Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pacing Myself, Staying Still -- Keeping Fitness Real

"Embiggen" this photo to get a better view of the exuberant, joyful transformation of the formerly drab, industrial cement silos at Granville Island -- by Brazilian artists Os Gemeos as part of Vancouver Biennale  
 As much as I enjoy my running and love my yoga classes, it's been tough to fit in enough workouts over the last four to six weeks. The term's schedule had me teaching at 10, so I had to be running by 7 to fit in an hour and still catch the 9 ferry (yes, some might run after getting home at 6, but my circadian rhythm doesn't work that way -- ugh!). I'm pleased (proud even!) that I averaged two early-morning runs a week over most of the fall, but it's been a challenge.

My schedule hasn't meshed very well with yoga classes either, as my favourites (Rise'n'shine, Yin Yoga) run from 9:30-10:45. While I began the semester determined to manage two yoga classes a week, the afternoon session dropped out of my rotation by October, and this past month, with the extra demands of marking and of weekend trips to Vancouver, I've had several weeks without any class at all.

In fact, I would have to say that one of my big fitness achievements over the past few months has been developing an ability to let my discipline go, occasionally. While running or practising yoga is often a great way to relieve stress and to feel a satisfying sense of accomplishment amidst never-ending to-do lists, I'm beginning to recognize that sometimes my body (and mind, perhaps) just need to be still. And that's okay.

Developing confidence that I can, occasionally, maintain fitness with less output has not been easy. Quite the opposite. I feel distinctly un-easy when I feel 2, then 3, days pass without a workout. My preference, especially after having trained for the marathon earlier this year, is for 3 hour-long runs during the week, and a longer run on the weekend. To balance the running, I do best with two weekly stretching classes (yoga this past year, Pilates before that). But the reality of the academic year combined with our need/desire to visit family in Vancouver frequently means weeks without enough yoga to balance the running -- a recipe for injury; it also means that my exhaustion and my desperation for a quiet hour to myself, just resting or reading, gets pitted against my dogged allegiance to a training schedule.

 Over the last few weeks, though, I've very consciously chosen to hold myself still at certain times, at the expense of a workout. Clearly, I've established enough discipline that getting out for a run (even in the cold and the dark!) isn't a struggle. Now the discipline, I recognize, is in trusting that my body isn't a lying sluggard when it wants to stay home with a book. I have a deeply seated tendency to accuse myself of laziness, so accepting stillness as part of my overall fitness approach requires a vociferous internal advocate. One day last week, the only completely unscheduled day in three weeks, a day when I had the whole quiet house to myself, that internal advocate helped me decide against going to yoga class in town. Against my worries that I hadn't yoga'd for a week, that I was going to begin a downward spiral that would see me injuring myself, then becoming slothful, then eating too much of the wrong foods. . . . Well, let's just say that a saner self prevailed, and I gave myself the gift of quiet.

Of course, I balanced the loss of the long, luxurious yoga classes with stretches spread out in small packages during the day, and I never let two weeks go by without a longer class. Similarly, while I've gone as long as a week, back in late November, without running, I've otherwise made sure to manage one short (8 or 9-kilometre) run and one longer run each week, and I've got my long run up to 18.5-kilometres at least once a month.

The lovely result is that I've nurtured myself through the toughest part of the term, maintaining enough foundation that I'm ready to set an upward trajectory once again -- and to do it with joy. I've had some marvelously invigorating runs lately, such as this beauty on Monday morning around Vancouver's False Creek. And with this week's freer, work-from-home schedule, I'm able and keen to ramp things up now. Yesterday I eased into a lovely 75-minute yoga class, a fairly gentle Hatha (Rise n' Shine) and tomorrow I'll celebrate with another 75 minutes, this time a Yin class. Yummy! I've already had two great runs this week, so I'm on track for three short runs and a long Saturday run this week. Ready to set some new goals for the New Year.

 The goals just might include practising stillness more often. They might include more breaks, or experimenting with ways to maintain rather than always feeling I have to push ahead. They might include building in more fun to my run, more social time as part of my fitness.




















