Day 85

There’s a yoga instructor on YouTube who has so many followers and so many hits that it’s impossible not to find her when you search for anything yoga related. Last night I searched for “bedtime yoga” and she came up. She is hard to dislike but at the same time on the verge of being very irritating. I persevered nevertheless and I did enjoy listening to her and following her workout – as do over 5.5million other people around the world, so she must be doing something right! One of her catch phrases is, “find what feels good”.

Yesterday it felt good to crawl into bed at the end of the day and it felt good to eat half a packet of biscuits just before that. Last night, for various reasons, I was having a tiring evening. It left me feeling very flat and so in realising that was how I felt, I did what I often do and sought out sugar. It did feel good. It gave me a little, much needed energy boost. For a bit.

It doesn’t always feel good to exercise. Sometimes before I exercise I feel like exercise will probably make my day worse. It will mean I have to shower again and it means I won’t have time for something else on the neverending to-do list. Especially now I am having to wait for the weekend to run in daylight and the slightly warmer air of the daytime. So sometimes, at the moment, the thought of fitting in an exercise DVD or a class does not feel good.

And then there is the exercise itself. It is not always the case that I enjoy the actual exercise – it’s hard work and sometimes it hurts and I get sweaty and out of breath and my face resembles a stop traffic light – bright red and unwanted. So when I was told to, “find what feels good” it was hard not to immediately quit. Yesterday evening, very little felt good and I just wanted the day to end so I could wake up less grumpy. I am lucky that I don’t often feel like this and if I do it can normally always be attributed to a heady mix of hormones and lack of sleep.

This morning I did a boxercise workout followed by aerobics. I didn’t particularly enjoy them. I didn’t experience a natural high whilst I star jumped or a rush of endorphins as I lunged. But here’s the thing I know I need to remember – after I’d finished, I felt good.

Sometimes to find what feels good you have to do the bit that doesn’t feel that good. Because yesterday evening I wanted to give up on the day and tonight I am bouncing around and getting things done. I’m feeling empowered and enthusiastic and motivated. And this afternoon I didn’t eat 15 Jaffa Cakes, I took our toddler and baby out to look around the garden centre Christmas displays and I had a lovely afternoon. I felt good and I know that feeling originated from completing those workouts.

When I don’t want to exercise or I am exercising and not particularly enjoying it, this is the feeling I want to remember. The feeling of having more energy and motivation for the day. The feeling of being more in control. The feeling that I can take on the day and anything it throws at me and not only succeed but feel positive and productive alongside. Because I have found what feels good and during a low moment I can harness this memory and feel good again.

Day 84

When you ask a class of 5 year olds who amongst them is an artist they all raise their hands. They also raise their hands to announce that they are scientists and dancers and the list goes on. 5 year olds don’t need any more reassurance than their own minds – if they sing then they are a singer. If they run then they are runners. By the end of primary school when you ask the same question, most children will have formed opinions of themselves whereby they tell you what they are good at and what they are not. Are you an artist? No, I can’t draw very well.

Tonight I am embracing my inner 5 year old and writing a list of things I am:

A daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a niece, a cousin, a daughter-in-law

A friend, a wife, a mother

A teacher, a student, a childminder, a writer

A runner, a swimmer, a dancer, a singer

A performer, a chef, a gardener, a driver

A listener, a thinker, a helper, a mind-reader

A worrier, an exaggerator, a drama queen

A cuddler, a milk-machine, a fixer, a storyteller

A blogger, a reader, a collector

A tea-maker, a biscuit baker, a sleeper, a dreamer

Day 83

At 3:50am our toddler, who we were sharing a room with whilst we were away, woke up and started an hour long rendition of a song called, ‘Elephants have wrinkles”. He only really knew one line of the song so it was quite a repetitive hour. It was amazing to me that he could keep up such a steady stream of lyrical wonder. Toddlers do love repetition and routines though – they like to know their world is as it should be, that everyone is playing along to the roles they have been given.

On the way home today after our weekend away, we had to stop the car twice for toddler toilet stops, another time for a baby feed and in the end we stopped for dinner too because after all the other stopping we couldn’t face getting home late and preparing food. Along our journey we met several kind people. We pulled into a hotel carpark so we could feed our baby and were met by several large signs which indicated the carpark held a hefty fine for non-hotel users. A kind gentleman on reception allowed us to register our car on his system so we wouldn’t be charged and could use the carpark and the hotel toilets without worry.

