Tag Archive: exercise

Forget “All or Nothing”

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Darren and I joke about my tendency to approach life with “all the arrows.” The reference comes from the trigger finger that I have with the TV remote. When I’m fast-forwarding through commercials on our DVR, I’m inclined to ramp up to five arrows, top speed. Darren usually opts for three arrows, so he doesn’t overshoot and have to backtrack. I, on the other hand, lean more toward maximum intensity than a happy medium.

In the same way, I want to do things to the best of my ability. If I write, I want to absorb myself in writing for hours. If I exercise, I want to commit to a regular workout schedule, and I want to sweat.

The problem is that having a child — especially one who has never slept much — leaves me so little time to myself that an “all or nothing” approach to my hobbies usually translates to “nothing.” Since Evan was born, and especially since he became an active toddler, I’ve rarely had time to exercise, read, write, and play music to the level I want to. I used to do Zumba twice a week and read books before bed. Now I’m lucky to catch a Zumba class once per month, and I’m so tired at the end of the day that I usually just watch Jimmy Fallon’s monologue and scroll through Facebook on my phone before I crash. At times, I’ve felt like pieces of me have gone missing, that I’ve lost touch with the things that make me who I am.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that if I want to do the things I love, I’ll have to do them in small doses and incorporate them into life with a small child. Lately Evan has taken a liking to music, so in the evenings I’ll play the guitar and sing, and he’ll beat on a little drum his grandma gave him (using a plastic maraca and a salad server as drumsticks, naturally). I may be singing the ABC song and “If You’re Happy and You Know it” over and over, but it feels good just to be playing music again.

I take the stairs at work because it’s usually the only exercise I get aside from lugging around Evan’s 26-pound frame (and also because I find elevators to be super awkward). Over the weekend, I dusted off Jillian Michaels’ The 30-Day Shred DVD and managed to do the 20-minute workout twice. That’s more exercise than I’ve done in a very long time, and something that I can make happen at least once a week. Another option is an app called Seven that works all of your major muscle groups in seven minutes. I don’t use it very often because seven minutes doesn’t feel like enough, but seven minutes is better than zero minutes.

I’ve come to understand that during this phase of my life, I have to steal moments for myself, and that means letting go of my “all the arrows” M.O. It may take me months to finish reading a book, and years to finish writing one, but I’m learning to accept that doing a little of the things I love is better than not doing them at all.

Photo: Phil Long

My Ten Principles of Eating Well

Food, glorious food!
Hot sausage and mustard!
While we’re in the mood —
Cold jelly and custard!

- “Oliver”

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about food. OK, so that’s not news. I think about food a lot. What I’ve specifically been thinking about is a common way that Americans see their food, and it makes me sad.

As we’ve gotten wealthier and consequently fatter over time, Americans have come to see food as the enemy. We’re always discovering the evils that food contains, whether it’s fat, sugar, carbs, or calories (counting calories never goes out of style). Women in particular tend to talk about dieting, or how they “shouldn’t be eating” the chocolate cake that they’re about to dig into. It really takes the pleasure out of eating when you or those around you associate it with shame and lack of self-control.

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Reschooling Tool #1: Victories & Gratitudes

For all of my adult life, I have kept daily to-do lists that are much longer than I can ever possibly complete. Even though I realize this, I still get upset with myself for not finishing every task. “You didn’t change phone plans, send out resumes, cook dinner, or catch up on emails. What DID you do with your Saturday?”

In order to appreciate what I DID do, I began to write down a list of victories — little and big, as many as I could think of — before bed each day. I found that celebrating even boring accomplishments like “Scheduled dentist appointment” helped me focus on what I had been able to check off the list, rather than what still remained to be done. Recognizing myself for my efforts made me happier and more energized to tackle the next day’s To-Do’s.

Eventually I expanded my “Victories” list to “Victories & Gratitudes,” to include little things that I was grateful for that day: “Amazing chocolate cake,” “Rock Band on PlayStation,” or “Naan ‘n’ Curry” (at least half of the gratitudes are usually food-related). On even my roughest days, I felt pleased about the happy moments I’d been lucky enough to have.

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