Habit Update (And An Injury Update Too).

If you’ve been here a while, you have probably read my habit series, and maybe you recall that, for me, it all started with setting two goals for 2015: eat a green vegetable every day, and do 150 strength workouts.  Maybe you recall that I tracked my habits on a spreadsheet, and I added a bunch over the course of the past year and a half.  And that all worked quite well for me for the first year and change.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how my habit practice was changing and evolving, and I was considering taking a break from tracking all my habits on a spreadsheet.

Well, I did stop tracking them, so I haven’t written about my own habits for a little while. Here, I am, checking in with an update, for those who have asked/wondered.

I am still very happy with how my habit practice is going. Several habits have become second nature.  Here are some thoughts about specific habits, in no particular order:

  • Strength workouts are mostly on hold due to injury, but I’ve substituted swimming and found a groove pretty quickly with fitting it into my schedule. It is a lot more time consuming than lifting in my pajamas in my living room – since I have to commute, change, shower, wash my suit…. Anyway, it started off with a learning curve (even though I was a pretty strong swimmer as a kid!), and now I’m getting faster again. I even managed some sprints this week!
  • I have the forced habit of physical therapy twice per week. It eats up a lot of time. We do some strengthening exercises there. I’ll be glad when I am cleared to start lifting on my own again.
  • Walks have been a little more sporadic, because I hate summer. Last year I worked around this by taking my kid for walks on shady trails. This summer that is not an option for me due to my spinal injury (yes, I can walk, but all my walks have to be stroller-friendly since I don’t have the option of carrying my kid on my back when he gets tired). I’m not sweating it. Sometimes I push the stroller to the garden. I get in what I can.
  • Parking at the far end of the parking lot has become second nature.
  • Hanging from bars at the playground – I am getting this in once or twice per week, depending on time and weather. Again, not sweating it; just playing.
  • I’ve been keeping the plants in my garden alive so far, so that’s cool. I was the top harvester in the community garden for June in terms of pounds harvested. I probably won’t be for July, just looking at what I have planted and when it should be ripe, and looking at what others have planted and when it should be ripe.  Perhaps I will catch up in August. Fun fact: I’ve harvested around $105 worth of produce so far. I hope I at least break even 😀 .
  • When I do walk, I’ve been picking up the pace on the hill I have to climb to get home.
  • I’m rocking the green vegetables and eating a vegetable with at least 2 meals per day.
  • I’m also rocking eating a protein source with at least 2 meals per day.
  • I had been doing really well with taking my Vitamin D and then I ran out. I bought some more and am getting back into the groove.
  • Sleep habits have been improving in consistency. I am more likely to go to sleep by 10pm (and some nights I am able to get to bed by 9:30).  I very rarely start watching a TV show after 9pm.
  • Looking at my gratitude habits, I am not really sure how I am doing in that area. I’m feeling more positive in general, but I’ve also had a lot of negativity and anxiety creep in around my injury and the routine changes it has brought, so I’m not super focused on these right now and I am okay with that.
  • I am leaning a bit more on my husband for things than I would like, yet I am grateful that he is able and willing to help.
  • My motivation for intentional cleaning has gotten very low again. I figure that is probably normal as I have a lot going on right now. Again, feeling thankful that my husband goes with the flow and steps up hen he can, and tolerates the mess.

So, those are some of the habits I had on that spreadsheet, and I’m quite happy that a bunch of them are sticking well and helping me feel as well as I can.

I’m working on a new habit, and experimenting with tracking just the one habit at a time with an app on my phone (I have an Android and am using Habitbull). The new habit is Intuitive Eating related: asking myself “why do I want that?” when I want to eat something, then naming the feeling (hunger, boredom, no-particular-reason-just-habit, etc). Since “all day long” is probably too tall an order, I am specifically focusing on dinner, up to and including bedtime.  Though I’m actually finding the rest of the day reasonably easy as well.  So far this new habit feels good.  Some of the habits I had on my spreadsheet can still use some more consistency, but I’m feeling like prioritizing this one now.

And, speaking of habits: this blog is one year old! I stuck with it for a year! Yay! Thank you for being here and encouraging me and reading my stuff :).

And, only tangentially related, for those who have been asking about my injury: I haven’t had any back aches since I discovered that the hot tub worked magic on my back muscles! I’ve been using the hot tub 3 times per week after swimming and it has worked wonders for the aches. I still have occasional tingling in my right leg when standing or walking for longer periods. I have a follow up appointment at the spine doctor next week.

