Category Archives: health’n’fitness

I heart cooking

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Long bank holiday weekend here in the UK, and from all the many things on my to-do/scanner list, my time has been happily spent on the two mentioned in my previous post: writing reviews (and, of course, reading/watching things to review!), and cooking.

I’m feeling kinda pleased with the reviews of late – not the quality (although they’re alright!), but that I’m keeping up with them. I request books for reviewing from NetGalley, and I do like the picture painted last week: publisher looks at blog, sees many/recent reviews, and I get some free books 🙂

Today, though, has been all about the cooking. Yeah, I have a blog for that, but today wasn’t new recipes, just comfort cooking. A big pan of sweet potato and chilli soup as a start to healthying-up my eating (too much chocolate!), then deciding to change my dinner plans to veggie shepherd’s pie (base previously cooked and frozen, topped with some fresh sweet potato).

Once I start chopping vegetables (which I enjoy, it’s therapeutic!) it often feels easier to keep going. So while one lot is boiling away, I prepped and diced a butternut squash, currently roasting in the oven along with my shepherd’s pie! (I love it when these things dovetail!). I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do with it, but I love roast butternut. Some with pasta tomorrow, probably, then I could fancy a lasagne – if I can be bothered with the rest of the work! 🙂

healthy living circle

The expert advice!

This is all part of my current thinking around a healthier lifestyle. It’s not about losing weight, although I am a little fed up of permanently being a little overweight, tbh. I’ve been reminded of late how precious health is, and un-chuffed with how much effort I generally put into keeping mine. Time for that to change!

So yeah, figure out some of this exercise malarky, and healthier foods. Just as well I enjoy prepping veg, methinks!

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Why I’m quitting yoga

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That’s rather a grand title for the reality of: I went to one yoga class, skipped the next one, and have now reversed my decision to go back – at least in the near future. And yet, it feels like quitting, like giving up. And I’m justifying that to myself here – while at the same time thinking it’s the best idea.

I used to do a log of yogalates-type classes, but it’s been several years. I used to like it, though, so thought it was time to use that gym membership for once (!) and give the new class a go. And I did like it. But it killed me – Sunday lunchtime, came home exhausted and did nothing useful for the rest of the day, and was very achy until Thursday. Eeep! It’ll get easier, I told myself. And probably it would have. Eventually.

So why quit? In short: I think it was too much too soon. I *know* I’m unfit, and I desperately want to do something about that – I’m not getting any younger, etc. But while there is a certain romance about throwing yourself into something difficult and slowly improving (I can’t help but remember Bill in IT, who turned from chubby to fit by running until he threw up, over and over. Urm…!) there is something more appealing for me in finding the lowest effort viable improvement – and *sticking to it* consistently.

For instance: one of the things I didn’t really consider going to that first class was how much upper body strength work might be involved. Mine sucks – I always struggled with those bits of previous classes. This one was VERY focused on ubs work – and yet, I coped. Why? Vaguely intermittently, but for months now, I’ve been doing sort-of push ups at home. 6-10 depending on how I was feeling, probably taking a minute tops. Apparently, that worked well for me – planks and downward dogs were manageable, for an *hour*. Wow. Did I struggle with those push ups? Not really!

The key there of course is consistently – but that’s another ‘reason’. I did and would put off the huge effort of a difficult class on my precious Sunday. Gretchen Rubin nailed it with the phrase “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while” – so I need/want to find that level that I can do daily, and build.

And finally, the mental state. Yesterday evening I was mentally arranging today, all around that class. I’d have to eat early, do this, sort that, and write off anything overly productive afterwards, and… urgh. It did not make me happy. And then it dawned on me: that’s not how I want my life to be. I’m a grown up these days, not some kid who has to go to school when I don’t want, etc. Heck, I took a big pay cut to find a job I didn’t dislike going to – why on earth would I force myself to go do something on the weekend that made me feel all stressy – especially when yoga and stress are meant to have the opposite relationship!

So – not giving up on fitness, just need to take smaller, ‘turtle’ steps. Repeatedly.

2/52 Changes – Exercise

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Chapter 2 in the book is ‘Unprocrastinate’, but I’m putting that off 😉

So, after some debate – which I imagine will be a weekly thing now, knowing me! – I realised the benefit of following the book’s suggestions more or less. For one, it saves me doing all the ‘glamorous’ stuff up front and then hitting a lower motivational period with only less attractive options left to me. Secondly, as I read ahead I realise that there is a flow to a lot of the suggestions, as well as a good mix of various types of activity. So far I’m adding little 5-10 minute habits to my daily schedule, but there is a danger of overwhelm if that keeps going!

