Tuesday, July 31, 2012

When the Hare becomes the Tortoise: Why Procrastination is Okay Sometimes

So I never procrastinate…Okay, that's not quite true—anytime I use "never" or "always", I know its not quite true. I sometimes procrastinate—there, that's a little more accurate, probably more so when I was younger.  In junior high, I used put off doing my French homework so I could work on my English essays. In high school, I worked on my History paper rather than working on my chemistry assignment. And now, I choose to edit my manuscript instead of completing my yoga teacher training homework.

But lately I've been wondering if this pattern can really be considered procrastination. I mean, I always got my homework done on time, usually early, in fact. I just did it in the order that I wanted to, rather than getting all the boring, hard work done first. And then recently, just the past few years, I decided that there was something wrong with this attitude, that I should more be "responsible" and do things the "right" way, whatever that was. So I started doing the hard tasks first, adopting a "first work, then play" attitude. And more recently, just two month ago, I realized I had made a mistake.

It all started with summer, I swear. The sun came out and all I wanted to do was play, play on my computer, play with my dog, play outside, play inside, play at work—I wanted to play everywhere I went. And while it's not hard for me to relate with most tasks as play, I, like all of us, still have hum-drum tasks that I have attend to, like my yoga teacher training homework.

You see, this was the first time I've ever had "homework" in the summer, and I, like a rebellious teenager, did not want to do it. In the past, I would have gotten it done the day after it was assigned, but now, I was in quite a conundrum: I wanted to do other things instead. And then I had to ask myself, was it a bad thing to do my homework two weeks before it was due rather than a month before it was due?

And the answer I came up with was no, it wasn't a bad thing. In fact, it was good thing. It means that I'm learning how to relax, how to have a better work/play balance, acknowledging that for everything there is a season and the season of summer is play. It's not about work then play or play then work, its about working when you need to work and playing when you need to play. As a kid, I knew that, lived by that, but now, as an adult, I got caught up in trying to be the hare when, in fact, right now, I'd rather be the turtle.

So if you're like me–zoom, zoom, zoom, always on the go, always on the ball, always getting things done – try a little experiment. Let the ball slide a little, don't drop it completely, but see what happens if you don't catch it right away. The sun did not come crashing into the earth because I didn't do my homework immediately, and chances are it won't if you relax a little, too. Even though, technically its considered procrastination, in moderation, its good for you, like a glass of red wine or a piece of dark chocolate.

So enjoy your summer. I know I certainly will. :-)

www.knottedwordscelticart.comTwitter: @AngelaDMac, www.angelamackay.com

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Playing Your Way to a Healthy Lifestyle: How to Have Fun, Be Active, and Stick to Your Exercise Regime

So when I broke my arm and sprained my ankle last year, my physical activity level naturally slowed down to match my physical capacity at the time. It wasn't until recently that I realized that even though I am completely healed, I'm still not as active as I had been before my injury. 

Now, I love to move, love to be active and explore my body's limits, but somehow, I had become quite complacent in my more sedentary lifestyle, preferring to knit and watch movies over getting out and getting moving. 

As summer approached, I realized I wanted to do more, move more, to do something outside, but I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do. And then, at a Roller Derby game, it hit me - I wanted to roller-skate. 

I used to roller-skate as a child and absolutely loved it. At the bold age of nine, I would scout out the longest, flattest, smoothest driveway in the neighbourhood, and then knock on the house adjacent to it. When the door opened, I introduced myself and asked if I could roller-skate in their perfectly groomed driveway. No one ever said no. I would skate for hours and hours on end, loop after loop, until I had to go home for supper.

And so, with fond childhood memories in mind, I bought some skates, really awesome black ones called  "The Urban Roller", with bright green wheels and matching laces, and donning my bike helmet and all the protective gear I thought I would need, I ventured out to the Oval, and skated in circles on the pristinely smooth cement that laid before me.

Round and round, I went, my body surprisingly remembering how to skate after 25 years of not having four wheels precariously placed under my feet. Listening to Bob Marley, and sweating up a storm, I remembered why I loved to skate as a child. I was enjoying it so much didn't want to stop, but alas, I had to go home to get ready for work.

And now, a month later, I can't wait to go roller-skating! I curse the rain that interferes with my fun just as I had done as a child.

While roller-skating is great exercise, it is not the thought of burning calories that keeps me going round and round. It is the experience in my body, the burn in my legs, the smooth feeling of my feet rolling over space and time, the heat in my cheeks, and the light, joyful that sensation that fills my heart.

And that made me wonder, why do I sometimes struggle to be physically active as adult, when being active came so naturally to me when I was a child?

In reflecting on my experience with roller-skating, I came up with a few ideas about what makes for an addictive exercise experience:

  • Engage in physical activities that you think are fun, the key words here being "you" and "fun". Don't do what your mother thinks is fun, or what your friends think is fun, or your even what your psychologist thinks is fun. If you think it's fun, then you'll look forward to doing it, you'll be excited to do it, and most importantly, you'll actually do it.
  • Approach the activity as play, not as goal-oriented activity. As a kid, did you say to yourself, "Okay, I'm going to roller-skate for at least an hour so I can burn at least 600 calories?" No! We played for play's sake, because the experience in and of itself was satisfying. We did not have any sense of an attachment to a specific outcome, like flat abs or buns of steel. So let go of your ideas of calories, and muscle tone, and just enjoy the confidence, energy, and joy that naturally comes from being fit and active.
  • Mix it up. As a kid, did you just do one thing, the same thing every day of the summer? No! We played hopscotch and jumped rope. We played lawn darts, racket-ball, and with hula hoops. We climbed monkey bars, and swung on swings, explored the woods, and scrambled up trees. So do a bunch of fun things and explore your body in different ways, rather than getting stuck in the same old routine at the gym. 
  • Remember what "fun" feels like. Be present in your body when you're moving. Notice how your body feels before, during, and after the activity. It is that positive body memory that keeps us going back for more.