I put our daughter’s cup down in a shop whilst I was looking for chocolate and then walked out. A lady went out of her way to chase me down and return the cup when she realised what I had done. Then we left our son’s backpack in a service station. After returning over an hour later we found it had been handed in and we were able to reunite it with our son. More moments of goodness and kindness on our journey.

Toddlers like consistency and people who follow their rules – and they like to check that the rules are the same in different places and with different people. This is to check people will respond in the same way. As we get older we learn that people don’t always make good choices and they aren’t always kind or helpful to one another. We lose our toddler innocence and can stop believing in the good because we are bombarded with so much that is sad or worrying via the news, social media and one another.

Today it was reassuring to be proved right in my theory that the world is a good place and that there is more good and more kindness than there is sadness, anger and hate. Thank you world for your kindness today – after a 4am start and a song about wrinkly elephants, it was much appreciated. And now I have just enough time before bed to be kind to myself and kind to my body and get some exercise done.

Day 82

I used to think that over the 100 days of this challenge, I would see a steady increase in achievement. I imagined a straight line which gradually increased. I realise now that, like many areas in life, exercise isn’t a straight line, it’s a wobbly one. It has bumps and tangents and ups and downs. I especially thought that when I started being able to run that each run would be faster and longer than the one before. This week has been an example of a bumpy week.

On Tuesday I got a personal best achievement – PB as the fancy kids say. I would have been very excited about this if my phone hadn’t cut out again at 4.97km just before I completed 5k in under 30 minutes. But you know what they say, close but no cigar this time. This app shows you your run in various ways with helpful icons to let you know when you are more like the tortoise than the hare:

This was the breakdown of how fast I ran each kilometre. I’m noticing a pattern as I run – I always set off too fast and then struggle to maintain it for the second km. But somewhere in my reserves I can normally pull it back again to increase my pace. It’s an interesting and logical way to approach running which I quite like.

My second run of the week started out with an identical first km but then I crashed. By 20 minutes I was walking instead of running and feeling very frustrated with myself for losing momentum. This is the part of exercise which I am still getting used to – I like to get good at something quickly and then stay good but it seems to me that, like an individual run which has faster and slower moments, so too does the bigger picture.

So many other factors can affect my run – I am trying to not see them as excuses like I would have in the past, but to recognise that sometimes things align to help me and other times I have to work harder to overcome challenges. Today three squirrels and one pigeon ran across my path within the first 5 minutes of running – all of them made me jump as, without my glasses on, things in my peripheral vision can really throw me. I was also running a new route which was carpetted with wet leaves on already unsteady terrain.

I could have used these as excuses and blamed them for not finishing my run. I tried to justify not completing 30 minutes by explaining how hard it had been. But actually those were just obstacles and it was up to me whether or not I ran round them, jumped over them, climbed them or turned around and walked back to the cafĂ©. Today I let my mind get the better of me and talked myself into stopping at 20mins because what I really wanted to do was play in the park with our children – I got the FOMO.

Today was a bumpy day for exercise but my journey is still going up – I didn’t get worse at running suddenly because I had a “bad” run today. I still ran, which is more than I would have ever done 82 days ago.

Day 81

The first rule of starting a Drama degree at University is never, ever, ever tell anyone that you haven’t watched Dirty Dancing. Of course you’ve watched Dirty Dancing. You love Dirty Dancing. Dirty Dancing is your life and you totally know what’s going on when everyone starts talking about putting babies in corners. Just go with it because admitting that you’ve never seen the damn film is almost as bad as admitting that your favourite type of theatre is Pantomimes.

Ok, well here we go – Panto is in my top two favourite forms of theatre and I’ve never seen Dirty Dancing. Phew – I feel much better for that. Thanks.

Somehow, despite having never seen the film, I’ve ended up with a Dirty Dancing workout DVD in my possession. Last night I decided to release it from its cellophane prison and I was very excited to see that there was a competition to win some dance merchandise…a competition with the closing date 2008…right, well I’ve had the DVD for a while then.

