A for Effort…

Cade: “Mommy, pick up your weights!”

Me: “No, Mommy can’t use the weights for this one.”

Cade: “But they all have weights, Mommy.”

Me: “Mommy’s not quite strong enough yet, buddy.”

Little man loves to “help” me workout by pointing out whenever I’m not doing something exactly like “them”, but I don’t mind, it’s a fun way to engage while I get my workout completed. The above conversation, though, spurred a mini revelation about exercise in general.

So many times in life we are told we will be graded or evaluated on merit. Pretty much as soon as you enter the school system the idea of work for credit is ingrained into your brain. And I am all about fair evaluations and challenges to help us all grow and learn! But. I do remember a particular moment in middle school that changed my perspective on grades-and all subsequent evaluations-forever. In true ADHD fashion, I had painstakingly rendered by hand a picture of the Michigan flag for my state project. But since I was running out of time to complete the project when I finished the flag-and because pine trees are boring-I used pastels to hastily sketch the state tree. I accomplished everything else in the project to the letter, to the best of my little 6th grader brain ability.

I got a C on the project and a parent teacher conference. My teacher flat out said I cheated, since no-one who drew that flag would also draw that tree. I clearly had had blatant outside help. I was so confused. And devastated. I felt sick to my stomach. I had worked so hard to get that flag perfect. I internalized it as my own fault-not that I was a cheater, I was very hurt and upset by that accusation-but because clearly I had tried too hard. I should’ve halfway done both the tree and the flag, and then none of this would’ve happened.

“Work Smarter, Not Harder” is a slogan I’ve seen everywhere, and the hallmark of EMS. The job is hard enough, no need to make it any tougher. In our true culture of “easier, faster, better” skating through by doing things well but not appearing to put much effort into them is lauded as ideal.

Exercise is the opposite. If you skimp through your workout, you get no A for completion, you burn no extra calories, you win nothing. If you work your tail off and hit muscle failure halfway through-you reap far more. Exercise truly evaluates your EFFORT. I can skate through a lot of workout programs, I’m familiar with the moves, know ways to ease off certain muscle groups, can complete the bare minimum and still say I did it-but the only person that effects, is me. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I love to exercise. You get what you put in. You halfway do the workout you get half the results. You are sloppy and inattentive, you drastically increase your chance of injury. You remain focused and pour in your effort-you reap the rewards!

And there are always ways to improve. Recently I’ve really been paying attention to how I hold my abs in all of the exercises, how I draw them into my spine, remembering to engage them and not let them hang loose-this form protects my back AND works my muscles. When you do squats, you should give your backside a little extra squeeze at the top-not because you have to, but because that works the glutes just a little bit more. There are all kinds of ways to increase your effort in exercise, and I am never penalized for trying my hardest for the first half of the workout and then being barely able to complete the last ten minutes due to muscle fatigue. My effort is always duly rewarded and I take pleasure and satisfaction in that tiny little aspect.

SO go you, wherever you may be on your exercise adventure. Whether you are modifying everything or upping your weights every workout, your effort is paying off. There is no comparison here. One person does a pushup on her toes, another on her knees, both hit muscle failure by the end-BOTH earn an A for effort.

Fit and Fancy

I have arrived, y’all. I made it. I’m there. From here on out I just aim to maintain. My scale sits collecting dust on the floor and I’m considering getting rid of it entirely. I love where I am right now on my fitness “journey”. And I know “journey” sounds hokey, but I don’t know what else to call it. The truth is that we are all on one-whatever word we use to describe it. I know some people object strongly to even having the word, “exercise” in their vocabulary, but whether are you a self made couch potato or a triathlon finisher-you’re still on a fitness journey. Your underlying routine-what you typically eat, what you typically do-that is either building you up or breaking you down. There is no escaping that. I’m not talking about wanting to lose some weight, or feeling guilty about donuts. Ditch the scale and your guilt (but keep the donuts, yum!). I’m talking simply about the fact that we can’t escape our bodies. We can’t escape their needs. We can’t escape how they function. We can’t escape eating.

We continue to focus SO much on appearance that we are missing the bigger picture. Your health allows you to do more. Your health allows you to BE more. And if you’ve decided that there are a million other things that are more important than your health-well, you’re wrong. There are a FEW things that may be more important than your health-but not as many as you may think. How are you going to enjoy your kids if you are constantly run down? How are you going to keep up with your coworkers if you get devastatingly sick multiple times a year? Or even just struggle with fatigue? Or pain? Headaches? Digestive issues? And how are you going to RECOVER from any of the illnesses/injuries that life will throw at you if you don’t have a good foundation for the doctors to work with? Who cares what weight you are, how ARE you? Really?

