Listen

Daily Movement Prompts, Sunday, July 9, 2017 edition: Listen

I joke when I start my dance classes that, “I am not a medically trained professional. Please do not make me stop this class to take you to a medically trained professional.” And then we start every warm-up with a free-form, you choose, stretch however your body requires. We need a moment to listen to our bodies, intentionally. Sometimes we run around so busy that only pain will make us stop and listen. And often by the time we pay attention, the pain has possibly blossomed into something quite significant and even life-altering.

Do you take the time to listen to your body, really LISTEN to your body, each day? Is this something you could benefit from by choosing to do it more often? When’s the last time you stretched in all directions, paying attention to what your body said as you did so?

Do you listen to your body if you’re remaining immobile for too long? Or do you ignore moving regularly until standing up hurts and is filled with crackles and pops? Do you listen to your need for more sleep? Do you listen to how your body would like to rest and recover from injury or illness?

How did you move today? How did you *listen* to your body today? How can you listen more tomorrow?

Sum of the Parts

Daily Movement Prompts, Thursday, July 6, 2017 edition: Sum of the Parts

I was thinking today about which repetitions I don’t notice much in life. I put on clothing every day, and rarely do I find myself thinking, “Ugh, clothes again?!” Sure, the chores of cleaning or even shopping for clothing can be a burden at different times in my life, but most of the time I enjoy the simple act of putting on fresh clothing each day with very little emotional impact. I need creativity some times, I have to plan around a full schedule some days, and on occasion clothes can be fancy and fun.

My movement choices could be more like this. I could start to welcome the movement choices I make with the same energy I put towards just wearing daily clothing. Sometimes I need creativity, some days my movements might be chosen for me already, and some days I have to plan carefully to get a chance to move.

My overall fitness and goals and efforts are a collection of the sum of the parts. A little movement here, a little movement there, and it all starts to add up. Each tiny flower in the overall plant matters, and put together it makes something wonderful and attractive.

My tiny daily choices really do add up.

How have you moved today? How will you move tomorrow?

One Thread at a Time

Daily Movement Prompts, Wednesday, July 5, 2017 edition: One Thread at a Time

If you have a well-thought out training plan, all your schedules are set and on the calendar, you have both big goals and the steps to get you there, maybe this topic is less important to you. But if you’ve pondered, “Where do I start?” then I’m talking to you.

What kind of idea do you need? Let’s start there.

Do you need to think big about your dreams and goals? Okay, what activities make your heart soar? Does your heart soar thinking about climbing a mountain? Or when you watch athletes in the Olympics? Or if you imagine bicycling across the country? Or swimming across a channel? Or dancing for a long set? Or running a marathon?

Or do you need ideas about how to go from no-movement to some-movement? Okay, what small movements can you do now? Can you walk up a set of stairs, even if it takes longer than you like? Can you reach a tall shelf? Can you bend your knees to sit on the floor? Can you get back up again?

Let’s think about what your BIG dreams might be. And let’s think about what you current SMALL movements are.

What can you do today that’s just a *little bit more* than your current small movements? If you can run for one minute without stopping, can you add 15 seconds more? If you can climb 15 stairs, can you climb 20? If you can dance for 3 minutes without stopping, can you add 30 seconds more?

When you need an idea about what to start today, start with something you CAN do. Because so far, no one on this list has written me privately to say, “I’m in traction, I’m confined to bed rest for the next 15 months, I am on a breather, I’m in the ICU.” You *do* have some movement available to you. It might not be where you want to be. It might be the lowest you’ve been in years. But you’re not out of this race yet. You woke up on this side of the dirt today.

How will you embrace your abilities today? Did you need to make today a rest and recovery day? That’s okay! When’s your next non-rest day? Is it today? Is today a “let’s get moving, even just a little bit” kind of day?

Small embarrassing story: The first time I started “running” a few years ago, I was frightened of going outside. I know, sounds hard to believe, but it is true. So I decided to put my phone on the stopwatch setting and then I “ran” through our tiny apartment, as much and as fast as I could. Dash into the kitchen, dash through the living room, dash into the bedroom. (Our cat at the time looked at me weird the entire time.) And when I couldn’t take it any more, when I was gasping for breath, I stopped and I checked the stopwatch. And I wrote down the time. And I called it “done” for the day. The following day, my goal was to add one minute, just 60 seconds more to my time. I did that for 5 or 6 days per week, for the next couple of weeks. I got up the nerve to “go running outside,” even if it meant just dashing back and forth on the driveways of my complex for 4 minutes, maybe 5. Eventually, I left the complex. And one day, my goal was something like 20 or 30 minutes… I would let myself “run” until I was too tired, then I could walk for 60 seconds, then run again. I lost count. I ran for about 42 minutes before I realized I had overshot my goal.