So, there you have it. An update for those who were following for the habit stuff :).

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Injury Update – Forced Routine Changes, and the Feelings They Bring

I want to share how the past week has been going for me. If you’ve been following, you know that I have been sidelined with an unexpected injury, and that I have been having a bit of trouble handling it emotionally sometimes.

I went to see the spine specialist this past Tuesday. I had been nervous about going, so I decided to bring a friend. When the friend who was originally planning to come with me couldn’t make it (since they got me in on very short notice at the doctors office due to a cancellation), my one of my coworkers came through and came along with me instead. I feel lucky to have a job where I work with such amazing people!

The appointment itself was fine. The doctor prescribed physical therapy and a follow up appointment in 6 weeks. He said that I probably could get back to lifting, but not right now while I am having symptoms. He did mention weight loss, but I didn’t feel he was shame-y about it, so that’s probably as good as one can expect from a spine surgeon.  He did a full exam asking about pain and testing strength. No pain or weakness, just the tingling in the legs. So for now he said “no knives, no needles.” I am really relieved about that.

I have my physical therapy evaluation in a few days. From there, they will tell me how many times per week I need to go.

I also cooled down after last week’s temper tantrum and decided to join the Y. My family applied for financial aid and received a partial scholarship. I went to join last night, and the person at the front desk told me that if I want to save money, they are waiving the joining fee on Wednesdays this month. So I will wait a few more days and go back on Wednesday, since the $100 joining fee is no small chunk of change.

The bathing suit I ordered for lap swimming arrived this week, and thankfully, it fits.

I learned a few things about how I can move this week, also.

For example, I tried doing lunges. In the past I always hated them. I felt wobbly and my ratio of bodyweight to single leg strength made them kind of unfavorable. Well, I tried them out of desperation (because I can’t do back squats right now with a spinal issue)….and now I can do them pretty easily, despite being at a higher bodyweight than the last time I tried them. So, I learned that even if I think I hate something, it pays to try it every few years 😀 .

I’m also pretty sure I can keep working on assisted pull ups.

I also figured out that if I push my kid’s stroller while I walk, I don’t get much of a back ache. Which shows me something about my alignment, because it is a bit different when I push a stroller. I’m paying more attention to my alignment and breathing when walking around and I think it is helping.

So, logistically, I’m dealing with everything. Emotionally, there are some things that are coming up.

This time of year I always have a long to-do list at work. And not having my regular routine to hang onto at home is making me feel very discombobulated. You know how child development experts stress how much small children crave structure and routine? Well, I can see this in myself too. Not having my usual structure and routine is making me feel more anxious and more sensitive to stress and things not going my way.  I notice that I have less patience and a very short fuse.

I know that within a few weeks, I’ll be settling into a newer routine, as I will have figured out my physical therapy schedule and have joined the Y and figured out when to go swimming. So it should calm down by then. For now, I’m just noticing the feelings, and telling myself that it won’t be forever.

The other day I realized another thing. One of the reasons it was so hard for me to take the news that I need to to take a break is that I made this hobby so much a part of my identity the past year and a half. It has been my passion outside of raising a kid and going to work. So it’s not just losing the hobby temporarily, but also about not knowing who I am or what to do with myself.

It is also a little scary because I’ve gotten used to receiving a lot of validation for doing heavy lifting and sticking with it. People think it’s cool and they tell me so, often. Sometimes I fear that without it, I will become invisible.

I am still not really ready to give it up even for a short period. I plan on asking the physical therapist for loopholes. “I know I can’t do back squats, but want about front squats? Just at 50%? Please?”

It’s also disheartening because I have spent a year and a half building a solid routine that fits well into my life…..so, being told I need to refocus and do something else is very frustrating and disorienting.

Again, I’m handling it, logistically….and I also find it healthy and helpful to acknowledge the feelings along the way.

Today my friend at Outside of the Comfort Zone reached out and let me know she is in a similar place. It was really good to talk with a friend who could related to all these things.

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New Habit: Cardio Conditioning that Requires No Equipment and No Extra Time

Now that my energy levels have improved so much, I am thinking about a new fitness habit to add.

Since I had very slow recovery for so long due to sleep apnea that was yet to be diagnosed, intense cardio exercise had to go, for a while. My body felt better with just lifting and gentle walking and stretching.