Or the goal might be to register gratitude with each and every run.
Weather and scenery such as I ran through on Monday make that easy!

So tell me: do you struggle to make yourself work out? Or do you, like me, sometimes struggle to take a break? Does discipline come easily to you? Too easily? -- do you have to tell that taskmaster to back off occasionally? Do these issues of discipline show up in different areas of your life than your fitness?  I must admit that I'm wondering how my impending retirement will affect, and be affected by, my discipline. . . . 

32 comments:

  1. The inner voice that accuses one of laziness...the struggle to gain mastery over a sluggard body...the permission to do absolutely nothing at all...the setting of goals that are actually insane and obviously ordained by my Inner Puritan (do this! stop that! don't eat that! stand up! hurry!!) Familiar indeed. Thank the Maker I am not alone. You seem to be holding your own well, Mater.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a horrid little voice, isn't it?! (although I suppose I should thank it for pushing me out the door some mornings. . . It needs a strong, stern talking-to once in a while though! Thanks for the encouragement. ;-)

      Delete
  2. I so admire you for keeping up this schedule. Just getting a fitness schedule, prioritising it and sticking with it is my New Year goal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's taken years to develop the habit and the discipline. Early on, it helped to commit to classes or to meet friends for a run. One step at a time, right? And now you've got one huge goal crossed off the life list! ;-)

      Delete
  3. I'm envious of even your "minimal" workout schedule. With work and caring for Sam mornings/evenings/weekends, the most I can manage is a 30 minute dog walk most days and some stretching before bed in the evenings. I've been wanting to take a yoga class forever, but find that most of the beginner classes are only offered at times that conflict with my work schedule. I also admire your ability to be mentally flexible, and give yourself permission for that stillness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do see my current fitness schedule as pretty luxurious in comparison to years of working around the kids' care and transportation routines. A 30-minute daily walk and some stretching is a pretty decent routine, really, and I admire the way you've sorted that plan in the midst of all your responsibilities. Whatever works . . .

      Delete
  4. When I am at home, I am mostly a social walker. I gave up the personal trainer this year and have not made it to the community centre gym very often. In the new year, I might try for one faster walk and one weight session a week. I'm leaving in March so I have 2 months to work on my fitness. I am far better with academic and literary goals than with fitness goals. Your running routes always look beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Again, whatever works -- social walking is a way of multi-tasking: you get fit AND you get to visit. Smart! Adding a bit of speedwork and then adding the weights would round out nicely -- as would building in some stretching. You'd probably love yoga for the serenity it can yield. . .

      Delete
  5. I admire your dedication to your excercise program, especially with a busy schedule. You've touched on one of my big fears about retiring - that I'll turn into a big blob sitting on the couch all day, none of my clothes will fit, I'll never go out in public again. I have plans to join a gym, take yoga classes, go for long walks etc. I just hope I can follow through or I'm in big trouble. Perhaps we could do a swap - I'll give you more 'just relax and read a book', and you can give me some 'get out and move that body right now'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Too funny -- you describe the same kind of exaggerated thinking that I occasionally surrender to. The dire downward spiral just one missed exercise session away . . . I do think retirement will require some planning, some commitment, and one of the elements I most intend to commit to is my fitness. It's what's going to do me the most good in the long run, so it's worth the investment, right?

      Delete
    2. Northmoon, I retired (more or less) almost 4 yrs ago and have never been in better shape (relative to my age). One of the keys is choosing something you like now, or if there is nothing, experiment, and don't get competitive about it, e.g., what you look like or can do vs. anyone else. My friend Connie lost over 150 lbs and improved all health markers, just by walking. (Am not suggesting you have weight to lose!)