You can do the same thing. Start where you are now. Start small. And then just keep adding only what you can handle. After a while, it’s very possible you might add more than you were expecting to.

How did you move today? How will you move tomorrow?

Moving through Emotions

Daily Movement Prompts, Tuesday, July 4, 2017 edition: Moving through Emotions

Each of us experiences different emotions to varying degrees and different times. Some people work through their various emotions through their movement choices. Other times, the movement or activity planned may need to be shifted because of the emotions experienced at the time.

When I was going through some horrible times, about 17 years ago, I had a membership at the local Y. I would get up extremely early and swim in the 5 o’clock hour. No one can tell if you’re crying while swimming. It probably wasn’t the best solution but it worked for me at the time.

I am friends with tons of folks who do various sword fighting techniques. And frequently they will warn each other, “Do not fight mad.” And while it might seem like hitting things when angry would be awesome, I have also watched friends really hurt themselves by not being in control when throwing sword shots on a padded target.

I know some people find running immensely helpful when processing heavy emotions. Others find yoga can bring out strong emotions. Others will dance themselves into heavy exhaustion as a processing technique.

What have you experienced? Do your movement choices help you process emotions? Do you need to adjust your movement choices when you’re overwhelmed with things in life?

How have you moved today? How will you move tomorrow?

Taking Stock

Daily Movement Prompts, Saturday, July 1, 2017 edition: Taking Stock

Are any of you in the habit of setting goals for a year and doing a thoughtful review every three months or so? I went to a workshop in January where we made some big goals and dreams in brainstorming lists, and then we wrote letters to ourselves to open on April 1, July 1, and October 1. The assignment was to encourage our future selves.

I opened my July 1 letter today, and it reminded me how my brain was working January. I’ve made some adjustments over the past almost six months, and I’d forgotten a few things since January.

Last month at the beginning of June, I suggested you make a goal for the month. If you did, how are things going? Did you spend your June the way you’d hoped? Have you made some progress along your goals? Does goal setting and dreaming big work for you? Have you given it a try lately?

One suggestion I would like to make today: Balance love and forgiveness for yourself with any challenges and motivations you are embracing. Sometimes we can swing far in one direction or another. You might “buckle down” and try to “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” and then rarely remember to forgive yourself or show yourself appreciation and love for the work you *have* done, even if you didn’t hit a goal you were aiming for. Or you might be comfortable in your habits and forget to challenge yourself. (Although sometimes that’s *exactly* the goal you were aiming for: Letting go of the heavy pressures and learning to embrace a slower pace, especially in a time of recovery.)

If this works for you today, give it a try. Take stock in how January through June went, or even just the past four weeks, and congratulate yourself for the movement, activities, and habits you’ve accomplished. And if making goals and plans works for you, write something down about the next four weeks, next six months, or whatever time frame interests you. Write yourself a physical letter, seal it up, and write the date when you should open it. Write yourself something encouraging, to warm your heart later when you open the letter. Make a note on the calendar to remind you when the letter should be opened (and where you hid it “in a safe place”).

And let’s encourage each other. How did you move today? How will you move tomorrow? What kind of encouragement can you share with us?

Should vs Want

Daily Movement Prompts, Friday, June 30, 2017 edition: Should vs Want

I am amazed sometimes how pervasive the “old voices” can be in our heads. I witnessed an unusual exchange online this week. A fitness professional was being very encouraging and sharing a message of how we can start with the body we have right now. And someone responded with a list of, “I need to do XYZ…” and “I know I should do XYZ…” remarks.

Need. Should. Lots of old voices. And I could completely recognize those old patterns in my head and in my history, too.

And in thinking about it, rather than, “I need to…” or, “I should…” I like to ask myself, “Do I want to?” Because then it makes more sense when I expand the conversation to include the wants. “Do I want to climb stairs without pain? Yes, therefore I will do my knee PT exercises that I hate. Because I *want* knee improvement.” Or, “Do I want more dance stamina? Yes. Therefore, I will dance one more drill because it will keep building my stamina.” Do I want to run? Someday, yes. But right now I want to walk without a limp. And I am okay that my current practices *do* have me almost completely limp free. I can set my next goals!

Have you found yourself making plans for exercise, movement, or activity based on a sense of obligation, “I need to do XYZ… I should do XYZ…” and it’s not something that you have a paired interest in? You’re only doing it because you think someone told you that you NEED to do XYZ? You have the freedom to have any motivation you want, please let me confirm this. But some pressures are not rooted in evidence-based medical research. I love to promote non-scale goals: Stamina for an activity, increased flexibility, improved mobility, or continued strength building. Or maybe you have a medical number that you want to influence, and your movement habits can affect those lab results.