Maybe you have to have seen the film to get the workout because I really did not get it. Firstly the women who were demonstrating the routines were wearing heels. Heels in a workout DVD? They were also going way too fast and the moves were way too complicated. My husband popped his head round the door ten minutes after I’d started and was surprised to see me jumping around with Davina. I’d had to do an almost instant DVD swap before I got myself in some serious salsa trouble.

I don’t know what this film is actually about but I do know that the dancing in it should not be attempted by amateurs. Last Panto season I barely kept up with the moves in our local village show – and there were members of the chorus who were 70+ who nailed those routines almost immediately. It was nice to return to the safe, familiar, well explained aerobics led by Davina because at least I could keep up with star jump, star jump, squat, repeat.

Day 80

80 days. Enough to go around the world.

I’ve never had the travelling bug. We have some friends who, come the new year, will be off on another great adventure travelling together – their previous trip lasted 200 days! I am in awe of their bravery and excitement about packing a bag and exploring together. I think it’s amazing but it’s definitely not for me. I like being at home. I love a holiday but I also love when it ends and we come back to our house and unpack and put on 7 loads of washing. I always thought I’d get the travelling bug but it hasn’t happened so far.

Yesterday I did explore somewhere new with our children – a farm about 25 minutes down the road where we stroked rabbits, fed ducks, watched cows graze… oh and which was also home to several large crocodiles. Not exactly what I was expecting when I heard the word farm. Our 3 year old asked me if they were real or pretend when he saw them and I had to admit it took me a while to process them too. Their stillness is fascinating. They’ve been around for 200 million years (not these exact ones you understand, but their breed) and they are the closest living relatives to birds (thanks Google).

Birds who fly and flit and migrate and never seem to be still are the closest living relative to crocodiles who are the masters of stillness. They would win a blinking contest or a game of Grandmother’s footsteps everytime. There is definitely something to be said for being still. One of my brothers is very good at being still – I don’t just mean he doesn’t move much, although I think he is quite happy to live life at quite a relaxed pace – I mean his essence is still. He thinks a lot and he’s a great listener and he’s calming to be around because he is still – most likely a byproduct of his interest in meditation and mindfulness.

I’m not a particularly still person – my thoughts are always on overdrive as I try to plan and process and organise myself and others around me. And my favourite type of play is running around at high speed and high volume. I’m better when I’m busy and I can just blitz through the day. I get bored easily.

Sometimes it’s good to still your mind though and I’ve found exercise is a good time to do that. Whilst my body is moving and focusing on its 30 minutes of activity, my mind quietens down for a bit. That’s especially useful when it’s been on overdrive analysing or worrying about something. It’s good to let my thoughts still for a minute and I’ve noticed that once they’ve had that time, my worries worry me less and some of my questions have found answers.

I’ve found that this challenge has helped me to find a balance between my inner bird and my inner crocodile. The busy mind and the still body shifting towards a more active body but a calmer mind.

Day 79

Today someone told me about the idea of writing an “I don’t” list and it turns out being honest about things I don’t do has been a very calming experience. Our toddler is more than happy to announce when he doesn’t want to do things and he has a myriad of ways in which to not do said things. It’s quite an instinctive way that toddlers live, with their emotions bubbling right on top of the surface. Our adult reservations could learn a lot from their ability to just tell it like it is.

So here we go. My “I don’t” list:

1. I don’t always remember to clean my teeth.

2. I don’t pick up spiders.

3. I don’t bungy jump, paraglide, parachute jump or go in a helicopter. Nope. Not ever.

4. I don’t prioritise cleaning the house over things which I think are more fun.

5. I don’t save chocolate for later.

6. I don’t battle our 3 year old to eat fruit and vegetables.

7. I don’t always finish the last five minutes of my 30 minute run.

8. I don’t check the expiration date on the milk very often.

9. I don’t always feel happy and positive about this challenge.

10. I don’t want to go back to my old pre-exercise ways in 3 weeks when the 100 days are done.

Sometimes it’s okay to think about what you don’t want or don’t do. It’s quite a cathartic experience. So many of us seem to be battling to do so much – so often – that we feel guilty about the “don’ts”. Well, don’t. It’s okay to embrace your inner toddler and say no sometimes. Tonight I wrote myself a to-do list and then I looked at it and said, “No. I don’t want to.” What I want to do now is some bedtime yoga and then sleep…so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.