I was equally tempted to skip chapter three, as Walking implies outdoors which really is NOT appealing in Scotland’s freezing January weather! Instead I decided to make my week 2 habit-experiment the more generic Exercise.

It’s kind of a traditional New Year’s Resolution, and one that I – among many others! – rather fail at, every year. But it’s also kind of a core habit to develop: there are SO many benefits ranging from helping with sleep (chapter 26), mindfulness (week 13), to quite probably extending your life – I mean, c’mon: of COURSE this should be more a part of my daily life!!

Minion hearts zumbaAnd again, the approach – that I’ve read a million times but only now is sinking in at a ‘real’ level, it seems! – of small and frequent is totally helping. Instead of dragging myself to the gym – too easy to excuse myself out of – I’m dragging myself to a simple 5-minute (just tiny amount of time!) zumba warm up in my living room. Doing it as soon as I’m in from work (trigger!) gets it over with, helps me warm up after the walk from the bus and before the heating’s fully kicked in, and means I can shove my dinner to cook while I’m in the shower and have a lovely evening in my jammies relaxing 🙂

The week didn’t work as well as week 1, as I was out late three night. Two included large amounts of walking over my norm, so exercise still done, but I did slack on the meditation – only 4/7 on that this week.

So, week 3 I want to continue with both of these things – in fact, these two are ones I want as core, all the time things for me now! For my new habit – and believe me, the new thing every week lack of boredom is hitting my scanner buttons in all the right ways! – I’m rebelling again and going for chapter 26’s Get More Sleep, or at least the setting up of a sleep routine.

And a final thought on this week… this morning I ran out of pages in my journal book, and looked back at what I was doing this time last year: Happiness Project, 101 Changes, and Joy Diet all got mentioned. What happened to any of them?! All were great, but clearly not as good a fit for me as this one is so far. Instead of already forgotten resolutions and feeling like January has disappeared in a haze, I have a feeling that I’ve already started to accomplish something this year – and I’m still excited about continuing the experiment! 🙂

Turtle steps

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I was flicking through some of the bookmarks I hadn’t really gotten around to reading last year, and stumbled back
across 52 Changes (and yes, I’m aware I’m a few years out of date…!). This is an eBook from the guy who does Zen Habits. It lists a suggested habit to form (or in a few cases, break) each week for the year – and I’m really tempted to give it a follow! In fact, I am: at least starting (I’m well aware of the evidence this blog presents as to how some of these experiments pan out…!).

Anyway, to quote from the book:

The changes in this book aren’t a way to improve your life. Let me stress that: this isn’t a self-improvement book. It’s an experimentation book. It’s a change lab. It’s a way to explore yourself, to figure out what works best for you, to get out of your comfort zone, to learn how to change, and to be OK with change. And that’s the most important thing: learning how to be OK with change.

It’s about living life in a way that will give you the greatest fulfillment, will help you help the world, and to live more fully and in the present.

Which sounds worth a go, right?! I’m loving the intro, in it’s laid-back tone and lack of pretension. It’s all ‘give it a go, see what works for you’ rather than ‘must do x, y then z’. The advice is sound, too: one at a time (my downfall!) and start small. And – I love this! – “Enjoy the Change. If you don’t enjoy it, it’s not worth doing. And it won’t stick anyway.”

The order isn’t prescriptive, so I’ve been thinking about what would work best for me. So many are already in my mind:
mindful eating, exercise, yoga, meditation, sleep, creativity, and the lovely ‘unprocrastinate’.

Sleeping seems kind of key to me – I’ve been having far more disturbed nights back in my own bed than in the peace of my dad’s house over Christmas, which is disappointing and really highlighting the detriment that has on my day-to-day. But that’s habit #26 – half a year away! But then… if I plan to try anyway, maybe the 6-month mark would be a good reminder to focus? A read through that ‘chapter’ (a brief description, why, and a ‘how’ for each habit) shows that it draws in exercise and meditation, so maybe the order flows well. Although I wonder if ‘walking’ is better done away from Scotland’s icy January weather!!

So… for right now I think I might just start at the beginning, with meditation. I’ve always loved my dabbling, but always fall out of the habit. Here the suggestion is 2-5 minutes: and hey, isn’t that a more sustainable habit than 20 minutes?! Also, I think I may make today the ‘official’ start – Saturdays seem more flexible than Thursdays, which ever day the year starts on!

Which isn’t to say I’m not even looking at the other stuff – exercise, healthier eating, blah blah – until the ‘habit week’, but I figure this way I can have one thing that is unshakable for the day. And – true to my scanner nature! – know that next week I can shift to a new area (although keep up with the meditation, too!).