Is there a goal that you *want* and can you define it with a non-scale measure of success? Is this a want that can help you avoid old pressures from shame or “needs” imposed by others on you?

How did you move today? How will you move tomorrow?

Tools vs Process

Daily Movement Prompts, Wednesday, June 28, 2017 edition: Tools vs Process

I happen to do a lot of crafty, textiles things like spinning thread or yarn from fluff and some niche weaving styles. I took an intensive, 18-hours of instruction two months ago, focused on the textiles of the indigenous people in the Andes Mountains in Peru. The instruction was delivered mostly through storytelling and demonstration and included our teacher’s childhood experience living in this part of the world. One of the most unique observations she offered us is that in that indigenous culture, they tended toward process-based solutions for their textiles. In contrast, Western European cultures had a history of tool-based solutions for their textiles. So the typical Western European cultures will invent new tools to improve a process. But the Andean indigenous methods could create elaborate weaving processes with the simplest of tools.

I continue to meditate on this concept: Is this a tool-based solution to my problem or is this a process-based solution? It applies nicely to some of my movement questions. Do I need equipment to work these muscles? Or is there an activity I could do that would be equally effective? I used to also ask myself, “Can I do this movement for free?”

(It also applies to writing these prompts: When I have a desktop computer for my tool, the effort takes a shorter time to complete. I first penned this on Saturday on my phone as I was falling asleep and haven’t had the time until today to complete it!)

What Movement or Activity goals have you worked on or thought about that seem to need specific tools? Are there any process-based solutions that could help you move more the way you intend?

How did you move today? How will you move tomorrow?

Any Body

Daily Movement Prompts, Friday, June 23, 2017 edition: Any Body

A friend told me today how she ends up in conversations about “which body shape can do XYZ.” While I know that extremely elite athletes can often have similar, nearly identical body shapes, the type of body that can work toward any movement is usually “any body.” Who can dance? Skinny, fat, tall, short — you don’t have to be only one specific body shape to be “allowed” to dance. Which body can swim? Which can run? Which can do rock climbing? Which body can do yoga?

Any Body.

Sure, you may have to do modifications to some of your movement. You may have to be more cautious with some of your movement. Your learning curve might take longer. Your body shape might give you limitations in flexibility or reach.

What movement or activity has someone tried to discourage you from? How did you decide to react? Did you give up on your idea? Did you overcome the objections of others?

How did you move today? How will you move tomorrow?

Arrive When You Arrive

Daily Movement Prompts, Thursday, June 22, 2017 edition: Arrive When You Arrive

Have you ever heard the suggestion that rather than say, “I’m sorry I was late,” that you might say, “Thank you for waiting for me.” Sometimes we are taught to apologize for almost everything (which may ring true more for women than men in current American culture) but I have always appreciated this alternate look at thanking someone else for having patience for my schedule.

Thank you all for your patience for these Daily Posts.

I was driving up to an event in the mountains today, and as I spent considerable time in traffic, I kept thinking of the phrase, “I will be there when I arrive.” This is something I have been trying to teach myself, as I navigate the heavy traffic in Los Angeles for the past several decades. I could plan better, I could be angry that the traffic has delayed me, or I could be frustrated and disappointed in myself. In the moment, I try to spend more time acknowledging that these are just the circumstances of my drive this time.

Why am I talking about being late? Have you ever been frustrated with your progress with exercise, activity, or movement? Maybe it’s time to have patience with yourself. Maybe instead of being frustrated, you could acknowledge that you will arrive when you arrive, and maybe even say thank you for your own patience for your own progress.

How did you move today? How will you move tomorrow?

Sending Encouragement

Daily Movement Prompts, Tuesday, June 20, 2017 edition: Sending Encouragement

Have you ever had a friend check in with you out of the blue and it really made your day? It might be a text, a phone call, a silly sticker on a Facebook page, or maybe they live locally and they dropped in for tea or coffee. Those little connections can really make all the difference in the world.

How about you? Have you done this for someone lately? Is there someone in your circles of family or friends or even just casual acquaintances who you could encourage? Specifically, I was thinking about the kind of encouragement that acknowledges their uniqueness and how they are special to you. Maybe they’ve been struggling to get out and move. Maybe they’ve been overcoming obstacles and really making a dent in life. Maybe they’ve encouraged you to get moving, and you’d like to say thank you. Maybe they seem to have life all together, but you just want to give them a high-five.

None of us is an island. Just witness why you may have joined this list in the first place: You were interested in being prompted to keep moving, keep growing, keep improving.

Who can you send encouragement to today? You don’t even need to tell anyone. You can support someone in secret and just be that bright spot in someone’s day. I’d like to encourage you and prompt you today to be the person who reaches out.

Go. Put a smile on someone’s face. And just maybe this might be the connection that improves part of the world today. I am fairly certain the world could use it.