      Delete
  6. I love Yoga but have not attended formal classes for many months...I find walking meets so many of my fitness needs. The fresh air and scenery are so soothing.
    I love it when I walk with a friend too as it is much more social than walking solo...when i am alone is is very meditative.
    Your dedication to fitness despite your busy schedule is to be applauded.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you do an online yoga program? My husband does, when he can't get to class for a few days, but I find it so much less inspiring. I love sharing my practice with others, especially since the teachers at our studio are so nurturing.
      It's true there's a huge difference between solo walking and social walking. I'm generally on my own, but perhaps that will change in retirement.

      Delete
  7. I admire your attitude. I've been sidelined by a foot injury that requires PT and now a torn rotator cuff that will require more PT. My therapists remind me that the stretches and exercises I do are a form of exercise, but I like the idea of a quiet body at times. I will get back to regular exercise when I am healed, and, for now, quietness is good.
    Lynn

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yikes! I dread the idea, even, of a torn rotator cuff. So painful and debilitating. It sounds as if you have a plan and some healing has started, and you are very, very wise to be quiet for now. Enough is enough, our bodies say, sometimes, and it's smart to listen!

      Delete
  8. It is a hard balance isn't it? Your schedule sounds pretty full to me. I aim to walk most days and to do one or two yoga classes a week but in fact the walking has fallen away in recent months as the demands of travelling to spend time with my father increase. I know I need to look after my own health more so will have to find a way. One issue for me which you don't mention is the impact of your partner's approach. I like to walk in company and my husband will often choose to work in the garden or chopping logs rather than walk. He likes the blend of activity and result! I tend to respond to that by not walking alone. Writing this down makes it very clear that this is my problem not his and I should get out there! And I do understand about the need for quiet. I have just been to a yoga class which was so focussed on calm rather than exercise that I feel all smoothed out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mine is a full schedule, and it's a hard balance giving myself the time off I sometimes want, at the expense of exercise, against knowing that the energy releases stress and gives me the energy I need to handle stress.
      As for the partner impact. Mine guided me into running, into cementing a fitness practice overall really (he's a big believer in Healthy Mind, Healthy Body), and we will occasionally run, often walk, together, but our schedules and circadian rhythms and tempos are so different -- and mine likes to work outside or paddle to town as much as he does to run -- that I've learned to think of those as extras and to structure my own fitness core separately. . . .Smoothed out, yes, that's a lovely description of the post-yoga state.

      Delete
  9. I love yoga, but I hardly ever make it to a class. I have a few good DVDs, and I use those regularly. Of course, it's not the same as a class.

    In terms of discipline/laziness, I get into modes. If I'm exercising regularly, I keep it up. If I fall out of the habit, then it's very hard to drag myself out of the house. I tried spinning a few months ago and became addicted, going 2-3x/week. But in the last few weeks, I've only managed once/week. Traveling for work, my son's 13 piano and trumpet performances in the last 3 weeks, and other demands have taken over.

    One thing that does help me is my aeropilates. The trampoline is a great workout, better than walking. And I love Pilates.

    Frances, you mentioned yin yoga. I tried a yin class some years ago, and hated it. Positions that felt great for 30 seconds were excruciating when held for 5 minutes. This class was at a gym, so maybe it wasn't what it should have been?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never heard of aeropilates -- sounds wonderful fun! I did do a twice-weekly Pilates class (mainly on the Reformer) for ten years and loved it.
      As for the yoga -- I think Duchesse says it very well below As well, my blogging friend Kristin has been writing a series on pain management, and I think this post on Yoga for Pain Management is useful for its description of Yin and of Iyengar:

      Delete
    2. Let me try that again. Blogger stripped out the URL: http://line4line.blogspot.ca/2014/10/yoga-for-pain-management.html#comment-form

      Delete
    3. Thank you so much for the link! I glanced through it quickly and will read it thoroughly later, after I have the Saturday errands out of the way. I found the comment about Iyengar yoga, "Iyengar restorative practice seeks to ameliorate pain by balancing neurotransmitters...," interesting. Neurotransmitter activity can be imaged by PET; I wonder whether anyone has looked at this. My interest in yin yoga is now very high, after learning from this post that it targets connective tissue. Connective tissue has recently been discovered by medical researchers. Here is an overview that I found fascinating: http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/35301/title/The-Science-of-Stretch/. I've dipped into the MELT method but haven't had the time to focus on it. I have used the body rolling balls (Yamuna body rolling) and found them quite effective in lengthening muscles, releasing tight areas, and improving alignment.

