Time of Day

My favourite time of the day to exercise is early morning. I am more successful at exercising in the morning in the summertime since it is light. We have porcupines and coyotes in our neighbourhoods and parks so walking or running in the morning in the winter is a bit more hazardous. The quiet air lets me hear the birds chirping and the leaves whispering in the wind.

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However,  when I’m working it’s not always feasible for me to take a long walk in the morning so the other time I like to exercise is when I can’t do anything else. I build it into my day so I can’t avoid exercising. For example, if I cycle to work, the only way I can get home is to cycle home. Or if I eat my lunch at my desk, the only lunch break I will get is if I go to the gym.

Both of these strategies help me to stick to my exercise routine, making it something I just do, like getting dressed, rather than something I have to choose to do. The less I have to choose to do, the more likely I am to do something.

What strategies have you found to keep to a new routine?

 

Motivation

Mental health is one of the main motivators for me to work out. I can tell when I haven’t worked out in a while. I start to get frustrated and then angry with every little thing such as dropping a fork. If I let it continue, I will see every decision I’ve made in a negative light and convince myself that my life is horrible when it is actually great.

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On the other hand, if I work out, little things like spilled liquids are not a big deal and I can take a breath and let it go. I’m not as hard on myself for perceived failures and actually congratulate myself for my achievements.

I also work out to cut my chances of getting cancer or heart disease. My family history is littered with cancer, including colon and brain cancer so I’ve seen cancer’s progress. Those images are indelibly imprinted on my brain. If I can reduce my chances of developing cancer, then I will do so. My family history is also full of heart disease and I don’t relish surgery.

Now, I have another motivator for working out – my child. I have to set the example for everything from keeping a house clean (the poor kid has no chance) to a healthy lifestyle. If I can instill in my kid now the importance of physical activity, I can reduce my kid’s chances of developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer and many other illnesses.

What is your motivator?

 

Story Making While on the Move

Story making while on the move

Physical activity and writing intersect in surprising ways. Steve Jobs was renowned for taking a walk to problem solve and Brandon Sanderson has talked about plotting out his novels while at the gym. I started actively using my exercise periods as problem solving sessions this year and I have been able to come up with some great twists as a result. I can sit there all day and not see a way to fix my story problem but if I’m on the move, I can see the solution or come up with a new story direction or plot out the next scene.

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Don’t believe me? Check out this article.

I find it interesting that the studies have shown meandering walks are the best for creativity while cycling is worse. However, in my own personal physical activities, I come up with my ideas when I’m walking and less so when I’m running so my own experience supports these findings.

For example, I figured out the career for the main character of my current work in progress, Desert’s Daughter, while on a walk. That career will be as a influencer but in a place without computers.

When you’re stuck on a problem, go for a walk!

Having a Dog

Our dog is a Border Collie Newfoundland cross but she is really more Border Collie. Her energy some days appears endless. After running five kilometres in the morning and then another five kilometres in the evening, she still wants to chase stones, play with her toys or have training.

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So there is no escaping at least a daily walk with her but more likely two or three walks with her, rain, sun, snow, minus 20 or plus 30. To do less is to let her down but also to invite chaos in our house as she tries to find something to occupy herself.

My natural state of being is inert so her energy grabs at me and pushes me out of the door. I can’t resist her open mouth smile and soft brown eyes. She humbles me though because I know that if I didn’t take her out, she would still love and forgive me, even if I didn’t deserve it.

I would now always live with a dog because on days I absolutely do not want to leave the house for a walk, I have to and I always feel better afterwards. She keeps me committed to my own wellbeing, as well as hers. And walking and chatting with your family while the sun begins its descent in the evening reminds me why I go to work every day and why I love writing.

Walking

My recent fitness commitment started with having to walk our dog. Because our dog is crazy active, we need to make sure she’s doing something. In the beginning, that was three walks a day, one in the morning before work, one during the day and one after work. My husband and I took turns and we were able to make this work for a long time, although it took up large portions of our day. To give ourselves more time, my husband was able to teach her to chase a frisbee (never a ball though).

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Walking was a great starter exercise for me and helped launch me back into being fitter. If done properly, walking can have the benefits of more strenuous exercises like cycling. It takes longer to get those benefits but they are there. The main idea is to get your heart rate up so that is the best measure on whether or not you’re walking brisk enough. You have to walk at a pace of five kilometres per hour or in my case, uphill. Up big hills. The biggest ones in your neighbourhood. I benefited from having a large hill just down the street from me.

Some research appears to indicate that intensity in exercise matters and experts currently recommend moderately intense exercise for 30 minutes a day. Exercise experts recommend setting a pace of moderate intensity where you would be able to talk but not sing, just on the edge of breathlessness: 

Ultimately, because I combine walking with running and weightlifting in a week, I walk at a relaxed stroll and don’t worry too much about pace. If it was one of my main forms of exercise, I hope I would strive for a faster pace, but maybe I wouldn’t…

 

Biking

That first moment when the snow melts and the temperatures rise above zero is when I start to think about cycling to work again. I’m a fair weather cyclist – no cycling through minus 20 for me. I tried it once at minus two and realized the air is even colder when you move quickly through it.

Cycling to work is forced exercise. In the morning, it’s not hard to jump on your bike and go to work – less traffic, a cool briskness to the air, and birds chirping. When you get to work, you’re more alert and ready to face the day. On the way home, it’s your only mode of transportation so you have to cycle home.

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It also makes you a better driver. I was always the person who drove into the crosswalk to see so I could turn right. After cycling,  I stopped that as I realized what a hazard it was for cyclists and pedestrians. Because I have to watch other drivers constantly while cycling, I now watch everything while driving – sidewalks for people about to cross, cyclists that look like they’re about to go and cars that wander.

Once you have the gear you need – a good rain jacket and pants, bags for your clothes for work and a safe lock for your bike, or ideally a storage locker – biking becomes possible. After you’ve done it a few times and have the routine down, it even becomes a part of your day you look forward to.

I like planning a route that involves the road as little as possible. I’ve ridden mostly on the road but now that I live in a city with extensive bike paths, I find those enjoyable compared to the life and death stakes on the road. On the first day, give yourself lots of time to get to work. Plan out what bus you would have to take to get to and from work if something happens to your bike. Then, get on your bike, take a deep breath and enjoy.

 

Hiking

When I first took a trip out to the mountains with my family, after we had lived on the prairies for awhile, I was awestruck at the clear night sky, the moon that seemed just out of reach of my fingertips, and the heavy aroma of pine. My eternal restlessness subsided. I made many holidays out to the mountains after that.

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Helen Lake

I thought that when I moved to the foothills, I would go out to the mountains a lot more than I do. The reality of spending three hours in a car every weekend after working a full week squashed that.

But now that we have a child, we will have to go out so that our child can understand that there is more to life than lights, noise and concrete. That wild places are where our souls can be free, even if just for a short while.

If you choose to hike, there are many excellent resources out there including:

Nerd Fitness

Hiking for Beginners

MEC – Hiking for Beginners

As a reader, being out in the woods and reading means that no one can interrupt me. At least, this was true when I hiked alone. Now, it’s about sharing these experiences with the people in my life. As a writer, even though I am hiking with people, I have plenty of opportunity to write, even if it’s just working out problems or brainstorming in my head. Being away from the chaos of city life makes those big story problems into tiny ones.

My favourite hike is Helen Lake and if you find yourself there, please enjoy it (also, watch for bears).