra time? Probably complain less about having no time. ;)

But what do I really want out of it? To break a habit. To not dilute my attention day to day. To reclaim that time for something more meaningful and productive for myself, whether that’s more sketching, reading, writing, painting or spending more time connecting with my loved ones.

As an introvert, using social media for social ends does save me a lot of energy, but it also takes energy and it keeps a constant stream of “stuff” going into my brain. I’d like this to kind of be a detox for my brain, energy, and spirit.

So I’ll be putting a note up on Facebook tonight and deleting it off of my phone (by far the main place I do any of my social mediaing anymore).


Also in my last post, I mentioned making decisions about going back to full time. I kind of sat with the idea that I’d be going back full time for a few days, and then I switched my mindset to the idea that I’d be sticking with 80%. I was relieved by the idea that I’d be keeping my day to myself. So I said to my boss that I wanted to stick with it and she was supportive. I like that day too much. Let’s see what I can do with it. :)

Happy realization

Last week, when I was talking to my therapist, she asked me how my face was feeling. And I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a bad prickling day.

I’m sure all I would have to do is look in my agenda and I would have written it down, and it would probably be a lot more recently than I think. But it’s really nice, after two years, to be experiencing more normal days than not.

What gets the credit? Probably my ergonomic set up at work, and my constant mindfulness to sit up into the correct position. I find my home set up not very comfortable now, and it kind of has slowed down my enthusiasm for writing. We’re working on putting together a more ergonomic desk set up for me at home.

Maybe it’s also due to my now working part time. I’m treating my day per week of not-working as sacrosanct as I can. It is meant for me, my things, my rest and quiet alone time. I get disappointed if, in a moment of enthusiasm/optimism/trying to get things done, I use my day for appointments or running errands or doing active housework (running the Roomba doesn’t really count, but washing the bathroom does… laundry is somewhere in between…). I limit my screen time and don’t play video games during the day. I try to do some physical activity – often yoga, a walk, or a run. I feed myself fresh fruits and good tea. I get up in the morning and don’t sleep all day, although I will lie down and have a nap, if I feel like it. It’s about feeding myself and supporting myself. I really look forward to those days.

But now I’m thinking of bumping back up to full time… After that last paragraph, maybe I’m convincing myself that wouldn’t be a good idea. I know my colleague who has worked her entire career at part time would say wisely, “It’s just not worth it. Don’t go back if this is working for you.”

But it is definitely fantastic to suddenly turn around and realize that the pins and needles have almost entirely subsided. Perhaps I should give it a bit longer and not run headlong back into a wall…


I’m also trying out an approach to this year, to have a theme for each month. This month, January, I am following Yoga with Adriene on Youtube for her 30 days of yoga offering, which she’s calling True. So far, I’ve successfully done the daily yoga and I’m certainly feeling it. I’m also proud of my commitment to it and making it a priority. It has been good – I like her style and her approach, and I do feel better once my practice is done. I think that something is shifting a bit for me, which is also my motivation/intention for this practice.

I’m considering what my theme for next month will be. My husband suggested Hulk Up February. ;) I’ll keep you posted.

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.