      Delete
    4. Aeropilates is a home Pilates machine with a trampoline attachment. The idea is that you bounce on the trampoline in a horizontal position, going back and forth on the Pilates carriage, with the ability to modify resistance. It's fun and sort of relaxing, but it really gets the heart rate up, in a way that treadmill walking, even at fairly high speed and very high incline angles, doesn't do for me. This and spinning are the only ways I've found to get good cardiovascular workouts (given that I don't run).

      Delete
    5. Oh, I have done that then, or something like. . . my instructor had us jumpboards we'd fit into the Reformers and then do a bounce back and forth on the carriage, doing different things with arms and legs -- it did really get the heart rate up and it was fun and low-impact. All kinds of good!

      Delete
    6. That's exactly it - I bought a home machine through QVC a few years ago and it's worked out well. I actually didn't like using the machines at the Pilates studio, preferring the group mat classes, but I like doing Pilates on this machine. I hardly ever have time for that, though, usually I just do the trampoline thing.

      Delete
  10. Isn't this wonderful? I am wondering if you have ever tried a home practice? I have found that even 20 min. of yoga makes a difference. Occasionally I also use a video. The ease of not having to run to a class, on time, makes a difference.
    @ Marie, IMO the location of yin classes would not be the factor, and yes, the poses change completely with those long holds. One of my teachers used to refuse to say "pain" or "discomfort"; she would use the word "sensation". I too hated them at first but if you gradually lengthen the holds instead of go for longest period of time (5 min is very long) the openings come.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do try to practice at home, and like you, even a 20-30 minute session deepens my breathing and releases the tightest areas. I keep promising myself to try an online class -- My Yoga has been highly recommended by many.
      Thanks for your advice to Marie. . . You have so much more experience with yoga than I do.

      Delete
  11. Thank you for the information, Duchesse. I'll give yin yoga another try, starting with shorter hold times. In the class I took, the teacher would come over and push me back down into the pose if I started to release it because of pain. I mentioned that the class was at the gym because I've found that yoga and Pilates classes in gyms are not nearly as good as classes in dedicated studios. The people who teach them in gyms don't seem to have real training.

    ReplyDelete
  12. @ Marie, Yikes, that is horrendous teaching! You are right in that gyms often approach yoga in a competitive and prescriptive manner and many teachers affiliated with gyms have minimal training. (Sorry to go OT, ma, but Marie's experience disturbs me.) If I were to go to a new city and look for a safe, supportive yoga studio I'd first see if there was an Iyengar-based place around. They are by no means the only style that is safer, but their long and extensive certification program supports it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marie, I'd echo Duchesse's "Yikes!" -- Thanks for coming back to help maintain the convo, K. This is so far from my experience with Yin that I'm horrified. My instructor(s) use props in an Iyengar-inspired fashion to adapt the yin poses to what's workable, and they teach us to pay attention to our own bodies. A friend of mine has just begun teaching Iyengar and I've been really impressed by the education that underlies her studio work.

      Delete
    2. Duchesse, I've been to several yoga studios over the years and found them all excellent. And I used to go to a Pilates studio, to a teacher who could make a "tiny" correction that would completely change my technique. But I've had terrible experiences with these classes in gyms. I once took a Pilates mat class at the gym while I was regularly taking mat classes at the studio, thinking that as I knew what I was doing, it wouldn't matter how good or bad the teacher was. I was wrong. The class was so awful that I couldn't get any benefit from it.

      Delete
  13. Mater,
    It was fun to catch up with you - scrolling through your last several posts - I was struck by the calm voice and the balance present through shopping, storms, and impending separations. I send kindly Christmas wishes for you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The same to you and yours. I'll have to check into your blog and see what you thought of Paris...

      Delete

I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...