I am not anti modern medicine by any means. If anything I am pro-doc! (Is that a movement? Can I make it one?) But the truth is, our health system is overrun with basic health issues. BASIC health issues that then become more and more complicated. Nobody is winning-the docs are fighting to keep an already unhealthy body alive with some semblance of “quality of living” and the patient is drowning in prescriptions and feels like this is “normal”, or “part of aging”, or “there’s nothing I can really do about it”.

It’s hard being sick, y’all. It’s hard living with chronic pain, with chronic fatigue, with chronic stomach issues, with chronic ANYthing. And it’s hard to exercise daily, to eat balanced, to make conscious decisions about your health. No one said anything about life NOT being hard. But this idea that living healthy is “hardER“? I call BS.

Loving your body does not mean just dressing it well and refusing to take crap from people about it. Loving your body means CARING for it. Feeding it well, strengthening it daily, and when it gets run down-by all means get help for it! I am not saying that living healthily will cure all disease (um, that’s ridiculous) but why is it so crazy to want to arm my body with the best health I can give it so if and when disease does strike I have something to work with?

And I know it’s tough, but we need to be aware of the excuses we feed ourselves when it comes to living physically healthy lives. There is enough time for it-it may mean you have to reorganize your priority list, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time. You don’t need to enjoy exercise to need to do it. You hate exercise? Ok. You should still do around 30 minutes a day. I HATE meal prep. But I should still do it to keep me eating balanced. You hate salad? Ok. Your body still needs multiple servings of vegetables a day. You’re body isn’t excused because you hate salad. Find some other veggies. You need protein. You need vegetables. You need fruit. You need fats. You need carbs. Whether you “want to” or “like” or “have time” doesn’t matter, your body still NEEDS those things to function.

Arrogance is king in our society, to the point where we just assume that however we “feel” justifies whatever we want it to. And I am not against feeling-total wellness is dependent on a healthy emotional state-but we can’t just change the basic premise of how our bodies function just because we “feel” like it’s beneath us/not who we are/not part of our makeup/not our thing/that’s fine for you but not me. Your health is absolutely a part of you. You don’t need to become a certified trainer, health nut, gym junkie, or whatever, to be healthy. But you DO need to make an effort. I’m a child of God, a wife, a mom of two, an avid reader, an adult with ADHD, an aspiring writer, absolutely a couch potato whenever I get the chance…the list continues. And even though I have goals to pursue in the nutrition field-I didn’t start there, and nothing says to be “healthy” I have to continue along that path.

So, in a nutshell, you are on a fitness journey whether you like it or not. Be honest with yourself about whether you are heading where you’d prefer, it doesn’t take much to change in either direction.

Get Your Head in the Game…

This week’s Team Call was about Mindset and I had so many lightbulbs clicking in my brain that I’m pretty sure I started glowing. First off, I love this job, I love the people I work with, I love the constant support and encouragement, and I learn something new every time I manage to make it to one of the weekly meetings. Now, my fingers are itching to get this all out on paper…er…computer screen.

My biggest take away had nothing to do with “keeping a positive attitude” or “dream big” or “stay focused” or any other phrases I automatically associate with “mindset”. My takeaway was a kick in the head about how I’ve been treating ADHD.

Stay with me, I have a point. The concept of “fixed vs growing” mindset was presented, and as she read through the differences I was ticking them off with a lazy, yep I’m a grower, I don’t do that, or that, nope, nope, eh, definitely not, no-yeah I do. Wait, what? “A fixed mindset says: I am good at *blank* and I am (and will always be) bad at *blank*.”

