Habit Experiment: August Recap, September Kickoff

August Recap

I kind of derailed myself this month. My habit for August was exercise, and to jog your memory, here are my goals:

1) Walk a minimum of 10,000 steps per day.

2) Do 30 minutes of resistance training each day.

3) Keep a log of my exercise and internet use.

The first week I did great. I didn’t keep a log of my internet use, but I kept track of my steps and my other exercise, and I walked at least 10,000 steps every day but one. In fact, I found 10,000 steps so easy, I decided to increase the goal to 20,000 steps a day for the following week (keeping the 30 minutes of daily resistance training), and then just to make it even more fun, I started writing every morning for 30 minutes before my first walk (January’s habit).

And then…I hit the wall.

The third weekend in August I attended a silent meditation retreat (I’ll post about that eventually). The week preceding the retreat I only broke 10,000 steps one day, and I didn’t do resistance training even once. In the week since the retreat, I’m meditating every morning (November’s habit), but I’ve not gone for my morning walk even once. In my defense, my cat got sick the day I got back from the retreat, and between emergency vet visits, clean-up of feline bodily fluids, and endless loads of laundry, my mornings have been rather hectic.

With my cat essentially in home hospice care, I know what the ultimate result will be, but I don’t know how long it will be until then, nor do I know exactly what kind of care the intervening days/weeks/months will involve. But I’ll do my best to fall back into my exercise routine and be gentle with myself in the process.

On to September

In the meantime, September’s habit is:

Drive Less

Read More

Mom Overboard! (Habit Experiment mid-month check-in)

Two weeks into Exercise month of my Habit Experiment, and I’ve already learned a lot about myself.

For one, I hate keeping emotion journals. To be fair, I already knew this, but for some reason I keep trying them and every time I do, I have to learn again that I hate them. I gave up on my habit journal after three days.

Another thing I already knew about myself but was surprised to learn again is that I dislike half measures. I set up this very reasonable Habit Experiment, adding one habit a month so I wouldn’t become overwhelmed and so I would increase my chances of success. But “reasonable” is so boring and, because I don’t like boredom, reasonable things are unsustainable. So, I made some changes. Read More

The Habit Experiment: July Wrap-up and August Kick-Off

One month of my nine-month Habit Experiment is done as of today. Yippee!

July’s Habit: Mindful Internet Use

To refresh your memory, my goals for this month were…

(cue Wayne’s World dissolve)

1. Restricting my internet usage to morning hours and evening hours for the completion of specific tasks.

2. Keeping a log of the times during the day when I feel a pull towards the computer for a non-planned usage of the internet noting what’s going on at the time and what I’m feeling at the moment.

Goal #1 was moderately successful (I only had one week in which I fell off the wagon entirely), and Goal #2 was successful only in the sense that I still want to keep a log and have a plan for how to implement it more effectively.

I’ve lost about one pound and my crossword puzzle times have remained about the same, but I don’t think either of these has anything to do with my internet use.

Inspired by Charles Duhigg’s How to Break Bad Habits (also in the appendix of his book, The Power of Habit), I have settled on a couple of tweeks for changing my internet habit during August (listed below).

August’s Habit: Exercise Daily

In addition to continuing to reduce my mindless internet use, I will devote August to developing an exercise habit.

I’m not 100% new to this. I’ve been taking a 30-minute walk every morning since April 2013, but I want to add a bit more while remaining realistic (I’m not getting any younger, after all). My motivation is to feel healthier, happier, and more energetic, as well as give me some wiggle room to eat high-calorie foods without gaining weight. In developing my goals for my exercise habit, I realized I could combine them with my mindful internet use habit and perhaps hit the proverbial two birds with one stone.

My goals for August:

1. Walk a minimum of 10,000 steps per day, as measured by the FitBit David Sedaris inspired me to buy. I’ll get this with my morning walk combined with regular daily activity, and perhaps a walk around the neighborhood with the kids. I wanted to go for 15,000 steps per day, but I prefer to under-promise and (hopefully) over-deliver.

2. Do 30 minutes of resistance training each day. Because I have trouble finding a chunk of time to exercise, I’m going to try out exercising in lieu of mindless internet use. Every time I feel a desire to check my e-mail, I’ll do one set of some form of resistance training (push ups, squats, lunges, triceps dips, etc). I’ll keep a list of exercises handy so I don’t have to spend time choosing one, and I’ll alternate upper body and lower body each day. At the end of the day, I’ll finish up whatever exercises I’ve not gotten to. Or so goes the plan

3. Keep a log of my exercise and internet use, à la Charles Duhigg (see the “How to Break Bad Habits” link above for more information about this).

So, I’ve got my measurements on board and my paper day planner at the ready for me to log stuff.

Let’s go, August!

Dandelions and Dog Poo: Exercising With Children

With the longer days and warmer temperatures, my thoughts have turned to getting into a regular exercise routine. I’m trying to keep it realistic since most of my time is spent with my children and there’s a limited amount of exercise I can reasonably do with a two-year-old and a seven-year-old in tow.

There is a rail trail in our town, though, and I was thinking I might be able to put the toddler in the jogging stroller and my daughter on her training-wheels bike and do at least a little bit of running a couple of times a week. And since Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea (authors of Train Like a Mother) state the miles run while pushing a jogging stroller count double, that means I could easily get my weekly mileage up to nearly 20 miles with just three runs a week (or up to 6 miles with just one run a week, since I’m trying to be reasonable with my goals here).

Today was our proof-of-concept run. Er…walk.

My son insisted on riding his walking bike so we left the jogging stroller at home. After 10 minutes on the trail, we’d gone about 20 feet and my son had fallen about 12 times (two of which were actually unintentional). We finally stashed the walking bike in the trunk, and he and I walked hand-in-hand, pausing every few steps to throw things in the water-filled ditch to the side of the trail or smell the weeds or collect dandelions for his “bouquet,” all the while trying to keep up with my daughter who was pedaling away on her bike. The highlight was when my son ignored my cries of warning and picked up a piece of dog poo he thought was a rock.

Successfully revising my expectations rather dramatically on the fly, I was feeling great about getting out and walking with the kids for a half-hour today. Until, that is, I mapped our walk and discovered that it took us 30 minutes to walk 0.78 miles.

Not a bad toddler pace, I guess, but I probably didn’t need to struggle into my sports bra for that.

It was, however, a good trial run. If I can get my son to sit in his jogging stroller next time, I’m confident I can get a little closer to my standard 10-minute-mile pace. And perhaps we’ll even be able avoid needing to use quite as much hand-sanitizer as we used today.