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…

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Muscley March half way point

Ow.

I just did my heavy workout, while still sore from Wednesday’s plié 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. :)

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.

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 Fazebøk, 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!)

Gratitude 


I was on my way to another doctor’s appointment last week regarding this strange tingling in my face, and feeling quite low. But it was a foggy morning, and driving out past the fields, I noticed the mist rising from the furrows. It was so breathtaking and magical, I had a moment of deep gratitude that brought tears to my eyes.

Because I’m going through this, I was able to see that sight.

Because my body is doing something weird and scary, instead of being parked in front of my computer screen at work, I was driving out in the world.

I hope we figure this out soon. But I am grateful that I was able to see the mist rise from the fields.