Well, now that my sleep apnea is being treated and I have figured out a lifting routine that makes me stronger AND from which I can recover well, I have a lot more energy to go about my day, and I’m thinking of adding another fitness habit.

The outcome I’d like to see

I live in a hilly neighborhood, and I’d like to huff and puff less when climbing the hills. In fitness speak, I’d like to improve my cardiovascular conditioning, or get my body used to having an elevated heart rate again.

The challenges

I have a few challenges/considerations to keep in mind while choosing a goal-supportive habit I can stick to.

  • I don’t have room in my budget for extra equipment, and I have yet to find a sports bra manufactured in my size that is not on back order (so, running is probably not the best choice)
  • I don’t have much wiggle room in my schedule / child care situation to add more exercise without adding a lot of extra stress to my day or compromising my sleep (so, going to a gym or swimming is not a super accessible option for me right now, except perhaps on weekends)
  • I would prefer not to rely heavily on kettlebells, because I already do a lot of lifting that taxes the posterior chain and my lower back muscles are telling me not to add much more.

So, looking at those challenges, I decided that I was going to use what I already have. I live on a hill. Several times a week, I find myself walking up said hill to get back home. At least a couple of those times, my kid is not with me. So during those times when my kid is not with me, instead of walking leisurely up the hill, I am going to walk up the hill at a fast pace, to get my heart rate up.

Though it doesn’t sound like much, I am 95% sure I can do this consistently. If/when I reach a point where it becomes easy, I can then decide whether to keep this up or do something different.

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Ripple Effects – Helping Friends and Growing Things

Yesterday was a great day. I felt great physically and mentally. I had gone to bed by 9:30pm for the prior two nights.

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Ready to take on the day!

One thing I feel really great about was that I was able to spend some time helping a friend who had been in a car accident last week. Kiddo and I went grocery shopping for her, and then I folded some laundry when I got to her house while our kids played together. I feel really satisfied and happy that I was able to do this, not only because it helped my friend, but also because in the past, doing this would have wiped me out and taken a lot of “spoons” for me.

Truth: In past years I have accepted a lot of help from family and sometimes from friends, for basic tasks around my house. Everyone says that is normal when you have a baby, and to be grateful for any help offered to you. And I am very grateful. But part of me always felt guilty accepting the help, because I knew that I would likely not be able to offer similar help to others in the same position, because I didn’t have the energy. So I am really glad to be able to offer help to others now.

Afterwards, kiddo and I walked over to the garden to water. No germination yet. Maybe today we will see some lettuce sprouts.

Another thing I feel great about is that my legs were recovered enough from the prior day’s deadlifts to work some olympic weightlifting technique in the morning….and still feel energetic on my feet throughout the day afterwards! Took my kid to gymnastics, did the grocery shopping for our friend, walked to the garden, walked back home uphill with my tired kid in a carrier….and my legs managed all of it without feeling too spent!

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New Habits, and Several Updates!

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted. (I’ve been more active on my Facebook page, so if you missed me, you can follow me there as well.)

New Habits (Movement and Productivity)

I’ve added some new habits to my routine that I haven’t actually added to my spreadsheet:

  • When I drive somewhere, parking at the far end of the parking lot, as long as the weather is good. This helps me get more movement into my day without having to think about it.
  • On work days, eating my lunch somewhere other than at my desk, whether it is outside, in my car, or even at the conference table – what matters is that I am walking away from my laptop screen. I have been having trouble focusing at work, and that is getting much better with my sleep apnea being treated. However, I also find that if I don’t take an actual break, I have more trouble focusing later in the day. So, I am consciously taking a break at lunch time, so my mind doesn’t force me to take breaks later in the day.
  • I have begun leaving my lunchbox in my car on workdays, instead of bringing it to my desk in the morning. That helps with a few things: 1. It forces me to get up and walk to the car when it is time for lunch, which helps me remember to take the aforementioned break. 2. It prevents mindless eating in the afternoon. When I didn’t take my break away from my desk, my mind would wander, and sometimes I would grab a snack to procrastinate. Now, if I want my food, I actually have to get up and go get it. and 3. It puts a little more movement into my day, even if I don’t have time for formal “exercise” on a workday.
  • Putting my phone away in a drawer while I’m at work. I didn’t realize how easy it was to check the phone to procrastinate when I needed a break. I don’t feel comfortable leaving the phone in the car, in case my son’s babysitter or my coworkers need to reach me. But I turn the volume up so I can hear it if it rings, and tuck it away so I have to consciously take it out if I need it (instead of mindlessly picking it up off my desk).

