I find it challenging to find a balance between not accepting excuses from myself for avoiding effort and not being self-critical for genuine reasons for not doing things. In fact, I have a tendency to do the exact opposite and take any excuse to avoid effort and then make myself feel horribly guilty about it!
Last weekend, I committed to exercising for at least 20 minutes each day. For the first time in a long time I felt that I had some energy (and perhaps some mental space, too) to really kick-start a return to some healthier habits. This was a weekend to not accept any excuses!
Saturday was rainy, so, in the end, I put on some music and did a strange dance/aerobics/animal impersonation thing in my bedroom. I like the way some music just makes me want to move and jump. I don’t like the way not exercising for six weeks means I got tired out after two songs! Still, I felt proud for getting my twenty minutes done.
Sunday was massively windy but much better weather. With my committment to exercising in my mind, I wouldn’t except the excuse of some wind to avoid the effort. No…but I could accept the feeling of another cold coming on! I was torn and frustrated. I had been feeling so healthy and had been so optimistic about finally getting my fitness under control. I didn’t want to let an inkling of a possible cold stop me from consolidating the previous day’s efforts. One day and then giving up was not my aim. Yet I also didn’t want to force myself to exercise when I shouldn’t and risk succumbing to my cold. My last bout of illess left me scared because it took me a whole two weeks to get over the main part of the cold and then many weeks more to shake the lingering tiredness.
In the end, my body decided for me when my back started twingeing. I’ve had a back problem since my first year of teaching and I usually manage it with exercising and stretching. I get other niggles, but when it twinges I know I’m in danger of it developing into shooting pain that stops me from moving. So I went for the walk. It was a slower walk than I usually manage. I tried to focus on walking freely and easily rather than energetically and tiringly.
It worked, it helped my back feel loose and comfortable again, but the best thing was that feeling when I’ve really warmed up and am on the home stretch with the wind whipping into my face. At the start of the walk the wind feels cold and discouraging, but at the end of my walk, the wind feels fresh and invigorating and I enjoy just the sensation of being outdoors and moving. For a naturally sedentary person like me, it is good to be reminded how much I can enjoy the right outdoor activity.
Of course, on Monday I knew I had also got the cold, but I don’t think my walk affected that in the end.
Last weekend, I also tried to answer the question “Can you trick yourself into being productive just by changing your shoes?”
I don’t think that merely putting on my runners or (as I did on Sunday) straightening my hair made me more productive. I think that there was intention already in my head when on Saturday morning I put my runners on instead of my slippers. Where they helped was in maintaining that intention because I was already set to go. Flopping around in my slippers with my hair all straggly and my face un-made-up and my old clothes on means that I’m less ready to do things. Even if they are just around the house things, I feel ready if I’m a little less slouchy. I had been taking things easy on Sunday because I was wary of that cold coming on, so I hadn’t dressed for activity, but I had straightened my hair, which had gone unruly after blow-drying, and scrubbed and moisturised my face because my skin felt dry. It meant that, when I went for a walk, I didn’t feel that I had to put a whole lot of effort into getting myself ready just to step out the door.
I think that, if the intention isn’t there, then replacing your slouchy, over-sized windcheater for neat little t-shirt and cardigan will not magically make your house clean or your study/banking done. But I think it helps if we start the day by making ourselves ready to follow through with our intentions.