Pretty sure my brain lit up like a neon sign at this point. You guys, ADHD can be pretty funny, but it is no joke. This past Saturday I got the boys dressed, we all piled in the car, drove TWENTY MINUTES to the Farmer’s Market and when I hopped out I realized I was in my bedroom slippers. I forgot shoes. As funny as it was, this isn’t completely unusual for me. I forget my wallet, my ID, I lose my phone thirty bazillion times a day, I forget various pieces of clothing, I’ve answered the door without a shirt while nursing (BIG OOPS), I forget things in the oven, I forget to put things IN the oven, I forget doctor’s appointments, I forget important dates, I forget names, I forget what I am talking about mid sentence on a regular basis. Forgetting is a hallmark of ADHD, but the truth is it is the mildest and least annoying of the symptoms for me. The varying between non-existent attention span and hyper focus is irritating, but manageable. The inability to finish tasks or maintain a clean ANYTHING is beyond frustrating. But the struggle with impulse control ESPECIALLY when it comes to emotions is my biggest issue. The cycling between doom and gloom and the world is full of unicorn sparkles that can change in an instant can leave me (and those around me) with chronic emotional whiplash. The truth is, I’ve gotten very good at combating the mood swings and emotional volatility because I simply didn’t want to be that person. I have my bad days…and bad weeks…and months (looking at you, February) but I have an equal amount of good days, weeks, and months and I’ve learned how to capitalize on it. I refused to let ADHD determine that my emotions and impulsiveness would wreak havoc in my life.

BUT. I let ADHD limit me in a lot of areas. I use ADHD as an excuse, not an explanation, and I don’t push past any of those barriers. I set myself up to fail because I tell myself habitually, “You have ADHD, you will NEVER be good at that.” The biggest area of my life, an area that has been holding me back for years, is organization. I’ve pretty much given up on EVER being organized. I have tried and failed too many times, have heard too many disparaging comments, have let others down too frequently-I’ve simply internalized that I will always be woefully messy and entirely dependent on others to manage my affairs. My mindset isn’t just fixed on this, it’s pretty much set in concrete, welded inside a solid titanium cage, driven down into the ground with a mountain on top of it slowly turning it to diamond with the pressure of tremendous, unmovable weight.

That call, that very simple discussion, has caused a mental earthquake. I am ADHD, but I WILL be organized. It may not look exactly like anyone else’s system, but it will function well for me. I am ADHD, but I WILL maintain a clean house. It may not be Better Homes and Gardens, but it doesn’t have to be a chronic disaster either. I know these changes won’t happen overnight. And I know that I will have to work hard to overcome the natural inclinations of my crazy little brain, and I know I will fail multiple times in the process, but I also KNOW that I can do this. Honestly, if I look back at my life I am already far more scheduled and organized now than I have ever been-thanks to the two little munchkins who have forced me to be better than I thought possible. I need to stop telling myself I can’t do something just because I’m ADHD.

This brings me to the second lightbulb moment, which was more of a reflection on our society and less a personal conviction. You guys, we have completely devalued work. Not just devalued, our society has placed a negative value on work. Any dream you have is measured against how hard you have to work to get there, and it isn’t overtly stated but the underlying message is “if the amount of work you have to do is greater than your desire for the end result, then you are ‘in the red’ in any joy you can get out of life.” The end result has to be WORTH the amount of work you put in. End result-amount of work=life satisfaction.

Poop, guys. This is total poop. Now I’ve seen the memes about “it’s all about the journey” but most of those still come with the idea of the “little moments” along the way, the “silver linings”, the “unexpected joys”, the “things that happen that AREN’T WORK that make you happy.” This is  backwards.

“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 ESV

“…find enjoyment in his toil.” “…find enjoyment IN HIS TOIL.” “…find enjoyment IN his TOIL.”  Not, in the camaraderie of your coworkers, or in the gossip around the water cooler, or in the sunny weather on a Friday afternoon, or in a raise, or in a better placed desk, or in the freedom of working at home. In. Your. TOIL. In the actual process of work THERE you should find enjoyment. Work is not a negative value, work is the positive value. It’s not about satisfaction at the end of your journey, or happy events along the path of your journey, it is quite literally the process of taking steps on your journey. Enjoying the physical, mental, and emotional work of WORK is the “best thing” for a person, not the achievement of the goal at the end.

Now, you can’t forget the second half, “for apart from him (God) who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” because it is pretty much stating not just that through God all things are provided, but that enjoyment in work needs divine intervention to occur-it is not the natural state of man. Maybe it is for you, but it definitely is not my natural state.

How this applies to my takeaway about mindset is simple-I shouldn’t be measuring my goals against the amount of work that they’ll take to accomplish. I need to be praying for enjoyment of the work I’ve been given (including the monumental task of organizing myself), and embrace the goals I need to embrace in order to move forward-not in spite of the work required, but BECAUSE of the work required, because in the WORK is my enjoyment.

Mind. Blown. 😛