I didn’t add those habits to my spreadsheet as something to track; I just changed my routine up. Since it feels pretty painless, I don’t feel the need to track them at this time.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Update

Everything has been going really well. The CPAP machine has added at least a decade back onto my life. It has reduced my breathing events by over 99 percent. Some things I have noticed: I am able to focus more clearly at work. I feel more ready to engage with people. I sometimes sleep all the way through the night now. My husband says I no longer snore. Plus all the stuff I listed before.

I am also noticing a huge difference in what I can do at home now. I am doing things that my husband always had to do in the past. I cleaned out our car (voluntarily), and cleaned up after the weekly cooking (voluntarily).  I won’t say I am able to clean up every day, but even being able to do it some days is a huge improvement for me. I feel very pleased that I am able to do more to contribute to our household now.

I finally had my first appointment with a sleep specialist and I am happy to report that I had a positive experience, as a fat person. The only time she mentioned my weight was to ask “how has your weight been,” while she was asking the typical medical history and symptom questions. She did not lecture me. She seemed pleased about my habits. When I asked her if sleep apnea could cause weight gain, she said yes, and explained about leptin, and said that untreated sleep apnea could make weight loss difficult.

And then she looked in my mouth and told me that the size of my tongue was almost certainly the reason for my sleep apnea. So, that was positive! And it means that my suspicion that I have had this for many years and at many different weights is likely correct.

Movement Update

Lifting has been going well. The simplified program I started in January is still working well for me. It fits well into my life and I am making progress, feeling good, and recovering well.

Meal Prep Update

We are still in what feels like a pretty sustainable groove with meal preparation. I did spend more money eating out than I would have liked, last month. But I also had days where I felt tempted to eat take out, and I packed a meal or cooked a meal at home instead. So there is definitely improvement. Patience is my friend.

That’s all I have to report today! More posts in the queue soon….

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January Report: Kicking Some Habit Butt

It is the end of the month and I love statistics! Here’s how my habit goals are going, as of the morning of January 31, 2016.

Number of days tracking habit goals: 398!

2016 Progress:

  • Days lifted some weights on purpose: 17 (11%  of goal of 160 by the end of the year )
  • Days taken a walk on purpose: 14 (7% of goal of 200)
  • Days eaten at least one green vegetable: 27 (8% of goal of 355)
  • Days taken my Vitamin D: 19 (5% of goal of 355)
  • Days finished my food for the day by 8pm: 17 (8% of goal of 255 by the end of the year)
  • Days no TV shows started after 9pm: 27 (11% of goal of 250)
  • Days in bed by 10pm: 21 (8% of goal of 250)
  • Days named something I love or appreciate about myself: 30 (8% of goal of 350)
  • Days named something I feel grateful for: 30 (8% of goal of 350)
  • Dates with my husband: 1 (10% of goal of 10)
  • Days said or did something nice for my husband on purpose: 15 (6% of goal of 250)
  • Days deposited at least $10 into my family’s emergency fund: 2 (4% of goal of 50)
  • Days made a pot of rice and beans: 1 (2% of goal of 45)
  • Days did some cleaning on purpose: 10 (20% of goal of 50)
  • Objects gotten rid of: 40 (8% of goal of 500)

Reflections on these numbers

I am doing so many of my habits really well! We are 8% of the way through 2016, so any habit where I did at least 8% is a habit that is on target or better. That means I am kicking ass and taking names at: lifting weights, eating green vegetables, finishing my food early enough in the day that I can sleep well-ish, not turning on the TV after 9pm, getting to bed by 10pm, naming things I love/appreciate about myself, naming things I feel grateful for, dates with my husband, cleaning my house sometimes, and getting rid of things that don’t spark joy.

I’m even going to say I am kicking ass at taking walks, even though I am only 7% of the way to that goal. It’s January in New England! I expected January to be a less productive month in the walking department. Last year we had tons of snow, but this year we haven’t so I have been able to take some walks. I’ve been working it into my schedule by taking a long lunch and walking at a nearby park on days I work if the weather has been nice enough (the walking track there is paved).

I need to find a “habit trigger” for taking my Vitamin D. It is such an easy thing to do and the only thing that is keeping me from doing it more is that I forget. So I need a trigger such as “take Vitamin D at breakfast” or “take Vitamin D with ice cream” or something like that. The issue is….sometimes I eat my breakfast in a rush, and I don’t eat ice cream every day. I’ll need to give some thought to a good “habit trigger” for this.