Let’s give this a go! 🙂

Streaking for Success

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You knew that I didn’t mean running around with no clothes on – right?! No, this is part of my personal Happiness Project aim – June’s, but already underway (rather than May’s, but started very late ;)).

Looking for new and fun ways to improve my coding – one of my Scanner areas, as well as my work now (hurrah!) – I ended up at the Codecademy site. It’s back-to-basics level, but I’ve found myself drawn in: partly for the confidence in finding something (too?) easy (!), and partly ‘cos their system of tracking your ‘streak’ is highly motivating. That is, it counts how many days in a row you’ve participated.

Also always looking for new ways to successfully motivate myself with the dozen of things I want to do, I grabbed and then expanded on the idea…!

The real ‘trick’, I suspect, is picking the smallest of goals I can – hence the beginner’s-level coding ‘cheat’ – with the oft-suggested aim of building these things into habits. And building the habit FIRST, then worrying about pushing the challenge level a little later.

And glory be, but so far it seems to be working! As ever I’ve gone a little mad and have six or seven ‘streaks’ on the go at once – against all best advice, I’m sure – but teeny tiny things. I’ve got a spreadsheet to mark my ‘streak count’; this will become a printed sheet I can put stickers on soon, no doubt! Hey – and trick that works! 😉

So far I’ve got:

  • Javascript –13, including today already 🙂
  • C# – 6, but counting days from work. Probably combined with above as ‘coding’ soon enough, but since above is very easy just now I’ve got a separate one for the more important-to-learn.
  • Writing – 6. I’m halfway through an online MOOC on the FutureLearn site, called ‘Start Writing Fiction’. The streak is partly about trying to keep up with that a little better, and also to write something in my inspiration notebook every day.
  • Stretches – 6, the minimum of my ‘exercise’ aims, to run through my stretch routine daily!
  • Push-ups – 6. An odd one, perhaps, but the wider picture is strength exercise. They’re girlie push ups at the moment, but it was the smallest upper-body-strength thing I felt I could commit to. Seeing my biceps firm already – may have to stop before I get too ‘beefed’ 😉
  • One song, 5. Again probably sounds odd, but this is a cardio-esque exercise thing with the added bonus of the feel-good factor of shoving on an uplifting piece of music. Recommended for the ‘buffer’ between work and home J

I did have another for meditation, but as ever – despite knowing how much I gain from a daily practice – I suck at keeping it going. I suspect it’s the time factor plus the ‘not doing’ being slightly at odds with the stuff above. I will revisit, and eventually want to get something going for crafting/drawing (you’ll notice the above fall into learning – split geek/creative – and exercise), website building – and probably a dozen other things!

Having so many at once lets me cover different aspects of my Scanner-ism, as well as mixing ‘wants’ and ‘shoulds’. It motivates me both to keep the individual ‘streaks’ going, and to have a full row of ticks each day. Importantly, nothing is particularly time-consuming: I can manage each in 5 minutes, therefore never hit the end of the day with too onerous a task left.

Hoping to report back at the end of June with 36+ streaks, plus a feeling of making real progress on areas that matter to me, however small!

A day of lifting moods

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Urgh, but my moods are all over the place at the moment! Definitely have to say: feeling in control = feeling happier.

Today, then, started okay with me managing to get up early and into the office early. Mood still kind of fragile-low. Actually managed a not just civil, but fairly decent meeting with my not-boss. Feeling ever so slightly happier more hopeful about work, which is bloddy amazing.

Good thing: I started a meditation course! 8 weeks, with daily practice. Yay! Okay, so today mostly involved lying on my back, but really hoping to see good things from this. My inner child was ridiculously pleased to be given a jotter and purple gel pen for my ‘meditation diary’

And since I was at the gym anyway for the meditation class, I decided I might as well do the teeniest bit of something in the CV suite, so was on the power walker thingy for 10 minutes and 1km – which is apparently very nearly classed as a running pace, which is daft! Really good to be able to start small – although it does make it daft to go just for that, so, hmm. Then had a very looooong walk home (still at that kind of pace, so I can’t be as unfit as I think – or my legs are just long!) in the glorious sunshine. Me + exercise = o_O and hurrah!

So as if all that wasn’t enough, I’ve been batch cooking for the first time in forever, too, and that really does make me feel more me and stable again! Made tonight’s dinner, plus a huge pot of pork stew, and then prepared all the veg for tomorrow’s stir fry while I was at it.

Away to do a wee bit of CSS-learning, then to turn off and head for an early night with a book. Which makes it a very good day!