As for the habits where I am a little behind, I’m not worried about them. I’ve had extra responsibilities and expenses this month due my husband still not being able to drive after his injury. Given that, I think I should be proud of myself for doing well in the essential areas, and not worry about the things I’ve done less of due to prioritizing and triage.

Wondering how I figured out these habit goals? I wrote a series of posts about my process. You can start here.

Wondering how I track my goals? That’s covered in the third post of the series, and also in this post.

Wondering how I did in 2015, and what effects I’ve noticed? Here’s the report.

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Realization: My Workouts Should Not Drive Me to Drink!

To be fair, it isn’t really my workouts that are driving me to drink. It is my three year old.

I’ll back up a little.

While the weather was warm, having a porch gym has served me well. I could lift on the porch while my kiddo played outside. If it took me an hour or two to get my warm up, lifting, and mobility and recovery work in, that was usually fine. My kid would play, eat snacks, and generally entertain himself.

Now though, it’s winter in New England. The gym has moved into my living room. My husband is injured and can’t play with my kid as much, and it’s too cold to get out much at all. Basically, my three year old is bored, and in mama-obsessed mood. He wants a lot of attention from me. And yes, he gets out of the house. He goes to his babysitter a couple days per week where he plays with other kids and goes on outings, and I take him to gymnastics class and swim class and the library and the grocery store and…..it’s still not enough. Especially since my husband and I were sick for a couple weeks on top of everything. My three year old is bored.

I’ve been trying to get back into my routine of lifting 3 times per week, for 1-2 hours start to finish.

Yesterday, I really had trouble getting going. I didn’t really want to lift. I wanted to go for a walk. It was sunny outside, and 27 degrees, which was the warmest it had been all day. I didn’t listen to myself though. I didn’t want to throw off my lifting schedule. In truth, it made me a little nervous to do it. So, I decided to lift instead.

Within the first sets, I noticed I felt irritable. I tried to get my kiddo to go upstairs and play with my  husband. No dice. He spent the whole workout running laps around the living room and trying to climb all over me between sets.

At one point, I decided to try a bench press. One of my coaches at barbell club had shown me how to do it the way the powerlifters do it. I got my rack out, figured out the height adjustments for benching, figured out where to place the bench in my set up. I got myself in position and ready to do a bench press.  I was about to lift the barbell off the rack.

And then something soft hit me. My kid had taken a sock and launched it at me, slingshot style.

I sternly told him that it was not safe to throw things at me while I am lifting, and carried him upstairs to my husband.

He still made his way back downstairs before the end of the workout, and climbed on me while I was stretching. And climbed on me for a while afterwards. He hadn’t napped. I made plans to go buy wine and cook some macaroni and cheese as soon as I put him to bed. Comfort and decompressing was needed.  As I was cooking dinner, I realized “I should have just gone for the walk I wanted to. I’d probably be in a much better mood right now!” I had a great time watching the Bachelor and felt better when I went to sleep.

And then it hit me….this isn’t working for me right now. I shouldn’t finish my workouts so stressed out that I need to decompress from them. And right now my kiddo is making that a reality.

The positive side is, having equipment at home gives me loads of flexibility to make changes! What if I tried something different? I’ve been wanting to try more powerlifting again (after taking a break for a while to focus on Olympic weightlifting). What if I just committed to one exercise every morning? I could do a Wendler style 5/3/1 program or a Stronglifts 5×5 model. I could make a schedule, for example: Monday deadlifts, Tuesday bench press, Wednesday squats, Thursday overhead press, Friday Pendlay rows. Each morning I could spend less than half an hour on a lift. While my kid ate breakfast. I’d be able to crank it out and be done before he started driving me batshit crazy. I could do it even on the three days of week that I go to work. On days I stay home I wouldn’t be too tired afterwards to do all the extra stuff that is on me to do while my husband is injured. I could maintain and even increase my strength. I could maybe do an Olympic lift on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday if I feel up to it if my kid is entertained, but I could take a break from focusing on them.

And I would be able to take a walk in the afternoon if the weather is nice enough that I actually want to.

So, this morning I came downstairs and did some sets Pendlay rows as my kid ate breakfast. And wrote this post. It feels strange to just do one exercise and still have this much energy after a workout.  And it feels nice to be done with a workout and not be ready to drink. Let’s see how this goes!